By Rob Longert
Identity is malleable, semi-permanent and dictated by our experiences and how they shape us. We’re constantly defining our identities by simply being out in the world, experiencing things and living life. Sometimes by choice, other times by chance.
In the 2015 APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology (by way of The Atlantic), Dan McAdams, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University noted that “Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality, or more accurately, they are important parts of personalty, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals, and values.”
Life’s moments continue to evolve and further our personal stories. We all have a story or narrative we’ve created about ourselves — here’s a glimpse into mine:
I grew up in Brooklyn, so I identify as a Brooklynite. I ran four marathons and a handful of half marathons, so in my eyes, that makes me a runner. My parents worked extremely hard, day-in and day-out, so I followed in their footsteps and that’s a key part of my story too. I own a Peloton bike, so apparently, that means I am a cyclist.
Our identities though, go beyond our narratives. Beyond our personalities. They make us authentically relatable to others and encourage connection to communities of people with whom we share commonalities.
In a split second two-and-a-half years ago, I had an identity-changing moment in my personal narrative. I went from “just a dude” to “a dad.” My wife Alissa and I went into the delivery room with a certain identity and in mere moments, we were changed by the birth of our son, Maxwell. Our narratives and identities would never be the same now, as new parents.
We are part of a community of parents (and specifically for us, parents who experienced having a baby prematurely) and instantaneously identified with our parent peers. Who we are, our priorities and our identities will be forever changed as “mama” and “dada.”
The community aspect of identity is fascinating. It ties directly into what we do as professional communicators. We know first-hand, that communities make it possible to embrace identities and brands can facilitate that sense of community by bringing like-minded people together.
More and more, we’re seeing how technology helps facilitate the formation of those communities, as well. Take an active Facebook group (Facebook is a client of Day One Agency) like Dragon Dads, a group of dads who have LGBT children. The commonalities in their identities and simply wanting to show love and support to their children bring them together to share their experiences on Facebook and offline, as well.
As you read through our Identity Issue as a marketer, think about all of the potential identities that are in your brand’s or client’s audience and look for the commonalities within them that can help drive community. It will always go back to the importance of relationships, knowing your audience, being accepting and aware of different identities and acting transparently. And much like a human, a brand’s multifaceted story makes up its identity.
As you read through our Identity Issue as a person, remember that your personal narrative, the choices you make, the communities you’re part of is open-ended. It’s not set in stone and it can change at the drop of a hat, both by choice and by chance. But despite the day-to-day (and sometimes tumultuous) news cycle, we’re living in a time that values openness when it comes to identity, and there’s always somewhere to turn to find acceptance.