Taking the English National Curriculum as its main example, this article argues that an overly nationalistic, normative and ‘fact-based’ citizenship education curriculum is failing to engage the dimensions of young people’s identities which they experience as deeply meaningful. There is thus a chasm – albeit a false one – between official discourses and pedagogies of citizenship and what young people consider to be their ‘real’ selves. I argue that citizenship education must develop a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of how identities are formed and performed, especially in light of globalisation and increasing migration. I also make a somewhat unorthodox argument for conceptualising ‘relating-to-otherness’ in the same way that we think of music consumption. This has implications for how we experience, interpret, value and create ‘others’. The article also makes some recommendations for how these ideas can begin to be implemented in educational settings.