Something I’ve always found amusing since moving to Beijing is that whenever I tell people I majored in Psychology in college, their follow-up question is almost always along the lines of “So can you hypnotize people?” or “Are you reading my thoughts right now?” Since it’s still a relatively small field in China, the public still sees psychologists (not that I am one, I just studied psychology) as a mix between a psychic, hypnotist, and magician. Though I’m not constantly analyzing the people I meet (so don’t be paranoid, if you ever do meet me), I am constantly analyzing social situations around me. Recently, I was thinking about the topic of self-identity. I know that a lot of people identify with having a variety of “selves.” There’s the work-self, the friend-self, the home-self, etc. Some people will say that who they are with their friends are their real selves. Some people say that their home-selves are their true identities.
The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that no one self is a “true” self. I think we just have personality traits that vary in different levels and degrees based on external influences. For example, maybe a person’s core trait is humor, but while she is extremely funny around her friends, maybe she tones it down at work so people take her more seriously. But I think there is one self that we identify with more, and it’s the one we portray when we’re in a comfortable environment, such as among friends.
It makes me wonder what people take into account when defining who they are. Would the traits they’d use to describe themselves at work be the same as how they’d describe themselves in general? For example, some people are naturally charismatic and as outgoing at work as they are with friends. I’d say I’m fairly outgoing, but I may seem less so in the office. Another thing I was wondering was, are insecure people more likely to define themselves based on how other people see them? Or rather, how they think other people perceive them?
Just a random Monday night thinking about how people’s minds work. I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-identity and the ongoing identity crisis.