We really need to stop labeling ourselves.
We don’t get to decide how we’ll be known. We don’t get to create our values merely by choosing to identify ourselves as creators of those values.
Reality doesn’t care how we self-identify. Reality cares whether and how we self-actualize.
They say St. Francis of Assisi once said “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”* There’s a helpful truth here in the pursuit of any value. Identity follows action, not vice versa.
Don’t self-identify as a liberal. Give up power over others. Don’t participate in domination. Work to build freedom for yourself and others. Tell the truth about power.
Don’t self-identify as anti-sexist. Respect women and men alike. Don’t participate in sexism. Tell the truth about people, instead of stories that help you control people of another gender.
Don’t self-identify as anti-war. Refuse to do violence yourself. Refuse to support the institutions that enable war. Help the victims of war. Tell the truth about war.
Don’t self-identify as a Christian. Be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Emulate Jesus.
Don’t self-identify as rational and scientific. Use the scientific method in your empirical investigations. Refrain from using poor arguments and shoddy logic.
Your identity matters only insofar as it translates to action.
Without actualization, identities are just shallow sorting mechanisms. You’ll use them to place yourself onto teams of people who don’t know what they value but who are quite excited to let you know what they are.
Without actualization, identities shut down conversations and raise walls. Just try leading a conversation with “I’m a Democrat,” or “I’m a Republican.” Self-identification is an attempt to shortcut through the work of communicating what you actually think about reality. Picking your identity becomes picking a team, and that means picking an enemy team to fight.
Without actualization, identities become tools of control. The people who will care about sorting you by identity are the people who would rule you by your self-identifications. These are the ideologues. They will reinforce your self-identifications. They will make you feel superior to others because of your self-identifications. They will not ask you to self-actualize your identifications in any real way. They will positively refuse to let you, in fact.
You cannot be ruled by means of self-actualization.
If you chose to self-actualize instead of self-identify, you are no longer trying to establish a relationship with a group or team. You are trying to establish a relationship with reality.
If you chose to self-actualize instead of self-identify, maybe you and the folks on the other side of the identity line would be too busy creating your values to really hate each other. Maybe you would find something in common in the process of self-actualizing your values. Maybe you could become friends despite your differences.
Reality doesn’t care how you self-identify. And let’s be honest, you don’t either. You want to be the things that you value, not merely bear their label.
Identity is weak. It will take care of itself. Focus on doing and being.
*This is, according to a quick Google search, not an actual quote. But the wisdom remains.