Is identity a performance (see quote from Irving Goffman above) and if so do we have a ‘real’ identity or is it just made up of these performances?

From yesterday, after I saw this question, I developed great interest in it, as it is a pretty challengeable question. I decided to start it by asking friends around me the same questions: “how do you think of me? And how do you tell my identity?” to identify my own answers. For most of them, those were tough questions. But at last the most questions I received are: I am an honest, funny and nice person, they mostly tell from my wearing, my talking and my other behaviour such as sharing food with friends and so forth. This reminded me a claim made by Goffman (1978): “to the degree that the individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe, he can come to experience a special kind of alienation from self and a special kind of wariness of others”. Each day, we confront various situations where we need made decision of conduct related behaviour. Apparently, one of the greatest way to tell our identities is through my performance, since it reflects what we believe inside.


Link of the image

I would prone to follow Duellette’s (2014) opinion that our personal identities are mostly performance, but not only limited to performance. Our daily dressing, showing, sharing and other behaviour make up our personal presence that helps others to understand us, and also assists ourselves to recognize ourselves. For instance, we normally heard someone talk about one of his/her friends as “No, he will never do that.” Such claim was established on strong trust and perception. And this perception is obtained from one’s belief in another person’s personality. While those awareness of other’s personality was built through accumulated observation of their performance when coming to make decision towards the same situation. For instance, if a person has strong personality of being honest while dealing with every issue, then he/she will build his identity among others as a trustful person. However, the reason I believe the identity is not only limited to performance is because, most of time, we have our awareness, such as belief, which when it is hard to express through performance, it is still part of our identities. But only not revealing though performance doesn’t mean we don’t have this traits in our identity.


Link of the image

I believe, our identity could be made up by our performance, while those performance are enacted by our internal beliefs. For instance when we believe it is the right thing to keep our words or promises, it will reflect on our performance, such as taking responsibility and assume obligation to carry out what we had promised. Identity actually is our characteristic, which was reflected from our daily performance. Performance is concrete and is what we can see, while characteristic is abstract, which is hard to describe, and is mostly described by our performance as a supporting evidence. For instance, when we say someone is honest, we would normally add supporting evidence, such as he always tells the truth. Therefore, I believe our identities are made up by performance but not limited to. We still need to pay attention to our internal beliefs.

Here is the link 



Duellette, J., 2014, Personal Identity Is (Mostly) Performance, The Atlantic, viewed 20 July 2016, <>

Goffman, E., 1978. The presentation of self in everyday life (p. 56). Harmondsworth.



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