Just be yourself. Type this into Google images and see what it comes up with. As you might have expected it’s a never-ending concoction of bright and bold motivational messages telling you to ‘just be yourself’. But have you ever questioned your identity and what it means to you to be ‘yourself’?
In 1599 Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.’ Sociologist Erving Goffman describes people’s social interactions as simply a theatrical performance. Goffman categorises behaviour into front stage and back stage -stating that when one is on stage, such as in the public, one is required to play a role to make or maintain a good impression, but one doesn’t reveal one’s identity. The identity of one’s self can be found in what Goffman depicts as the backstage personality. This is a place where one can afford to be open and truthful. As interesting as Goffman’s theory might be, is it the case that one has a so called back and frontstage identity?
Well, it is apparent that in certain social situations such as a dinner or at work one does have to take a more focused and well-rounded standpoint than if one was socialising in the home with close family or friends. By accommodating for certain expectations in a public environment, does that mean that one can simply replace their identity? I would say that one has a core identity and although it is adaptable there is always an underlying element of ourselves, and this most vital part of one’s identity should be at the forefront.
But how has does has modern society interfere with our identity? We are constantly pressured to make choices in modern society- that is the view of British sociologist Anthony Giddens. Not simple choices such as what one is going to have for dinner, but much more personal life choices ‘life destinations and relationships’. Giddens believes that the media is a model that instructs one on to how to live, what one should do with their life and who one should be.
This Morning’s feature about ‘How to become a Lady’ is an example of what Giddens set’s out. This sets out how one should identify oneself to fit in. Telling you how to live your life.
Adverts, self-help books, make over shows all have the same effect. These are all ways to live our lives not coming from one as an individual, these are one’s choices. But is it possible for one to truly have an individual identity, or is identity a learnt behaviour? Even without influences, such as the media, one would still be subject to influences from all around one’s self. After all, I believe, the quest of many is to simply ‘fit in’.
Do you think you are ever just yourself?