How do you define yourself? What do you believe about yourself?
Take a few moments to reflect on that. Who do you think you are, and why do you believe youâ€™re put on Earth? This is a very important question – how you define yourself is probably the single biggest factor that determines how you make decisions and how you think.
Now that youâ€™ve quickly thought about what you identify yourself as, itâ€™s time for another question: how strong is your identity? How much evidence to the contrary would you need in order to prove that your conception of yourself – your very identity – is wrong?
Weak Vs. Strong Identities
Hereâ€™s a scary thought: what if an act of random chance was enough to destroy your entire identity? That chance occurrence would be the equivalent of a hurricane coming along and drowning you and your house underwater, with no chance for survival. It was just bad luck that you lived in an area that was hit hard by this freak occurrence (the hurricane), and there was nothing that you could do about it.
The ability for one of these psychological hurricanes to kill your identity, by definition, makes your identity weak. It makes it subject to the winds of change, which can create uncertainty when you need confidence in yourself the most.
Examine this in yourself: how much would it take to completely tear down your identity? For example, if you pride yourself on being good at your job, how would it damage your identity if you were to be fired tomorrow for no reason whatsoever? A person with a weak identity would read into things too much and have their self-worth fall after getting fired because theyâ€™d take it as a sign that theyâ€™re actually not a good worker. They would try and rationalize their decision by reading into the past as well: they might invent a way to explain their firing, like that they were stuck in a rut for the past couple of months, leading their work to decline, even if they were actually doing their best work during that time.
A person with a strong identity would know that theyâ€™re a good worker, and that their firing doesnâ€™t take away from that. Theyâ€™d realize that their skills could still be valuable to someone else, and wouldnâ€™t let the firing weigh them down in the pursuit of another job. Itâ€™d take a lot more than a firing in order to prove to them that theyâ€™re not good at their job – theyâ€™d need to see how poor they are at their jobs for themselves in order to do it. After that, they wouldnâ€™t resign themselves to being bad – theyâ€™d try to restore â€œequilibriumâ€, so to speak, by improving their work, so that reality matches their identity.
In this case, having a strong identity is certainly better than having a weak one.
However, a strong identity isnâ€™t always better than having a weak identityâ€¦
Positive vs. Negative Identity
When we take into account the polarity of your identity – positive vs. negative – having â€œstrongâ€ and â€œweakâ€ take on totally different meanings.
What do you call someone with a strong, negative identity? Depressed. They canâ€™t bring themselves out of their negative mindset because their negative identity is so strong and all-consuming that no amount of evidence for the contrary can make them change their minds.
A weak negative identity is often a cynical person who allows themselves to feel good when itâ€™s â€œappropriateâ€ to do so.
A weak positive identity feels good as a default, but is prone to having their good feelings unravelled when things start going wrong for them.
A strong positive identity is the â€œbestâ€ – unless it is marked by arrogance or delusional confidence. However, the advantages are large – especially in terms of self-gratification. With a strong positive identity, you communicate that you feel very secure with any outcome, because nothing – or nothing short of murdering someone – can cause you to think badly of yourself. If you think well of yourself all the time, then youâ€™ll feel good all the time, and because of that, the strong positive identity is self-perpetuating.
The one question I have left is this: which one of these are you? Are you negative or positive? Are you strong or weak?
More to the point: how does your type of identity determine how you feel and how you act?