Who Am I?

by Helen Williams

What is my self identity? 

By this we mean our:

  • individuality
  • uniqueness
  • distinctiveness
  • characteristics and personality.

And all of this within the greater experience of our country of birth, our race and our cultural identity. Within us all lies the deep yearning to know and to be known. From this comes the question of self identity, who am I? 

This question lies at the root of all searching on the journey towards meaning and purpose for our lives.

“Who we are looking for is who is looking” –  St Francis of Assisi

Who are you? Who is he/she? Who are they? These are the questions that we tend to ask about people. What are we asking and what answers are we looking for?

It’s often really difficult to say who we are as we tend to answer this question according to the box that is expected of us at the time. Mostly people ask us “what do you do?” and believe that this will answer those questions. Often this is all they are really interested in – how to box and categorise us according to our career or financial position.

For me this search is about how we allow ourselves to be seen and experienced by others. I have lost count of the people who have spoken to me over the years about their fear of being  “found out” for being a fraud and a fake. So many people live their lives trying to be all things to all people, and therefore lose the sense of who they are within. This leads to feelings of disconnection and fragmentation as we try to fit ourselves into the picture we have created.

Our Self Identity

Our identity changes often over the years – from childhood through the teenage years, then we identify with our career orientation, then we go into relationships, maybe parenthood, then on through those busy years toward midlife and then the empty nest, forward to our senior years.

The basis for our identity begins with our family of origin and any family history that is known to us. However, many of my fellow travelers on this authentic path are those whose identity cannot be based on their “background” as there is no history or connection to it; for instance, those who have been adopted and have little knowledge of their birth parents. However, beginning at birth, we lose ourselves in the sheer energy of living – in activity, in people, in beliefs, in shoulds and oughts and expectations. Mostly we identify with outward expressions of ourselves -our career, our family, our looks, our clothes, our home and possessions, our class, our education – all of these things reveal some aspects of our identity to a certain extent.

Who Am I?

In my life I have been many things to, and for, many people. I have been:

A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a grandmother, a friend, a partner, a mother, a worker, a piano player, a student, a pupil, a daughter in law, a neighbor, a gardener, a counselor, a caretaker, a lover, a singer, a yoga teacher, a cleaner, a dancer, a seeker, a cook, a meditation teacher, a class mate, a patient, a tennis player, a traveler, a reader, a writer, a wife, a girlfriend, a sister in law, and many, many more too. 

Some of these identities largely determine who I am today. Often it is only when there is a crisis of change that we begin to ask if we are being true to ourselves. Then the questions arise.

The wonderful poet Rainer Maria Rilke said this in Letters to a Young Poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Living the questions rather than searching for the answers is a paradox – and, as we live the question, “Who Am I?” – the answers arrive.

Come explore the questions with us on Sunday 3rd December from 7pm – 9pm as part of our Mindful Living series as we ask the question: “Why do I feel Lost?”. You can also join us in February for our next Authentic Living series where we will ask many more questions like this – and live them! Contact us for more information. 

 

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