Imagine if you will, there is you. Then, there is your backpack. Keep in mind these are metaphors. In your backpack are your extensions. Your extensions are your interests, likes, dislikes, hobbies, fashion sense, beliefs, ethics, ideologies, philosophies, etc. Your extensions are the things you carry with you throughout life. They’re a part of you, but they’re not you. They are separate from your identity, and that’s the way it should remain.
We as humans tend to put our identity into our extensions. It’s a simple way of finding identity, and community around those extensions. But when you put your identity to your extensions your attachment to them becomes very rigid.
When we put our identity into our interests we become too emotionally invested in them. We become overly defensive of attacks or critiques about the things we like and often times see that as an attack or critique on us as people.
We may even have trouble facing critique and justify the interest with blatant bend-over-backwards logic and reasoning; rather than facing the critique, admitting its flaws, but loving it anyway, and forming complex opinions about the interest. We’ll end up rushing to the defense of something we like, even if the critique is correct.
When we put our identity into our opinions, the bulk of us will try to defend them no matter what; even to aggression at some points. Even when presented with logic, reasoning, and evidence that contradicts our opinions, we will still try to justify and follow them.
Opinions are not you, nor should they ever be. Opinions are something you keep in your backpack and change out when you think you’ve found a better one to believe.
When putting our identity into our opinions, philosophies, and ideologies; doing so can limit us in how we view things. When we put our identity in them we can’t think of ways and answers outside of them, we become closed minded of other possible answers even when faced with things that proves our view is not totally correct. We won’t accept other possibilities. People will follow it strictly and create any logic to justify it, and dismiss a lot of other valid possibilities.
Say for instance we have a room with one optimist, one pragmatist, one humanist, one cynic, and one pessimist, all of whom put their identity into that philosophy. You ask them to express their views on what they believe is inherent human behavior. The rest of them are going to disagree with whichever one is speaking, and they will believe they’re correct no matter what. If you ask them to come up with a singular answer they’ll all agree on, they won’t. Each philosopher will be unwilling to budge when in actuality the answer is deeply complex and encompasses all the aspects of each philosophy in its own regard.
With our beliefs, we’ll just be unwilling to bend.
When we are in a community based around one of our extensions, like say the comic book community, we’ll put our identity in the group as well. If a critique or argument is presented towards the extension, like say heroines in comic books, we’ll defend it in order to keep our identity in it and not feel pressure from the group. Even if we agree with the critique at first, we warp it to try and justify our extension.
When you learn to separate your identity from your extensions, you become less emotionally attached to them. This is a good thing as it opens the door to being more introspective about our extensions. It keeps a distance between our identities and our extensions, which in turn allows us to be more critical about them as well as opening our minds to the extensions of others. Without feeling the need to strictly adhere to our extensions, it allows us to question our extensions. Possibly forming more complex views on our extensions, and possibly forming more complex views on our extensions. As well as being open to others’ extensions.
We can have a type of crisis resulting from the back and forth of views and opinions. When our identities are in our interests, whenever those interests are challenged, like say when they are changing or they are criticized, we can feel an identity crisis because we feel like who we are is slipping away, or our identity is now becoming ambiguous. Raising the question of who we are. So we again try to strictly adhere to our extensions, while aggressively defending them. There’s a sense that their being separated from their identity. A sense of panic that we will be lost and not ourselves if we change one or more of our extensions. If this happens to you, you’re too invested in your extensions and should try to distance yourself. It’s hard because we live in societies that promote identity in relationship to objects, interests, and stances when in reality that’s not what true identity is.
When you behave with such a close attachment to your extensions you are less like a three-dimensional person and more like a fictional character. A character is someone who strictly adheres to set traits no matter what, someone who isn’t dynamic; someone who is predictable, and simple. This character like nature doesn’t work in the complexities of life, which demands us to perform complicated actions and make complicated decisions. As well as not being very beneficial to critical thinking and understanding. It’s like trying to solve advanced calculus using only a multiplication table.
Think of identity as a performance. Your identity is in your actions and thoughts, as those things reflect you. If you’re in some way not satisfied with your performance then it’s time to change how you perform.
It’s hard to find your identity, but putting it in your extensions is not the answer. There’s nothing to fear if you don’t strictly adhere to something. It’s honest and not bound by the need to bend for the sake of simplicity.