What do we need identity for?


An excerpt from Who is in? Beyond Self-image, Avikal’s most recently published book.

eye in mirror

The identity you carry and of which you might be proud, serves little or no use. The stability that it seems to give us is just an idea. This identity that we believe to be us is the central point of a set of images of ourselves that have been created over time in relation to external objects (parents first, people, things, situations, events, etc.). Perhaps this is what makes it so difficult for many people to investigate their inner images. They believe that their identity depends on those images of themselves they carry with them, and so they believe that if they question the images, or even let them go, a potential monster will come out thus presenting the question ‘WHO AM I?’

As this question arises, the identity we built on the foundations of those images completely shatters. And I say ‘completely’ because the identity of most people is something vague and fragmented already, whether they are consciously aware of this or not.

So, this may prompt you to ask, ‘how can I live without an identity?’

When you think about it, we already live without identity most of the time. You don’t need to know who you are, or to have an idea of who you are to climb the stairs, to read, to cook, to make love, to drive a car, to play, to hammer a nail or write a blog, and for thousands of other everyday occurrences. You do not need your identity to feel your emotions, to feel what’s happening in your body, or to be aware, for example right now as you read. Identity is something that in everyday occurrence is mostly unnecessary, indeed sometimes it is a real impediment.

So, what do we need identity for? It is of no use other than to close ourselves within a description made up of the accumulated past. It is a utilitarian issue, providing others a reference to us, and us to them. We need a name so others can call us and refer to us. We need an identity so we can refer to ourselves and the accumulation of experiences that correspond to that identity as defined by certain parameters and interpretations (personal history); for example, we need it to fill in various forms for work, doctor, borders, school, etc. We also need it to place ourselves within various hierarchies, family, school, work, religious, national, etc.

Identity is a social contract not an existential reality: I AM (without definitions of any kind) is an existential and direct experience (not mediated by acquired knowledge), and we recognize it because we experience it moment by moment, moment after moment. We do not need a name to feel that we exist. We do not need an identity card to feel that we breathe, or that we are excited. We do not need to attach ourselves to a definition to feel that we are here now. Let us stop believing in the fiction of an identity and begin to know ourselves in our integrity and humanity.

This is self-remembering and rebellion against the identity contract.

More excerpts from this book

Featured image by Vince Fleming


Avikal Costantino is founder and director of the Integral Being Institute, active in Europe, Asia and Australia and is the author of several books. He lives in Sydney, Australia. www.integralbeing.com

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