Multiple Identities vs Singular Identity Essay Example

  • Category: Identity, Sociology,
  • Words: 2577 Pages: 10
  • Published: 21 May 2021
  • Copied: 189

Sometimes it is not natural for a person to “keep it real” with others.  In certain situations, people tend to embody different personas.  Whether that is to chase an accomplishment or to communicate with another person.  In his essay, “In Defense of Masks”, Kenneth Gergen coined the idea of people possessing and developing multiple identities represented by different “masks” while interacting with different groups of people rather than remaining as one fixed identity. Gergen argues against the concept of people developing a coherent sense of identity,  or the process where people reciprocate a true synonymous persona of themselves and stay the same regardless of the situation or interactions with others. He believes that settling for a singular identity can cause severe emotional distress.   He disagrees with Polinius’s advice that he gave to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet to stay true to himself regardless of the situation that he is in.  Likewise, he disagrees with a famous psychologist, Erik Erickson, and his assumptions about developing a coherent sense of identity being ideal.  Gergen proved in his research that putting on these masks is necessary during an interaction and can help one adapt in different situations and it benefits towards mental health. Consequently, I agree with Gergen’s position in this argument because I believe that different situations require different personas. The idea of developing a coherent singular identity is false when it comes to interaction because different social groups require different identities to either fit in or receive validation and approval from another. 

In the passage, Gergen states his uncertainty about developing a coherent identity as being normal.  According to his statement about coherent identity, he believes it to cause severe emotional distress.  For example, he conducted an interview with 18 female college students where they are asked self-evaluation questions towards the interviewees.  The experimental group was given feedback based on their response.   When the student gave positive responses, the interviewer would demonstrate signs of approval such as nodding, smiling back, and agreement.  In contrast, the interviewer would shake her head and show disagreement when the student gave a negative self-evaluation.  The control group was not given any feedback.  The students from the experimental group felt the need to give themselves positive evaluations to seek positive feedback and approval from the interviewer.  After the interview, it was confirmed by some of the students that they felt more content with their situation and their self esteem went up giving positive feedback towards the interview.  On the other hand, the control group did not feel a difference.  The facade which the experimental group put on to receive that approval from the interviewer gave them a morale boost because they changed their position on how they saw themselves.  This benefited their mental health by negating any negative thoughts even if it was not their initial intention.  

At school, most students act differently from what they are outside. In most cases, the results can be day and night.  The shy girl in class can be vociferous outside of class.  When I was in high school, the way I behaved was completely different from the way I acted during lunch in the food court or off-campus.  In the classroom, I would have to put on a mask to prove that I was an honor roll student to fit the persona.  I was afraid to swear in front of the class and crack dumb jokes because that was not how the students and teacher knew me in class.  I wanted that approval from the teacher to notice that I was a good student so I can get on their good side.  If I was on the good side that can benefit me because the chances of me getting a decent grade would be easier to achieve.  I wanted the class to recognize me as the cool, smart, and nice guy who also played basketball.  However, when I am with my friends I am completely different from the persona I project in the classroom.  I would talk using slang and swear a lot and say some cruel jokes that I would never say in class.  However, this is not my coherent identity.  I also put on a mask while I am with my friends.  Approval and validation is what I seek from them.  I want them to perceive me as a lighthearted, well-rounded stud.  If I used my classroom persona when I am with my friends, I would get “roasted”, or made fun of.  They will see me as a nerd, which I would never want to hear about myself.   Finally, at home, I have another persona.  Once again I would limit the swearing.  That way I can pose as a good example to my younger brother.  When speaking at home, I would have a different vernacular and try to speak in my parents’ native tongue, Chinese.  I would also try to earn my parents’ validation and approval by sharing the accomplishments I have earned such as good grades, awards, and successful stock market trades.  It makes me happy to see my parents happy and proud. 

Another example of having different personas in different situations is my closest friend who moved schools.  My long-time friend moved schools during my sophomore year in high school.  He moved to a different district and the school’s demographic was primarily white.  This was new to him because the school we went to together was primarily Asian and Hispanic.  He would tell me about how different the two schools were.  The intentions of the people were not the same between the schools.  He admittedly told me that he misses his old school and wants to come back.  However, there was no chance of him coming back so he had to fit in.  He said he developed a new persona to fit in.  When he came back to visit he said that he has to act a lot different towards his “white” friends.  He explained that their humor was different and he had to adapt to it.  He described it as corny and childish compared to what he was exposed to at home.  The recreational activities that they did in that community were also different.  But to fit into the new group he had to comply and put that mask on.   He also became a different person after he transferred.  Before he was an overweight wimp who liked to make fun of others.  Now he was on the basketball team and he also was a “popular” guy at school and claimed to be a heartthrob.  And like Gergen said in his essay, once the mask is donned, it becomes reality.  This is what most of his friends know him as now.  His journey continues as his family had to move to Korea for a year.  He attended an international school and once again he had to develop a new persona.  In Korea, his main problem was the language barrier, he was not fluent in Korean.  Since the school he attended was a private school, it was a lot more laid back compared to the schools he attended in America.  He said he would go to school 1 hour late and play video games in class on his laptop during lectures.  The persona of a rebellious yet lighthearted person was developed.  In Korea, the students were very studious and soft-spoken so my friend, who feels more superior than them, picks on them because they are “nerds” to him.  My friend developed many masks in his life so far and with those different masks come different experiences. 

All in all, developing different masks to portray different personas is inevitable.  

The author, Kenneth Gergen, believes that developing a coherent identity of oneself is nonsense when it comes to having interactions with different social groups.  Having masks is beneficial towards self-esteem and mental health because it gives the connotation of being accepted and approved by others. 

Sometimes it is not natural for a person to “keep it real” with others.  In certain situations, people tend to embody different personas.  Whether that is to chase an accomplishment or to communicate with another person.  In his essay, “In Defense of Masks”, Kenneth Gergen coined the idea of people possessing and developing multiple identities represented by different “masks” while interacting with different groups of people rather than remaining as one fixed identity. Gergen argues against the concept of people developing a coherent sense of identity,  or the process where people reciprocate a true synonymous persona of themselves and stay the same regardless of the situation or interactions with others. He believes that settling for a singular identity can cause severe emotional distress.   He disagrees with Polinius’s advice that he gave to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet to stay true to himself regardless of the situation that he is in.  Likewise, he disagrees with a famous psychologist, Erik Erickson, and his assumptions about developing a coherent sense of identity being ideal.  Gergen proved in his research that putting on these masks is necessary during an interaction and can help one adapt in different situations and it benefits towards mental health. Consequently, I agree with Gergen’s position in this argument because I believe that different situations require different personas. The idea of developing a coherent singular identity is false when it comes to interaction because different social groups require different identities to either fit in or receive validation and approval from another. 

In the passage, Gergen states his uncertainty about developing a coherent identity as being normal.  According to his statement about coherent identity, he believes it to cause severe emotional distress.  For example, he conducted an interview with 18 female college students where they are asked self-evaluation questions towards the interviewees.  The experimental group was given feedback based on their response.   When the student gave positive responses, the interviewer would demonstrate signs of approval such as nodding, smiling back, and agreement.  In contrast, the interviewer would shake her head and show disagreement when the student gave a negative self-evaluation.  The control group was not given any feedback.  The students from the experimental group felt the need to give themselves positive evaluations to seek positive feedback and approval from the interviewer.  After the interview, it was confirmed by some of the students that they felt more content with their situation and their self esteem went up giving positive feedback towards the interview.  On the other hand, the control group did not feel a difference.  The facade which the experimental group put on to receive that approval from the interviewer gave them a morale boost because they changed their position on how they saw themselves.  This benefited their mental health by negating any negative thoughts even if it was not their initial intention.  

At school, most students act differently from what they are outside. In most cases, the results can be day and night.  The shy girl in class can be vociferous outside of class.  When I was in high school, the way I behaved was completely different from the way I acted during lunch in the food court or off-campus.  In the classroom, I would have to put on a mask to prove that I was an honor roll student to fit the persona.  I was afraid to swear in front of the class and crack dumb jokes because that was not how the students and teacher knew me in class.  I wanted that approval from the teacher to notice that I was a good student so I can get on their good side.  If I was on the good side that can benefit me because the chances of me getting a decent grade would be easier to achieve.  I wanted the class to recognize me as the cool, smart, and nice guy who also played basketball.  However, when I am with my friends I am completely different from the persona I project in the classroom.  I would talk using slang and swear a lot and say some cruel jokes that I would never say in class.  However, this is not my coherent identity.  I also put on a mask while I am with my friends.  Approval and validation is what I seek from them.  I want them to perceive me as a lighthearted, well-rounded stud.  If I used my classroom persona when I am with my friends, I would get “roasted”, or made fun of.  They will see me as a nerd, which I would never want to hear about myself.   Finally, at home, I have another persona.  Once again I would limit the swearing.  That way I can pose as a good example to my younger brother.  When speaking at home, I would have a different vernacular and try to speak in my parents’ native tongue, Chinese.  I would also try to earn my parents’ validation and approval by sharing the accomplishments I have earned such as good grades, awards, and successful stock market trades.  It makes me happy to see my parents happy and proud. 

Another example of having different personas in different situations is my closest friend who moved schools.  My long-time friend moved schools during my sophomore year in high school.  He moved to a different district and the school’s demographic was primarily white.  This was new to him because the school we went to together was primarily Asian and Hispanic.  He would tell me about how different the two schools were.  The intentions of the people were not the same between the schools.  He admittedly told me that he misses his old school and wants to come back.  However, there was no chance of him coming back so he had to fit in.  He said he developed a new persona to fit in.  When he came back to visit he said that he has to act a lot different towards his “white” friends.  He explained that their humor was different and he had to adapt to it.  He described it as corny and childish compared to what he was exposed to at home.  The recreational activities that they did in that community were also different.  But to fit into the new group he had to comply and put that mask on.   He also became a different person after he transferred.  Before he was an overweight wimp who liked to make fun of others.  Now he was on the basketball team and he also was a “popular” guy at school and claimed to be a heartthrob.  And like Gergen said in his essay, once the mask is donned, it becomes reality.  This is what most of his friends know him as now.  His journey continues as his family had to move to Korea for a year.  He attended an international school and once again he had to develop a new persona.  In Korea, his main problem was the language barrier, he was not fluent in Korean.  Since the school he attended was a private school, it was a lot more laid back compared to the schools he attended in America.  He said he would go to school 1 hour late and play video games in class on his laptop during lectures.  The persona of a rebellious yet lighthearted person was developed.  In Korea, the students were very studious and soft-spoken so my friend, who feels more superior than them, picks on them because they are “nerds” to him.  My friend developed many masks in his life so far and with those different masks come different experiences. 

All in all, developing different masks to portray different personas is inevitable.  

The author, Kenneth Gergen, believes that developing a coherent identity of oneself is nonsense when it comes to having interactions with different social groups.  Having masks is beneficial towards self-esteem and mental health because it gives the connotation of being accepted and approved by others. 

Sorry,

We are glad that you like it, but you cannot copy from our website. Just insert your email and this sample will be sent to you.


By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails. x close