It’s a tough question to answer. Most of us tend to answer this question by saying we are someone’s mother, wife, partner daughter or what we do for a living or where we live.
We rely on the perceptions and expectations of other people to define who we are. Since we believe that we need the praise and criticism of others in order to succeed, we work hard to conform to whatever that expectation of us is.
So is it our environment (upbringing, geographic, family, friends, etc) together with our life’s experiences that is the sum total of who we are? It seems to be, yet we talk about “wanting to find ourselves”, or we claim that we “long to be ourselves” or “to live in our true identity” or to “be true to ourselves”;
I like the terms that Dr. Phil (the American TV psychologist,) uses to describe this, he says we all have “an authentic self” as well as a “fictional self”. The fictional self is the one that fits into the world’s expectations of us. The authentic self is the core of who we are the essence of our being.
Usually something happens in our life that triggers our need to find our authentic self. For many of us thinking, let alone wanting, “to be true to who we are” is an uncomfortable concept, as it means wanting and needing to be more than who we are - usually someone’s partner, mother, daughter, sister, employees. We feel guilty for having these thoughts as they conflict with the perceived reality and expectations. Therefore we work hard on repressing them. But the need does not really go away; it festers and percolates in the depths of our sub consciousness, sometimes for years. Still the time and
opportunity to explore beyond the boundaries of our “fictional selves” does eventually present itself. As we start the process of transitioning into our authentic selves and stepping into our own brilliance and power, we realise that it’s about self: self-love, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and self-worth.
‘Who are you, really? We can answer this question only when we put ourselves-emotionally, intellectually, and physically - on top of our list.