Well, this is the question for the ages! I might as well be trying to answer where I think we came from or why we're all here. Who am I? What's my purpose? How do I know myself? Questions asked by every human since the beginning of time; analyzed, philosophized and debated. My answer to this may surprise you; you are who you think yourself to be, or even more accurately, who you believe yourself to be at any given moment. Who you are isn't some fixed thing, and there isn't some magic key at your core that you need to excavate to know yourself.
You know yourself by living in the present, immersed in the malleable nature of life, shifting, growing and adapting to your current happenings. The more important question is: What do you want to experience?
We all have ways we identify ourselves, and these labels can be as many as the day is long. You might attach labels such as a Catholic, a wife, I like chocolate and broccoli, and I hate seafood. You might say you're hard-working or lazy or fun. You define yourself in a myriad of ways: emotionally, with job titles, the roles you fulfill, your likes and dislikes, religion, looks and age and on and on. These things or aspects that you identify with make up your identity.
Often, when you're intently seeking to “know yourself,” it's merely an attempt to shake off a label or to muster the courage to embrace a new one.
When you ask yourself, what do I want to experience, you become aware that how you choose to identify and label yourself dictates the life you're living. Who you are is beyond labels; however, what you experience is based on the aspects you're aligned to. To know yourself, you ask questions and embrace opportunities to identify with labels that support seeing yourself in a new way. The titles that no longer serve you are beliefs and stories that limit you. When labels become limitations, it's an indication that you long to experience something different and something more. If you find yourself saying, “I could never do that!” remember you're more than the identity and aspects you've temporarily claimed, and change occurs when you move from your comfortable “roles” and challenge new ones.
“An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” - James Baldwin
A great example of labelling is what happens to someone when a role changes. Maybe you've always most strongly identified as a mother, and now the kids are grown and left home? Perhaps you were a star hockey player, and an accident left you unable to play the game? It's possible to rediscover, reinvent and renew yourself by understanding that you can choose new labels to provide a new experience. The essence of you always remains, but you can prompt what you want to experience by what you identify with. That is your identity, and that is who you are at this moment.
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