Have you ever looked at yourself closely in the mirror and asked yourself who are you? It is a very self levelling activity and might surprise you when you get the answer.
Who are you is an open question. It demands more than one word answers so what will you say?
A client of mine once answered that she was a wife, a Mother, a daughter, a niece, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, a magician and mind reader - and a few others besides and she was right. Most of us have many facets. But does it really answer the question, or are we just attaching labels to ourselves?
Look inside and ask who are you.
To give a real insight into who we are we need to look deep within ourselves. We need to explore our reactions to situations. We need to understand why we react in that way, what was the determining factor or where did we learn that behaviour. We also need to evaluate our values as a person. What do we believe, why do we believe that and where does that belief originate?
Who we are is a mixture of all those things. We are complicated and complex. We are individual yet similar. We are unique yet still have traits and characteristics that are the same as other people. What distinguishes us from each other. What makes us like or not like anyone else?
Most of us spend our waking moments thinking either about the future, what it might hold and what we want to do and become, or about the past, how it has affected us and what might have been if only...
However much we might like it, the past cannot be re-lived and the future is impossible to experience. All we have is the present and to be able to lead happy and fulfilled lives we need to know and understand exactly who we are.
In my work, I find that coaching people on how to answer this question fully leads to my own life being examined. I have done it now many times but I still find something new about myself each time. I have discovered what I am good at and what I should probably not try again. I know for sure what I like, what I don't like and what I want to achieve.
Focus on yourself - you have permission
The first time this happened I felt a little guilty as it was the client who I was focussing on and my actions seemed self-indulgent. I now realise that I am a far better coach because I did do it, and furthermore continue to do it.
Some clients also feel a little awkward the first time they take part in this exercise. Many of us were taught as children that this sort of self indulgent activity was sinful or selfish. We should be concentrating on others not ourselves.
We are taught that we need to strive to become better people, to be more and do more in order that we may have more. Although there is nothing wrong with having dreams or ambitions, more often than not these have been borne out of a feeling that we are not good enough to begin with.
Not having a good understanding of who we are, or being confident about ourselves and abilities leads to problems in later life. Success and ability is judged in our society, not by ourselves, but by others. Parents, teachers, lecturers and bosses will all have given their opinions on your capabilities. It is difficult not to internalise these comments and make them reality.
Who do you want to become?
We are pre-programmed as a species to "fit in" or be accepted. This need can lead to behaviours such as passive people pleasing to the other extreme, becoming manipulative or abusive. Knowing yourself is no sin, and it certainly is not selfish. It should be encouraged as a platform for personal growth and a way of becoming a more selfless individual.
The consequence of not finding out who you are will likely be that you will stay the same person as you are now. This is a good thing if you are truly happy with yourself. If you are not happy though, you will never get to be who you want to become.
So, I have a little question that you might like to spend some quality time reflecting on today:
Just who are you?