There is no ‘You’

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Our identity is not an immutable core hidden away in the depths of our being. It is, rather, a collection of ideas that the outside world has inscribed on our bodies. Identity is a construction, and that can be proved by something closely resembling a scientific experiment: adoption.* Take an Indian baby from the Rajasthan village of her birth, have her brought up in Amsterdam, and she will acquire the identity of an Amsterdammer. But if you entrust her instead to a couple from Paris, she will become a Parisienne. If, when she grows up, she goes in search of what she thinks of as her roots, she is going to be disillusioned: they simply don’t exist, and in the country of her birth she’s likely to find that she’s just as alien as any other woman from Amsterdam or Paris. More alien, in fact, because her appearance (skin colour, hair) suggests a bond with the local people that isn’t there. We must conclude from this that our psychological identity is shaped by our surroundings. If ‘I’ had grown up in a different culture with parents belonging to that culture, then ‘I’ would have been completely different.
 
 
Identity has more to do with becoming than with being, and it’s a process that starts right from birth.
 
Paul Verhaeghe, What about Me?: the struggle for identity in a market-based society