Awareness, reflection, and adjustment was our last theme. Think of it as the new tool on your belt. It may sound dramatic, but it really is the basis of the entire tool belt. Everything else we’ll talk about, is generated from this cyclic process. As we move through the different layers of ourselves, we will be referring back continually. For some, this constant practice might feel overwhelming and frustrating, and could become more so as we continue. There will be more thoughts to consider, brood over, and unpack. There really is no finality, but I hope this part excites you too. Our goal, myself included, is to create more alignment within who we are. We’ll make discoveries and changes about ourselves and how we operate. I have been able to find enjoyment and build confidence during this learning process. I anticipate you will too.
So, on to our first layer.
Who we are, more often than not, is different for different individuals in our lives. Our roles are distinct for each person, and so is our behavior. How we interact with mom is probably not how we are with friends. How we act with them is different from a professional setting and that's usually separate from social media. Though the number of masks we put on vary, we rotate them effortlessly.
Switching masks is often perceived as being fake, but that's a blanket and inaccurate statement. Part of it is knowing what is appropriate at a given time. Trouble arises when we switch so often catering to others our purpose and desires become clouded. The masks we wear for others get in our way (i.e. what someone wants us to do, what people think, our friends’ opinions, social media).
There are two ways to define ourselves. We can either let what we do determine our definition of self, or define ourselves and let our actions be rooted in that definition. Knowing ourselves and being able to define who we are is what moves us towards who we want to be. We should be able to define ourselves in absence of everyone else, because our existence is not dependent on them. And how we do that says a lot.
I think the question of who we are , is a loaded one. The manner in which someone chooses to answer can reveal so much about their style of thinking, reason for action, and outlook on life. If multiple individuals were to ask you this question now (consider your different masks), do you respond the same way every time? Even to the same person? Is yesterday’s answer different from last year? I would hope so and if not, I question your growth. So answer, who are you?
I am ________________
Did you use your name? Full or nickname? How much detail did you go into? If your introduction is super brief, why? You may be a more private person. Did you use a characteristic to describe yourself like race, gender, height (i.e. black, female, tall)? Notice if that characteristic was aesthetic or something less salient like an athlete, or your job title, your orientation, or your hometown? Why do you choose the evident (color, gender) or non-evident (job, hometown). Is it something you feel the need to reinforce about yourself? Or maybe you choose the non-evident because you feel like it is important for individuals to know from the gate. Is it a large of a part of your identity?
Or you might use adjectives like smart, attractive, what are the first ones that come to mind for you? Why are those the identifiers most important to you? Maybe consider listening to someone else’s descriptions? What do they emphasize? Understand you can be on either side speaking or listening. How come people do not say I am happy, or I am me? Whether conscious or unconscious try to catch the choices individuals make. Consider what is being communicated under the surface, usually it is what is important to them. We know it is important because that is what they/you thought should be shared first. Remember this is applies when you're speaking and listening.
Are we the subject or object in our stories? Do things in life happen to us or do we make them happen regardless if they are good or bad? Because when things happen to us or we are the object, we relinquished control and, subsequently, responsibility. But when we make things happen we determine the outcome and our future.
Other aspects to tune into are our tenses. The tenses we use to describe ourselves and our narrative are pretty informative and reveals focus. Older people tend to discuss their past as glory days and what they have lived through, while children speak about the future with more intent (i.e. when I grow up). It is important for us to recognize where their focus is. Past, present, or future? How much of when we speak really emphasizes the present moment? How often are we presently aware and being mindful (we we’ll soon discuss the value of practicing mindfulness).
People reveal so much of themselves unconsciously and we could pick up on it if we just listen. Answers to questions such as these: Who are you? Tell me about yourself? How do you feel? Are you happy? are even more generic than zodiac, age, or what do you like to do for fun questions. More interestingly though, they can begin to tap into our being as a listener and as a speaker. This, the exchange of energy and really getting to know someone. Experiencing someone in this manner will be deeper and fuller than ever. It is not sexually, or emotionally, just truly someone’s being.
For me, I am a listener and I enjoy it. My friends believe I am more private than a pack on pens. (See Awareness Blog). It isn’t because I do not want to share, I just enjoy listening to them and better understanding. But for me, my intro goes like this:
“I am Mo, I’m from Philly. I am an athlete and a good time. I am obsessed with the mind and growth. I value happiness, progress, and my time. My family is my life and my friends are just as close.”
Notice how all of it is present tense. What I have done is who I am. Short? Yeah, I know and I had to extend it, it really stopped at “good time”. But that’s me, briefly. What I chose or chose not to include gives you some insight on me and what is important to me. Those who know me well and are familiar with my life would immediately see how I explain myself is not how they would explain me. And that is okay with me. I feel saying less allows people understand me better through experiencing me.
So I charge you this time with asking yourself these questions in some manner and become aware of the way you answer them. Note the difference in what takes precedence based on who you are speaking with. Most importantly, how do you answer it for yourself? And I also will encourage you to meet someone new and listen to how they speak, rather than the facts of what they say. Try to understand their tone, tense, and direction. You may be shocked at what you learn about them.
Some of the common themes people reveal as you listen to them speak are: they talk about health in the past tense, because they’re out of shape; people are usually extreme on how much they like to talk about themselves (either a ton or not at all) based on their privacy and ego, how they guide the conversation reveals their focus or interest, people doing things or how things happen to them (amount of control).
These are just some examples, but you should see what you can pick up on, now that you know what you’re looking for.
Though it takes practice to dissect and digest, it will be an enjoyable process. You will better know yourself through acknowledging differences you become aware of and be excited about digging into them. Also, you will be surprised at the exchange that occurs with this fresh conversation during dialogue as you are hearing to listen, rather than respond. Take pauses before you respond to process deeply their story and how they tell it. Be prepared to see and experience someone on a new level.
This is the surface of knowing yourself and others for that matter. Exercise like this provide context to compare how we conceptualize ourselves and the actions that manifest the conceptualization. That was a lot, but pretty much what we say/think of ourselves and how are actions reflect that. From here we can begin to dig into the consistency between them and better understand ourselves.
The purpose is to create more certainty of our identity, even if the certainty is that it is inconsistent, or unknown. Who we say we are offers a place for us to begin. Knowing how you identify yourself gives structure and context to the parts that make up you. These facets of you, core ones being feelings, thoughts, and action, are where your behavior comes from. They are the source of your daily habits. Our habits should be aligned we who we say we are and how we describe ourselves. Also by acknowledging who you are in this present moment, we can better orient towards who you would like to become. So who is you?