On the one hand, human beings are one and the same—all seven billion of us on the planet earth. On the other hand, we are each unique. It is important that we acknowledge our differences too.
Some differences among humans, such as our race, eye color (unless you wear color contact lenses), and some disabilities are unchangeable. Many others of our characteristics are changeable, examples being our body size, hair color, religion, where we live, relationship status, role in a family, gender, values, and so much more.
Our unique combination of characteristics influences our personal identity, how we conceptualize and define ourselves, and how we portray ourselves to others or how they perceive us. It’s kind of big!
Often time individuals or groups of people experience differential treatment by others due to the differences among them. (We’re not saying this is the right thing to do, but it’s important to acknowledge that it does happen.) A few examples are racism, homophobia, sexism, and ableism. Sometimes this differential treatment is made quite real through violent or harmful actions like bullying, harassment, or discrimination.
A healthy future for yourself will include being comfortable with your personal identity, becoming familiar with and accepting the personal identities of other people, and appreciating and behaving as others’ personal identities are as deserving of respect and equal treatment as yours. Also, what’s really important is that if your personal identity is causing you curiosity, anxiety, stress, or harm, please talk about that with an adult you trust.
Reflect On It
Write in your journal (download journal) any thoughts you have as you think about this topic, using the questions below:
Self-Esteem Read articles about personal identity, self-awareness, self-esteem and the connection among them.
The Gender Unicorn Learn from this tool made by the Trans Student Educational Resources organization to better understand gender identity, gender expression, and anatomical sex.
Own Your Personal Identity
If you are curious, anxious, or stressed about your personal identity or how you are being treated by others due to an aspect(s) of your identity, it’s important that you talk to a trusted adult. A good talk or two with your parent or another caring adult might do the trick. But if you decide you want to go deeper, arrange a visit with a healthcare provider to support you professionally in personal identity clarification and confidence building. You can set an appointment with your family’s healthcare provider, or ask the adult responsible for you to set an appointment. If you or your family do not have a regular healthcare provider or are uninsured, find free or low-cost mental health services by ZIP Code and type of service or reach the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or online.
Get Help in a Physical Emergency
Call 911 if you are having any type of physical emergency, including being harmed physically or being at immediate risk of harm for any circumstance, including an emergency related to your personal identity or others’ perceptions of your identity.
Get Help in an Emotional Emergency
Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or initiate a confidential online chat with a trained counselor if you are really sad or are considering harming yourself for any reason, including due to your personal identity or others’ perceptions of your identity.