by Jeannie Taylor

IdentityWords fascinate me.  They are powerful tools to convey meaning and clearly impact who we are and the way we live.   Communicating and constructing meaning through our words and the words of others, help us to understand our world and those around us.

Recently I learned that announced the 2015 Word of the Year:  Identity.  According to their website, ‘identity’ and words surrounding that theme trended in user lookups.  They also reported that the most prominent theme was in the expanding and increasing conversations about gender, sexuality, and racial identity.  The year 2015 certainly had its fair share of high-profile events that shaped our conversations about identity through the stories of individuals such as Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Dolezal, and closer to home, Kim Davis.

Most of us would agree that our identities are ever emerging and evolving.  Some people may believe that our identities are formed (shaped) by the events that happen to us during our lifetime.  Examples of such events may include career, marriage, divorce, childbirth, accidents/illnesses, and aging.  I suppose it is a common practice to assign each event with a description such as ‘it was a negative experience’ or ‘it was a positive experience’.  Regardless of how we describe these events, they have the potential to influence our identity.

Recently, while listening to a presentation online, the speaker suggested that there is another component that exists besides events that actually has a greater impact on shaping our identity.  According to him, your belief or what you believe about what happens in your life ultimately shapes your identity.  It all comes down to how we process the events.  How can we allow our beliefs about an event create a more positive identity for ourselves?  He suggested that we renew our thinking and replace negative thoughts, comments and behaviors with optimistic and confident ones.  For example, if the event is ‘aging’, a person may say something like, ‘I’m done, or I have no future’.  A beneficial or encouraging replacement thought or statement might be, ‘Now that I’m older, I have a lot of experience and wisdom to offer.’

If you are a person with hearing loss, it has most likely contributed to how you identify yourself.  A hearing loss condition has the potential to pack a negative punch to our daily lives if we allow it to.  Research confirms the negative social, psychological, cognitive and health effects of hearing loss which can seriously impact our professional and personal lives.    However, hearing loss and its negative effects can be treated. It is possible for us to learn how to renew our thinking by replacing our unpleasant and pessimistic thoughts and beliefs about hearing loss with affirmative thoughts and decisions which lead to a healthier outlook and lifestyle.  In Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he states that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  He suggests that highly proactive people recognize their ability to choose their response to events rather than blaming circumstances or conditions for their behavior and outlook.

For your consideration:

Has hearing loss contributed to shaping your identity?  Would you agree or disagree that our beliefs about events rather than the events themselves shape who we are?   I look forward to reading your comments on this topic!

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