I remember clearly one of the first psychology classes I took in college. The professor, as they often do, told us that each one of us would stand up and introduce ourselves to the class, with exception: you could not describe yourself with any classification of what you do. Rather, you had to answer “Who are you” with descriptive words of self. What?! Cannot say that I am a wife, a mother, a psychology student, that I work full-time, that I am an artist, then who “am I?” That was the plan. To get us to look deep inside ourselves and try and define in words that which we feel we are. Talk about feeling vulnerable. The class fell silent and I looked for the quickest exit. My reaction was one of fear that quickly turned to anger. He could not make me talk if I did not want to! Truth is, I did not know who I was and neither did most people in the class.
If I were to ask you, “Who are you?,” how would you respond?
I’m a mother. I’m a husband. I have two children. I’m a waitress. I’m an artist. I’m a writer. I own a small business. I’m an entrepeneur. I have been married for ten years. I am a single mother of one child. I am an engineer. I’m a therapist. I’m an extrovert, an introvert, an ambivert. I am this, that, have this, own that, did this, did that.
We define ourselves by what we do, did, have. It’s no wonder we put so much pressure on ourselves to “be” something, to “do” something. Our very being is defined by it. Society is conditioned that a person is that, which he is or he seeks to be. Look at the italicized words: that, is, be. Words that prelude a noun, a definitive noun. Now, look at the response above: nouns, mother, therapist, extrovert (a noun that describes a type of personality-but still a noun). There is nothing wrong with telling others what we do. It’s necessary at times. However, when looking within ourselves, to discovering what it is we truly want for ourselves, for our lives, it helps if we can decipher who we truly are.
So, I ask again, “Who are you?”
I am kind, generous, sometimes too generous, especially with my time. I have a tendency to give to the extent that I overwhelm myself and neglect to give myself time. I am creative. I love to paint, draw, collage, write, design… I dance when I am alone and sing show tunes like Ethel Merman. I love sparkly things. I get excited when the leaves on trees turn orange and red and yellow or the flowering trees turn purple and pink. I don’t like small talk. I’m a deep thinker. I can be impatient. I love to play. I abhor to-do lists, planning, and tasks. I rarely get bored if left to myself. I love to help others. I’m gracious.
It’s difficult to try and define ourselves outside of what we do. And, for many people it’s difficult to think of positive words. In fact, we tend to define ourselves by what others have told us, our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, bosses, coworkers, etc. We have a tendency to define ourselves through other’s eyes. And, many times, we become those things.
So, for anyone who is on a journey toward self-discovery, recreating a new you, trying to discover what it is that you want for your life, and so on, try introducing yourself to “you.” Simply, take a piece of paper and start writing words that define you. Leave out the “that, which she is or she seeks to be. ” Try a stream-of-consciousness type of writing where you don’t give much thought to how your words sound on paper, just write what you feel, let it flow out. Then, look back on your writing and see what you find there. Who you really are is the key to knowing where you want to go, what you want for your life, and how to know what you really want for you.