Identity is constructed of memories, memories that have to be tended to, and this takes time and energy.
You have to remember who you are and often have to work pretty hard just to maintain that image within yourself, to say nothing of projecting it toward other people and getting them to accept it.
A big problem with this way of constructing a “self,” an identity, is it’s probably based on misinterpretations and a good deal of self-deceit.
Our identities, such that they are, are complex fictions. They are a central flaw in our internal signaling system.
If your identity is large and complex, it will use a good deal of energy. As you signal internally to yourself about your identity, you will also be receiving signals from other people, and these signals will necessarily be processed by your large and complex identity. And that, of course, will lead to serious misinterpretations, both internal and external.
If you belong to a group that defines, or helps you define, your identity, you can save some energy but will have as much fiction, maybe even worse fiction.
Consider the codes of group behavior (group signaling) for Stalin’s NKVD officers who purged so many millions of innocents in the 1930s. All of those officers had identities that were largely determined by signals coming from the NKVD and Joseph Stalin.
There was a weird sort of ethical behavior among those officers in that they were trying to adhere to a group signaling system and not go their own way. This same problem in less serious form can be observed all over the world in every culture.
One problem with ethics and ethical signaling within groups is ethical questions can be difficult. There are few formulas that will always work, and formulas are what hold groups together.
Back to your identity. I hope it is clear that you have to be careful when you base your identity on group signaling systems. If you are a banker, you might do many bad things out of loyalty to your group. Same for all of us.
While ethics are hard to codify, the will to behave ethically is simpler. I want to do the right thing but I don’t always know what it is or how to do it. That is a good statement to make. If you can honestly say that to yourself, that is good because that means that your internal signaling system is seeking greater integrity, great clarity.
When we seek clarity and integrity within our signaling systems, we are seeking better ethics. We are changing our identities, or allowing our identities to be transformed by a higher desire for clarity, purity, integrity, goodness.
When we seek to improve our signaling systems, our ethics, we begin to abandon static identities and poorly constructed fictions about ourselves by subjecting them to a higher order of thought. If we can take a meta-position on ourselves, we will find the process of improving signaling is easier and more enjoyable than clinging to a static fictionalized identity that may have been constructed years before.