The hundreds of different involvements we experience throughout life will each play a role in developing our unique personality. The context of identity is fraught with complexities and as a result, there are many factors that influence our overall persona. Throughout our lifespan, there are many experiences that may compel us to alter our sense of self. Our physical attributes are inherited from our family which consequently shapes our identity from birth. Although we do not consciously choose our family, they are a factor that shapes our character from conception due to family being our first social group.
Being human beings, we have a strong aspiration to belong to communities. Throughout our lives these groups may change, developing our identity. In turn, we may never be accepted by a group in society, and through this loss of belonging, our identity is shaped. Intimate relationships can define who we are due to people often defining themselves with respect to their relationship.
The loss of this strong relationship can often result in a loss of identity due to a person being so connected to their lost loved one.
One of the most steadfast and permanent aspects that forges our identity is the geographical environment in which we are raised. It is when these different environments are brought together that we realise the number of factors that has influenced and shaped our identity. Furthermore, due to the strong aspiration to belong and the pressures of the consumerist world we live in today, there are hundreds of factors that develop and create what we know as our identity.
Because we are not instinctively born with an attraction to certain things, we are taught by the people around us. Our parent’s morals and ethics whether right or wrong, will become ours because of belonging to the family unit. Life Cycle by Bruce Dawe, explores the life of a child brought into a Victorian family.
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The baby’s life is destined to revolve around football due to the family being football supporters and him being ‘laid in beribboned cots, having already begun a lifetime’s barracking’. Due to our family being the first social group we encounter in life, it with be from these people our standards and culture will develop from, with this family passing on their love of football. Sometime parents fail to teach these basics, due to society being focused on teaching the technicalities in the modernised world we live in today. Teaching the Syllabus presents the idea that we have somewhat failed to instruct a child on the basics in life. Forgetting to teach ‘Dogs to bark again; lions to roar…’ we have instead focused on ‘teaching lions to leap through flaming hoops’. Through this exploration, the poem has shown that some things cannot be taught in life, and instead must be naturally experienced. Moreover the family unit is just one factor that influences our final identity.
Belonging to the human race has benefits and drawbacks, but while it may be difficult to determine the relative importance of personal choice, chance, nature or nurture in shaping identity, our impulse to belong remains a fundamental component of our humanity. This compelling need to belong is therefore another factor that influences our character. Individuals make sacrifices, both positive and negative, in order to belong to a group. During Secondary School, there is huge pressure to ‘fit in’ to a social group. Peers can become increasingly influential and our desire to belong to certain groups can overpower that of the values our family have taught us. Furthermore our peers and social groups influence our character. Enter Without So Much as Knocking, presents an extremely powerful message of the dangers of conforming to the values of a consumerists society, in which individual integrity and identity have been made redundant. In seeking acceptance and a sense of belonging, the characters life becomes essentially hollow and devoid of any real meaning.
The poem pleads we do not identify with society today to avoid becoming the self-centred person who kicks others when they are down. It is these influences, of both conforming to society and thriving on a sense of belonging, which moulds our final identity. Contrastingly, if a person fails to find a group to associate with, often they will lead isolated and occasionally unhappy lives. If unaccounted for, a person’s natural cravings for interactions and connections can result in a sense of disappointment and underachievement in life. The Family Man is a dark expression of the result of not being able to connect and belong in today’s unforgiving society. Although the man ‘had the earmarks of a friend’ and was ‘kindly no man’s enemy’, he obviously felt very different about himself and his life.
Although appearing to be content with himself, the man is found dead a couple of days just after he was having family discussions. This shows that although connecting his family, the man felt severely isolated and lonely, to the point where he committed suicide. Reverie of a Swimmer shows a similar situation where our materialistic society has caused a man to give up his life. Explaining that he was out to sea to ‘escape from the poison of office’ the man clearly feels he does not fit in and is unaccepted in his work place. As a result, the man has taken his life, simply because he was unhappy with his life. Furthermore, there are a number of influences that shape our character, some being extremely negative causing people to take their lives. The social and geographical environment in which one is raised has a permanent and significant impact on their personality.
Children born in different countries will lead vastly different lives simply because of the socioeconomic status in which they were raised. A child’s needs in Australia are more often than not met; however a child’s needs in Africa are almost never completely accounted for. Although two children may be born at exactly the same time, because of the country and area in which they are born, their wants and needs in life will be close to opposite. It is often where we chose to live that influences our identity as well. Living in suburbia is something people often prefer as shown in Homo Suburbiensis. Dawe suggests that in a suburban garden a man can be at peace with nature, himself and his neighbours without the hectic environment of the city. Because the man is surrounded by familiar sounds and smells of suburbia he seems content and has gained a sense of belonging.
In opposition, some people prefer to lead a hectic lifestyle in the city. Moreover the social and geographical environment in which one lives and is raised, is just one of many factors that develops our identity. Identity does not belong in isolation. Interactions with friends, family and other help to define it. It is here that we realise there is more than just one factor that contributes to our persona. Inheritance of personality plays a large role in forming a sense of self because environmental pressures are of no interest at a young age. Because of this, our parent’s influence will directly play a role in shaping our forever developing character. The desire to belong is another significant factor that can influence our identity. Because it is human nature to strive for a sense of belonging, it is notoriously difficult to balance being part of a group while retaining ones sense of individual identity. As a result we often make decisions on our identity and personality in order to conform to groups within society.
Complementary to this, those that struggle to gain a sense of belonging either accept this and live their lives in isolation to the consumerist driven world today, or struggle to conform with the idea that they do not fit into today’s society. If this is the case, those that find it difficult to come to terms with not belonging to a certain group can either change their personality to gain a sense of belonging with a different group, or sadly take their own lives. Another factor that plays a direct role in moulding our character is the environment in which we are raised. Even as the family unit provides a powerful initial context for shared experience, shared bonds of blood can also bring drawbacks as we do not choose the family or culture we are born into. If born into a under developed country or lower class within Australia, negative influences will shape a child identity different to that of a child born into a high class family. Moreover there are many issues and experiences in life that will shape and mould the hundreds of different personalities we are capable of presenting throughout life.
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