One of the most challenging personal questions to answer is the question “Who Are You?” or more accurately, “Who Do You Think You Are?”
And that’s not meant as an insult or a put down.
I’ve heard/read this question being discussed four times this week, and it got me thinking – Who do I think I am?
So I wrote down everything I thought I was – I wrote down my age and that I was a solopreneur. I wrote down every degree I’d earned, every coaching certificate I’d earned, every skill I’m developing, where I live and who I live with, I even threw in a few hobbies that I’m genuinely interested in.
Try it for yourself – before you read on, take a moment to write down who you think you are? Describe yourself to yourself.
When asked to define themselves, most people provide descriptors like – their gender, their hair and eye colour, their marital status, how many children they have (if they have any children), their job, the city they live in, etc.
According to both Barbara Sher, and Susan Hyatt, a highly successful Life Coach who was doing some Hot Seat Coaching that I was listening to this week, this description of who I thought I was, was not my real identity, was not really who I was! This description only identified what I do. It did not identify who I am. And these are two very different things!
“There is no question that these things have been important in our lives. In fact, they have usually shaped our lives. They are experience, history, role, relationship, livelihood, skill, survival. Some of them are choices. Some, including many we’d call choices, are compromises. Some are accidents.
None of these is your identity.”
Barbara Sher, Wishcraft, pg4
To understand who I truly am, my real ‘identity’, means knowing what I truly love to do. It means identifying the activities that excite and energize me, the things that upset and frustrate me when they’re not part of my life – even if I’m not really aware that they’re missing.
Barbara Sher’s book Wishcraft. How to Get What You Really Want suggests that to re-discover who we truly are, we need to take a stroll down memory lane and try to remember what captivated us as children. A lot of life coaches also recommend this technique as a way to reconnect what we are naturally passionate about. Which is a great technique, if you can remember back to what you were captivated by in your early childhood!
If you can remember back to what captivated and excited you as young child, make a list of these activities, and then look for patterns. Were you fascinated by plants, animals, people, rocks, water, digging in the dirt, solving riddles, building things?
Next, can you reduce these patterns and activities to a single sentence?
I am a person who loves ________________________________________.
I am a person who loves – finding solutions to complex problems.
I am a person who loves – being creative.
I am a person who loves – creating physical objects with my hands.
I am a person who loves – creating worlds, environments, relationships, mysteries through writing.
I am a person who loves – helping people live their best lives.
I am a person who loves – helping animals thrive.
I am a person who loves – traveling the world, experiencing, photographing, and writing about different cultures.
My memory, unfortunately, is not that great, so I come at exploring who I think I am by listening to my body.
Martha Beck, in her book Finding Your Own North Star, talks about our Essential Self and our Social Self – two parts of our personality.
Our essential self is who we were born to be. Our social self is who we have learned to be through our social, cultural and familial connections and experiences.
Our essential self is our true identity, the ‘who you really are’!
We can identify our essential self activities through how we respond to the specific activity. If we are energized, excited, fascinated, curious; if we lose all track of time; if our actions flow easily and effortlessly (for the most part), then these activities are connecting us with our essential self, activities that are part of our authentic identity, of who we really are.
On the other hand, if the activities we’re participating in drain our energy; leave us feeling uninspired, bored, feeling like time has stood still; if we have problems concentrating and are constantly making mistakes, then these activities are most likely being driven by our social self.
When we participate in too many activities too often that are driven by our social self, we often become disconnected from our essential self (our passions, core values, and personal preferences).And when we identify too strongly with the social self activities we perform (our job, our relationships), we can also become disconnected from our essential self.
So, Who You Are?
Make a list of al the activities that inspire, fascinate, energize, and excite you.
What patterns do you see forming here with these activities?
Now, reduce the patterns to a single sentence, the same as you did above, and fill in the blank in the sentence below:
I am a person who loves _____________________________________________________________.
Me, I’m a person who loves helping people and animals live lives of authentic self expression.