Who we believe we are effects every aspect of our life: how we feel about ourselves, how we treat others, who we gravitate towards as friends, how we use our time, what kind of goals we reach for, and what kind of choices we make.
The question “who am I” has to do with a basic self-estimate, a profound sense of belonging, of counting, of being seen. If a person feels that they do not belong in the way in which it is normal for a person to belong, then they develop a deep sense of insecurity and otherness. This impacts not only their self-esteem, but also how they interact with others. This defining of Self is most important.
Unfortunately, we learn to define this Self from an early age, to tell stories to our Self and to put masks on our Self, to survive—in family, in society, in work, in church, etc. This is the False Self that we live from the majority of our lives. The True Self is the self we were born with that is hidden deep within us, waiting to be discovered. It is the Self that is our God Self, the True Self of pure love, compassion and mercy.
Exercise in knowing your Self
I have used this exercise in the classes I’ve taught in prisons and jails for years and have found it to have profound impacts on individuals. Take a piece of paper. At the bottom of the page draw a building block to represent your birth. Write on the block your birth date and circumstances as you know them. Then build upon that block, adding other blocks to represent the major events in your life. Add the joyful and momentous events, as well as those full of sorrow or failure. You may need to add pages as your tower grows higher and higher. Once you are through going up, revisit your building and add blocks to the side that represent the people in your life who were instrumental or pivotal in your development during different events. These can include people who impacted you positively and negatively. When you are finished, look at the whole picture and reflect on your life. Can you see your sense of Self in the different years of your life? Reflect on how you viewed events as they happened and how you view them now in retrospect. Can you see how your sense of Self was impacted by events, and by others? Have you come to be more grounded in what you know is your True Self? What are some ways you can work on becoming more in touch with your True Self?
This is not a one-time exercise. Continue to examine and answer this important question: Who am I? You will find that as you work on your True Self, you will discover more and more of who you really are.