If our identity in the modern world is defined by our own beliefs, values, race, gender, career, then our identity must be almost unique. But, many of these parameters are shared with many other people, and if we congregate with others of like mind, then our tribe becomes collective. So I think that our individual and collective identities co-exist. Perhaps we may not always be aware that they do so, and certainly I believe that at any one time, either our individual or collective identity will be dominant. We may go out of our front door one day with our individual identity and hardly recognise that we share any common aspect with our neighbour, but yet on a following day, walk out with the pride of being part of the community that we readily identify with.
I have friends who are gay. They identify themselves as gay. There willingness to “act out” their identity is strongly dependent on the company that they are in, and whether that company can accept that identity as acceptable, tolerable, unacceptable, uncomfortable etc. This gay couple when walking through town must encounter the whole range, and perhaps their identity is fluctuating the whole time, even unknowingly.
I can hardly explain what it means to be myself, as to a large extent I can never be myself, if by that I mean, how I would behave were I in a vacuum free of external interfaces, and in addition, free from cultural norms. My behaviour with my wife and children might be categorised as my normal behaviour, but that behaviour is adjusted to maintain harmony, yes, but also naturally through ones affection for them. Equally my work colleagues might feel that they have ownership of my identity, but they would be equally wrong and right.