Identity is based on many things. For some people it is their job. For others it is religion, race, favorite sports team, style of music you listen to, or dietary lifestyle (like vegans). These labels perform an important function in our everyday lives. They filter out information that would make our brain too saturated with things we do not want. In a world with so much information saturation, this is as important as ever.
Think of all the different traps that Republicans and Democrats fall into when they have to put together a basis for running for office, what laws they would pass and which ones they would try to abolish. The thing is, is that when politicians are not harping at each other on public TV, they are schmoozing together and cutting deals. This is mainly because of the rigidity they are mostly forced to portray to look like “strong minded” individuals.
The problem with identity based on an outside source (like, say, being a Steelers fan) is that the outside source can be changed at any time. What happens if the Steelers get sold, and all of a sudden the team gets moved to Alabama or some other state, changes name and players, and only has the faintest little glimmer or what it used to be?
How would Steelers fans feel about that? You are right in that they would probably feel an empty void that has absolutely nothing to do with them as people. It was their choice.
Many people included authors I’ve read such as Steven Covey and Steve Pavlina of a principle called “true north” principles, such as service to humanity, spirituality, the quest for power, or humility as being the principles upon which you must choose to latch yourself onto. You can internalize these principles until they become a part of you and they will then lead the direction of your life. Think about it – if you decide that mercy is your true principle, will it not take you in the direction of liberating animals from shelters and finding them homes, making conditions better for prisoners, and organizing to feed the hungry and poor? These are examples of things that will simply flow into your life if you choose a path of mercy.
Your idea of mercy may also change over time, unlike more rigid ideas like your birth religion and keeping traditions – they usually end up dividing more than they unite until some clever people step in and radically change things, like making a cultures unique traditions accessible to new audiences.
While I identify myself as part of the personal development community, it is far from a community with rigid doctrines and rules. It changes all the time. The seeking for fulfillment and quality of life are “true north” principles as they mean something different to everyone, but we all relate and search for them. The really interesting thing is that once you realize your true north principles, much of your life will make so much more sense.
Don’t be afraid, however, to use these rigid principles in everyday life to make things more smooth. It is not what you say, but what you do that people really notice. That is, the people you want in your life. Remember that Dr. Seuss quote: “…those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”
If you are reading this website, then anyone that would really look down on you for being a Democrat or Republican is probably not someone you would be really interested in keeping close ties to anyways. Let go of identity traps in your mind. Create more peace in your life by embracing the entirety of your own condition.