Social Sciences

Identity: Definition And Meaning

We explain what identity is and its meanings in the personal and cultural sphere. What is national and gender identity.

What is identity?

The term identity comes from the Latin word identïtas , which refers to the group of traits and characteristics that differentiates an individual , or group of individuals, from the rest. It is from this that people manage to distinguish themselves from the rest and this always depends on the worldview and their own history and the context in which they live.

A problem that arises is that there are personal identities and collective identities at the same time , so that many times people can conflict with existing differences. It is the identity that shapes people, which determines their tastes, needs, priorities and actions.

Different meanings:

  • Philosophy : In philosophy it is understood as identity to the relationship that an entity maintains only with itself.
  • Psychology and sociology : For psychology and sociology it has a fairly broad conception and even, there is more than one type of identity, such as cultural, gender, sexual, national, among others.
  • Politics : Within politics there is a type of social identity that deals with the degree of belonging of the person to certain political groups with which he has an affinity.
  • Mathematics : For mathematics it is an equality that remains true, regardless of the values ​​of the variables.

Personal identity

Identity - Fingerprint
The fingerprint allows to know the identity of the person.

Personal identity refers in the first instance to the name and surname that each person has received . In this way, a person can be differentiated from the rest. With the advances in technology and the significant increase in the population worldwide, new elements have been implemented that allow one person to be differentiated from another, such as fingerprints and DNA .

Also, personal identity can refer to issues rather related to culture , such as profession, skills , ethnicity, religion , work activity, personality , tastes or behavior.

Cultural identity

This concept implies everything that has to do with the beliefs, traditions , symbols, behaviors, values ​​and pride that the members of a certain group of people share and that are in turn the ones that allow the existence of a feeling of belonging.

This feeling helps that, despite individual differences, members may have something in common. This can also be defined by opposition to others, this means that a group can be identified as such precisely because it presents explicit and notable differences that allow establishing the existence of different groups.

  1. National identity

National identity
National identity can be given by sharing customs or traditions.

National identity, on the other hand, is that which links individuals with the nation of which it is a part . This can be done by sharing certain customs or traditions, religion, worldview or behavior; for inhabiting the same territory or for having feelings of belonging.

This concept clearly opposes that of globalization , in which the total integration of nations is promoted , or the predominance of a region over the rest, which would end up imposing the characteristics of a group to the entire world population.

Gender identity

In recent years, gender identity began to be understood as the gender with which a person identifies . It can also be used to refer to the gender attributed to a person based on elements that respond to the gender role, which may be the clothes he wears, his behavior, appearance, and so on.

In this way, the feeling of femininity or masculinity that a person has does not necessarily coincide with their genitality . The term of gender identity is usually matched with that of sexual identity although there are those who establish differences between them.

How is identity formed?

identity - people
In growth you have a conception of who you are and where you want to go.

Identity, in the psychological aspect, is conceived as a feeling of personal sameness , it begins to form at an early age when we recognize our origin, the family , the territory where we live and only ends when life ends. The identity has a large number of edges that will make a person “be as is.”

During the interaction with the environment and the different groups , such as school, friends, activities and even the relationship with their siblings, is that a person feels affinity, identifies and wants to belong to them, in the same way that unlike many others, where limits, emotions, behavior management are understood to respect those others that are also identities.

In the growth there is a conception of who one is and where one wishes to go , that is, life plans , desires, studies, dreams, making decisions and being faithful in the majority of cases to one’s beliefs. Teenagers often have conflicts in this regard, as they seek their own ideas and reveal themselves against those they do not share.

Life’s own crises, such as divorce, vocational or professional crisis, the loss of a loved one, duels due to detachments, changes in stages, etc., always promote a dynamic movement of identity, therefore to very advanced age can continue to suffer modifications, although milder.

Identity in education

Identity is the result of the set of identifications, and just as the family is an important part in the process of shaping one’s identity, so is the school and each of its actors.

In this sense, role models are very important , since children and adolescents follow them when they feel identified, but sometimes these role models are not optimal or sometimes they lack certain aspects.

That is why teachers are agents with the opportunity to promote positive identifications, which causes the student to build their position in the world.

In the educational process there is a break at the end of the school year, it is the vocational orientation that puts in check the famous questions of: Who am I? What do I want in life? Therefore, containment, advice, information , preparation, among others, of teachers become the most important objectives at this stage.

Levels of identity formation

The family is a shaper of identity during childhood.

From an early age, it seeks to promote identity at its different levels, which we will point out below:

  • Child : In this sense it is quite interesting to start from something as basic as the name of the children, but it is not only the name we carry, but also includes expectations of parents and affections.
  • Family : It is the most important environment that delivers values , bases to form beliefs, ideas, behavior, among others. So it is a shaper of identity during childhood and part of adolescence , it even seems so strong in people that identification with their family environment is maintained throughout life, transmitting the same content to subsequent generations.
  • Community : The different groups that are positioned in society , from the group of friends, the families of the neighborhoods, the fire station, the neighborhood boards, among others, provide the vision of roles in the world and specifically within the country and society, in this way they understand their own.
  • Nation : It consists of valuing the origins, approaching the different ethnic groups that make up the country.

Sexual identity

Sexual identity is a type of identity that corresponds to the internal and personal experience that can be congruent with the sex assigned to be born or not. Classification of these identities:

  • Transvestism : It is about using the clothing and accessories socially attributed to the opposite sex.
  • Trans: Within this type qualify those people who are a transition from one gender to another.
    • Transsexuality: A transsexual person feels that he was born in a body that is not his own, sexually speaking, that is, he feels and lives as a woman but has male gonads and body characteristics of a man who needs to change with treatments and even surgery. This also occurs in women who want to be men.
    • Transgender: It  modifies its appearance in a superficial or hormonal way, implying the transition, but it is not possible to identify either with the male or female gender.
  • Intersexuality :  They have an incongruity between external or external genital sex, due to hormonal problems that affect their development.

Sexual identity law

The laws of sexual identity are born in order to enforce and respect the sexuality of people . Not only the biological one, but also the gender one, validating by official documentation whatever the identity the person determines.

There are still many countries that do not have these kinds of laws approved, but social movements are constantly campaigning to achieve those rights.

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