Many would consider this term an abstract, philosophical question mostly interesting to academics, intellectuals, theologians or people with too much time on their hands.

Others see identity as intertwined and interconnected with both everyday life choices - and many of the larger socio-political battles happening in society. Especially in matters of sexuality, gender identity and religion, identity arguably plays a large role - from gay marriage to transgender bathrooms.  

To this latter group, there are interesting and meaningful differences in how identity is perceived and portrayed - differences worthy of exploration and discussion.  In other words, identity for these people is intimately connected to contrasting interpretations and narratives - e.g., “I embrace this story about who I am.”    

To many others, this discussion remains obtuse and wholly impractical. For many of these, identity is a no-brainer realization that describes one’s patent reality and arises without the necessity of much thought - e.g., “I realized this is who I am.”  While these may see ongoing discussions about identity as a distraction and departure from more important practical matters, the former group see tremendous practical significance ensuing from these same discussions.  

The choice to identify with anything in particular can have significant consequences for future choices. This is illustrated in the discourse around mental health.  On one hand, many have come to refer to mental health conditions using the “to be” verb - “I am son is ADHD.”  For those who adopt this language, it seems more likely that they will relate to their experience as a chronic, lifelong condition.  Others point out that even in the case of serious health conditions, we don’t tend to say “I am cancer” or “he is heart disease” - so why would we do it with mental health conditions? For this reason, others suggest advantages to simply saying “I am facing bipolar depression” or “I have ADHD.”



Jacob Hess

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