“Who ARE you?”
Can you truthfully answer that above question?
I’ve identified myself so many different ways during all the phases of my life that I’m not sure how I would have answered that question during each of those growth phases, because to me IDENTITY has more to do with how we think of ourselves and less to do with what others might think of us. It is less about the roles that we play (or have played) in life and more about the content of our inner being—our core values, our life perspective, and how we view our relationships/interactions with all others.
Identity-wise in general, other people can call me by my standard recognized moniker—meaning my name—and that is one way of identifying me in a crowd of others; or the Social Security division of the federal government can identify me as a specific string of numbers; or my cat can identify me as the two-legged moving-mass that fills his food dish or shares HIS recliner; or my friends can identify me as …well, I’m not sure how they would identify me depending on their mood or mine at the time.
So IDENTITY is a tough concept to pin down, let alone fully understand.
But for this post I want to focus on ‘self-identity’. So when I ask: “Who ARE you?” I actually mean ‘How do you consider yourself?’
- Are you a good person or a bad person?
- Are you a loving/giving person or a hate-filled/selfish person?
- Are you proud of yourself or are you ashamed of yourself?
- Do you always build yourself up or do you tend to tear yourself down?
- Are you generally optimistic in your view of LIFE or are you overall pessimistic on LIFE in general?
- Are you active and eager for new ideas, new opportunities for growth, and new learning situations, or are you more sedentary and resistant to NEW ‘anything’?
- Are you basically happy with your LIFE and with yourself, or are you ….not so much?
You can see where I’m going here. What spurred those comparisons above was this:
While browsing this morning’s media outlets, I was half-listening to a ‘self-help speaker’ talking about trying to help her clients conceptualize the difference between DOING and BEING—especially where feeling ‘shame’ is concerned. She asked the client if she was “ashamed for something she had done” or was she “ashamed for WHO she was”? (She coined the difference as: “I FEEL ashamed for doing that…” or I AM ashamed of myself…”)
Can you see the perspective shift there?
What we occasionally DO in LIFE is not necessarily WHO WE ARE as a person. When the emotional residues of SHAME/GUILT for ‘something harmful that we might have done to others’ infiltrate our psyche and persona, then we turn a ‘behavioral mistake’ into fodder for ‘self-loathing’, and THAT can be a hard thing to reverse-engineer out of our mental programming.
What did I say a couple posts ago? “…I still like to believe that people are basically ‘good’ before something/someone turns them more toxic and self-focused…” Well, that applies here as well because:
- WHO WE ARE is not WHAT WE DO.
- And WHAT WE DO in this LIFE’s gladiatorial arena, is not necessarily WHO WE ARE as people just trying to survive in this challenging dimension of existence.
Of course we do unkind things to others, some unintentionally and some not. And most of us may have regrets for some of the things that we’ve previously done, but that doesn’t make us bad people.
So don’t turn that previous behavioral mistake into your ‘self-loathing mantra’ for how you view yourself.
Define your identity more so by charting your increased self-awareness and your expanding perceptual growth, and less by mentally rehashing your past mistakes, because sometimes we simply have to forgive ourselves for being so momentarily stupid when we do slip up.
And as painful as it might be, that is often how we learn LIFE’s most important lessons.