“To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” – E.E. Cummings
This statement presupposes that one’s identity has been defined independently of one’s environment, and that the person has to fight to keep this identity despite the expectations and concepts his environment has of him. I would not quite agree, since everyone is being influenced by both nature and nurture. I would probably not have been a socialist, had my parents not been active members of socialist parties and raised me with the political awareness I acquired. Of course, I may disagree on certain topics with my parnets, but that is cause my education, other people amongst my acquaintances, and other factors also influence me. For instance, I became a pro-lifer, in a family where all are pro-choice, through reading about abortion for a general sciences project and through acquaintances of mine who are pro-life. I was not born a pro-lifer.
Other qualities, we were born with or acquired naturally, but we can still change our points of view about these qualities. For example, it’s quite likely that intelligence is something one is born with, but if you are intelligent like me, you can decide to use it to the fullest by going to the highest level schools and studying all of the time, you can decide to hide it and come across as dumb, or anything in between. One may say that hiding one’s intelligence is a way of failing at the fight to remain oneself despite the world’s expectations, but over time, the “dumbness” may become internalized in a way.
When this sort of things occurs, I imagine there to be quite a bit of difficulty. I have never had to hide my cognitive abilities, and I have always known I possessed them, and yet my views regarding them clash quite a bit with what I encounter amongst my acquaintances. It’s very rare for
someone, for instance, to recognize that having high intelligence may not be totally advantageous – accidentally, I was asked about this issue a couple of times recently, but the general public does not often realize that intelligence is not all great, and this may influence the attitude someone has to take to it.
What I want to make clear, is that we aren’t who we are without other people’s influence. When we are nurtured by others or by our envirnoment (by which I mean such things as good education being in place, not having to work as a child, etc.), this has a positive influence on our developing self-concept and hence our identity. I agree that there is a difference between identity and personality, but the two of them are strongly interrelated, and it is actually quite impossible to determine what one is really like, since both the person himself, his relatives and everyone else will have to interpret what they experience.
I would not say that discrepancies can’t occur. In fact, I have lots of personal experience with them. Even though people may not perceive certain characteristics differently from each other, they may hold very different opinions on these characteristics. Characteristics that are clearly existent, but about which opinions vary, may create quite a bit of trouble. I think that for a person my age, this is even more significant, in a time when we’re still developing our self-concepts quite a bit (being in adolescence). For those that have many “odd” characteristics, like myself with blindness and high intelligence, both of which may be perceived differently by different people, the situation is more complicated, cause ultimately the only one who can form the “correct” point of view regarding these issues, am I. NFB folk may think that they hold a positive attitude about blindness, for instance, but I would not consider their negativity towards sighted people to be quite positve, and I’m still in doubt as to what’s the correct stance with regard to independence and self-reliance, and about this, the people have quite inconsistent opinions. On the other hand, my own ideas about my disability are far from stable, telling the entire world that anything is possible, but being more than a little surprised at what I see at the rehab centre (about which NFB folk would be highly critical, I suppose, for reasons I don’t agree with).
I discussed intelligence on June 4, and yet I think that opinions overall are becoming more consistent. Over the past couple of decades, people have come to recognize that children of high intellectual ability sometimes have “special needs”, and the drawbacks of geniuses like Einstein and Newton are recently being noted with scientists’ constant assumptions that they have Asperger’s Syndrome. However incorrect this may have been, it’s still showing that high intellignece does not always mean a person is totally great in all areas.