What is it that defines you?
We are all different people at different times. We are the hard-nosed manager, the compassionate co-worker, the loving partner, the exasperated motorist, the keyboard warrior or the quiet thinker in the corner at parties. But who are we, really?
Some of us define ourselves in terms of a tribe.
“I’m a marketer”, “I’m a graphic designer”, “I’m a Goth” and so on. We identify with others because it’s in human nature to form part of a tribe. Safety in numbers and all that. We might move from one tribe to another – from the weekend Goth to the week day corporate manager for example – but we’ll normally come back to rest in our main tribal alliance where we feel most comfortable. It is, after all, in our nature.
The tribe might be concentrated in one small area, or disparate across the world, linked only by advancing technology. But it’s a linking of common goals and ambitions, of past experience and future endeavour that forms our tribal alliances.
Others define themselves in terms of their job – “I’m a teacher”; “I’m a painter”; “I’m a poet” – thus relying on the other person to make up their minds as to what this means and which tribal alliance to put that person into. We all form associations with job descriptions and paint the individual with a similar brush, at least until we get to know them better. Again, it’s in our nature; part of the fight-or-flight risk assessment process which hasn’t yet evolved out.
And we all move through different personality states depending on a range of internal and external factors: the grumpy unwell, the jubilant victor, the impatient late or the cynical hurt. We are all of these people, even if they are not truly us.
So who are you? What if you ditched all but one tribal allegiance and declared: “I’m human”? How would you be understood then by the people around you? Would it force them to get to know you better, to unravel who/what you are, or would it keep them at arms length? How would this change your interaction with them?
And would you feel comfortable with joining a tribe in which every other person on this planet is a member, subsuming your individuality and tribal leanings into a greater whole?
However, consider it this way: removing yourself from the tribal sphere allows you to be flexible, fluid, non-labelled and able to change your mind simply because you can. You’re simultaneously as defined as you can ever be, and not defined at all.
And isn’t that the greatest creative space of all?