Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/12134
Self-identity in modernity
Society has changed significantly through processes of modernisation and these changes have affected the way individuals build up and develop their self-identities. In pre-modern societies live was only centred on survival, individuals behaved according to rules and traditions, the family and nearest environment provided people with social supervision and guidance on how to get through life. Individuals had very little choice about where they preferred to live, which line of work they chose and whom they wanted to marry. Anxiety and guilt arose if people wanted to do something they were not meant for or if they behaved in contradiction to society’s standards. With modernisation, the living conditions have improved and people’s choices and freedom about what to do with their live have increased. Yet at the same time, stability has decreased and traditions and traditional support systems, such as the family, lost their importance. Individuals today do therefore have multiple options and freedom, but little guidance on which options are the right ones or how they should behave. Anxiety and shame arise if people feel they have not made the right choices or if they believe they are not doing as well as they could be. In modern society individualism is dominant and the development of the self-identity has become the centre of all. Everything is subject to change, and the changes happen much more rapidly than ever before in human history. Individuals therefore need to be constantly reviewing and modifying their identities in accordance with the changes within society and all decisions, no matter how small, affect the development of the self-identity. This can lead to great distress and make it difficult for people to create a single, coherent identity. Even though people have much more choice and freedom than before, their lives are subjects to social control and even more than before, because in modern societies people are dependent upon many institutions and situations which they themselves have no control over. All consequences of modernisation are ambiguous and have major impact on the individuals’ lives, the development of their self-identities and the relationships between people. A clear example of the effect of the individualism and increased importance of the personal freedom and identity is the increased rate of divorce: in a modern society people need to find the perfect balance between living one’s own life and being there for others.