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quotations about identity

The past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.

ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now

You can't change who you are. No matter how you struggle, some things will never change. And maybe they shouldn't.

ROB THURMAN, Nightlife

Sex ... or lack thereof ... is at the center of everyone's identity, and once you've cracked someone's desires, you understand them in full.

ARIANNE COHEN, Marie Claire Magazine, March 2008

To know another's heart, you must first know your own.

LAURELL K. HAMILTON, Narcissus in Chains

People fear their hidden selves, afraid that they will burst out.

GREGORY BENFORD, Foundation's Fear

The only true happiness lies in knowing who you are ... and making peace with it.

LAURELL K. HAMILTON, Narcissus in Chains

I have been moving around all my life. Going to different schools, living in different houses, shedding old roles, assuming new ones. This way of life is as natural to me as staying in one place is for other people. I do variations on the theme. I return to places where I used to be. I find my old personas. I try them on. If they still fit, I wear them out to a party or a show. If they begin to restrict my movements, I take them off. I am a human being, capable of mimicking anything I see or remember or can imagine.

ELLEN GILCHRIST, Falling Through Space

Who knows who you are ... A person is a novel: you don't know how it will end until the very last page. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth reading to the very end.


It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity.

PHILIP K. DICK, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

To know who you are is the greatest power of all.


It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.

ANDRE GUIDE, Autumn Leaves

Certain favourite roles are played by us so often before the public and rehearsed so carefully when we are alone that we find it easier to refer to their fictitious testimony than to that of a reality which we have almost entirely forgotten.

MARCEL PROUST, Within a Budding Grove

When a creature has developed into one thing, he will choose death rather than change into his opposite.


People remain what they are even if their faces fall apart.

BERTOLT BRECHT, In the Jungle of Cities

Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them

BOB DYLAN, "Maggie's Farm"

The buddhists say there are 149 ways to god. I'm not looking for god, only for myself, and that is far more complicated.


I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it? What is true for writing and for a love relationship is true also for life. The game is worthwhile insofar as we don't know what will be the end.

MICHEL FOUCAULT, interview, Oct. 25, 1982

Myself is thus and so, and will continue thus and so. And why fight it? My balance comes from instability.


We are what we have been told about ourselves. We are the sum of the messages we have received. The true messages. The false messages.

DONALD BARTHELME, Snow White (play)

When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?

MARY SHELLEY, Frankenstein

No change, I can't change, I can't change, I can't change,
But I'm here in my mold, I am here in my mold.
And I'm a million different people from one day to the next
I can't change my mold, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

THE VERVE, "Bitter Sweet Symphony", Urban Hymns

Know thyself. A maxim as pernicious as it is ugly. Whoever studies himself arrests his own development. A caterpillar who seeks to know himself would never become a butterfly.

ANDRE GIDE, Autumn Leaves

It's what no one knows about you that allows you to know yourself.

DON DELILLO, Point Omega

One isn't born one's self. One is born with a mass of expectations, a mass of other people's ideas — and you have to work through it all.

V. S. NAIPAUL, New York Times, Apr. 24, 1994

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.


We live counterfeit lives in order to resemble the idea we first had of ourselves.

ANDRE GIDE, Autumn Leaves

What doesn't slumber under the shells of us all? One just needs courage to uncover it and be oneself.


It is terrible to destroy a person's picture of himself in the interests of truth or some other abstraction.

DORIS LESSING, The Grass Is Singing

What if there are not only two nostrils, two eyes, two lobes, and so forth, but two psyches as well, and they are separately equipped? They go through life like Siamese twins inside one person.... They can be just a little different, like identical twins, or they can be vastly different, like good and evil.

NORMAN MAILER, Harlot's Ghost

They say you are not you except in terms of relation to other people. If there weren't any other people there wouldn't be any you because what you do, which is what you are, only has meaning in relation to other people.

ROBERT PENN WARREN, All the King's Men

I am I. And I won't subordinate my taste to the unanimous judgment of mankind.

JACK LONDON, Martin Eden

Where do you find the parts to make yourself into some other kind of person? Can it be something you read in a book, a gesture you see on the street? Half-smile of a teacher, the walk of a girl on the beach.

AMY HEMPEL, "Tumble Home"

Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.


Excuse my absolute freedom. I refuse to make a distinction between any of the moments of myself.

ANTONIN ARTAUD, Selected Writings

You cannot hide your true self forever.

CASSANDRA CLARE, City of Fallen Angels

No matter what they wish for, no matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves.

HARUKI MURAKAMI, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Each man must have his I; it is more necessary to him than bread.

CHARLES HORTON COOLEY, Human Nature and the Social Order

This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before.

AYN RAND, Anthem

There was nothin to set a man's mind at ease like wakin up in the morning and not havin to decide who you were.

CORMAC MCCARTHY, No Country for Old Men

It is not a slight thing, gentlemen, to force a man to say what he is, or what he believes himself to be; for that supreme word of man, that single expression which he utters of and upon himself is decisive. It lays down the basis upon which all judgment of him is to be formed. From that moment all the acts of his life must correspond to the answer given by him.

HENRI-DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, Jesus Christ: Conferences Delivered at Notre Dame in Paris

Identity is memory; when memory disappears, the self dissolves and love with it.

JOHN LAHR, The New Yorker, 2007

The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal.

JOHN LE CARRÉ, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

All we are not stares back at what we are.

W. H. AUDEN, "The Sea and the Mirror"

Browse Identity Quotes II

Read David Hume's essay: Of Personal Identity


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