Life Experience, Culture, and Identity

The first part of the American Psychological Association’s definition of identity is this:

An individual’s sense of self defined by (a) a set of physical, psychological, and interpersonal characteristics that is not wholly shared with any other person and (b) a range of affiliations (e.g., ethnicity) and social roles.


So, one should think of identity as very individualized to each person and note that it is dependent on a self-perception of each person’s own characteristics, affiliations, and social roles. 

To dig into the complexity of identity, we will now work with some components of Identity Charts, a teaching resource developed by the international educational and professional development organization, Facing History and Ourselves.

In creating an individual identity chart, one starts by considering the question,

“Who Am I …”

in terms of the following categories: roles (within family and community – sister, son, parent, student, employee, etc.), hobbies and interests (reading, playing/watching sports, playing an instrument, etc.) our background (religion, race, nationality, place of birth/hometown, etc.), and physical characteristics.

Other elements to the idea of identity used in this exercise include:

  • Some aspects of our identities are consistent over our lives; others change as we gain skills and have different roles in life.
  • Some aspects of our identities feel very central to who we are no matter where we are; others might feel more like background or depend on the situation.
  • Some identities are labels that others put on us. While others see us as having that identity, we don’t.

Note how the items listed below fall into each of the above categories as you read Stephanie’s sample Identity Chart from Facing History…

Individual identity chart


Identity Definition – APA –

Identity Charts – Facing History –