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Identity: How Past Experiences Shape Identity  

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Identity is based on many factors and can have a variety of meanings based on the person and their perception of the word identity. One of the main ways people identify is based on past experiences. We wouldn’t be anywhere without our pasts, everyone has a unique past that makes them different from the next person. The informational text, “Self-concept,” reveals the different forms of identity, while the short story, “Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan conveys to us how past life lessons can impact you later in life, thus making you a better person, and self-concept, an informational text formulated around identity, that provides the three tiers that influence self esteem. The three main factors that influence self-esteem are identification, comparison with others and the reaction of others-these three are built up upon past experiences that further develop identity.

In an article about self-concept, identification is one of the three main factors that influence self-esteem. In ‘Fish Cheeks,’ by Amy Tan, the main character start off in a mindset where she wants to be something she’s not culturally, American. She prayed for “this blond-haired boy and a slim new American nose,” she was trapped by her true culture and felt as though her crush wouldn’t like her just because of her race. Throughout the short story, she changes her tone of word, eventually accepting her Chinese culture, “it wasn’t until many years later-long after I had gotten over my crush on Robert-that I was able to fully appreciate her lesson and the true purpose behind our particular menu” (8). Similarly, Moniza Alvi from ‘Presents From my Aunts in Pakistan’ feels trapped by her identity, like she doesn’t belong to either her Pakistani background or British surrounding.

Another big factor that influences identity is the reaction of others; shown in both of the fictional short stories (Fish Cheeks and Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan). “My salwar kameez didn’t impress the schoolfriend who sat on my bed, asked to see my weekend clothes” (11). The protagonist’s self-worth goes down after the reaction of her friend who didn’t appreciate her traditional clothing-which lead to her value of Pakistani culture decreasing in the process. Likewise in Fish Cheeks, Amy’s confidence goes down after her crush, Robert, feels grossed out by the traditional Chinese cuisine. “At the end of the meal, my father leaned back and belched loudly, thanking my mother. The minister managed to muster up a quiet burp. I was stunned into silence for the rest of the night” (6). She was ‘stunned into silence for the rest of the night’ after feeling embarrassed by her family because of their Chinese customs. Amy’s mother, disappointed indicates to her daughter “you want to be same as American girl on the outside, but inside you must always be Chinese,” she follows with, “you must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame” (7). At the end of the story, Tan learns her lesson connecting back to her identification.

The last factor that influences identity would be a comparison between characters, shown on multiple occasions in both Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan and Fish Cheeks. Going back to identification, Moniza feels as though she’s not good enough in comparison to her Aunt Jamila, “I couldn’t rise up out of its fire, half-English, unlike Aunt Jamila. ” She feels as though she has to be like her Aunt Jamila in order to fit into British society and still be considered a good Pakistani girl. This is shown again in Fish Cheeks when Tan couldn’t choose between an American and Chinese Christmas, she wants to be more American for her crush, Robert,meanwhile, she feels guilty for betraying her true heritage.


  1. Wertsch, J. V. (1997). Narrative tools of history and identity. Culture & psychology, 3(1), 5-20. (
  2. McLean, K. C., & Pasupathi, M. (2012). Processes of identity development: Where I am and how I got there. Identity, 12(1), 8-28. (
  3. Heineman, D. S. (2014). Public memory and gamer identity: Retrogaming as nostalgia. Journal of Games Criticism, 1(1), 1-24. (
  4. Kehily, M. J. (1995). Self-narration, autobiography and identity construction. Gender and Education, 7(1), 23-32. (
  5. Stryker, S., & Burke, P. J. (2000). The past, present, and future of an identity theory. Social psychology quarterly, 284-297. (

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Identity: How Past Experiences Shape Identity  . (2023, February 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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