Key Difference – Personal Identity vs Social Identity
Before engaging in a discussion on the difference between personal identiy and social identity, it is vital to gain a simple understanding of what constitutes as identity. In most social sciences, identity is understood as the sense of self that an individual develops from childhood onwards. This assists the individual to distinguish himself from the others in the society. Simply identity refers to who we are. When speaking of identity one can refer to either the personal identity or else the social identity. The key difference between these two types is that while personal identity gives prominence to the individual and identifies him as different from others in the society, social identity identifies him as a member of the society. Through this article let us examine this difference further.
What is Personal Identity?
Personal identity can simply be understood as the sense of self that an individual develops as he grows older. This is not something that is static but something that is ever changing as the individual experiences new dimensions in life. However when it comes to basic personal identity creation, the individual tries to comprehend who he is, where does he belong, what is important to him, etc.
Every person has a form of the identity of himself. Based on this he has a way of seeing himself. Some may see them as achievers while others may see themselves as failures. The experiences, the context, the people we associate all play a huge role in the formation of personal identity. However, it is vital to highlight that our conception of identity may not be aligned with the social conception of self. For example, we might conceive that we are good natured and helpful to others, but the social perception can be completely different to this. Personal identity deals with who we are as an individual and what distinguishes us from the others in the society. Now let us move on to social identity.
What is Social Identity?
Unlike in the case of personal identity where attention is paid to the differences of the individual from others, in social identity, a collective approach is established. According to Richard Jenkins, social identity can be understood as our understanding of who are and of who other people are and reciprocally other people’s understanding of themselves and others. This highlights that social identity is created as the individual interacts with others and identifies himself as part of the society.
In a single society, there can be people belonging to different religions, ethnic groups, classes, castes, gender, etc. Through the creation of social identity, the individual learns the differences that he sees in others and also the similarities with others. This takes place through interaction in the social setting.
The roles and responsibilities that an individual has in the society are also important when understanding social identity. Different groups of people have different social roles. The social role of a mother is different to that of a principal. These are also connected to the establishment of our social role. This highlights a key difference between personal and social identity, which can be summarized as follows.
What is the Difference Between Personal Identity and Social Identity?
Definitions of Personal Identity and Social Identity:
Personal Identity: Personal identity can simply be understood as the sense of self that an individual develops as he grows older.
Social Identity: Social identity can be understood as our understanding of who we are and of who other people are and reciprocally other people’s understanding of themselves and others.
Characteristics of Personal Identity and Social Identity:
Personal Identity: The emphasis is on the individual.
Social Identity: The emphasis is on the commonalities of members in the society.
Personal Identity: Personal identity is created through differences in characteristics when comparing with others.
Social Identity: Social identity is created through similarities with others.
Image Courtesy: 1. “Woman in Laos 1” by Thomas Schoch – Own work [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons 2. Chinese people crossing the street By Stougard (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons