"Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within." - Doug Couper (American writer).

Identity is about who you are! Having an identity is a human right! It recognizes your existence in society as an individual. For example, you have the right to a name, nationality and among many other rights, you have the right to express yourself in the way you want:

  • Choosing your clothes

  • Choosing your friends

  • Showing your cultural identity

  • Choosing your religion

  • Expressing your feelings

You also have the right to have a sexual identity. This means that you can express your sexual orientation, choose your partner and choose to (or not) identify with a gender. To know more about sexual identity, go to the course on sexuality

To feel good about who you are, you need to have self-esteem, confidence and self-respect. You can get more confident by thinking positively about the things you are good at and what you like about yourself: “I am a good friend” or “I am a good student” or “I am good at sports”… If you think positive things about yourself and your future, it is more likely it will happen!

Your identity forms as you grow up, and will be influenced by personal, environmental and cultural experiences. Belonging to a certain group, for example family, friends, students, a community, a religious group or a sports club can be of important influence in developing your identity. Being part of a group, means you interact with other people. In interaction with other people, you learn and find out what your preferences are or what you like or dislike. When being part of a group, you can relate to or identify yourself with other people. This can positively affect your self-esteem. But you can also learn who you are and who you really want to be by being by yourself! Remember, you could be a part of different groups at the same time and within each group, you might behave in a different manner or be seen differently – this is another aspect of our identity – it is never only one thing but a combination of many ‘identities’.

Your body image is also part of your identity. Body image refers to how you evaluate your own body. It is normal for people to have an opinion about their bodies, some people are perfectly happy with their body, others don’t like a thing or two, and others don’t like their bodies at all. Both men and women feel pressure to comply with a body image and might feel insecure about this.


The best way to be comfortable with your own body and to have a positive self-image is to:

  • Experiment with your appearance: what is your favourite style? How do you wear your hair?

  • Know your body and understand that it is unique.

  • Understand that media images are not ‘real’ or ‘perfect’ bodies.

  • Keep a good hygiene and take good care of your body.


Now you understand what is meant by identity. But let’s see how this applies to others and in your own life:

  • Read the story on a Kenyan writer and how his sexuality was criticized to see how others deal with their identity.

  • Use the reflective questions to think about your own identity.