Identifying Identity


In a world of shifting values, we are constantly questioning who we are. Society tells us we should be thinner, taller, prettier, more muscular and so many other things that sometimes we don’t know whether we are any good.  There are some many ads on the TV and on websites and video sites like YouTube, all aimed at telling us that we need the latest products to make us look like all our favourite celebrities.  Even on social media, we get ads telling us about the latest product or regime to give us that “perfect body”, like this that I found on Twitter the other day:

The Twitter stream and Facebook news feeds are full of similar posts, touting the latest products, regimes and more in order to change the way we look.  Supplementing those posts are posts about body image, mostly ones that shame people who aren’t a certain size or don’t have a certain hairstyle, hair type, eye colour or more.

Moreover, society wants us to conform, to be like everyone else.  If we’re different, that’s considered to be a bad thing.  As a result, it makes it very hard for us to find our identity.  As the world tries to tell us who we are, the real us gets buried beneath the landslide of labels that threaten us.


One of the other prevailing problems surrounding society and identity is the persistence of labels, particularly in the field of medicine.  Our illness becomes our identity.  If someone is depressed, they are depressed.  If someone has bipolar, they are bipolar.  Their medical condition is a label that’s attached to them firmly.  It dominates their mind, preventing them from thinking of themselves in any other light.

Labels are for jars, NOT people.Medical labels aren’t the only ones that people get stuck with but they are predominantly ones that are hard to shake.  They get inside your mind and stick with you, forcing you to start thinking of yourself in that manner.  You start to think of yourself as depressed, bipolar, anxious, an insomniac and all the other labels that get allocated to you.  They become so ingrained that you can’t think of yourself as anything else.

Do you find that?  Have you had an experience of being labelled or feeling as though you carry a label?  I’m sure you’d agree, it’s a horrible sensation.

Identifying My Identity

With all those aforementioned factors pushing at me, it can be hard to identify my own identity.  Depression and anxiety cloud my mind, collaborating with my insomnia, to make me believe that that’s all there is, that I am the sum of my depression, I am the sum of my anxiety and I am the sum of my insomnia.  Trapped in that tunnel, that’s all I can see, like tunnel vision if you will.

But that’s not me.

A man with a question mark face.It takes a great mental shift but, at some point, you start to realise that you’re not the sum of your mental illnesses.  I have depression but I am not depression.  It is a part of me, it does not define me.  My mental illness is only a small part of me.  Yes, it drives my life, can give me copious numbers of bad days but it is not who I am.  Even though it also gives me the entire talking point and drive for this website, it’s not my entire life.

It can be the same way for you.  Your mental illness is either all of you or part of you but it’s what you make it.  It is your choice.  That choice, that mindset can be changed with a considerable amount of energy and time but it can happen.  It can happen if you choose for it to happen but only if you choose.

You are not the sum of your mental illness.

Nor are you the sum of your past mistakes.

You are you.  Wonderful, unique and different.

Just like me.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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