In general, most of us think we know who we are. In some instances, this might be the case, but going into a new environment like a restaurant or cafe we’ve never been to before can make us conscious of our self-image. Subconsciously, the question of whether we fit in, whether our personality gels with that of the other guests, becomes if not paramount, then at least one of the things we have to consider.
I don’t live in a city where people walk around a lot. This is America, a place where people, even for the shortest distances think they need to use a car. The char her defines as much of one’s social image and personality as the clothes you wear in Paris, Zuerich, Milan or Vienna. The only people walking here are health nuts or joggers. Even they don’t walk, more often than not they rush past you wearing earphones linked to phones, oblivious to what’s going on around them. I’m neither of these types. I’m just a guy, an older guy to be sure, trying to stay active by talking long walks early in the mornings and trying my best to work out at my local gym so I can stay fit. That is what defines me.
Lately, I have noticed even on the walking trails it’s easy to feel like an outsider — someone who doesn’t fit in. What do you need to fit in, you may ask? As far as I can discern, its the right shoes, the right sportswear and a load of the latest technological gadgets, preferably iPhone with earbuds, Fitbit fitness tracker, compression anything and who know what will be next. The top of the line are the preferences of most runners and cyclists, but what about an amateur like me? Do I need all of this stuff? Does it make my day more enjoyable, my workout better? So far, I haven’t missed most of these things, but does not have them make me an outsider?
The other element that seems to define people is age-related behavior. If you don’t have kids and grandkids or live your life through them, you tend to forget about your age and sometimes forget you’re now sixty instead of thirty-five. Of course, I firmly believe in the age-old adage of your only as old as you feel. But not all people seem to see age this way. Nowhere is this more noticeable that when an older man speaks to a younger woman. In my local cafe eyes roll if someone notices me talking to a younger woman. I’m sure they’re wondering, is he trying to pick her up? Sometimes the woman herself may be thinking the same thing. Whereas the truth is I”m just trying to make conversation with my neighbor, as one often does in a cafe. It is only one case in point, where you see yourself one way, and others see you in another. Often identity is flexible and can be influenced by whether others are friendly towards you or jealous of you or in some cases unsatisfied with their lot in life.
The most important thing I can say about identity is: you should have the courage to remain true to yourself. Never mind what others are thinking or how they perceive you. As long as you are comfortable in your skin the happier, you are likely to be. Maybe you don’t wear the right labels or speak like a hip teenager but, that should define who you are. You are at the end of the day who you believe you are; you don’t have to let society define you. Define yourself and live your own life!
Do we have an Identity Crisis?
©2019 ajs – Bert Berger
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