Each person has a set of features and characteristics that make up his or her personality. Also, everyone has many events of the past, people, and living conditions that also affect the growth process. The combination of these factors can be called identity, a holistic picture of a person. A person can form some parts of an identity, however, the events of childhood strongly influence its development. Family, friends, school, the whole state – all these factors shape the personality of a person for many years. Sometimes this can make a person successful and interesting, but it can also be destructive. Thus, I would define identity as a set of personality traits that are basic for any person and can change throughout life. This base includes the worldview, relationship with others, behavior in various situations, and personal principles and goals.
It is not easy to assess the influence of various factors on human development because each life path is unique. Undoubtedly, the family makes one of the most significant contributions to this process. Parents surround their children and teach them according to their views and knowledge. Moreover, parents are also influenced by their friends, city and country, their parents, and other factors. In addition, the formation of people’s identity is significantly dependent on the cultural characteristics within which they live. For this reason, for instance, there are frequent misunderstandings between people of Asian and European cultures.
The history of the formation of each identity is unique. For example, Amy Tan writes about how her family and state influenced her. Her mother was a native speaker of Chinese and thus had a stereotype of insufficient English proficiency. By conveying this unusual way of speaking English to Amy, her mother significantly changed her identity. Because of this environment, Amy considered her own level of English insufficient, while in fact, she was good at it. As a result, she managed to become a writer and defend her high level of English. Thus, she, experiencing changes in her attitude towards her own qualities, changed part of her identity. Amy states: “I am a writer. And by that definition, I am someone who has always loved language” (42). This indicates her desire for having good skills in the language surrounding her and interest in its complete mastering.
Ana Menéndez wrote another interesting story about identity formation. Her identity was largely developed in the environment of the Spanish language and Cuban culture. It was difficult for her to change her basic traits of worldview and learn a new language after moving to America. However, this bilingualism made her even more developed and became a new part of her identity. She claims that “a mother tongue connects us to creation. It both shapes and is shaped by the speaker’s understanding of reality” (Menéndez 26). Indeed, the language a person speaks significantly affects the course of his thoughts and even actions. This is a phenomenon that makes people think more deeply about issues of human identity.
My identity was shaped from childhood, being that I was around my mom and learned her values and principles. For example, I was raised in the church and, because of this experience, I have grown to be spiritually invested in God. Therefore, since childhood, I have been following positive religious values, which is a significant part of my identity. The environment of my childhood shaped me as a person today. I still live by the same morals and values I had as a child, which gave me the ability to remain humble and gracious. Thus, although the identity may change over time, it is built in childhood and stays with people for the whole life.
Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue.” Dreams and Inward Journeys: A Rhetoric and Reader for Writers, edited by Marjorie Ford and Jon Ford, 7th ed., Pearson, 2010, pp. 34–44.
Menéndez, Ana. “The Bilingual Imagination.” Poets and Writers, 2011, pp. 23–26.