Identity feels permanent, powerful, emotional and fragile.
Identity has been used to unite college alumni (“we are!”), political factions and groups of all kinds.
Criticism is not in short supply, especially lately, and criticism aimed at us, at our core self, is particularly hurtful.
“I don’t like you,” is hard to wrestle with.
That’s why ad hominem attacks on appearance and other permanent attributes we all have are so difficult to live with.
But “you” is not the car you drive, the kind of wine you drink or how you feel about a certain issue in our society. Those are choices. Those are tastes. Those can be changed.
When I say I don’t like your idea, I’m not saying that I don’t like you. And if we’ve been persuaded by marketers and politicians that everything we do and say is our identity, then it gets very difficult to learn, to accept useful feedback and to change.
Evolving our choices and our tastes is part of being human. Establishing your identity as someone who is not static, open to change and eager for better makes it far easier to engage in a world where some would prefer us to do precisely the opposite.