The Art of Nurturing Self Identity

Written by Nurul Nadiah Ahmad Daud, from Kuching, Malaysia. Please read the article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Humans, like any other animals, are survivors that continuously evolve over time to stay coherent with the changing world. Being a realistic person in the actual world is totally frictional against the fantasy of ideal self-being. Since ages, humans are readily tied to social constructs such as rules, races, and education. These constructs very much influence their lives, likewise, humans also influence them. Living in society leaves us with one biased option; the willingness to adapt and integrate with an agreeable group of people. Therefore, society roots the creation and development of personal identity among the individuals within the group.

Humans can learn and adjust new experiences to shape their own identity in every stage of life. As mentioned by Cherry (2019), Jean Piaget proposed a theory of adaptation through the process of assimilation and accommodation. It is a crucial part of cognitive development to prepare people to cope with new settings. From biological developments to moulding of identity, humans will constantly change because it is a natural process of living and surviving. As an example, Jan Koum managed to climb up the social status by adapting to changes which paved his way to become a successful founder of WhatsApp. He realised the potential of social applications’ industry in this modern era. In this case, Koum was a nobody before he was known as somebody. Therefore, depending upon how a person analyses and deals with the changes, it will either transform him into a better or worse version of himself.

The interaction of individuals within a tolerable group is critical to the emergence of a culture that affect a person’s identity. British anthropologist, Tylor, defined culture as a holistic combination of art, beliefs, customs, ideas, knowledge, norms, and values as well as other capabilities acquired by a man. As people are born into a cultural environment, they naturally pick up the common acceptance within their society. Throughout life, exposure to countless people, books, cultures, and events, impact on their knowledge, perceptions, behaviours and lifestyles. Often, society plays a significant role when it comes to the build-up of individual’s preferences. However, even culture is evolving to stay relevant with the transition of era. The changes in certain cultural parts will pretty much affect everyone in the society. Hence, the term conformity popped out. It involves changing of behaviour to fit in the desired group of people. Conformity is happening everywhere in the society; be it at workplace or at school and even at home, wherever there is interaction among people.

Different cultures have driven their people to change in order to fit into the same boxes. Culture is the backbone of a society and every society has unique traits which results in considerable differences. Cross-cultural studies had found that some cultures might favour individualism, whereas others might demand collectivism and cooperation among the people. Individualistic society stresses on personal space and needs, like German society, which opposes the importance of teamwork in collectivistic society such as Egypt (Darwish & Huber, 2003). Hence, people across the globe are viewing the world differently, depending on factors that shape their perceptions and behaviours. However, individuals are inclined to changing. They will adapt to their surroundings if required to. When a person from individualistic society migrates and stays in a collectivistic region, he learns to accept the differences to integrate into the society. As a result, the person is adjusting himself to unfamiliarity, shaping his old self into a different version.

Interestingly, many people believe changes occur in life but not as a significant process of living. After studying responses of more than 19,000 people in 2011 and 2012, Gilbert and Quoidbach found that most people view changes as a temporary phase. This is due to the belief that they know themselves well, so any future changes may become a threat (Quiodbach et. al, 2013).  However, humans are provenly adaptive. The reality of life and living in society forces people to understand of what they should be instead of creating the blurry image of what they want to be. Additionally, the quote ‘Age does not define maturity’ might be true. The expectation is, as a person grows older, experiences supposedly boost his maturity. The truth is every individual has a unique personality, as well as a different mindset and decision skills. These are few factors that influent people when tackling their life issues. Thus, the results will be varied which mould the identity of an individual.

Some people might overlap the meaning of behaviour and personality, leading to the perception that changes will affect both building blocks of self-identity. According to Dr Michele Leno, DML Psychological Services, personality is stable and hard to change, but behaviour may change accordingly. People need to deeply know and understand themselves before diving into the pool of society. This action rewards better thinking skills and decision making, reading through different settings to achieve appropriate outcomes, meaning that every person should learn about self-knowledge before acknowledging the demands of society. At the same time, the adaptive trait comes into the scene, enabling people to breathe properly in this competitive world. As the Japanese say, everyone has three faces; one to the world, one to close friends and family, lastly, the unrevealed to anyone.

To sum up, I partially agree with the statement simply because I believe society dictates people, likewise, changes influence behaviours and perceptions. However, I think self-knowledge is very important as opposed to “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am.” Personality and behaviour make up self-identity. We cannot alter who we are, but we can alter what we do. Thus, my personality reflects my responses towards changes usually sparked by society and later, influence my behaviour in different circumstances. The changes in the past bloomed the current version of myself, yet I am still progressing to ‘upgrade’ my identity for the future. Sadly, I had to bury some of the dreams in my past as they are too far from relevant to my current situation. Therefore, be a long-life learner to build the premium version of ourselves.


Cherry, K. (2019). The 4 stages of cognitive development. Retrieved from   

Darwish, A. F. E., & Huber, G. L. (2003). Individualism vs collectivism in different cultures: A cross-cultural study. Intercultural Education, 14(1), 47-56.

Quoidbach, J., Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2013). The end of history illusion. Science,  339(6115), 96-98.

11 comments on “The Art of Nurturing Self Identity

  1. Claudia on

    Hello Nadiah. What do you think about individuals that choose to step out of the cultural norms, the nonconformist, because of the cultures they were disclosed to? lets say, they perceived the biased side of the culture while growing up. would that person still be considered as the product of cultural mold?

    • Nurul Nadiah on

      Hi Claudia. It’s good to hear your points! My humble opinion is, yes. We born into this world with only the cries of innocence. From baby to adulthood, we copy others and pick up knowledge by various means. As long as living in society by interacting with people will pretty much affect the moulding of self-identity. Humans are blessed with brain contributing to cognitive skills and abilities. Some people seem like deviate from the norm because of what the society has made them into. That is why the correlation of self-knowledge and society cannot be unseen. It is nice to exchange opinion with you. Thank you and keep immersed in mind-triggering readings!

  2. Nursyafina on

    The part where it goes, “We cannot alter who we are, but we can alter what we do.” is relatable. We need to be flexible in order to accommodate ourselves and others too. Good writing. I enjoyed reading it.

      • Asyri on

        Hi Miss Nadiah,

        As I read through this, I strongly agree since it’s very relatable. We change to fit in. Even if it’s temporarily. It’s a very good topic since it has something to do with nature vs nurture. Growing up we didn’t realised that the society are the one who mould us to become who we are today. Like we learn different lesson from different people. Very good writing indeed.

  3. Pei Ling on

    I nodded as I read through the words. Good job! What do you think about mistreatments and biases in society? Does this happen because of conformism?

  4. Cco on

    Hey, nice constructive writing, I’ve never think of how the society mould a person. And as well, I incline to person being shaped by people. In fact, the reluctance of neoteric is being moulded by one’s community.

  5. Syamil Faisal on

    Hi Nadiah, thank you for sharing this knowledge-packed article.
    Your whole direction on juxtaposing individual and society as the key influence to shaping our identity is a brilliant observation, and backing up your points with research is commendable.

    The idea isn’t new in cultural morphology, but it’s refreshing to stumble upon this idea every now and then as a reminder to reflect on ourselves.

    If you wanna go deeper in the self-identity, which I assume you’re passionate about, I would recommend reading works by existentialist like Jean Paul Sartre, and the stoic, like Seneca.

    Keep it up, you’re going to be an amazing storyteller 😃

    • Jey on

      1. I expected more elaboration on “the art” to “nurture identity”, I was under the impression that the title suggesting contents flavouring more onto the “nurturing” part, upon reading,I felt two third of the article explains about society and its impact (and some more literature reviews in that respect) to a person instead of what I had expected. My impression of “art” might differ from good youn’ author, I recommend to re-edit the title.

      2. We can change ourself. For us to change what we had been doing or to correct some part of life, we need to change ourself. This element is essential for self improvement or changes. Although, I do agree that we cant change who we are in the likes of…for example…gender.

      3. You have interesting view towards society influences. I however do not adapt to favor the society. I adjust myself to survive in whatever situation I’m in. To me, that looks more flexible. It might sound ambiguous, but believe me, I can explain if we meet in person. haha.

      4. Extra comment I will personally message you later. Thanks for sharing your written work, it was a nice read I promise.


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