Personal Identity


Theaspect of personal identity is a dynamic part of the human being thatis shaped by different factors. Due to the exposure to theenvironment, human beings tend to be influenced by the people theyassociate with. However, the level of influence is relative since notall people take the personal identity or character of others. In theessay “JustWalk on By”,Staples (184) explores the discrimination on races as well as theinfluence of people in regard to personal identity. The discussion inthis paper will illustrate that the views of the people around usdetermines our personal identity.

Thepeople around us influence our behavior on a daily basis, leading toa change of character. Due to the repeated influences of ourcharacter and behavior, our personal identity is gradually shapedbased on their character. The regular influence on the characterhappens because we share ideas and actions with the people around us.Layder(3) argues that through association, a character is formed by takingthe behavior of the peers that hang around an individual. Thisinfluence changes the way a person behaves by replacing his oldbehavior and character to those of the peers. Consequently, a persontakes the personal identity of the peers and the people around him orher.

Thepeople around us determine the type of culture or moral values thatan individual subscribes to. According to Staples (184), theassociation between people of different races made them sticks to thevalues and cultures of the people they interacted with. Due to theconcentration of people of the same race in particular neighborhoods,the culture of taking the values of the race persists, therebyblocking the appreciation of the other race or culture (Learyand Tangney 146).This mostly prevents the breaking of the cultural and racial barriersthat exist between people of different races. Therefore, the peoplearound us determine our personal identity in terms of values andcultural practices that originate from the racial background.

Thepeople determine our personal identity by constantly approving orrebuking our motives, ideas, aspirations and actions. They become thejudges who determine what is good for us and what is not. This isbecause the association with the people around us tends to force usto consult them, directly or indirectly on the issues that weexperience. Perry(14) argues that the power of association is significant to thepersonal identity of human beings that it forces an individual totake the ideas and values of the others. This affects since thepeople around us are the first line of feedback on our personalidentity as well as our actions.

Thepeople around use form the basis of our comparison, especially whenwe are evaluating our character. They are the closest elements ofhuman beings that we find when we interact with them. Therefore, wetend to compare ourselves and our character to their character.According to Noonan(31),a person finds the reflection of his character on the people aroundhim or her because they are the only people who show the relativetraits of how an individual should behave. This comparison to themtends to induce us to justify our behavior, character and ultimatelyour personal identity which in most cases is not moral enough.

Thepersonal identity of an individual is based on the reflection of whatother people see him or her. This is because the way people behave,relate and act determines how people perceive of them. At the sametime, the people who form the perception of an individual are thosethat associate with him or her, or those that live around them (Learyand Tangney 146).Therefore, the people around us determine our personal identity byestablishing a perception about us. Due to association between us andthem, we therefore take the identity that they suggest through theirperception.

However,the influence of the people around us is not guaranteed by ourassociation with them. This is because people are not obliged to takethe perceptions or opinions of other people. With such an attitude,the personal identity of a person is not determined by the people,but by his acceptance to take the influence of individuals around himor her. This means that the influence is still exerted on a personfrom the people around him or her, such as peers, family or society.It is our individual choice to either accept or reject the influenceof the people. Therefore, the main determination of our personalidentity is still the people around us.

Fromthe discussion, it is clear that the people around us determine ourpersonal identity. They influence our character and behavior as wellas provide a basis of comparing ourselves with. In addition, peopledetermine the culture and moral values that we identify with andprovide the approval codes for our behavior or actions. Moreover,people around us form an opinion and perception about us, which wetend to take as our own reflection. Consequently, the people aroundus determine our personal identity.


Layder,Derek. Socialand : Understanding Yourself.New York: SAGE Pub, 2004, Print

Leary,Mark and Tangney, June. HandbookofSelf and Identity.New York: Guilford Press, 2005, Print

Noonan,Harold and Perry,John..New York: Routledge, 2004, Print

Perry,John. PersonalIdentity.California: University of California Press, 2008, Print

Staples,Brent. “JustWalk on By” InBishop, Wendy. OnWriting: A Process Reader.Page 184. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007, Print