“Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it.”
– Elastigirl. The Incredibles.
While you are welcome to say that your identity is your name and all other information present in your national ID, I don’t mean that that’s all. Far from it. Identity is inclusive of self-image; the mental model of oneself, self-esteem, and individuality. It’s the answer to the questions; who are you? What do you think about yourself? How does the world view you? How do you view the world? What are the characteristics that define you?
Often (in movies), we hear people say that they are in search for themselves. Or that they want to find themselves. Humans have come up with studies and infrastructure that help people soul search and do away with an identity crisis. People actually get up at 6 am, prepare, drive through the traffic, to go into an office just to help clients find themselves. Say that to a typical African parent and he or she will adjust their glasses so that they can look at you from above them, snort in derision as if you’ve lost it, dismiss you from their presence, and then continue reading the newspaper after their glasses are back in position.
Speaking of, identity crisis has been my nemesis. How I overcame it, having been brought up in the interiors of some village by parents like mine still baffles me.
I still remember this one time when I’d gone to a boutique after deciding that I needed a new pair of shoes. A slender lady with an avuncular smile, possibly the attendant, or a smartly dressed pickpocket approached me. It was after I saw her name tag that I confirmed she wasn’t the latter. Her name was Qarinah. I found the name interesting since it was also of a demon of the Arabian mythology dating back to ancient Egypt.
“A good afternoon to you, Sir. Can I help you?” she said.
I stood there, speechless, staring at her like a flower child whose ultimate fate of catatonic schizophrenia had finally come to pass.
“Is there any problem, Sir?”
She said it again! She called me sir, again! The audacity! She had hit a raw nerve. I mean, I knew I was in a pair of trousers and timberlands, but I kept a ponytail. (I later learnt that men keep even longer ones too, and I say that with no tinge of envy).
Looking at her now, I realized that her face, name, and mouth dripped with evil. I did not in the least consider to rectify the situation, so I walked out without looking back. Of course, I was filled with ire and I tried so hard to keep the jerry-built walls which were preventing me from crying in place.
Fast forward, I later learnt a trick or two that was meant to help people not get confused about my gender when they first see me. My counsellor said that the problem was not with me, but with everyone else. She also said that people would try to tell me otherwise. She might have been lying to me then, but it worked. Whatever I now see in the mirror validates the struggle of my entire life. I’m the belle of the ball, baby!