I is for… (#atozchallenge)

    I is for… 


    Identity (and iPad)


    As you may have seen my blog is not just on one theme, it’s not just a writing blog, not just an OT blog, not just a PhD student blog (not yet even but elements coming soon), it’s a me blog (ooo doesn’t that sound self-centred?). Now I could have had two or three separate blogs but I would find it so difficult to split what went where. All of these different elements form my identity and I wouldn’t feel right splitting them.


    As an occupational therapist I believe that our sense of self and identity comes from what we do (the ‘occupations’ or activities we engage in our daily lives) and the roles we play. As such our occupations play a huge part in our personal feelings of health and wellbeing.


    Wilcock (2003, p. 175) cite Whiteford and Wicks (2000, p.48) who discuss the idea of an ‘occupational persona’:


    “That dimension of self shaped by a myriad of factors both biological and sociocultural, which is predisposed, as well as driven toward, engagement in certain types of occupations. Through the process of such engagement and the outcomes generated, the occupational persona is shaped, and to some extent reinvented over time.”


    Iwama (2010) also suggests that self is ‘embedded in the environment‘.


    To me these quotes mean that aspects of our personal nature (things like being an owl or a lark, short or tall, shy or extrovert) as well as nurture (how/where we are bought up, what opportunities we were afforded) as well as our environmental contexts (the place we live and work and socialise), the people around us, the culture we are, shape what we do and thus our identity. This can change and develop over time.


    I always hear people I know, and myself, saying “I couldn’t do what they do”. This is most definitely a good thing. After all we need all types of people doing all types of things to make society work.


    Within the last few years I have been diagnosed with dyspraxia, I’ve clearly always been dyspraxic and having read about the condition I can see that it has always affected me.  Although I now tick the box to say I have a disability, generally I would not identify myself as disabled. Others though may feel differently and if I had had this diagnosis earlier in life maybe I would have a different opinion of this and a different identity. Disability then, to me, isn’t an automatic feature of having a specific health condition if you can still accomplish what you want or need to. At times I feel perhaps that I have been made to feel disabled by environments or processes around me. This is a common theme in literature about disability, that people are disabled by their environment (whether this is physical or in terms of the attitudes of those around them) rather than by the condition or label they are  given.


    Instead I identify with being an OT (even though I am not currently practising, my current emersion in occupational literature, teaching about OT, communicating with other OTs (via Twitter and Blogs even)and students on placement), a lecturer (through writing and presenting lectures, facilitating group sessions), a writer (through writing, reading about writing, blogging, running an online writing community, thinking about writing), a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend (through spending time socialising, talking on the phone, visiting, listening to, laughing with etc).

    I also look forward to, in future, developing my potential roles and occupations in being a researcher, a girlfriend, a wife, a mother, grandmother etc. Knowing some new mothers I do think that it is likely that my identity in terms of my work and the importance that plays in my life may change (and probably rightly so).


    It may be that identity is transient but there are some occupational identities that I think stay with us, like a fellow OT @claireOT said to myself and @GentleChaos on Twitter, “once an OT, always an OT. (like king or queen of Narnia. and order of phoenix, obvs.)”. I think that’s true and that I will always be an occupational therapist and possibly always have been without having a word to call it (it is weird how when a new group of students arrive in the university you can almost always identify them relating to the profession they are enrolled in).


    How does this apply to life or practice? For therapists, or people in general, I think at times we can impose an identity on someone based on their condition, e.g. a stroke survivor, a person with a learning disability, a person with depression. But we need to look beyond this to what they have done in the past, what they do now and importantly what they’d like to do. We can do this by simply taking the time to talk to that person and find out. The stroke survivor may have been an astronaut, the person with a learning disability may enjoy acting in a theatre group, the person with depression might be you or me.


    Please feel free to leave comments – I have no questions for you today but an activity:


    Activity for you to post to your blogs (please link back here or place a link in the comments)

    (This activity is taken (with only minor amendments) from Clark et al, 2004, p. 214)

    Collect together ten pictures of yourself taking part in occupations (or activities) that best characterise your sense of self. Arrange them in an order that shows us your story (e.g. chapters of your life, different elements such as work, rest and play). Tell us a little about them and in essence your identity. These pictures can be from past and present. You may want to add pictures of occupations you would like to become involved in (though you won’t have pictures of you doing this unless you photoshop them).

    (I’ll try and do this too – I’ve not got the pictures ready though)



  1. Clark, F.A, Jackson, J. and Carlson, M. 2004. Occupational Science, Occupational Therapy and Evidence-based Practice: What the Well Elderly Study has Taught Us. In: Molineux, M. 2004. Occupation for Occupational Therapists. Oxford: Blackwell Publications, 200-218.
  2. Iwama, M. 2010. Cultural Perspectives on Occupation. In. Christiansen, C.H., Townsend, E.A., 2010. Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living, 2nd ed. New Jersey: Pearson, 35-55.
  3. Wilcock, A.A. 2003. Occupational Science: The Study of Humans as Occupational Beings. In: Kramer, P., Hinojosa, J., Brasic Royeen, C. 2003. Perspectives in Human Occupation: Participation in Life. Philadeplhia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 156-180.

    I’ve got to squeeze a word or two in for my iPad which I think has solidified my identity as a gadget geek. I do plan to do a top 10 apps feature (or two or three) after the A-Z challenge has finished.


    I hope this post makes sense, I’ve had to do it in a but more of a rush than I’d like because some of my other occupational identities have taken over!!

Posted on April 11, 2011, in #am writing (and all things writing related), April A-Z Challenge, Kirsty rambles on about life, the universe, tv, and everything!, Lecturing, Occupational Therapy, PhD and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great post – I’ll keep back the activity for when I have more time (that time thing again!).

    • Oh yes – mine won’t be for a little while either. Maybe we can make it a challenge, let’s select our occupations and say give ourselves a month (or a little longer) to get the snaps we need to form our stories in pictures. I’ll remind everyone.

  2. Yes please – I think it’s an amazing idea and would love to try it!

    I actively shape my identity by choosing occupations/roles – mental health worker, volunteer, dancer (gave that one up due to lack of finances), yoga-ey person (ditto), student. Student comes last because the ideas that many people (including most of my course) have about what students do doesn’t fit with my identity.

    Fitting comment about depression in light of Depression Awareness Week!

    Thank you for a thought-provoking blog post, especially in the light of all your other commitments!

    • Interesting comment about the identity of student linking to a current cultural view of said occupation.
      I could pretend I planned the depression thing but have to admit to being oblivious to that fact so simply lucky timing, thanks for bringing to my attention.

  3. Done! (Although I’ve chosen 5 instead of the full 10)

    Linky: http://jaysinsight.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/j-is-for-jay/

  1. Pingback: J is for Jay | Jay's Insight

  2. Pingback: U is for… (#atozchallenge) | kirstyes

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