On Self-identity.

What Are You To Yourself? 

If someone asks ‘Who are you?’, what’s our typical answer? We reply by saying that we are this and that; that this is what I do for a living and this is where I belong. And that’s enough for the world. But have you ever asked: “What am I to myself?” That is, what identity I’d ascribe to myself if I asked this question to myself. Are you getting my point

You may be an artist, a businessman, a doctor, an engineer, whatever…but all these labels are for the world. You are whatever you are only in relation to someone or something else. But, when you are alone with yourself, what are you? Would you still carry your professional identity and say ‘I am a doctor’, ‘I am an engineer’, and things like that? 

Let’s be absolutely clear about this. All of these titles are given to us at some point. So, for example, before getting the appointment letter of a teacher, what were you? Or before starting your business, what were you? You can’t say, “I was a teacher from my birth!” Maybe teaching was something that came naturally to you, like it was always there in your veins; but, at the end of the day, what are you really? 

Everything you are, every identity that you put on is just like wearing a hat with that name. Before putting on that hat and after taking it off, what are you? To yourself…for yourself…

Okay, let me put this question in another way. What do you tell yourself every day? The stories that you tell yourself you think you are that, don’t you? Those stories constitute your self-identity. Can I ask you to do an identity check right now? Please pause for a few moments here and ask yourself: what am I?…

Are you seeing what you are doing to yourself? You are telling yourself stories. Now, whatever they are, that is your self-identity. You have a story of yourself. Everything that you did, everything that you experienced or happened to you make up the story of your life, and that’s your identity right now. And you think you are that. But that’s not true. As famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung said:

“I am not what happens to me. I am what I choose to become.”

Our stories are only that—stories. But, the problem is, we’ve taken them literally. We’ve accepted them as true. Facts are one thing, but interpretation is another. The facts of your life may be true, but the interpretation of it all is your making. You are choosing your identity! It’s not right or wrong; it’s just according to your understanding. You have the choice of carrying your stories too tightly or loosely. It’s up to you. It’s just a matter of belief. You believe in your story—that’s all. The more you concretize your belief, the more your self-identity becomes real to you. But a wise man knows—all these are stories that we tell ourselves; we don’t necessarily have to believe in them; because stories don’t mean anything actually, ever…

At one point, I desired to be a poet; and I would often think, if I can’t become a poet, my life is wasted. At yet another time I thought, I have to become a detective, someone like Sherlock Holmes. I was fascinated with this idea, and I used to think that my life is meaningless if I don’t become a detective. But, right now, I don’t have such ideas. I realized whatever I wanted to become was to establish myself before this world, for others…That means I will always live for others’ approval. Once I realized that, I stopped becoming something for this world, psychologically speaking. Professionally I am a teacher, but I am not a teacher within me. That’s the role I play in this world—we all have to play such roles. But for me, to me, I am nothing! I find that most comforting.

This means I have chosen not to take on any story any longer; that I am this, I am that—no such things. Whatever I am right now—ambitious, unsatisfied, lonely, confused, lost or enlightened—I am willing to see that passively. That’s all. Because there’s freedom in that. I am not choked by my own stories. 

Summing Up

Stories limit us. Any story is limited. How can any story be complete? You’ve not explored yourself fully; only some aspects have come to light. So, why settle with a story? 

The stories that you tell yourself either make or break you. If at all you have to tell yourself any story, tell yourself the true story: that I am not only this; I am much more than I think; let me explore…

Thank you.
Image Credit: Shutterstock and edited by me.