Unlimited Identities

Everyone has many facets to their personality — no one can be labeled or understood as just having one side to them. A high school teacher may present themselves as a poised and educated person; however, when they are on a night out with their friends they might drink a bit too much beer, let loose, and dance in an “unpoised” manner. Do we now label the teacher as someone that has an identity crisis? This is an issue I have struggled with for the entirety of my life — I have never felt like I made sense.

I was born in South Africa to a Hindu-Indian family (fourth generation) in a predominately black and Christian society. When I was three years old, my family moved to Ireland, an island that has many white and Catholic people. When I moved back to South Africa, I was ten — I did not speak Zulu or Afrikaans, so I was held back an academic year. The school I went to required uniforms, was filled with Indian people, and believed in light corporal punishment. None of this made sense to me and all of it was new. I felt uncomfortable, different, and alone.

I have never felt like I “fit in” anywhere. I was never Indian enough for my family and I wasn’t white or black or Christian or Catholic either. I’ve always been too serious but not serious enough, smart but not smart enough, introverted sometimes but extroverted other times, my way of speaking perceived as being too “white”, considered to read up too much on black issues, and the only Indian thing about me apparently being that I followed Hinduism. Consistently feeling like an outsider in every environment I was thrust into and being told I have an identity crisis by my father for years admittedly caused some confusion. Here’s what I didn’t know then, and what others couldn’t quite seem to grasp either:

You are allowed to have different sides to your personality.

What matters most is your self-concept — how you think and feel about who you believe you are. It’s true that our self-concept does have a dependency on what people think of us — it is inevitable to be influenced by what we consume daily, whether it is from the people closest to us or what is on social media. The only way we can improve our self-concept is by becoming aware of how we receive the messages we are given. For example, if you have a friend that is constantly saying rude things to you and following it up with excuses like, “it’s just advice” or “it’s just my opinion”, know that you can reduce or even remove that person’s presence in your life. Let’s say it is your mother that has the same tendencies as the previously mentioned friend — removing the presence of a close family member can be nearly impossible, and the way to cope with this situation is to be aware that whatever wrongfully conceived opinions are made about you don’t reflect on the person you are. You should take every criticism and figure out if you think it is constructive or just unnecessary.

You know who you are and what you stand for.

You’re allowed to have multiple interests that may not fit into whatever stereotype society associates you with, and you’re also allowed to follow those stereotypes, if you so wish. That’s the beautiful thing about this globalised generation — we get to be a piece of everything. We can watch Blackish while eating some good paneer and garlic naan (highly recommend), we can listen to BTS and then have to do our Afrikaans homework (which we suck at), we can learn whatever language we want, and speak using internet slang and local slang in the same sentence. We have unlimited options to create so many interesting parts of ourselves. Why limit yourself to just Hollywood because your friends think Bollywood has “too many songs”, as if the haters didn’t watch High School Musical fifty times in the same week? (No hate to HSM, I love it as well).

Just let people live their lives. Be a good person and that’s enough. You are growing and learning and creating yourself. You are the most beautiful piece of art you will ever create. You’ll make mistakes or be messy or completely have it all figured out, but whatever your situation, just remember we are all in this together.

(Featured Artwork: Elda Broglio)