Just Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?

“Just Who do you think you are, anyway?” This may be a phrase you have heard hurled at you in anger or one that you have thrown at someone else. Putting the anger aside, it’s a great question. How do you define who are you?

Who do you think you are?

We generally identify ourselves according to what we do.

Women, in particular, define themselves as a mother or a wife. When the children fly the coop or for some other reasons are no longer home, some women lose all sense of identity. They have the “empty nest syndrome.” Some go into deep depression. The same thing happens in a divorce.  Without their child or husband, they feel they have no identity of their own.

Men identify with their job. In answer to the question, “Who are you?” they respond:  I’m a banker, a mechanic, a policeman, an attorney, a web developer, a bail bondsman, a carpenter, a home builder, etc. When they retire or lose their job or their business, some have no idea who they are anymore. Some die soon after retiring because they feel as if they’ve lost their identity and purpose.

Some of us identify with our country of origin “I’m an American or a Brit, or a Canadian, or a German. Others identify themselves as African-Americans, Mexican-Americans or another hyphenated American.

Who are you, really?

What if you were stripped of ALL titles—all job, ethnic, geographical, political, religious, gender-specific or other labels stripped off? Sitting naked in the middle of an empty room, who would you be?

Who am I?  Does it change or does just my understanding of it change? John Lennon said, “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.John Lennon Do we all have identity swings like that? Which is closest to reality?

Where do I start in learning who I am? Do I read books about self-image/self-concept? Should I seek counseling and/or guidance? Could I ask my friends what they see in me and know about me? Can my parents help me work through this and find some answers?


You have the answers

But the truest and most realistic thoughts about yourself and who you are will come from you. You are the only one who has access to the wealth of information about you.

My recommendation?

Sit quietly in meditation with the question “Who am I?” Ask it repeatedly and relax with it. If you are not a meditator then simply do this. Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Take several deep breaths making the exhalation a few seconds longer than the inhalation. Relax. Let your thoughts dwell on something soothing and relaxing for a few moments. And then ask yourself the question, “Who am I.” Sit quietly for 5 – 10 minutes in expectation of an answer.

Do this on a regular daily basis until you begin to get some information. The information may not come during the time of your sitting quietly. It may flit through your mind when you least expect it—while you’re at work, at a ballgame, watching TV, etc. Something you see, on a billboard, for example, might trigger an inner response. Something you see on TV, even in a commercial, might give you an “Aha” moment.

The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.

Sri Ramana Maharshi

An “Aha” moment

My own personal “Aha” came when I realized I was not just a human machine but energy.  I describe that energy as “spiritual.” And so I described myself as  a “spiritual being having a physical experience.” This identity shifts and grows as my own self-awareness and awareness of the Universe expands. For me, the concept of being a spiritual being was key and began to put everything else in perspective. Along with the  questions “Who am I” was the question, “What is that part of me that is never destroyed?” (If I am energy, and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, what part of me is that?”)

Your great adventure will be to find your own key that unlocks the secret of who you truly are. Be patient. Give it time. It will be one of the richest and most valuable adventures you can take.

Some resources to help you on your trip:

I: Reality and Subjectivity. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., Veritas Publishing, Sedona,AZ. 2003
Happiness Now: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FAST.  Robert Holden, Ph.D., Hay House, Inc., 2007.

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