ISSUE-016

It is primarily through our identification with social groups that we define ourselves.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


Self-definition is gained through association with social groups, but is not achieved through self-identification. By arguing this, the author puts forth an interesting puzzle concerning the morphology of the root “self”. Admittedly, being gregarious and pursuing self-definition through contact with outside groups distinguishes us from other animals. We attend schools, we join parties, we engage in a variety of volunteer activities—it is through such social activities that we gain individual value and correctly locate ourselves. However, I argue that in many, even most, circumstances social groups play a disappointing role in helping us to define ourselves. In extreme circumstances, we may even be tossed about aimlessly in the turbulent ocean of society, deprived of appropriate self-definition.


To begin with, the author turns a blind eye to the great number of cases in which we fail to define ourselves through interaction with other social groups. To exemplify this, we can consider a failed marriage, an unsuccessful job experience, or a discouraging defeat in a contest. Not only do such interactions with others fail to contribute to satisfactory self-definition, but more importantly, they could possibly strip us of the confidence needed in life and hinder our ability to positively self-identify.


Moreover, the author overlooks the vital role played by space in helping us to define ourselves. While it might be significant to maintain contact with others, it is equally important to reserve privacy for our spirit. Private space is especially vital in current society which is marked by the hustle-and-bustle pace of life. Shopping malls, bars, parks, these are all paradise for those in need of animated communication with others; however, a secluded study room, a quiet house in the countryside, or even the lonely street corner in New York city might benefit us considerably in terms of introspection. Through such introspection we are able to liberate ourselves from the outside world’s distracting forces and further attain some semblance of peace. This peace occupies an irreplaceable space in our city dwellers’ hearts.


Last but not least, as we go through different phases in life, we are bound to attempt different ways of identifying ourselves. The author, however, fails to categorize or elaborate on those phases of human life. It is ill-conceived to regard our life as one monotonous, tedious and variance-deprived chapter. On the contrary, life is fraught with changes and unexpected occurrences. Those episodes compel us to utilize different approaches to understand ourselves and acquire an appropriate sense of identity. In the nascent stage of our lives, we strive to understand the world through communication with others. It is this communication that helps us to gradually gain a more complete picture about the world and what it means to us. In the prime of our lives: we have decent jobs, building our careers with a group of confidants, and we start families, sharing joy and sorrow with the ones we love. Jobs and family enable us to define ourselves as qualified employees, partners and parents. However, when we approach the end of our lives, we achieve a relatively exclusive status: we most frequently think about the past, both the miserable and happy times. We become introspective of what we have been through; such history belongs to us alone and it is through these experiences that we complete the final self-identification stage. If there was no such introspective life ritual, how pale would our lives be?


To sum up, while it is reasonable to establish positive connections with others and define ourselves through such connections, in most cases I argue that we can go further and self-identify only by forming and possessing a strong and independent ego.

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