Identity is formed in everyone, but it is also dynamic in response to the contexts in which a person operates. As much as anything, developing an effective identity is about creating and internalising a set of appropriate responses and shorthands that supports a person to function effectively in the different contexts of their surrounding environment. However, the business of identity formation has become much more fraught and problematic and more prone to faux pas and missteps–some of which can have alarming consequences–as society and technology have changed the dynamics and increased the number of contexts in which young people operate. Here, multiple (and not necessarily consistent) facets of identity might need to be drawn upon at various points during the day to operate effectively.
What might this mean in practice? One particular identity emphasis (and associated behaviours) at home with family. Another with people from the same ethnic community. A range of different ones in school (among friends, teachers, older students, etc.). Another during the walk home. A different one online, and so on, and so on. Therefore, it is critical to help young people build a support structure that assists their identity formation and stability. This cannot be tied exclusively to just one of the communities they live within and must remain core and constant across them all. Doing so begins with understanding what identity is made up of and how it is formed, the first in a series of critical components introduced through Choices.
What’s Session Two all about?
In the second session, young people consider what makes each of us unique and what connects us to others. This marks the first step in understanding what defines choice and how we can all make a conscious decision to act in a particular way. It promotes the cultivation of identity consciously and intentionally, offering a perspective that we can all decide the type of person we want to be. While doing so, we must be mindful that other people and external factors can also affect our choices. If you’re going to encourage a person (any person) to change their behaviour, you need to present that change in a way that motivates them to want to change themselves. This is another fundamental tenet of Choices.
Why does this matter?
A clear sense of identity is strongly linked to being resilient against forms of negative influence, including the lure of gangs and drugs or becoming the victim of CSE or radicalisation. Breaking down crucial factors contributing to notions of identity provides young people with a greater understanding of who they are and aspire to be. Simultaneously, fostering a positive sense of that identity enables them to appreciate and value all the parts that make up their unique selves, leading to a strong sense of belonging, self-worth, purpose and emotional wellbeing.
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