You are confronted with this question no matter where you go, who you meet or which website you visit. You are asked to describe yourself, say who you are in order for people to get to know you better.
For most of us, this is the most difficult question anyone can ever ask. The answer is never easy so we need time to think, and the answer we come up with, is almost always a reply to the question: ‘What we do’, not ‘Who we are’. The more you look at the answers of others to this question, the more variety you see, and the more you realize the problems we have, trying to find an answer to what seems as a very easy question.
We identify ourselves with our religion, educational history, marital status, career, passions, birthplace, nationality, relation with our family members, looks and many others similar to this. You will hear answers similar to: ‘I am a Christian’ or ‘I am a writer’ or ‘I am a mother of … many children’. But are these a reflection of who we really are as individuals or a reflection of what do we do in life and how we interact with others?
Who really are you, at the deepest of your existence, without relating to anything and anyone else? Who are you, as identity, without association? Is our brain even capable of coming up with an answer, which doesn’t use other elements to describe ourselves or without replying instead, with ‘what do we do’?
Whenever we talk about an object, animal, person or nature, we use other elements common to us, to relate to, and describe it. We need to compare it with someone/something else, in order to find a spot for it, in the natural order. If something isn’t easy to add to a specific category, it’s a misfit, and we’re not sure how to deal with it. Describing it becomes much harder, and accepting its existence even harder.
When we describe something or someone, in order to make it stick better in our memory, we’ll think: ‘ it looks similar to… it’s bigger or smaller / taller or shorter thank I am, the hair is darker or lighter’. Most of the times, remembering only the color or shape isn’t enough. When we try to remember the location of something, we first have to remember the location of something close by, in order to give a precise reply about the location of the object we’re interested in. Our brains can’t help it but to make connections with other familiar elements.
“The human body is 90% water. We are basically cucumbers with anxiety.”
We apply the same principles when it comes to telling someone about ourselves. When we think about who we are, we can’t help it but think about our passions, job, likes and dislikes, environment. Because we can’t really describe something so complex without turning to familiarity, we have troubles not telling someone what do we do, when we’re actually trying to tell them who we really are.
It seems like our minds are limited when it comes to giving such a complex answer, especially when we put a daily effort into guiding who we are, towards an idealistic self, which we want to reach. We try to change who we are through clothes, possessions, media, without realizing we can’t really change the core of our being.
In this huge Universe, the right chemical components came together during just the right chemical reaction, forming life, which eventually evolved into you. Our true identity is much more than our minds can conceive.
Our first contact with ourselves, happens when we’re born, and we learn how to work with our bodies. For the first time, we identify ourselves with a body. Even from a very young age, when we know nothing about DNA, we know that every person is unique, and we start to recognize our family members by the way they look or sound.
Even if, from a molecular point of view, we’re all built in the same way, those few small differences makes every single one of us unique. From a molecular point of view, we’re all a small individual Universe!
More exposure, experiences and more contact takes us from ‘I am a body’ to ‘I am a multitude of bodies’, into one. We become more individuals under the same self, all from a different stage of our lives, each and every single ones of them, with their own passions and needs. We are a variety of ideas and elements, united under the same person. And still, all we can think of when we’re being asked ‘who we are’ is … what we do.
So, who are you, if you remove religion, race, nationality, marital status, passions, career and any similar elements from your thoughts?