Identity: Finding The True Self
Who Am I?
What a loaded question. Usually answered by describing things about yourself such as what you do for a living, what hobbies you have, what role you play in your relationships, what you are good at, or what you look like. What do all these things have in common? And are these things really who you are?
What is Identity?
Searching for identity is a common topic in therapy and also in life. Aren’t we all striving to be something or someone? But let ‘s take a closer look at how our identity is formed.
As an infant you start off life by being given a name by your parents. This is just a word.
Technically, it’s a label. This label is the first thing you start to identify with. Your identity is the sound of your name being called and you associate it as part of yourself.
Next, you are given things, like stuffed bears, blankies, and other toys. These things become yours and you begin to connect them to your sense of self as well. (What happens when you take a toy away from a baby? It usually cries, assumingly confused, sad, or angry because it feels you have taken away a piece of themselves).
Next, you go through school and start to identify with your interests and hobbies. Maybe you become an “athlete” or an “academic”. Maybe you go to college and get fancy degrees. These career paths become part of your identity.
But what happens to the athlete who breaks their leg? Or the medical school graduate who makes one mistake and watches their career end in a second? It may feel like their whole world is crumbling. They may feel lost and confused about who they are. But let me ask you:
Does this change who they are? Does it make them, at their core, different?
These attributes and identifications are all learned. But who were you before all of these things? The moment before your name was given...surely you existed as something?
Everything we use to identify ourselves is at risk of changing. In fact, most things will change eventually. Our bodies change, yet we fight against aging as if it’s a choice. Our relationships change because we grow in different ways. Our interests change as our minds develop.
It is human nature to want to belong. It is also in human nature to want to be different and stand out. Maybe this is why we constantly seek figuring out who we are.
But if everything outside of ourselves is changing, why do we keep looking there for our identity? As long as we seek identity, we seek permanence and resist change. So, is it even possible to know your own identity? Perhaps in this very moment you can. But in the next, you might feel different. And that is okay.
Who You Are Is a Feeling
The simplest way to find out who you are is to simply BE.
Close your eyes.
Now focus on the very tips of your fingers.
What do you feel?
Don’t try to describe it with words or thoughts.
That vibration you FEEL is who you are. It is in everyone and is always there. Who you are should not be explained or described by thoughts or words. If you are ever questioning who you are just practice this exercise. You are whole and complete already. In this very moment lies who you are.
“I think I spent 30 years of my life trying to become something, I wanted to become good at things, I wanted to become good at tennis, I wanted to become good at school and grades and everything I kind of viewed in that perspective. I'm not okay the way I am, but if I got good at things. I realized I had the game wrong, because the game was to find out what I already was. It's an identity I had taken on. I wasn't born Richard Alpert. I was just born as a human being and the business of who I am and whether I'm good or bad, achieving or not, is all learned along the way."
- Dr. Richard Alpert/Ram Dass
Sometimes we begin to identify with our mental health. The anxiety, depression, trauma, or stress we experience start to feel like part of who we are. If this is you, schedule a free consultation with me and let's chat about it. And remember that your mental health is not who you are.