Who are you?
In my opinion, that right there ^ is one of the toughest questions out there.
Who am I?
I remember my first year or two of motherhood, when I was home with twin babies, I’d stutter when anyone asked me, “So, who are you?”
I knew that what they were really asking was, “What is your profession?” and “Is that interesting enough (meaning: useful to me or something I’ve always been curious about) to hold me attention?”
I also knew that my answer, “New mom,” wasn’t all that interesting—to them or to me. (Don’t get me wrong: The actual new mom bit of life was interesting to me, but being summed up in two words wasn’t.)
The other mothers of twins whom I’d met during my pregnancy became my respite, because to them, “new mom” was answer enough. We shared a bond, a commonality, that allowed the conversation to go deeper into who we were. But at a gathering of relative unknowns, my reply was generally met with a glazed eye or a half-smile, immediately followed by a heel pivot and a stride straight to the next person.
I can’t say I blame them entirely. I mean, if I were at a gathering, and given the choice between talking with a seriously sleep-deprived human being who’s just admitted to a complete and utter lack of adult conversation lately and might at any moment (I’m afraid) subject me to endless photos and tales of diapers and other bodily fluids, and a potential (insert your dream job here), well, I’d probably pick the potential (insert your dream job here) too.
I didn’t really know what else to answer, and at the same time, I never felt that it was fair that those two words summed up my entire life and existence.
I know I’m not alone in the conundrum. For probably the first five years after my parents retired, they introduced themselves as, “So-and-so, retired teacher.” Slowly but surely, that’s dropped down the list of initial comments when meeting someone new. It’s become a more organic part of conversation, as opposed to an entry-point.
Self-identification as career or family status is not new. Our last names tell the world who we are related to (at least our paternal lineage). They tell of our cultural and geographic roots. Sometimes they include the first name of a distant relative (Peterson = Peter’s son) or are characterized by the family business from long ago (Schumacher = cobbler) or tell of the region the family left. My last name, Garrigues, comes from the region in southern France where some of my ancestors once lived.
So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that we’re still curious to ask, “Who are you?” and really mean, “What do you do?” and “If I don’t care about your job, are you related to anyone I should know or otherwise an interesting person?”
I’ll likely spend some time in a future post examining how to shape a quick “who are you?” response into story form, and when I do, I’ll come back and link to it from this post.
Quick tip: turn the question around on it’s head, and think about what you’re doing right now that matters most… how you’re shaping your legacy… and talk about that. If you’re working as a receptionist to pay the bills, but you spend your weekends walking dogs at an animal shelter or writing a travel blog or singing, or your evenings working toward a degree, or even exploring your options and pursuing an interest in x, y, z… that’s how you want to answer the question. If what you’re doing for work is what matters most, awesome! But if not, don’t get bogged down with a standard response. The person who asked the question will likely be relieved to hear a slightly different take on things!
So, back to the original question.
WHO ARE YOU?
One of the best ways I’ve found to combat that feeling of inadequacy or confusion when faced with the question, “Who are you?” (beyond the tip above), is to be generally more concerned with my human or spiritual approach to the question that anything situational.
Then, whether a conversation takes off or is a dud, I’m left less with the feeling that I should have had something else to say, and more with a reassuring sense that the right conversations happen with the right people at the right times, and it’s not worth forcing anything.
But to have any knowledge of my human or spiritual approach to the question takes a few quiet, reflective moments of self-awareness and exploration. (Do this as often as you are able or feel called to do so.)
A Creative Exercise
When you delve into “Who am I?” today and anytime you revisit this exercise, I want you to challenge yourself to *not* include your career, your degree, your studies, or your family relationship.
Answer the question entirely for yourself.
Who am I? I am…
As you think, reflect on your character, your personality, your raison d’être, who you are at a deeper level. Who you are at your best. Who you are proud to be. How you want people to remember you. Now, to begin the exercise:
Get out a pencil, and at the center of a piece of paper, write the words:
Now, anywhere on the page, write down these three words:
These three words, associated with you, will affirm that you exist, and that you are an important thread in the fabric of life. I want them to seep into your being. They are not situational. They are always with you.
If you can’t bring yourself to write valued, because you aren’t feeling valued at the moment, write valuable instead.
**It is extremely important that you know that you know your worth and value as a human being, and for anyone to be in real relationship with you, and for you to be in real relationship with yourself, your intrinsic value is essential.**
It is also important to remind yourself that you are open and available for whatever comes next, and that you are present. Hence “ready” and “here.”
Next, make an “I am..” list. Jot down adjectives, sayings, whatever tells who you are and what you’re all about… without mentioning your job or your family. You spend enough of your time dedicated to them. This is time for you.
If negative adjectives pass through your mind, acknowledge and quickly dismiss them. They don’t belong on your list.
Once you’ve spent a good 10-15 minutes on your list, decide how you’re going to revisit that list. I want you to be able to read it to yourself anytime, to remind yourself of who you are.
Finally, put your list somewhere convenient to revisit anytime you like.
Or get creative. Turn it into something: a song, a poem, a graffitied photo (as I’ve done below), a collage, a drawing filled with hidden symbols… the possibilities are endless!
Here’s a look at what I put together earlier today, and then below are instructions to share, if you feel called to do so. You don’t have to. This is a personal exercise! But if you’d like to share, I’d love to see what you’ve done.
If You’d Like to Share
I’d love to see what you create, but the image comment plugins for WordPress all seem to be outdated. (Holler if you know a good one I should add!)
So, if you would like to share your experience, please leave a comment, and if you post your attempt anywhere public, drop a link and I’d love to see it. If you use social media and want to share, tag me on Instagram (@ofloveandlightcreative) or post it to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ofloveandlightcreative/), or use the hashtag #OfLoveAndLightChallenge, and I’ll be sure to leave a comment for ya!
It would be a real treat to see what you come up with. 🙂
ABOUT A TO Z CHALLENGE
This month, I am writing 26 posts starting with the letters A through Z, along with hundreds of other businesses and bloggers from around the world. I first ran into the A to Z Challenge many, many moons ago (circa 2011), when I was brand new to the online writing world. It was a great way to jumpstart my creative juices, and I had so much fun “meeting” men and women sharing what they love to do.
So when I opened Of Love + Light, I knew the A to Z Challenge would be the perfect complement to Daily Dose: Inspired. Enjoy!
ABOUT OF LOVE + LIGHT
Of Love + Light is a place for uplifting media, creative inspiration, art, nifty creative publications, and storytelling. I also offer editing, creativity coaching, and small business communications planning services. Founded by Alana Garrigues, Of Love + Light is your place to come, relax, feel inspired and loved, and share more of what’s good on this beautiful planet.
Of Love + Light has infinite possibilities, and YOU are a huge part of what this will look like. Want to talk? Send me an email!
“I Am…: Own Your Story” is part of the Daily Dose: Inspired series. Looking for a small something to get you inspired to take on the day? This is the place to come for a photo, a song, a pick-me-up quote, a little slice of happy. At least, these are the things that inspire me!