AIMS AND OBJECTIVES The aim of this study is to clarify the process of identification with diabetes as a dimension of autonomy as described by people with type 2 diabetes. BACKGROUND People with type 2 diabetes view autonomy as competency in shaping one's life. This concept of autonomy has seven dimensions, which emerged as categories in prior research. Dynamic processes shape these dimensions of autonomy. One of the dimensions of autonomy is identification. METHOD This study has a qualitative descriptive and exploratory design and an inductive approach as described in grounded theory. Data were collected by means of in-depth interviews. The sample consisted of 15 people with type 2 diabetes mellitus in a nurse-led, shared-care setting in the Netherlands. RESULTS The phases of identification are comprehending, struggling, evaluating and mastering. Each phase has its own characteristics. Identifying with the diabetes is a non-linear, cyclical and continuous process because people with diabetes have to deal with changing conditions. CONCLUSION The dynamics of identification is directed to a process of identifying with diabetes and its care requirement. Recognizing identification as an element of autonomy enables nurses to adopt a more patient-oriented view of autonomy. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE Nursing that fosters the process of identification promotes autonomy. This implies that a person with diabetes should be able to identify with the nurse's interventions. Hence it is vital that nurses build supportive partnerships when providing care for such a patient.