Okay, so I don’t know if I agree with the preliminary statement, but the question says ‘if’, so I at least have to start off accepting the assumption.
If identity is created through choice, are those choices enough to build identity. I can’t work out if that’s circular or not. It could well be. Choice creates identity, and identity is assured by those choices? I’m not sure quite how that stacks up.
And if your choices create your identity, then it should be fluid enough that you can’t be assured of it, because it is changed from one moment to the next.
I think identity is this fluid, but that doesn’t mean I think its a choice. You can certainly choose how to express it, and what aspects of it you present at want times, but without a core of something, that becomes meaningless.
Identity isn’t validated by its expression, it validates expression. You can roll around this world being anything and anyone you want, to a certain extent, but unless its in line with some weird egotistical but unreadable core, it feels uncomfortable.
The more you act like you, the more whole and solid you feel.
The you is fluid, you can control and steer and contain and direct it, to some extent. This is mostly because actually, it isn’t made up of the things you immediately percieve. Your actions and presentations aren’t the original source identity, they are the layers of representation and reconstruction.
In my heart, there is a something I can call myself, but I can’t see it except through the labyrinth of my actions and thought processes. I am unknown to myself. Or at least, I am encrypted.
Actions, choices, thought processes. They don’t create assurances of identity, they generate mythologies of it. I reinterpret myself, through my eyes and others, and whilst thinking I excavate, I construct. We don’t dig down, but we mound up.
Sculpture can be subtractive or additive. You can carve something away to find its core, or you can heap clay on clay and shape it until it makes something.
Identity is similar. But we mistake the two processes for each other.
Technically, either is valid, if it leads to something that feels like selfness. It’s just that it’s important to keep it as a process that can be added to and subtracted to when it becomes outdated. Our identity is our animus, and we must use it to animate our selves.
I can’t work out if any of this makes sense, or comes close to the question. Discussing identity is like picking up handfuls of water to try and get the sense of the ocean.
I am sure other people feel more solid than me. I’m sure other people haven’t had to rebuild themselves quite so many times.
And perhaps those other people are much better off than I.
But I believe my fluidity and constant processing is what makes me whole.
Is that a free choice?
Illustration by Henry