The Flower of Identity

Pink Flower, Oxalis Weed Macro
Image by cobalt123 via Flickr

In Luxembourg as part of the training with the Anna Lindh Foundation we had to write a list of things that we think identify us. One suggestion was to draw a flower and on each petal write one thing. I of course am useless at drawing so decided to write a list.

So how do I see myself?

The first things that came to my mind was European, the next was Irish and after that Gay came into my mind. Then the fact that I was Male reared its head. After that I was stumped.

Now I didnt want to seem superficial so I tried really hard to come up with more, so Political came to mind. Then Adventerous and Outgoing popped up. Religous also came to mind as did Blogger After that it was tough going.

Even now two weeks after the training I find it hard to come up with more. Ones that do are Stubborn, Caring, and Smart.

How to others see me?

I decided to see how others saw me, so I asked on twitter, facebook and MSN about people saw me. I got the following back:

  • Friendly
  • Caring
  • Up Beat
  • Outgoing
  • Helpful
  • Headstrong
  • Opinionated
  • Political
  • Intelligent
  • Someone who stands up for what they Believe in
  • A good friend
  • Sexy (I am not making it up!!)
  • Nice Guy
  • Listener
  • Values debate and diversity
  • Principled
  • Respectful
  • Smart
  • Gay

Why do this?

After asking a friend, a conversation ensued about why I was doing this and was their a difference in how I saw myself and how others saw me. To me the big difference was no one mentioned nationality. Which was strange cause if was the first thing I thought of when asked the question about myself as it forms part of who I am and therefore how I act. That was the huge difference.

In Luxembourg after we wrote this out we all went to another room and sat on the floor. One of the trainers Xavi called out different categories about how we saw ourselves and for one of them I was one of two people standing. That category was “Sexual Orientation”. To me started off the questioning that led to this blog post, am I placing too much emphasis on it. The fact that someone else mentioned it, kind of puts my mind at rest.

At the same time I was overwhelmed at the response given to me. I simplfied where I could what my friends said down to one word where possible. It is strange when your friends can come up with more ways of describing you then you can.

But thats Identity thats Personality!

One thing I noticed even while doing this was how fluid Identity and Personality are. To me they are not mutually exclusive. This excercise proves that in most ways except in the area of nationality which I have already dealt with.

So is nationality what actual divides us from stangers, as we don’t see it as part our friends?

Do try this yourself and see personally how you describe yourself, draw it as a flower or a list. It will surprise you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

9 thoughts on “The Flower of Identity”

  1. interesting entry and question. nationality definitely isn’t a defining characteristic of strangers. its not necessarily the first question you ask about a person when you meet someone them for the first time.

    its also not necessarily an absent identifier in friends. perhaps its the way you phrased the question, or perhaps you don’t project ‘irishness’ or talk about ireland with friends that much. its also an unlikely answer from a fellow irish person.

    its also the medium:”i associate ‘male’ with you” would not be a useful answer in response to a question like that on facebook etc. i think people would be confused about fact and identity in a similar way even if nationality came up as something they associated with you. it seems an unlikely answer that someone would give even if it did come up.

    I do though think that nationality can be an identifying characteristic in some friends, as can ‘national traits’. it really depends on the friend whether i would describe their nationality as a strong part of their identity ‘she’s so very proud/aware of being irish’ ‘he’s so serbian’. that would be tapping into national stereotypes more than their nationality though. i could see myself also describing someone who wasn’t german, as ‘so german’. or like what happens with you, ‘he happens to be spanish, but i think of him first as warm and giving’.

    1. CD,

      you actually described it in the same way as I did to a friend! The last paragraph has been talken from my mind I tell ya! 😉 Thanks for the comment though!

  2. Thinking about this, I would say that it is easier to describe my own identity while for others it makes more sense to describe my personality.

    My identity are the things I identify with, which I relate to as part of my social background and surrounding, which in my case includes a European cosmopolitanism with German being my mother tongue, which influences my view on the world no matter if I want or not. As an academic I also feel connected to academic traditions such as critical thinking and the search for the truth, knowing that there is no such thing.

    When it comes to my personality, I think I could only give a very subjective account, but the only advantage I have compared to others in this regard is that I know the full picture. For the rest, speaking about my personality myselft would be a rough guess at best and marketing at worst – I leave this to others.

    In the end, identity has an influence on how I behave, and so identity definitely impacts my personality. So when others describe my personality, they might use things that I might describe as being part of my identity to talk about my personality – but they will never be able to talk about my identity, because only I feel I can define what this identity is.

  3. I wonder if people also have an identity they assign to you, though? Maybe not the same identity that you have yourself, but your identity as others see you – especially if they don’t know your personality. If somebody identifies you as German, Irish, straight, gay, etc., then it is only a stereotype of an identity, but that is still the label they have given you.

    To be horribly nerdy – it’s like “tagging” in Web 2.0. You can tag yourself, and other people can tag you. The tags don’t give you all the information in a web-page, just one part (and it might be completely wrong).

    I need to take a break from the internet, I think.

    😉

  4. Your nationality is important in defining your cultural outlook. You are influenced from it the moment you become aware of stuff happening around you. In Ireland if you come from Cork (City & County) you have a different identity to someone from Dublin. I sometimes think that Dubliners don’t know that Cork actually exists or if it does then its a one street village…but I digress.

    Even if you join a club/group/political party, follow a sport or become part of a tribe you are adopting the cloak of identity of that group whether you realise it or not.

    Its good to be able to stand back and see this for what it is. I like the idea of the flower in the exercise. Not the first time I have come across it.

    1. But what if Kieran like me you are rarely mistaken for Irish?

      While I agree national identity is important, but is that not super imposed upon the local identity. So why can there not be a European identity on top of this which I feel is important to me. Which is what this is all about really.

      The flower excercies is great!

Leave a Reply