Until recently, I didn’t have a succinct way to express an essential aspect of how I live. Heck, I’m not even sure I “knew” I lived this way because I never really thought about it; I just did it.
Yes, you can guess it from the title; without realizing it, I’ve always kept — and continue to keep — my identity small.
“What the heck does that even mean!?” you ask.
Keeping your identity small means not donning labels that are greater than what you are.
I like guns and think I have the right to own guns, but I’m not a Republican and don’t want to be called one. Likewise, I think a woman should have dominion over her body, but I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t want to be called one.
Labels define your identity; become part of any group, and you start to look like them.
Call yourself a Republican/Conservative or Democrat/Liberal, and your party’s platform is now your platform, regardless if you agree with all of it or not. You’re required to hate who they hate and champion what they champion.
Same for religion; call yourself a Christian or a Muslim, and you’re now complicit in every awful, spiteful, cruel, and immoral thing members of those religions espouse and do. Every bat-shit crazy thing written in their holy books is now something you have to pay lip service to.
A small identity allows for growth, learning, and improvements. Conversely, a large identity is limiting, impeding growth and learning.
Once you’ve joined a group —political, religious, or social — and established “who you are”, changing your identity is difficult because you risk losing friends and family. Not to mention the difficulty you’ll face in making new friends because of mistrust for having been a part of that “other” group. And that assuming you want to change; most people don’t.
Once invested in a large identity — Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, and so on — the inner conflict at the thought that your group — and you — might be wrong about something becomes too great even to contemplate.
Thus, people shut their minds to criticisms and data countering their views, ignoring anything that challenges their beliefs and only seeking confirmation.
But, if you are right, why would you be so afraid of questioning your beliefs? Why would any challenge scare you?
And, if you are wrong, why would you want to be wrong any longer than the present?
The luxury of a small identity is that being open to learning and honestly seeking the truth is never a threat to who you are.
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