When I was a teenager, my best friend would tease me about looking at myself all the time in anything that could double as a mirror. It is true that I looked at myself at most opportunities. As we would waltz by a department store window, I would try to appear as if I was casually looking at the mannequins on display, who were frozen in their perfect poses, seductively enticing the buyer to step inside. I never really saw the plastic poses though because I was so curious about how I looked.
I was never very happy with my unmanageable bird brown hair or my shiny complexion, but what drew me to look at my reflection was the surprise that I would feel every time I saw my face. I wasn’t even consciously aware of this until much later; but whenever I would see my reflection looking back at me I was struck, “Oh yeah, so that’s what I look like.” For some reason, I was curiously surprised each time I caught myself in a reflection. It was only decades later that I realized where my surprise at my reflection stemmed from. I liked to look at myself, but not—what seemed to my best friend—for vanity’s sake. Although I did not know then, in all the highs and lows of my youth, the age-old question, “Who am I?” was starting to make its appearance on my psyche.
Do you know who you are? Why does it matter? If you know who you are, making decisions is that much easier. If you know who you are concerning your values, say, then you will be in alignment with the decisions and choices you make around those matters. If you know who you are, maybe you choose your friends and spouses and careers accordingly. You feel satisfied and fulfilled. If you feel out of alignment in your life, scattered, or generally unhappy, maybe it is time to explore the age old question of who you are.
Explore Who You Are
How do we find out who we are? Our name is on our birth certificate. There must be more to us than our name. Sometimes we don’t know who we are because we haven’t really thought about it; we might have been distracted by our lives and all that we do. Most times we have stepped into the trap of believing that we are the roles that we have adopted. Are we mom, dad, firefighter, waitress, wife, student, accountant, bad guy, victim, soldier, teacher etc? What a smorgasbord of roles we can choose to play in our lifetime!
Sometimes our identification with a role can help us in huge ways. It can give us purpose, meaning, and a rooted sense of self. Sometimes, we may even identify so strongly with our roles that we might not know who we are without them. When we retire from our life’s work, or our grown children leave the roost, some of us may feel lost and not know who we are anymore, or where we fit exactly.
Many times, as we completely identify with our role, we love the excitement or drama that it brings. We might believe that we are the role we have chosen or been dealt. One of the pitfalls of identifying completely with a role is the limitation it holds us to. If I am “wife,” do I believe I can be “firefighter” too? If I am the “overwhelmed mom,” can I ever get to be “artist in the flow?” Or if I identify with “bad guy,” maybe I am never able to rise above the confines of the life and times of “bad guy.” Sometimes our roles cause us to stay attached to limiting thoughts and behaviors.
And then other times we may wonder who we are underneath those roles. Who is that really under the role of accountant, construction worker, athlete, dropout, addict? This is what makes me curious. It is a question to be pondered over a lifetime to be sure. One thing is certain; the more you move through the world with open eyes, you will take note of the growing and evolving being that you are.