The Identity Monster and You

January 28, 2015
January 28, 2015 inkmagazine

The Identity Monster and You


Gabriella Lacombe, 

There is a scene in Alice in Wonderland that I think of often when I get the feeling that someone is going out of their way to impress or be likeable. It is when Alice meets the hookah smoking caterpillar. While he tries to give Alice advice on how to make her way through Wonderland, she is too busy focusing on herself to hear him. Then, and this is the quote that rings through my head the most, he asks her repeatedly, “who are you?” No matter how many times he asks, Alice does not answer. She doesn’t know. Instead, she keeps trying to make the caterpillar think she is so important that he should want to be her friend. “Don’t you think you ought to tell me who you are first?” she asks. She tries to recite a poem. She does all the things that she thinks will make him see her as important–thus he should be nice to her– but it doesn’t work. This desire to be recognized as special is mirrored by many everyday, real-world people. But how can someone like Alice, trying hard to charm those around her, ever begin to navigate Wonderland if they can’t even answer the question, who are you?

Being remembered as entirely unique or memorable might be the closest a person gets to immortality.  No one else will ever be like you, and no one can dethrone you from that mantle.  I rarely meet people who grow up wishing to be average. We want to be the Robin Williams of comedy, the Kate Moss of fashion, the Jean-Claude Van Damme of middle-splits.

The irony is, if you focus on projecting individuality, you often end up looking like a stereotype.  Take this example: Maybe you want to be the most interesting person in the room at a specific party, on a specific night. Logic dictates that you can do that by saying something exceptional, or telling a story that’s wild or uncommon. Instead, with the internal pressure mounting, I see people adopting the characteristics of other people they’ve flagged as “interesting”, and then imitating them.  That’s not unique at all. That is a lie.

Talking to them is like talking to a cardboard cut-out of whatever trope they are trying to be, with a “push me!” button launching a carefully scripted phrase when pressed. Here’s a few examples of some incredibly popular tropes I’ve seen in people I’ve met:

  • The Individualist New-Age Hippy: Enjoys halfway learning to play the ukulele and claiming that his/her life was forever changed after trying hallucinogens. Thinks any structure is encroaching on “freedom”. Doesn’t really understand how government works, but will continue to share opinions about it anyway. Free speech, dude.
  • The No-One-Is-Harder-Than-Me Party Boy/Girl: Likes taking snapchats of bags of weed or bottles of alcohol while not realizing that, because he/she gets all his/her money from their parents, his/her “thug” glamour is actually just borrowed glamour.
  • The One-Of-A-Kind-Rebel-Thinker: Knows all about Marxism. Like, more than you.

People like this talk about being true to themselves, uninhibited by society’s pressures, but it seems like their goal is to convince the public that that’s who they are, instead of actually being genuinely anything. Are all these people so focused on how they come across as a character, that they have forgotten about the human-actor on this inside? The person who’s actually alive?

As a kid, I remember thinking my father was the most confident person I knew, not because of anything he said or did in particular, but because he would wear shirts with holes in them out in public. He dressed in well-made suits during the week, but after he got undressed or on weekends, he would only wear white tube socks. With the rest of his outfit, of course. He was anything but slovenly, but if he did happen to get food stains on his clothes, I knew he wouldn’t do anything about it. He liked—and still likes–to sing loudly to Doo Wop and telling jokes about snot, or using my dog’s drool as maple syrup. I took up his do-what-you-love attitude, but I was distinctly less charming. During recess, I would hang upside-down from the jungle gym until I reached the edge of blacking out, just so that everyone would know I was a vampire. With my arms folded across my chest in repose, and all the blood in my tiny body rushing to my head, I mused that some people would never understand. But that was because they didn’t know my teacher. To seven-year-old me, my father lived with an authenticity that conjured images of pioneers arriving in a foreign land.  And I’ll never forget those things.

People who are truly unique don’t prioritize being unique. They do not step out of bed and think, “Today, I will wear this so people will see me and know that I am interesting and inimitable!” or “I will talk about this band and that book, so that people will know my talents are rare”. Exciting and unforgettable people do not do this.

Truly unique people are just being themselves. They let their own needs and desires guide them, and don’t limit themselves to what is conventional, palatable–or what might come across as memorable. Prioritizing uniqueness and choosing to be scripted for a desired perception, defaults us to a state of gross inauthenticity.  Reality with a laugh-track—cry now. Applaud now. Say “Awww”.

It can be scary and confusing to put our unscripted self out there. We can be left feeling that our own weirdly passionate, quirky, or unconventional personalities couldn’t be of value. People will tell you those parts of you aren’t worth being cultivated. You shouldn’t let that shift your authenticity.  If you’re living healthily, it shouldn’t be on everyone else’s terms. Your life, your genuine ambitions, are capable of being deeply meaningful to you, while bringing you closer to the people who want to see you succeed in your own way. Don’t let anxiety be your compass. No one should waste their time molding themselves into a character who has already been written.


, , , , , ,

Comments (54)

  1. I simply want to tell you that I’m new to blogging and really loved your web page. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your website . You certainly come with awesome stories. Appreciate it for sharing your website page.

  2. I would like to consider the ability of thanking you for the professional advice I have often enjoyed going to your site. I will be looking forward to the actual commencement of my college research and the general prep would never have been complete without coming to your website. If I could be of any help to others, I would be glad to help by means of what I have gained from here. Kosova Airlines

  3. There are a few fascinating points with time in the following paragraphs but I do not know if I see every one of them center to heart. There may be some validity but I’m going to take hold opinion until I look into it further. Great write-up , thanks and that we want much more! Added to FeedBurner likewise

  4. dress up is always a great and exciting one, or strip poker. Perhaps get some dice from a game board and decide if you land on certain numbers what those actions are. Spice it up is always a great thing!!

  5. What?¦s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It positively useful and it has helped me out loads. I’m hoping to give a contribution & aid other users like its helped me. Good job.

  6. Hello! I simply wish to supply a massive thumbs up for your wonderful information you might have here on this post. I am returning to your blog post for more soon.

  7. Faytech North America is a touch screen Manufacturer of both monitors and pcs. They specialize in the design, development, manufacturing and marketing of Capacitive touch screen, Resistive touch screen, Industrial touch screen, IP65 touch screen, touchscreen monitors and integrated touchscreen PCs. Contact them at, 121 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013, +1 646 205 3214

  8. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was carrying out a little analysis within this. And the man in fact bought me breakfast because I came across it for him.. smile. So ok, i’ll reword that: Thnx to the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending time go over this, I’m strongly about it and enjoy reading much more about this topic. If you can, as you become expertise, can you mind updating your website to comprehend details? It truly is highly great for me. Big thumb up just for this short article!

  9. I am curious to find out what blog platform you are using? I’m having some small security problems with my latest website and I would like to find something more secure. Do you have any solutions?

  10. I am often to blogging and i genuinely appreciate your site content. This article has really peaks my interest. I am about to bookmark your internet site and maintain checking for brand spanking new data.

  11. This internet site is often a walk-through its the details you wanted in regards to this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll undoubtedly discover it.

  12. Persevere! I’m guessing you’ll won’t worry if I browse around your website a tad more. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson..

  13. I precisely wished to appreciate you all over again. I do not know what I would have followed in the absence of the type of ways revealed by you directly on that industry. It had been a difficult condition in my view, however , finding out this specialized manner you dealt with the issue forced me to leap for delight. I’m grateful for your help and in addition pray you find out what a great job you are always putting in instructing men and women through a blog. Most likely you’ve never come across all of us.

  14. You’re the best, beautiful weblog with great informational content. This is a really interesting and informative content.

  15. As these different influences came together, a distinctly Cuban taste and design developed, which is reminiscent of nation peasant models of cooking by oral custom and eye, fairly than relying on specific measurements and the creation of dishes that tend in the direction of the uncomplicated and hearty, and that can be left on their private to simmer. Fussy, large sauces are unusual and deep-frying is simply not a favored cooking technique. The island nation, by natural means, employs a wonderful offer of seafood in its cuisine, which encourages the use of basic cooking tactics and spicing that is meant to increase, not smother, natural flavors.

  16. 211042 227568I discovered your blog website internet site on the search engines and check several of your early posts. Always preserve up the really great operate. I lately additional increase Rss to my MSN News Reader. Searching for toward reading significantly more on your part later on! 322520

  17. 256730 27752There couple of fascinating points at some point in this posting but I dont determine if these folks center to heart. There is some validity but Let me take hold opinion until I check into it further. Fantastic write-up , thanks and then we want far more! Combined with FeedBurner in addition 476213

  18. 734547 23084Maintain up the wonderful piece of function, I read couple of weblog posts on this web site and I believe that your internet site is real fascinating and has lots of wonderful data. 299543

  19. Whoah this blog is great i love studying your articles. Stay up the good work! You recognize, lots of individuals are searching round for this information, you can help them greatly.

  20. I simply want to mention I am beginner to blogging and truly loved this web page. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You amazingly come with awesome articles and reviews. Thanks a bunch for sharing your website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.