When societal labels take over your identity
Recently I came across the following quote on Instagram: "Comparison destroys personality". For me personally, I would change "personality" with "identity" thus making “Comparison destroys identity”. This bears the question, what is one’s identity? Chloe Hart distinguishes in her advanced essay "Shaping a person's personal and social identity" three factors that make a personal identity: someone's culture, someone's memories, and their societal labels. I want to particularly focus on the last factor, the societal labels. These are mainly based on other people's judgments. The way others perceive you has a great impact on how you see yourself. We are constantly looking for acceptance and therefore attach great value to other people's opinions. Actually, societal labels play an important role in the formation of one's personal identity.
I think this is why the quote "Comparison destroys personality/identity" triggered me so much. I realized that I also compare myself from time to time, especially professionally, with others and thus allow myself to be influenced, but that actually someone else's perspective should not determine my identity. Let me clarify below.
When I look at my professional career, I could say that I am quite satisfied with how it is going. As a Marketing Manager for a multinational, I have nothing to complain about. In addition, a few months ago, in full pandemic, I started my Event Styling business - Kreative DuWo - which focuses on table and party decorations as well as dry flower bouquets. Despite the current situation, I have already been able to sell some products through my webshop, as well as having the pleasure of doing fun assignments. Starting my own business is something I have wanted for a long time. An outlet that combines several elements of my identity and personality. Independent, ambitious, entrepreneurial, creative. I know what I stand for and I know what I want to accomplish. Even with that knowledge, occasionally I feel like I'm losing my identity because of the third component, the societal labels. Take Instagram, for example. It is a wonderful platform, but it is increasingly causing the authenticity it once stood for to be lost. It determines, via an algorithm, what people like and therefore how you as a brand, company, or person should behave because it fits within certain societal labels.
People are losing themselves in this and it causes a loss of original content for the consumer. There is content creation because it works and serves the algorithm but not (always) because we like it or are passionate about it.
How many people have you seen doing an uncomfortable TikTok dance because that is today’s expectation without it mainly fitting into their identity? How many times did you hear: “Actually, I don't like talking in front of the camera, but since it's important to show and express yourself as the person behind the company, I do it anyway." So are people looking for fun, surprising and innovative content or do they just want to see the same cloned content over and over again?
As a digitally savvy person, I enjoy consuming creative online content. As a marketer and entrepreneur, I enjoy offering creative content. But sometimes I ask myself the question of whether I should lose my own identity as a person and a company, for 2 extra likes and 10 extra views? Especially because as a person I am very keen on doing what you love for yourself and certainly not for others.
Does this mean you will never find a TikTok or Reels trend on my Instagram? No, I'm sure you will find them somewhere on one of my channels. But I will try my best to focus on the first two components of identity as described by Chloe Hart; culture and memories. Culture, because this is the core of who I am and memories because they remind me mainly of periods when I lost my own identity in order to please others. This also doesn’t mean that I will never compare myself or my business to others again. I would be lying if I claimed otherwise. Especially on social media, you are easily triggered to do so. But I don't want societal labels to be the main factor in defining my identity. They are constantly evolving but, I will remain Clarissa Kiaku, a 28-year-old woman with Angolan roots, who is ambitious but mostly full of passion and drive, doing what she loves. Someone who follows her own path, inspired by others, but who will never deny herself and therefore her identity, based on expectations that, when you think about it, don't really matter much.