Identity is something that has become a buzz word within the marginalized communities. I’m part of several marginalized groups including chronic pain, blindness, ADHD and cancer survivor. All of these communities talk about identity in some form or another and I think as humans identity is super important to us both individually and globally.
When I think about who I am as a whole my marginalized parts never take up the first few positions. If you think of identity like a grid, a good example being a tic-tac-toe board the top left square is my name, this is what the public gets no matter who I’m talking to.
Then, square two is flexible in that it holds an ever changing variable based on the situation. If I’m at a business event square 2 is my company, if I’m around musicians it’s usually my instrumental abilities. Very rarely does square 2 ever include my disabilities or my medical conditions. If those come out it’s usually in square 3 or square 4. Square for is the far left row, second from the top with square 5 being the middle of the grid.
If I’m being honest square 5 is where I hold my marginalization variables. Square 5 is connected to all the other squares which means that those disabilities and medical conditions interact with every single square on a day to day basis but doesn’t need to be or should be represented all the time. Square 5 gets divided amongst the other squares depending on the variables in them at the time.
So let’s say square 3 is holding my identity variable musician. It doesn’t mean I’m a blind musician, it simply means I’m a musician who plays by ear and does things a bit differently. You see letting one variable define everything about you can unbalance the grid and cause gridlock.
The goal is to never allow one variable to dominate the first 3 squares at any given time. This allows your identity to continue to grow and mature while keeping yourself present and well grounded.
For many years I’ve struggled with my identity spending my time trying to figure out ow I want to represent myself to people around me. I could cash in on my disability and make my life all about suffering through my chronic pain, being blind or being a cancer survivor but after a while it gets depressing. It truly starts to do more harm to my mental well being and no one wants to continually hear all the sad things I’ve dealt with over the years. I know people who allow their identity to be sad and gloomy with no happiness or joy in the mix. It’s as if all their squares have negative emotions and events filled in.
My identity is very important to me as it builds a strong foundation for my growth and gives me the blueprints for a happy successful life. Squares 7 through 9 hold all of the variables that are in the back of my mind. These are things that I know I need to deal with coming up or future changes to myself. They’re just waiting for the right time to come be in the first 4 squares. For example if I was meeting with a therapist some of the things from square 9 would be pushed into square 2. Depending on the visit they may be placed in square 4 through 6 but it’s okay to send them back to square 9.
I know this is a super simplification of identity but it has helped me over the years be the person I want to be. I’ve used it to help dictate social situations to make sure I’m sharing the right context with everyone in the room. I don’t need to walk around wielding one identity variable like a shield to hide from people. I don’t need to address the disabilities when there’s so many other things in front of them that are more important and will move me forward in life.
I’ll continue to reflect on my identity until the day I leave Earth and I’ll make updates to the identity grid concept. I’ll update you all if anything major changes but this concept has helped me so far as it is now.