Home Students Corner Discovering Your Identity – reflecting on my first year at university

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By: Ivan Beckley

London, 1st June 2015

You’re in a new environment, new people, and new pressures. Some would say in such situations it can be difficult to maintain what is unique to you and only you – your identity. For me though the opposite is true because the fact is that, in such situations are where you understand the most about yourself, beyond what any personality test could ever tell you. This is the experience most people go through when starting University. For many young people it’s the first time, they are given the time to express themselves, in the way they see fit. Through the activities they take up, through the friends they make and most importantly how they learn. It’s a time in a young person’s life when some say they understand the most about themselves. But how do they know? How would you know, that you have found your identity? Who you are and your identity is not something you look for, but something you come to understand. For a brief moment I want to explore the ideas around identity but fundamentally, how you know once you’ve discovered it – once you’ve discovered your identity.

“For many young people university is the first time, they are given the time to express themselves, in the way they see fit.” 

First, what is your identity? The dictionary definition doesn’t really help, it defines identity as: the fact of being who or what a person is. But what is ‘is’? So looking into it I would say your identity is formed by three key facets, where you’re from (i.e. your ethnicity, family, genes), what drives you (your passion, your talents, beliefs) and where do you want to be in the future (your dream). Some would say those are really easy questions, therefore by being able to answer them we have a good sense of our identity. Wrong.

Unfortunately it’s not that straight forward, because these questions, if you think honestly about your answer, are difficult to answer. Anyone can say something like,

‘Hi my name is Ivan and I’m British. I love playing the guitar and I dream of being a surgeon in the future.’

 

 

 

But, not everyone could or would say something like,

‘Hi my name is Ivan, I am of Sierra Leonean origin, born and bred in the UK, passionate about using medicine and technology to innovate the globe and my dream is to make a real lasting difference in people’s lives.’ 

 

 

 

 

That says allot more about me than my first response, but most importantly it says I am proud of who I am – the things that make me, me. That is what grasping your identity is all about. Accept who you are for you, whole-heartedly, good and bad.

QUESTION 1: How do you go about understanding more about my identity?

  1. Embrace your origins

Take time the time to understand more about where your parents grew up, where your grandparents grew up. But also remember the culture you were brought up in. Take the opportunities to explore that part of your life, either through joining cultural societies or being a greater part of your community. Remember part of who you are is because of what came before you.

  1. Challenge yourself

When the opportunity comes to speak in front of a crowd of 200 people about the life and work of Peggy Mitchell. Take it. Random yes I know. But the point is you’ll be doing something that will push your limits of conformability and by doing so you will learn more about your strengths and weaknesses and therefore about you. Have you ever done something and surprised yourself? With that feeling comes a realisation of your capabilities that can never be realised by doing things you’ve always done because its secure, tried and tested – comfortable. You don’t know you can do something unless you try it. So try it, that one thing you have always wanted to do (obviously in good reason).

QUESTION 2: How do you know you’ve found your identity?

This is not a self-help guide, or any guide at all. It’s meant to make you think; think about yourself, how you feel about who you truly are. Because actually the way in which I would say you have found your identity is when you are confident (and I mean confident) enough to follow your heart and dreams always being willing to grow. Only then, I say, will you have an understanding of inner self and therefore your identity.

Remember there will never, ever be another you. You are completely unique, in every sense of the word. In discovering your identity you will discover that uniqueness. Guaranteed.

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