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Sandwich

To what extent are we defined by other people?

As the title says: to what extent are we defined by other people?

Hypothetically speaking, if you somebody took you and put you in the middle of nowhere with no links whatsoever in or out, would you know who you were? Are you a joker if the people who know you tell jokes aren't there? Are you nice if nobody has ever seen you do a kind thing? Are you smart if nobody knows you're smart?

I've always found this a mixture of fascinating and terrifying. Sometimes I think it's all ridiculous and if you have a quality, it's a part of your identity -- and at other times I think that without other people, there would be no definition of you as a person "in-themself" because the way we think about ourselves is all too often the way we believe other people perceive us. If there weren't other people to perceive you and society wasn't there, would there be anything left of you as the person you used to be before?

To some extent, do we all act the way we do in order to fulfill expectations? Perhaps especially as products of reasonably pressuring education systems, people might feel this way. I'm just curious to know whether people feel that they are always an objective entity, behaving and being the same under different circumstances, or whether the way we act within our circumstances (e.g. around our friends) is actually the results of the expectations of our friends defining us, and that if there were no circumstances, we'd hardly act the same at all.

For the record, by circumstances, I mean the YOU you are NOW being transplanted out, I don't mean that you were brought up under different circumstances or learned behaviours differently or anything like that.

Enough rambling/pondering on this particular crisis of existentialism, however! Do you think you're defined by other people and that makes "you" who you are, or that "you" exist even without those other people? Or perhaps have never considered it before-- no matter!

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I think you exist as you are, but you lead yourself to believe you are what other people define you to be in order to look better to them.

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As 2401 said, I believe people consider themselves to be what they are without the opinions of others, but subconsciously unaware of it, people feel the need to fulfill the assumptions of others and perform actions that support those ideas. For example, a person may feel smart when they are with themselves, but they may considered themselves less than intelligent amongst their friends (perhaps because their group of friends do not fully appreciate intelligence) and do not do well in school or show any motivation towards education because of the ideas implanted by their peers.

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It's a very interesting topic indeed. Thank you Sandwich, you actually inspired my ToK presentation topic.

Yes, we are defined by others unconsciously- or that's what I think. We live with people; we are "socialising animals".

I'll never know that I'm smart- for example, if no one has told me that before. I'll never be convinced that I'm beautiful unless someone commented on that. On the other hand, there is an extent to that, people have different perceptions to everything and they'll never be satisfied.

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Interesting topic. Our Arabic A2 teacher was actually discussing this today, but with a twist: to what extent are we defined by our maids/housekeepers/nannies? (Arabs tend to have so an Asian housekeeper or two in their homes to help with daily workload.)

He kept on bringing this up, telling us we're not really influenced by our parents by the culture, religion, and tradition of our housekeepers more. Like for example in a family it might be wrong to talk to guys. The housekeeper, who probably comes from a very liberal country, will help out the girl to sneak out and talk to boys and do all kinds of dangerous stuff (LOL, talking to boys here is thought to lead to dangerous stuff :) ).

I'll get back to this topic later, when I have the time :)

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Nice topic, I must admit that to some extent a person is defined by others. Many will say they are influenced or are 100% independent, that is incorrect. Simply, your friends (to some extent, and not always) define who you are. I do not see the Jocks sittin on the same table the drama club students sitting on at lunch. This is due to the fact that like dissolves like.

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I feel like there can be different interpretations to the question alone. When we think of defining ourselves, we tend to think of society in the sense of stereotypes. We are defined in a way that others can identify us. When I say that I'm a pretty crazy person, I came to that conclusion by comparing myself to others who may share the same characteristic. Of course, I'm not truly a crazy person, but someone who committed something unethical would be considered crazy. I understand that yet I define myself as that because a lot of my peers are "normal" compared to me. I am sociable. To what extent can I say that? Because these adjectives have been defined by society, I define myself through society. To what extent can we then be defined without language? Sorry, that's a different question.

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I think that we should all read Island by Aldous Huxley!

Moving on.

I'm not entirely sure about the 'other people' part, but I am quite certain that the definition of a person depends largely on his/her environment. A person of above intelligence might be labelled as 'genius' in a school of less-than-average quality, but will become 'mediocre' once he enters a top university. The definition of a person is very often relative. If we were alone and we had never met anybody nor read any stories of anyone - basically, the concept of the existence of another person is unknown to us - then we wouldn't be able to define our personalities.

What is clever without dumb? What is kind without cruel? What is sanity without insanity?

This leads nicely onto another topic which constantly fascinates me: what if we were all insane, and only the people in mental institutions were sane? We might have been wrong all along :)

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If you want to have a look at some psychological works that look into this read Charles Horton Cooley, he came up with the idea of the looking-glass self and look at William James.

"No man is an island"

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I'm 100% convinced that we are defined to a massive extent by the people around us, whether it is by learning from their mistakes or repeating their successes (or possibly repeating their failures). I think personality is 99% pastiche 1% luck

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I would imagine that extroverted people are defined by other people to a much greater extent than introverts. I know people that literally live to fulfil labels that other people have chosen for them such as the player or the jokster, and their personality (appears/ends up coming off) as a rather flat one, because all they do all day is socialize and thus spend the majority of their time trying to live up to these so called standards, such as flirting with everyone, everywhere and all the time, or constantly pointing out the humorous side of everything, and seem incapable of having a serious conversation. I think this has a lot to do with insecurity though, and our age. I have had the privilege of being able to start over, completely fresh in a foreign environment numerous times throughout my life. Many people might consider this their worst nightmare, but to me it's a true privilege. It's like a clean slate, a fresh beginning, yet you can always easily stay in touch with the people who used to consume your life completely at one point in time. I think it's healthy for people to face new places alone, because then we learn who we are, and we can't depend on how other people define us. I feel like I have reinvented myself a million times over, and I also think people behave differently around different people and groups. I don't think behaving differently = being two faced or fake, I just think it's natural. I don't discuss the same things with my brother, as I do my friends, nor do I behave the same way around guy friends as I do with girl friends. I think I'm too introverted to be truly defined by what other people think, because I have no problem being in the unknown and on my own, I don't feel out of place or potentially misunderstood, I just feel like myself.

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I believe that words like smart, good looking and sensitive (basically all adjectives), lose their meaning when put in a surrounding where one cannot establish some sort of norm. You could say that without something to relate to, there are no values, as values themselves points how much something is valued compared to something else. For example if one had an apple and a pear, one could say that "the apple is tasty" which in reality means that the apple is tastier than the pear. If you put the apple by itself, without knowledge of anything else, one could not use any adjectives when refering to the object (apple).

Even so, the object that is apple has not changed, it's identity remain intact, that is, all the parameters that define this apple is the same, it consists at the same state with the same building stones as before. But as no other object exist that can be relative to the apple, the apple itself can not be relative to anything, it just is.

So you are who you are, disregarding the fact that you are indeed shaped by your surroundings, but what you are (smart, dumb, ugly, pretty) can only be used in relation to others. Also, I would say that we have a certain core, but how we act in different situations differ from time to time, based on how we feel and how other people see us. Also, this core is no more static than anything else, it is everchanging. You are not more you than you 5 years ago. You only exist as you are in this very moment, apart from this moment, you'll be something else.

This make me think of the whole teleport thing. If you are dissasembled into the very molecules you are made of, and then reassembled at another place, with the machine assembling you exactly like you were before, would it still be you? If one would create different copies and all set them in a room, no copy would know whether they were the copy, all would claim to be the original. And who would even be able to claim the truth either way? as far as I know, all the atoms are the same, there is no way to distuingish one from another.

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