Defining oneself can be a difficult thing to do. There are many reasons why defining oneself may sometimes be positive and sometimes been negative. It is sometimes good no matter who you wore to define yourself, but sometimes it is not. In this essay I intend to look at both reasons why defining oneself is good and bad. Society plays a large role in defining oneself. Everyone lives in a society of some form. Society is a collection of individuals that rely on each other directly or indirectly. The majority of people that make up a society determine what that society believes and how it defines the things to that are in it.
Society defines what people are, and people define what society is. Everything that is in a society is defined by that society, to make sure that everything has its place. For example, a white person with a shave head and “white power tattoos”, is labeled a skin head by society. That is an example of how society labels groups of people. Every label comes with a definition. Whether or not that definition is accurate makes no difference if it is given by society, for there is almost no way of changing a social definition once it has been given.
When a person grows up in a society, they take on the beliefs of that society. When a person is labeled by the society that he grows up in, he tends to believe in that definition of himself. Defining oneself can result in taking on stereotypes. Stereotypes are generalizations we make about others. Society places others in classes or group categories that we define on the basis of our life experience, within the limits of our perception and scope of analysis. White people have had generalizations made about them by other races and surprisingly their own race as well.
For example, the Caucasian culture has been stereotyped as being hard workers and diligent studiers that have strong work ethics. Another common stereotype for white people is that they are penny pinchers, that is to say that they are extremely frugal with their money and how they make expenditures. The belief that white people speak better English than people of other races is another example of stereotyping. Education tools and learning games are also seen as things that only white people do, and that it would be unpopular for people of other races to use them as well.
Being successful at school is also seen as being white. Some people see stereotypes as being negative, yet others take those stereotypes as complements. Caucasians are not the only race to have stereotypes made about them. Black people are also stereotyped. The belief that black people excel at athletics is a stereotype. It is also generally accepted that black entertainers are better than Caucasians or Asians. Stereotypes even go so far as to claim that black men are more endowed and proficient in sex non-blacks.
The same rules apply for black people as well as white people in that some take those stereotypes as complements and others take them as slammes or put downs. Most stereotypes are based on personal opinions and social beliefs. Very few if any are based on actual fact. Good things and bad things can come from defining oneself. The only way people can define themselves is through societies eyes. One reason for defining oneself would be for personal development. Most people spend their entire lives without finding meaning or purpose or even a place in society.
By defining oneself, and they are able to determine where they belong. That in itself, can be positive or negative depending on that persons social standing. Defining who you are is good in that it allows you to know where you stand in society. It also allows you to find common ground with your ancestors. Another benefit to defining yourself is that it makes it easier to bond with similar ethnic backgrounds. Defining yourself also prepares you to be able to take negative comments and discrimination easier than it would if you didn’t know you were.
Just as there are positive reasons for defining yourself, there are also negative reasons. For some people, they are ashamed of their ancestors past actions. For example, one person living in the South would not be proud to discover that their great, great grandparents once owned slaves. Another reason for not wanting to define themselves would be to discover that they are of an ethnic background that is discriminated against where that person living. Another negative reason for the finding oneself would be the automatic labeling by other people as someone who discriminate or who would receive discrimination by others.
And finally, defining yourself could in fact be labeling yourself and then impose society stereotypes on you thus affecting your belief of your own self worth. In inclusion, I believe that when you try to define yourself, you run the risk of finding something that you do not like, be it in your past or in your future. On the other hand it also might help you discover who you are and who you can become. Ultimately it is up to the individual to determine who he or she is.