‘God is dead,’ Nietzsche told us over a hundred years ago. By saying that, he suggested that life is empty and it is us who need to give it purpose and meaning. You could say that, if we have total control over how meaningful our lives are, we have total control over our identity too. I personally believe in Nietzsche’s theory to some extent, but identity is somewhat different than the concept of life in general. Think about it, you don’t really have control over your identity do you?
So, we don’t really have control over our identity. It’s made up of factors like where we come from, where we live, who we engage with. These factors are not really in our control, they just happen. Then again, that’s not exactly our whole identity either, is it? So maybe we can influence our identity. A little at least. Let’s call that part of our identity our ‘made’ identity. First of all, we need to figure out what our ‘made’ identity consists of. I of course can’t speak for everyone, but what I think is part of my own ‘made’ identity are the clothes I wear and the art I enjoy. Art would be the music I listen to, the books I read and the movies I watch. These factors make up a very interesting part of my identity, because in some ways they dedicate who I spend time with and maybe even where I decide to live. But wait, weren’t these things out of our control? Maybe not so much after all.
How exactly does the way I dress contribute to my ‘made’ identity? For example, I relate a lot more to the music of Janis Joplin than Kanye West’s. That’s something you can clearly see in the way I dress. In turn, the way I dress influences the way people think about me, what kind of person they think I am. Because I dress in the way I like and because that’s also in tune with everything else I like, people get the right image of who I am, my identity, and therefore Janis has made a certain imprint on my identity and I deliberately chose her to. I took over little pieces of her style and made them a part of me. Finding personal icons is always a good way to edit your identity. And what if you see a movie, in which there’s one character who really speaks to you? Don’t deny it, we’ve all found that character and took over certain character traits, that are now a fundamental part of our identity.
We start out with a blank slate, our whole identity being defined by where we come from, but as we get older and get more saying in our lives, we can more and more influence our identities. We develop preferences and likings and based on those, we decide who we want to be friends with and where we want to live. We’re more free than we sometimes think. I find that a very comforting thought.