The #1 fundamental foundational human need is not food, water, oxygen or even safety. You can go without food for several weeks- people have been known to fast for well over a month. You can go without water for numerous days- countless people have done just that. You can go without oxygen for several minutes- Guinness reports a record of over 24 minutes! And people often voluntarily abandon safety and do patently dangerous things. Each of these can be managed with little or no consequences, certainly not long-term or permanent consequences.
The #1 fundamental foundational human need is Identity. You cannot go without identity for very many seconds without experiencing harm, sometimes extreme and long-lasting levels of harm.
What do we mean by Identity? Getting answers to questions such as:
Do I exist? Do I exist to you?
Do I matter? Do I matter to you?
Do I have value? Do I have value to you?
Do I have significance? Do I have significance to you?
Am I good enough? Am I good enough for you?
Who am I? Who am I to you?
Every human is born with the need for Identity: the pressing need to know someone cares about me, that “I matter.” This is coded within each of us from birth- we do not plan or design it, nor are we even aware of it. This need is innate and inborn. Also, the need for Identity is not good or bad, right or wrong- it simply is. As with food, water or oxygen, we do not think in terms of someday growing or maturing to the point of no longer needing them. No one attempts to breathe sufficiently this month so as not to need to breathe next month. You will not be able to hydrate enough this year so as not to need liquid intake next year. In the same way, the need for Identity is ongoing throughout your lifespan.
With this understanding, I would love to invent an Identity meter. This would be worn on your wrist so that both you and the person with whom you’re interacting could read it. The Identity meter could be removed in certain settings, but with relationships of depth, it would serve to let you and the other person know what is happening with you at your core. The other person would have one as well, so you would know what was happening with them. Thus you would know when you as well as the other person is receiving or losing Identity. Something like:
“Oh wow, your Identity meter spiked- you just received Identity! I want to know
what happened, so it can be repeated in the future.”
“Oh my, your Identity meter dropped- you just lost Identity! I want to know what
happened, so hopefully it won’t be repeated in the future.”
“Hey, I just received Identity from what you said. That felt really good- thanks!”
“Ugh, I just lost some Identity when you did that. That was kinda tough for me.”
People are often unaware of the receiving or loss of Identity of the other, thus interactions are frequently painful and detrimental, causing disconnect without one or both parties realizing what happened to bring about that disconnect.
I encourage you to be mindful of Identity this week. Become mindful of the moments when your own identity is strengthened or diminished; tell a trusted friend or family member about those moments. And be aware of identity in those around you. Notice when what impact you have on the identity of your spouse, your children, your siblings, friends and coworkers. Make it your goal to give identity to each person with whom you interact.
If we each become aware of identity, our own and that of the people around us, we will create a healthier, more connected and thriving world.