Tag Archives: #identity

How Do I Look?

I have an 11-month-old niece. She is a fascinating creature. She makes me a question and re-think about how I view the world and my mental models around it.

In India, we have a few rituals/customs that have a forgotten significance to them. And a couple of them are piercing kids’ ears regardless of whether they are a boy or a girl. And other is to shave their head and offer the hair to your favourite god or goddess.

My niece is an Australian citizen, so she was about six months old when she got ears pierced and head shaved in India. She expressed her displeasure through crying and screaming but soon after the ordeal was over she was back to her usual self with no recollection of it ever happened.

My niece did not give it a second thought. No questions about how she looked? Will the earring go with her attire? What will people think of her shaven head? Will the hair grow back normally after that? How long will it take for the hair to grow? When can she change her earrings?

Can you imagine doing this as an adult? To begin with, we would have pondered over the decision umpteen times. We would do tons of research beforehand, even read reviews to ensure that we find the right Barber or the Jeweller. It would take us months or years or a lifetime to forget what we did and move one. Even if moved on this would have left a lasting impression on us.

Shaving one’s head, especially if you are a female can leave an impression not only on you but on others around you as well. Ear piercing is more common nowadays, and it is gaining popularity amongst men as well.

At what point in our lives does the identity arise? When do we start concerning ourselves with the way we look, and we start defining who we are with how we look? And more importantly, does it add any value? As we enter the teenager and the young adult phase of our lives, our obsession with our looks reaches a zenith, and then it tends to decline for some. And for some, it is inevitable that reduces the obsession about looks.

Media, Society and Marketing have a big hand to play in this obsession with looks. But we would be foolish to think that it is the sole reason. Our Ego tends to attach itself to the image of how we look, how we fit in, and that is pretty much what drives us to do what we do when it comes to looks.

Researchers once showed the photographs of our supermodels to a remote native tribe and asked the men if they would marry these gorgeous women. Their response was a unanimous NO. ‘She looks as if she is on her deathbed and will not be able to bear any children or do any housework’, was their candid response.

Is your self-identity attached to the way you look?

Being Different – concept of Who Am I?

I remember when I moved to Columbus from London – it was an identity crisis of sorts. The first step was to recognize that my identity was tied to working as a Project Manager in British Telecom and having a MBA degree from London Business School. I identified myself with these two things without even realizing it in London. When I moved to Columbus nobody even knew British Telecom or London Business School – I even had somebody ask me what does an MBA stand for. That was the first time I realized that unknowingly I had created an identity for myself and was attached to it. And looking back I can see that it had taken me some effort to build my identity in London so it wasn’t easy to let it go. And let it go for what?

Moving to Columbus gave me the fresh start as I wasn’t encumbered by preconceived notions of what people thought about me. Let’s ignore the fact that the preconceived notions are in my head to begin with. Fresh Start – eh! that didn’t last long though.

I was driving back from work one day and my thoughts wandered to how I am different and have always been different. For example, I am a South Indian but I grew up in North – so really I didn’t fit in either places. [South India as different from North India like UK and Spain]. And then I joined the software engineering which at that time was still very much Male-centric world. And when I moved to US – again I was different, same in UK [Although London feels like home as everybody is from outside] And then I married someone out of my caste , first one from my community to go do an MBA,list continues…

The point being that this is the only life I know and hence I identify myself as being different. In fact, I would probably feel threatened if I was the same as others.

How am I different now? We (Adam and I) don’t drink. We don’t watch TV – we don’t even have cable. We do Meditation and Yoga. We love talking about well-being, self and being on the Journey. We don’t seem to be driven by materialistic desires as much. The usual small talk isn’t for us.

Then the question is – so is this better? Is this good that I am different and differ in the way stated above?
The short answer to that is NO. It doesn’t matter what identity I have – the key is to be aware that I have an identity. In the human predicament we have to play the role(s). The key is to know that you are playing a role and the role is not you. And we cannot get away from playing the roles as long as we are in the human predicament. We might as well as enjoy playing different roles and play them with gusto.

A role might be this perfect do-gooder who can do no wrong. Another role can be of a inspirational leader at office. Another role might be somebody is who is victim to everything that happens to them. Another role might be of a drug-addict. Another might be of a politician or in some cases even an enlightened Guru.

In essence it really doesn’t matter who we are – we are all one whether we truly realize it or not is a different question.