Identity is a fundamental part of all humans. Whether one’s identity consumes their personality or lies in the shadow of their persona, all humans share this personality trait. Identity is defined as the distinctive characteristic belonging to any given individual or shared by all members of a particular social category or group. In cognitive psychology, the techicange definition of the term “identity” refers to the capacity for selfreflection and the awareness of self. (Leary & Tangney 2003, p. )
The Weinreich definition directs attention to the totality of one’s identity at a given phase in time, with its given components such as one’s gender identity, ethnic identity, occupational identity as well as many more.. The definition is applicable to the young child, to the adolescent, to the young adult, and to the older adult in various phases of the life cycle. In sum an identity is the essence of a person or group that shines through as a dominant characteristic. The formation of identity takes place at various stages of one’s life each has an equal opportunity to be profoundly impactful of shaping self image/ concept or identity.
Notable familial, mentor or cultural figures can all be influential in constructing one’s identity. When one is growing up, identity formation is very pertinent challenge children faced. With a combination of physical, cognitive and social changes, an identity may be hard to identify and solidify due to its changing nature. Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst, coined the phrase identity crisis when he observed a point in one’s life where a period of change or debilitating uncertainty occurs. turning point rather than a period of profound or debilitating uncertainty. Erikson acknowledged that identify issues could appear at any point in one’s life, but the formation of identity itself would foreshadow the hardships to come. The shifts of life are often grouped into years, the transition between school grades, but a profound life change such as parent’s divorce or abuse, accelerate the identity formation process. In a research paper published 2002 by Act for youth, the idea of identity across context was investigated.
For example, teenagers often behavior differently when they are around their peers than they would with their parents. A statement that is already quite generally known, but know there is research done (by Steinberg & Morris, 2001) explaining why one might be outgoing and eccentric when with friends but shy at their own homes. Erickson described this identity exploration as” a crisis of identity versus identity diffusion”. This age of middle adolescence (approximately ages 14-16) relies heavily on social and external forces when developing a self image, and or concept.
Erickson argued that to achieve a solid identity would require a period of psychosocial moratorium — “a time when the adolescent is relieved from the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood that might restrict his or her pursuit of selfdiscovery. ” Adolescents who prematurely assume adult responsibilities, such as working to support their family, or becoming parents themselves, have a harder time achieving their own identity. Thus, their identity may exist in a fragile and immature state in their future life when faced with difficult challenges.
Discovering the vitality of those unseemingly important years in adolescence left me with a question that demanded to be answered. What role does the media play in affecting teenagers concept of self identity and esteem? Growing up in the modern world without the media impinging on daily life is nearly impossible. The present day has developed a new identity which is that of social media. Being conditioned to show only the most flattering and best sense of ourselves, social media projects itself as another form of modern identity.
Children as young as 7 or 8 are already absorbed into various social media platforms as well as the authoritative music industry. The message being broadcast far and wide is clear. Thin, but with ample derriere, strong but not threatening, and visibly ebullient, but not insincere. Women are constantly bombarded with this cookiecutter mold that only fits a fraction of the actual population. So what does this message, this constant reminder; you’re not significant until you’re perfect do to young girl’s self esteem?
Carl Roger’s theory of personality coincides with Abraham Maslow stating that every human has the basic instinct to improve itself and realize one’s full potential. This enlightenment was called self-actualization by both Roger and Maslow. This state of being was attained when the idea self and self image corresponded proportionally to each other. Social media acts as a tangible version of the concept of the ideal self described by Roger and Maslow. Social media allows one to construct their self as a human without flaws, executing their life with passion and all while entertaining their audience of followers and “likers”.
The persona derived from the cyber world is the person one wants to be, as well as the person one wants to be seen as. According to Psychology Today self-identities of this generation of young people, are now shaped by a majority of external forces. Popular culture no longer acts as a mirror to reflect our self-identities but rather serves as a portrait of the socially acceptable. With a phenomena of “white washing” and body shaming in the media, the diversity in the entertainment industry is little to none.
Representation in the press is incredibly important because it not only gives children somebody to relate and look up to, but it expands people’s assumption of their capabilities. If we only ever see Mexican housekeepers, and black basketball stars, who would convince these children that it’s possible for them to be brain surgeons or artists? The media has more power than it can realize at times. From incredible campaigns such as Dove’s’ “real beauty” and Victoria Secrets'” love your body” social media can also shine as a platform for societal change. Throughout this research I have conducted on the elements of
Identity, I find racial identity to be the most pertinent to myself. Moreover, in an article published by the Journal of Research on Adolescence in 2006, the relationship between ethnic identity and psychology is discussed. The journal reached the effect of racial discrimination on the psychological functioning of African Americans. Part of their findings explored how exposure to the world outside of their “immediate familial environment, many encounter societal institutions that often covertly and overtly discriminate against them because of phenotypical characteristics such as race”.
The risk for experiencing racial discrimination is especially acute for African American adolescents compared with adolescents of another race or ethnicity (Fisher, Wallace, & Fenton, 2000; Romero & Roberts, 1998). The formation of racial identity is also formed in a similar way to Erik Erikson’s model. Furthermore, the system of formation is broken down into a simple three step process by Jean Phinney. Phinney’s theory focuses on the circumstances that multicultural children are faced with and how they cope or adapt to fit into their community.
The identify that children develop is either through self examination or absorption of feelings of another through the process of socialization, Phinney describes. Children are required to digest both their positive and negative messages about their ethnicity and make which makes socialization such crucial experience for ethnic identity development. The first step of the progression is the unexamined ethnic identity. This stage looks at race and ethnicity for face value, physical differences and external opinions mostly from the early opinions on one’s ethnic selfidentity. Secondly is the ethnic identity search.
This stage is where the adolescent inquires about the accepted views of the ethnicity and attempts to gain an abstract view of the ethnicities values and doings. The last stage is the Ethnic Identity Achievement. This stage is experienced for the sole purpose of clarifying one’s ethnic identity. During this stage, the ethnic identity is more or less internalized in order to replace negative ethnic self image. As a biracial child in America, I never quite fit in. Growing up in Mendocino, California with exactly one “black” girl (myself) in the entire school, I was the go to for questions about rap music, dance moves and slang.
I felt as if I was a representative of the entire African American race even though I am just as white as I am black. Once I left the sheltered bubble of Mendocino, I saw more people that didn’t look like me which left me in an identity crisis, everyone had a community except for me. My African family praised my fairness, and adored my curly tresses, but my white family didn’t understand what to do with it. Although my hair seems like a trivial issue, it certainly did not feel like it to me. My hair was the physical representation of a girl stuck between two worlds; softened curls with just enough volume to not pass as white.