This question is so often asked by so many, suggesting that people assume there is a plausible answer. Almost as if who we are, our identity is one fixed static thing. It is not!
The irony is that the more you seek to identify who you are, the more fragile and insecure you are likely to feel about yourself.
People often want to define themselves, to have an ideal self.
We can spend our lives on self-analysis trying to find out what is beneath our skin, what makes us who we are or how our minds work, only to discover that our mind has a will of its own. It can trick us into thinking that thoughts are facts, that we have an indisputable reason to be sad, to be frustrated, to be anxious, and to be angry.
Our brains have many functions but perhaps the main intent is to guide and protect us.
To keep us in a state of safety. They take the role very seriously and often offer us feedback, even when they’re not prompted, welcomed or are, in fact, wrong.
Our brains are a complicated network with – still – a great deal of mystery and as such this allows for the potential to get things wrong to mess up even when we have the best of intentions.
It happens – often – to us all! Our minds think one thing, we feel another, and this can result in a battle. It can lead us to beating ourselves up, focusing on everything that is “wrong” with us even allowing our moods to be affected by things that we often cannot control, or perhaps change.
In my opinion, one of the greatest revelations of all time is that a person can alter their future by changing their attitude. Today, right now, you can decide. Make the decision.
Change your attitude today and begin to change your future!
The first question to ask yourself is not “who am I?” as quite frankly that is irrelevant. What you ought to ask yourself is “who do I want to be”? Maybe our actual focus should be on creating a more improved version of ourselves, someone better. The emphasis should not be on discovering who you are but rather on facilitating the emergence of what you would like to experience in your life.
Our identity would be better seen as an ongoing growth process. Rather than a static snapshot. Allowing our inner self to evolve and progress. Imagine how different our lives could be if rather than focusing all our efforts on “who am I”? we instead put our energy into contemplating who we would like to become.
The truth is that we are not merely one person, we are not one-dimensional beings, but rather many people in one.
In fact, the most accurate way to think of ourselves is that we exist as a broad set of potentials, rather than as a narrow set of traits. The particular trait we manifest at any one point in time depends largely on the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I have two questions in mind:
- Why do so many people waste a perfectly good life trying to be someone else?
- Why do so many people want to compromise something that is beautiful to create something that is fake?
I say this frequently, simple but true, “I challenge you to be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else”.
Here is something to ponder on:
Imagine that you have been in prison for twenty years, locked up since the age of eighteen. You literally have no adult life experience outside of prison. Your sense of self, your identity, and your ability to relate to yourself is tragically limited by your incarceration. You might ask yourself, “Who am I? This question, perhaps, would make you extremely apprehensive about your imminent release. Finding yourself back in society with such limited insight into your own self could be rather frightening. Yet you would hardly choose to remain imprisoned until you could find your identity, you would not choose to remain in that state. Instead, you would have to step out of that prison and face the challenge of growing and developing into the new you.
You would have to step into the possibility of change and growth rather than remaining mired in fear. Taking the leap into who you want to be; not being held back by who you have been but re-craft yourself discovering the many aspects of you along the way.
There is, of course, the other end of the identity continuum, those who claim to know themselves so well. Those who feel complete in their persona. This other extreme also signifies a fragility about one’s identity.
To have the opinion that you know yourself entirely leaves no room for growth, for development and improvement. Even more, it suggests a defence mechanism against a deep vulnerability. Perhaps even a refusal to take a closer or deeper look into one’s darker side or less perfect side, which may feel too dangerous!
Of course, it is useful even advantageous to be self-aware or to have an insight into your thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears. To know oneself. However, it is astute to understand that your sense of self is malleable, that it is better to be like a willow tree than a sturdy oak.
The willow is flexible and survives the storm as it bends with the wind, whereas the more rigid oak is more likely to crack. So, I would say be more willow than oak.
What we think we become. What we feel we attract. What we imagine we create.
Remember should you ever find yourself the victim of other people’s bitterness, small-mindedness, or insecurities, remember things could be worse … You could be them.
Every day brings with it a chance to be different. A chance to change. A chance to be better.
Your beliefs do not make you a better person. They start the journey and guide you. Your behaviour and attitude complete the journey.
When you cannot control what is happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to it instead. That is where your power lies. You either take what has been dealt to you and like a willow tree bend but never break or like the oak you stubbornly refuse to move and are blown down.
The choice does not belong to fate. It belongs to you. If you can stop thinking of who you are and start believing in who you can become, then you will see life open before you.
Life is made up of moments! Do not wait for them to manifest, CREATE them!
I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”
If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on email@example.com
About Dr Maurice Duffy
Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.