Internal & External Identity: Definition & Differences

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  • 0:03 Identity
  • 0:22 Internal vs. External Identity
  • 1:02 Identity Expression
  • 2:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over the concepts of internal and external identity. You'll learn what they are, how they differ, and examples of how people may use or hide their identity given a differing audience.


How do you view yourself? How do others view you? Are they one and the same? All of these concepts hover around the notions of identity and the two main facets of one's identity. These are internal identity and external identity.

In this lesson, we define and contrast between the two.

Internal vs. External Identity

Your internal identity refers to your ideal image of who you are and who you want to be. It's also the identity you want to portray to the outer world. This identity comes about as you journey through life and use your past experiences and their emotional facets as guideposts for evaluating yourself, and therefore constructing your internal identity.

Compare this to external identity. External identity refers to how other individuals interpret who you are and what your public image is as a consequence of what you do, say, and how you look. Your external identity comes about as others talk about you, judge you, and treat you.

Identity Expression

The way we express our identities can also vary based on the audience. For example, there's a man named Jim who lives in the Deep South of the U.S. If you know anything about this part of the country, it's that it's highly conservative. Jim is actually very liberal but, for numerous reasons, is afraid to say much about his views.

When he is around a large group of his coworkers, almost all of whom are conservatives, Jim portrays himself differently than he would otherwise to like-minded people. He generally agrees with his co-worker's norms when around such an audience. But when Jim is around like-minded people, he lets his true self come out far more so as he feels comfortable in doing so.

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