Some might say that you are what you eat. This is to suggest that identity is principally related to a certain type of behavior, or rather, and specifically in this case, an accumulation of molecules that you have ingested.
The purpose of this post is to explore a particular way of looking at identity as the accumulation of “group membership”. In General, no groups, however trivial will be excluded from this list of membership, but the question is one of priority and influence.
So for this exercise you can play along by completing your own list of groups. You can think of the challenge in two variants. i) what are the types of groups that it is most important to you for you to belong to? i) what group affiliations influence your decisions the most?
We can start with my sample responses to the first variation of the question, in some form of order.
1) Family: both for my existing family, and the one which I hope to build. This should come as no surprise. Family is indeed our first group, and the closest one, built on biological, evolutionary and reproductory foundations. The motivation for being a part of this group, however unscientific it may sound is love, and however cold it may sound, on a scientific basis, conservation of genetic material.
2) Class: Again, unsurprisingly, most people want to have a secure financial foundation. The degree of importance here, or the perceived wealth requirement as a motivating force certainly vary, but I suspect it will be at the higher side of most lists. The motivating factor here is probably security, but there is definitely a “status” component as well.
3) Intellectual/Professional: More than just being a member of a financial demographic, I aspire to be a part of a professional society that has core values associated with it. An example specific for me currently is being involved in what some call the sustainable energy movement. This is an important part of my identify and motivation. In a word though this still comes down to respect and status as much as I would like to say it is purely mission driven. I must admit that a large part of my motivation and aspiration is to be a part of an educated class.
4) Friends/Peer/social: It may be surprising that this is as far down on the list as it is, and there may be a good case to move it up. Having great friends to converse with and do activities with is an important aspiration in my life and a great source of enjoyment.
6) Hobby/Lifestyle: This is a tricky group category, and what I mean specifically has more to do with a health-conscious, active lifestyle. The general list is hobby, because some people might find the knitting club or book club being an important aspiration. For me it is to be a member of the group of people called runners, triathletes. I want to be physically fit and engage in as many sports as leisure time will allow, for as long as my body allows it. This is actually an important core value for me beyond the simple enjoyment of playing games.
7) Community: Again, this may be similar to the “friend” category, I think it deserves relisting in a broader – weak tie sense. Being a part of a community creates that social safety net beyond just friends to tie into a geographic area that is secure and rewarding to be a part of. I hope to be an upstanding member of that community, wherever it may be. This is a sense of belonging which I do not think is as tied to status, though it is hard to ignore property values and school districts when looking at community regions
8) Politics: This is yet another layer on most of the early categories. And it is low on the list because I don’t think that political group affiliation is important for it’s face value, but rather should emerge from values above.
9) Religion: Added almost as an afterthought. For me, religion just happens to be a common reason for getting the family together. It has also in the past been a source of community and friends. It is listed here specifically because there is some aspirational component of belonging, which if we recall is the original motivation for the list in the first place.