If we are to be authentic, we must have an identity to be authentic to. Yet, in our modern world our identities are little more than proclivities and hobbies: who are we? Or, to my point, with whom do we fit?
We form our identities on the space available to us. I have felt the need upon entering a group and finding that the athletic, or smart, or role of the short balding man is already taken. Our identities, of course, are at least expressed in the roles we play, and some would argue (Sartre, for one) that our identity is not an “essence,” but simply our consciousness. Thus, we define ourselves in relation to others.
Yet, this leads to two conclusions. First, our identities are malleable. This isn’t a surprise idea in the 21st century. Second, we are dependent on others for our identities. We do not form our identities in a void. This is clearest for children, who are forming their self-conceptions through play and experimentation, and who listen to adults for the expectations they ought ought to meet and identities they ought to project.
You can be anything, right?
The problem, of course, when we’re dependent on others for our identities is that in such a changing and transitional society, we are always adapting and changing who we are based on new relationships and the space given to us. When you can be anything, it’s easier than ever to be confused about who you really are.