The act of defining one’s identity is ironic. When one is asked to verbally articulate the structure and content of one’s identity, the immediate response would be to define oneself in terms of their position in a collective - their nationality, their gender, their social qualities that make them likable, and so on. I posit that this is ironic, because while these areas may be of significance to them in understanding themselves, it is utterly redundant, because they are not defining their identity - they are establishing themselves as members of various collectives. Man is social, yes. However, his existence is independent - he has free will, and the ability to think rationally - and is, therefore, primarily an individual that exists for himself, first. His social position is, morally, secondary.
Identity, therefore, is individual. We can define ourselves - for ourselves - in terms of values, ethics and purpose.
Values are the principles and ideals you uphold, that establish your thoughts, and your actions. Every individual - whether through a conscious, rational process or an unconscious one - has a set of principles and values which he lives his life by. An individual’s values and principles drive his existence, and here is his foundation.
Ethics are our understanding of morality. What an individual considers moral and immoral is derived from his principles, and this is what helps him make value judgements, and act accordingly.
Purpose is our value of existence itself - what you live for, and what your purpose is. When we value life, and existence, we establish our purpose, and this purpose is necessarily self-serving. You live for that which gives you joy, whether it is the production of art and literature, studying, and so on. The more established your purpose, the more solace and joy you find in your individual existence.
I have delineated the understanding of identity in detail, because I believe it is supremely important to understand oneself individually, and not in terms of a collective. Understanding identity is, and should be, a rational process. Social relations add value to your existence, and are not, and cannot be, the center of it.
Your identity is how you live, and what you live for. It’s that simple.
by Shruti Menon