What is personal identity?

We explain what personal identity is from different perspectives, its elements and other characteristics. In addition, social identity.

  1. What is personal identity?

Generally, when talking about personal identity we mean something similar to self-image. It is the set of characteristics that define an individual and allow him to recognize himself as a distinct and differentiated entity from others.

It is not exactly a synonym for personality , or character , or personal traits, but it is a concept that seems to encompass all these aspects, thus forming the “essence” of an individual.

However, from certain perspectives, such as philosophical , defining this concept becomes much more complicated. What is its nature? How do we distinguish it from other psychological, emotional or intellectual features of the human being ? How can it be the same person and at the same time change over time? Where does the identity end and the context begin?

There are numerous approaches that seek to define personal identity . Some of them are:

  • The psychologist , who assigns an important role to memory and mental processes within identity;
  • The physiological-somatic , who seeks the answers in the body of the human being;
  • The narrative , which raises personal identity as a self-story that is constantly being told (and therefore modified).

Finally, in more practical areas, such as administration , we usually talk about personal identity as the set of data and personal information with which we can have access to some type of account, application or service profile. That is, personal identity is thought from the information that represents it. This is also known as “fingerprint.”

  1. Characteristics of personal identity

The concept of personal identity, understood from different points of view, usually has a series of stable characteristics, such as:

  • Constancia . Identity is a set of constant traits, that is, they can be seen in the same way over time , although it is possible at the same time to appreciate their long-term changes.
  • Consistency . When we say that personal identity is consistent, we mean that we can predict some of its features, that is, some of its reactions to certain conditions or stimuli.
  • Adaptability . While personal identity is constant at a given time, it is also changing over time, as experience and life are suppressing certain behaviors and implanting others.
  • Socio-cultural character . This means that identity is given in contrast to others, since it is defined based on similarities or differences with respect to those who share with us a community and a culture .
  1. How is personal identity built?

The construction of personal identity is a long and complex process. Its onset dates back to the individual’s childhood and runs along with his entire life , as his way of being adapts to the experience and integrates the different experiences lived, that is, he learns.

It brings together other forms of identification that are formed in different and successive stages, such as sexual identity, gender identity, social identity, etc.

This construction process is gradual . It involves a diverse range of experiences, especially those related to the erotic-affective, social integration, cultural, religious, political, as well as self-perception and self- esteem .

There is no specific moment in which the identity is formed in a concrete way, although it is estimated that after adolescence a more complex personal identity would have to appear, compared to that exhibited in childhood.

  1. Elements of personal identity

personal identity group membership
Membership groups are involved in the formation of personal identity.

Personal identity is made up of the following elements:

  • Membership groups . These are the human groups to which we subscribe, voluntarily or involuntarily, and with whom we share a series of values , as well as a common history. They can be family , friends, religious groups, politicians, etc.
  • Traditions and customs . Cultures and human groups share social practices, rituals and policies from a historical context, inherited knowledge or foundations, or more or less explicit social agreements. All this is part of the baggage that socially determines personal identity, either by going in their favor or against it.
  • Experience . Experience is the fundamental factor of identity construction, since it summarizes personal history, with all the transcendent events that can be decisive in personality, ideology or behavior. In other words, experience is the unique and individual story of each person.
  • Political orientation . Beyond the political / supportive positioning, in the identity formation political elements intervene as the presence of the institutions , the political militancy,
  1. Personal identity and social identity

Although social identity is contained in personal identity, it is not about concepts that are the same. The difference between them is that social identity links the individual with the collective of which he is a part , while personal identity singles him out as a unique individual.

That difference is important, since social identity plays a central role in the constitution of personal identity, either by inheriting values ​​from the individual or by serving as a system against which to rebel or against which to oppose.

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