In our book, The Back Story, our mischievous and high-spirited Little Honey wants to be more like her sister, Angel. And Angel, who is naturally gentle and sweet, wants to be more like her sister, Little Honey. This has us wondering how much of our identities and personalities are we born with and how much do we develop as a result of our surroundings and experiences.
We believe that childhood is a critical time for us to develop our sense of self and how we relate to the world around us. Children who are able to develop a strong sense of who they are and how they fit into their family structures and cultures tend to be psychologically healthier with higher self esteem than children who are unable to do this.
In the very early years, children form very concrete views of themselves – they know their age, gender, and names. But as they proceed through early childhood, the emergence of interests and aptitudes begins to shape a more personal view of who they are. Additionally, at this age children begin to attribute values to certain aspects of their personalities and of those around them. So it is quite feasible for a rambunctious child like Little Honey to value a gentler more reserved personality and for Angel to believe that being more adventurous is a worthy characteristic.
Since these books are somewhat autobiographical, both of us have strong recollections of admiring each other and wanting to be more like the other without it having a negative impact on our own self-images. We also believe childhood is a time to “try on” alternate identities to see what fits and what doesn’t. We believe it’s very normal for a child to be more like Little Honey one day and more like Angel on another.
A very popular children’s book, Harry the Dirty Dog, follows the story of a white dog with black spots who becomes an unrecognizable black dog with white spots after getting very dirty. In a way he loses his “identity” until he gets a bath. There are many more children’s books available that focus on personal identity and belonging. Do you have a favorite? If so, feel free to share in the comments or email us.