Identity – knowing who we are

Every person has a sense of his or her personal identity. It’s our answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’

Just about every time I facilitate a workshop I touch on the topic of identity. It’s a fundamental consideration when coaching. It is also relevant when working in the community engagement field.

We search for answers to our identity question in many places: our work, our family, our faith, our community, our hobbies and interests, and our history. All of these places provide fragments that allow us to piece together answers to our identity puzzle.

Of course, most of us don’t sit around consciously thinking about our identity. It’s an unconscious process where we seek validation that all is okay with who we believe ourselves to be.

When working in the community engagement field I often ask my client to consider the question of identity especially if they’re dealing with stakeholder angst. Sometimes when an organisation undertakes significant engagement work in the community they may not have considered the question of identity.

It can be much easier to motivate people to find positives for proposed change if the change appeals in some way to their sense of identity. However, if the change undermines, diminishes, or contradicts the community’s sense of identity then it’s likely the change will be met with strong opposition.

After all, we spend out entire life investing in our identity both personally and collectively so we will fight hard to protect it if there’s a perceived threat. Most of us will also actively reinvent it if we are provided with the time, space and support to revise it in a way that’s validating.

About Author

Maryanne Martin