Outside influences have a strong capability to influence and alter our personal identity. Both directly and indirectly, the social contexts in which we live can change the way we think and feel, and by extension how we interact with other people and places. Immediate family, friendship groups and the physical environment are all factors which contribute to our ever changing perceptions of ourselves. Sometimes personal identity can be subtly reshaped over a gradual time frame, as our sense of who we are is modified without personal recognition that we are changing.
At other times we may be able to notice our personal identity changing, through important life decisions. The first roots of our identity will be moulded by immediate family. Parents’ religions, beliefs, behaviour and attitude are all instilled into a person in their early years. In saying this, it is evident that one’s self identity can be subject to the ideas of others. When children are young, they are very impressionable. They will observe their parents traits, and try to imitate these in their own lives.
This occurrence relates to “who we are with”, and initiates a beginning in ones creation of their own personal identity. Before they are able to really think for themselves and make decisions based on their own feelings and ideas, influences from those around them are all they have to base their identity on. As people then grow to form individual views and ideas, they may be compelled to rebel against previously instilled behaviour. These contrasting ideas and subsequent actions will suggest a desired change in personal identity.
As a person ages, they are able to choose the people they associate with, steering away from family influences. This will usually result in a further change in identity, as the need to belong proves as a powerful motivator. Social contexts can change quite rapidly, and the people we identify with will have a great effect on our behavioural traits. So ultimately, “who we are with” can be traced back to ourselves. It is primarily our own decision to associate with a desired group of people.
The way others see us, as well as the way we see ourselves can change as a result. In the movie Witness, it s evident that Rachel is quite fond of John Book. In the scene where she is dancing with him, a change in her identity becomes apparent. She steers away from all past influences from her family and religion, and is driven to act like John. She feels a need to relate to him, and is envious of his behaviour. Her behaviour then reflects a woman who is not of Amish belief, much to the dismay of her father. Where we are, in a general sense, refers to where we live. The aspects of where we are which relate to personal identity involve how the society is run, and its physical features.
Different societies have a vast difference in laws, governments, religions, cultures and general ethics. These will then translate to how the people who live there choose to behave. A strict society with harsh regulations and punishments will cause people to be more reserved and controlled. A society with a high level of violence and unethical behaviour will usually cause future generations to act similarly. The physical features of a location can also influence behaviour and identity.
For example, the residents of a society on the beach will have certain typical and expected behaviour, which then translates to a particular lifestyle. Identity is able to be influenced and altered by where we live, and the people we choose to associate with. Our behaviour will reflect our social groups and living locations, which will then transform our personal identity. Although it is also possible for us to make our own decisions, and have a say in the shaping of our identity. Once we are able to think and act for ourselves, the “where” and “who” can be independently decided.