Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

B Series - Conflicting Identities

- Beware, this isn't proofread -

I suspect that this topic will bubble up on many occasions while trying to do this deep introspection.  Again, it's pretty important context setting.

For whatever reason, my identities - physical, emotional, spiritual, social, moral, intellectual, experiences etc. - conflict with each other.  Or, at least they do on the surface.  One of the more difficult things I feel like I do on a daily basis is finding some calm between those warring identities and weaving together a cohesive internal narrative.  Let me try listing some examples:


  • Indian and brought up in America, and "white" by upbringing to an extend - but still rooted with relatively traditional values.
  • Theistic, but not subscribing to the framework of an organized religion
  • I've been bullied and have been in positions where I could bully other if I wanted to.
  • Dance, Football, Backcountry Camping, Tennis, Soccer, Weightlifting - all these are favorite athletic pass times
  • Fraternity Man (with associated antics) and subscriber to Aristotelian virtue ethics
  • Deeply ponderous and reflective but intensely extroverted but also active listener
  • Arrogant, but feel uncomfortable taking praise
And many others.  These are pretty surface level, I'd say, but the hint at things which are more deeply rooted, I think.

But, what's the implication of having conflicting identities?

Well, there are real, front-line costs.  It's hard for others to figure you out, and therefore have trust in you.  If you're not predictable, then, how does one have intimate relationships?  It's not impossible just more fleeting.  The other side of this is that it's harder to feel a sense of belonging anywhere.  Everything is shaky, because you never feel comfortable exactly where you are.  You feel like an outsider and an insider at the same time.  "Home" is difficult to discern.

More tactically, if one is all over the map with identities (and identities are heuristics for day-to-day decision making) how does one make decisions with conflicting identities?  First, you do make decisions.  It's just really taxing, it becomes extremely deliberative in one's own head.  There are no shortcuts to making decisions.  There's nothing that feels quite right.  But I suppose that's the case for everyone.

I suppose there are upsides, though.  It becomes easier to move between communities of different people when identities don't lock you into a single paradigm.  It also leaves lots of life as your oyster to be opened.  Among other things.

But, what's the big takeaway here?  I have many conflicting identities (maybe more, or maybe less than I think they are), but so does everyone, probably.  Takeaway number one is that it's okay.  (Wow, I've never said that or thought that - it's okay to be you, snap.  That's probably the first of many realizations over the course of the next year).

Takeaway number two is that you must be you.  With conflicting identities, its possible to try to copy the way others are or do what other people think you should be doing.  That's maybe the worst thing you can do.  That errs you even farther than your true self.  And if you do that, you no longer have any trust in who you are and what you think because you've introduce foreign identities into an already weird mix of thoughts and feelings.  The identities of others is something that you can never measure up to.

This is the third and probably most difficult conclusion - all your identities have to be woven together some way, or some how.  May that's what integrity is - all of you woven into one story that you can explore, deepen and stick to.  That's like, inner peace, if I've ever heard it.

So then the question becomes, how does one find inner peace with his or her identities?  I obviously don't know the answer to that question.  But, that's a good goal.  That's kind of what my equilibrium project is all about - making my conflicting identities, thoughts and feelings play nice together in my brain.

Even though I don't know the answer to the question, I think it's a start to figure out who you are by learning about where you came from - i.e. unpacking your baggage.  And, the long road ahead begins.