Who are you?

Whenever we encounter someone who doesn’t know us, but we’d like to get to know one another better, a common question is “So, what do you do?” This is usually a reference to occupation, a simple question, but one that doesn’t truly lend to knowing who the person truly is on a significant level. A much more poignant question would be “Who are you?” it’s simple, it’s direct, and you’ll gain a mountain of information if the person is willing to share and wants to get to know you. 

…but can you honestly answer that question? Do you know who you are, aside from outside influences, social constructs, and societal derived concepts of normality? Who are you?

Some think this would be an easy answer, they’d reply with answers such as, “I work at ABC,” or “I like XYZ,” but those things aren’t who you are per se,  it is more your occupation and hobby/interests, something you do or are a part of. Most people self-identify as something that is a social construct or something that might be “done,” more so than who they actually are, and that’s actually common. People do this because a good many do not know who they are, they are entirely aloof on anything beyond what they do and or societal constructs. 

What’s more, someone who doesn’t truly know themselves at deeper levels, cannot wholly love themselves, and this often manifests in personality traits that are less than desirable. Narcissism, being self-entitled, being self-absorbed, an unsubstantiated ego, anger, resentment, jealousy, many of the worse traits we find can be traced back to not knowing and loving who we are at the deepest of depths. We are on an unconscious level, the example that we follow in relationships, and if you cannot love yourself, you’ll find it next to impossible to truly love another person.

So who are you? Can you honestly answer that? I have an exercise I like to use with my clients to help them to answer this question. I’ve shared it often, but it is an important exercise that helps you to truly understand who you are and answer that tough question. Here is what we’re going to do, get out a piece of paper and a pen and draw a line down the middle, and on one side write I am, and on the other side write I am not.

Now, under the side of what you are not, write your occupation, your age, your hobbies, and interests, things the media in any form have imparted, social constructs such as race, lessons we learned from external influences such as friends and family, social media, sexuality, gender, political ideology. Anything you “do,” or have had no control over that is innate or born, is not who you are either, we are individuals, each harboring our own perceptions of the world around us, not a gross generalization. 

Now, under the section of “I am,” write what’s left, are you caring, an optimist, what do you value, are you patient, write all of the things you “are,” under that column. Do you prize spiritual pursuits, are you hardworking, are you giving, do you try to always be truthful, are you intellectual, do you prefer excitement or relaxation, these are examples of elements that comprise who you truly are.

Now, some of the elements cross over from not to I am, these are elements that somewhat influence who you are, your worldview. Take sexuality and gender and draw a line across from not to I am, other elements can be found to cross over, just nothing which you do. Keep working at it, adding things to both sides and crossing over when things from the not category that influence directly things in the I am. 

Remember, when someone asks who are you, it is a separate question from, what do you do for a living or what are you into. “Who are you,” is a deep question that goes beyond the surface layer of the self, it is the proverbial meat and potatoes of you, who you are, and what influences your perceptions of the world around you.