Me and my I.D. – The importance of identity for good mental wellbeing

Marital status titles are stated before our names on the most private of letters, and used on the most confidential of calls. Our first name is even often completely replaced with our title, conjoined with our surname. i.e.

“Hello, is that Karen Sullivan?”

“Yes. Speaking.”

“Hello Mrs Sullivan, I’m calling from xxx”

For many people, this exchange occurs without a second thought. But what about those who are recently divorced or widowed? – This uninvited reminder of their position in this world as ‘belonging to another’ could very potentially raise feelings of anguish.

What about the feelings of those who are unsure of the gender they most identify with?

Our sense of identity is paramount for maintaining confidence and one-ness with the world. The last few years have seen many events and articles referencing ‘the authentic you’, and how important this ‘authentic existence’ is to maintaining good mental health and wellbeing, maintaining focus in your life, and mindfully dealing with your life priorities.

Striving to find the ‘real you’, rejecting fakery, and being confident with the truest presentation of yourself to friends, family, colleagues and neighbours is seem as the ultimate path to a righteous existence.

But life, and the human brain are unfortunately so full of categorisations and presumptions, that maintaining this ‘authentic you’ can be a battle for anybody attempting to venture outside expectation confidently.

– The happily single person. “Aren’t you lonely? Wouldn’t it be nice to have companionship?”

– The parents of one child by choice. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you gave him a little brother or sister?”

– The bisexual individual. “Surely you can decide between women or men? You’re one or the other?”

Michael J. Formica of Psychology Today writes:

“The only house that you ever truly own is the one in which you live and, even then, it’s something of a rental. That house has two arms and two legs, amongst other things, and, in that it is the vessel for the “I-that-is-me”, it is our singular point of reference for being in the world.

We get drawn off of this because we get pulled into the world and that world, as well as our attachment to it, can regrettably become the basis for the manner in which we ultimately define ourselves. This can be a great a source of pain and consternation;”

Mirror Mirror, a website created to support individuals with eating disorders says:

“Identity and self esteem are closely related, and developing self esteem and a strong sense of identity are very important to good mental health.

Your sense of identity has to do with who you think you are and how you perceive yourself. It’s about how you define yourself. Self esteem is how you value yourself. It has to do with your sense of self-worth.

Both affect your mental health, your behaviour and how you relate to other people.”

It takes the strongest of personalities and minds to rise against conformity, and sadly, many individuals may not have this strength. Social anxieties of all types are woefully on the rise.

There are pages and pages of search results for scholarly papers released since 2018 on the subject of identity crises, which directly link concerns with gender identity and suicide.

We aren’t proposing that mistakes and assumptions with marital status titles alone are leading to suicide. But as an often overlooked part of our society facing identity, the true usefulness of them needs to be weighed up against the potential that they can obstruct a person’s route to authenticity, as well as the ease of dispensing with them.

Stella Sutcliffe

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