When asked a simple question, “Who are you?” most individuals are at a loss of words. You may answer this question by providing your name, some may like to introduce themselves as “Mr X’s child”, and yet others would give you the designation they hold at their workplace. However, do all these definitions truly define YOU? So what makes up your identity? Is it cultural practices or religious beliefs? Is it what you do for a living that builds your identity? These individual facts can only partially reveal your true identity. It is a combination of all these factors that can completely define you. Most individuals directly relate to their identity with their physical appearance — the outer self. Who am I? This is a question you have probably answered at least once in your life but most times without even knowing who we really are.
Identity, in itself, is difficult to define — let alone ourselves as a persona. It seems that identity is what we and others say we are. In this case, identity is flexible and fluid. It can change at a moment’s notice, as who we are is a story we and others tell ourselves. Identity is not a solid, carved-into-stone statement. From moment to moment, our identities are shaping and reshaping themselves.
Finding your own identity is something everyone does in their life. At times it can be complex and stressful trying to figure out who you really are but in the end, it can be really satisfying to see the outcome. The process of finding yourself can be a pleasurable one or an ungraceful one. It can be quick or take years to unravel, and the journey to finding that answer can be filled with an abundance of obstacles but overcoming them will get you one step close. I went through these things myself, to find my own identity to be the person I am today and I am still on the journey of knowing myself more.
I hate conforming to social norms. I don’t go around breaking rules for the sake of it. However, I cannot be coerced to do something just because everybody is doing it. I live my life the way I want it to be. I love thinking for myself and making my own decisions. The mob mentality is not for me. This is probably the reason why I have very few friends. I only associate with people who respect me and trust my decisions. Large crowds are usually accompanied by too much negativity, backbiting and dishonesty. I actually feel lonelier in crowds than when I’m by myself.
Answering the question “who am I” is quite complex, because our lives are very wide that there are areas in our lives we have no knowledge of. Sometimes, we do not see ourselves the way others see us. For instance, we may think we are confident, whereas the people around us feel that we are too proud and arrogant. Furthermore, our behaviours, interests and other things that define us may change after a while.
Now that you have truly identified what you believe and why, I ask you, who are you? Take a moment and think about that question and either just answer it yourself or write it down. If you answered something like, a good mother/father, a hard worker, successful, your nationality or race, or something else related to the “outside” world, think once more. Remove what you do, who is in your life, trauma, agendas etc. Imagine that you stripped everything away, no family, no job, no money, no clothing; all those things did not exist and there was no need or want for any of those things, so you did not miss them. Who are you, at your core? If you’re answering something like creative, caring, loving, even sarcastic, temperamental etc. You are still on the verge of defining who you really are.
From our parents teaching us what is wrong and right, our teachers liking or hating us, being bullied, abused, loved, feeling like you belong in a different body, whatever your circumstance, you have developed many faces. For me, I used to make the excuse that I was just an observer, and once I got to see the “scene” I would show the parts of me that were appropriate or applicable to the situation. Know, I am not saying you have to share your entire life with everyone you meet or tell all your “business”, but being true to yourself is who you really are.
At the beginning of my journey to “find myself” I was not yet strong enough to fully articulate or reveal who I really was because I was not entirely sure. I, like most people, went directly to my experiences and what I was and what I did instead of “Who I was.” So, at that time, I hid who I was, because I was not only afraid of judgment from others but from myself. As I did, I realized there was nothing to judge, I am who I am and I can be no more or less than that! There is nothing or no one that can take away or add to who I am but me.
Ask yourself honestly. Are you ashamed of whom you are? Are you afraid of what others might think of you? Why? What is so important to you that you must appease others? Are you incapable of success being who you really are? Are you afraid of judgment? Why? Do you not know who you really are? Do you believe you will not be loved or respected if you show your true face? Do you hold the belief that who you are is no one’s business so you show them something else? Do you not trust yourself or others to see you? Ask yourself all the hard questions to get to the root of your many faces. Once you face and answer these questions head-on, you will begin to heal, appreciate and begin to develop the muscle to reveal your true self and truly be happy.
Socrates said it so well “Know thyself”. Knowing yourself is a journey. The journey is unpredictable and engages you deeply as it brings you face-to-face with your deepest fears, self-doubts, vulnerabilities and insecurities. On the journey, you question how you are living, your life, and whether or not it is in alignment with your highest purpose. And if you don’t yet know your highest purpose, allow yourself to live in the space of not knowing.
The journey of knowing yourself can be challenging and scary, however, it also changes over time. For me remembering “ this too shall pass” was a gift and the work does pay off — but not the way you may expect. Knowing yourself means permitting yourself to not know whilst unravelling the deeper truth of who you are. It is about listening to a deeper calling and wisdom within, whilst following your heart. Knowing yourself is about being aware of your core values, priorities and dreams even if you don’t know them yet.
Knowing yourself means respecting but not attaching to your strengths and weaknesses, your passions and fears, your desires and dreams, your thoughts and feelings, your likes and dislikes, your tolerances and limitations.
To be honest it is up to you to decide for yourself the importance of knowing yourself and whether you want to go on that journey. It takes courage and a willingness to peel back the layers bit by bit. For me, I felt lost, stuck and a deep longing within my heart that was not going away no matter what I did on the outside. I decided and committed some years ago, that I was not going to stop until I discovered what I was searching for.
Fortunately, after a while, I stopped searching on the outside and realized the search was an inside job and I had to do the work, no one else could do it for me. The Tao the ching says, “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich”.
What happens if you realize the world is in you. Basically, we all live in a person like we are a construct of someone’s life. We are all actors in this person's quest to find a way out of his nightmare creating the sky and clouds through projections of his thoughts actions and everything he sees or hears. Are we all creating our own worlds and colliding into each other?
The greatest and most important adventure of our lives is discovering who we really are. Yet, so many of us walk around either not knowing or listening to an awful inner critic that gives us all the wrong ideas about ourselves. We mistakenly think of self-understanding as self-indulgence, and we carry on without asking the most important question we’ll ever ask: Who am I? As Mary Oliver put it, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Let’s see how much you’ve discovered in the next coming days!