Who Am I?

Who am I? Whether out of exasperation, wonderment, sarcasm, or genuine curiosity, you’ve probably asked that question at one point or another. And you’re not alone because self-discovery is a characteristic of the human condition.At the low entry point of discovery we learn from a very early age how others judge us. There’s nothing profound or meaningful in what they say and, very often, these judgments amount to a couple of words like, “you’re weird”, or “you’re stupid.” You’ve been there!Who am I?As we age and mature the question of who am I? becomes rather more complex. For one thing, it implies we’re searching for a fixed and plausible answer. This isn’t all that helpful because we’re changing all the time. Our beliefs, attitudes and values are not fixed entities and we adapt to circumstances. Secondly, that same question has a way of tapping into our inadequacies because it’s often only asked when we’re feeling vulnerable. The danger is we start sputting out those two-word comments we heard as children, only now it’s, “I’m nothing”, “I’m hopeless”, and so on.But that doesn’t mean the who am I? question shouldn’t be asked. It’s natural to be curious about other people, so it makes perfect sense to be inquisitive about ourselves. And these days, there’s no shortage of people willing to help you along the path of self-discovery. There are therapists, clubs, groups and techniques. In fact there’s so much stuff available to you, it might be off-putting. My answer to self-discovery is to keep things simple and start with yourself, through a process called introspection.What is Introspection?The word introspection derives from Latin term meaning, “to look within.” So how does this help?Let’s say you’re on your way to a friend’s house and you get lost. You call your friend to ask for directions. The first thing they’ll want to know is, where are you now? Once they know they can offer up some directions and help steer you towards where you want to be.The same is true in life. We all have things we want to achieve, qualities we want to develop, and new things we want to learn. But we can’t reach those destinations if we have no idea where we are right now. Introspection can be thought of as the door to knowing ourselves better, we just have to walk through it.The BenefitsIntrospection can help you identify negative thinking blocking your progressIt can help you have a more positive view of yourself and othersIt’ll boost your confidence in tackling difficult problemsIt contributes to stronger relationshipsIt’ll help you reach your goals more easily and with greater confidenceYou may be thinking, well if introspection is so great and delivers so many benefits, then why do many people struggle to do it?Maybe there’s no single answer. As I mentioned earlier, the who am I? question often pops up when we feel uncertain or vulnerable. The rest of the time our lives are filled with distractions. We live in an extremely fast-paced world with lots if things competing for our attention both in and outside of work. But the fact that you are reading this tells me that you’ve taken a little time away from the distractions in order to seek answers.My first recommendation is that you find just five minutes of time and dedicate it to yourself. This is a non-judgmental time. You’re not to seek out things you feel are good and bad points about yourself. you’re simply asking a few questions. For example:When I wake up in the morning, do I feel ready to take on the day?Am I reaching my personal goals?What concerns do I have about the future?Am I living the life I want?Do I have issues that interfere with my happiness?Do I need to put more effort into my relationships?Am I stressing out about things that are beyond my control?Am I thinking about negative things before I fall asleep?Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?What’s most important to me?If you find such questions a bit overwhelming I suggest you go with my introspection for beginners guide?Observe What You DoHave you ever totally misunderstood a text message from someone? I have because it requires a particular set of skills to write in a way we hope will convey what we mean. We’re much better with communication when we’re face to face with the other person. That’s because what we say communicates only around 7% of our meaning. Around 55% of communication is through body language and the rest comes through our tone of voice. Even if you didn’t know the stats, you’ll have learned through personal experience that there’s usually a lot going on behind the words a person uses. But how can this help you learn more about yourself?Learn About YourselfIt can be difficult to observe ourselves honestly, but it’s definitely worth the effort. The more we practice self-observation, the easier it will become. In a given situation you can ask the ‘head, heart and body’ questions, which are:How is your mind? What are you thinking about? Where is your attention focused right now?

Who Am I?

Who am I? Whether out of exasperation, wonderment, sarcasm, or genuine curiosity, you’ve probably asked that question at one point or another. And you’re not alone because self-discovery is a characteristic of the human condition.

At the low entry point of discovery we learn from a very early age how others judge us. There’s nothing profound or meaningful in what they say and, very often, these judgments amount to a couple of words like, “you’re weird”, or “you’re stupid.” You’ve been there!

Who am I?

As we age and mature the question of who am I? becomes rather more complex. For one thing, it implies we’re searching for a fixed and plausible answer. This isn’t all that helpful because we’re changing all the time. Our beliefs, attitudes and values are not fixed entities and we adapt to circumstances. Secondly, that same question has a way of tapping into our inadequacies because it’s often only asked when we’re feeling vulnerable. The danger is we start sputting out those two-word comments we heard as children, only now it’s, “I’m nothing”, “I’m hopeless”, and so on.

But that doesn’t mean the who am I? question shouldn’t be asked. It’s natural to be curious about other people, so it makes perfect sense to be inquisitive about ourselves. And these days, there’s no shortage of people willing to help you along the path of self-discovery. There are therapists, clubs, groups and techniques. In fact there’s so much stuff available to you, it might be off-putting. My answer to self-discovery is to keep things simple and start with yourself, through a process called introspection.

What is Introspection?

The word introspection derives from Latin term meaning, “to look within.” So how does this help?

Let’s say you’re on your way to a friend’s house and you get lost. You call your friend to ask for directions. The first thing they’ll want to know is, where are you now? Once they know they can offer up some directions and help steer you towards where you want to be.

The same is true in life. We all have things we want to achieve, qualities we want to develop, and new things we want to learn. But we can’t reach those destinations if we have no idea where we are right now. Introspection can be thought of as the door to knowing ourselves better, we just have to walk through it.

The Benefits

  • Introspection can help you identify negative thinking blocking your progress
  • It can help you have a more positive view of yourself and others
  • It’ll boost your confidence in tackling difficult problems
  • It contributes to stronger relationships
  • It’ll help you reach your goals more easily and with greater confidence

You may be thinking, well if introspection is so great and delivers so many benefits, then why do many people struggle to do it?

Maybe there’s no single answer. As I mentioned earlier, the who am I? question often pops up when we feel uncertain or vulnerable. The rest of the time our lives are filled with distractions. We live in an extremely fast-paced world with lots if things competing for our attention both in and outside of work. But the fact that you are reading this tells me that you’ve taken a little time away from the distractions in order to seek answers.

My first recommendation is that you find just five minutes of time and dedicate it to yourself. This is a non-judgmental time. You’re not to seek out things you feel are good and bad points about yourself. you’re simply asking a few questions. For example:

  • When I wake up in the morning, do I feel ready to take on the day?
  • Am I reaching my personal goals?
  • What concerns do I have about the future?
  • Am I living the life I want?
  • Do I have issues that interfere with my happiness?
  • Do I need to put more effort into my relationships?
  • Am I stressing out about things that are beyond my control?
  • Am I thinking about negative things before I fall asleep?
  • Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
  • What’s most important to me?

If you find such questions a bit overwhelming I suggest you go with my introspection for beginners guide?

Observe What You Do

Have you ever totally misunderstood a text message from someone? I have because it requires a particular set of skills to write in a way we hope will convey what we mean. We’re much better with communication when we’re face to face with the other person. That’s because what we say communicates only around 7% of our meaning. Around 55% of communication is through body language and the rest comes through our tone of voice. Even if you didn’t know the stats, you’ll have learned through personal experience that there’s usually a lot going on behind the words a person uses. But how can this help you learn more about yourself?

Learn About Yourself

It can be difficult to observe ourselves honestly, but it’s definitely worth the effort. The more we practice self-observation, the easier it will become. In a given situation you can ask the ‘head, heart and body’ questions, which are:

  • How is your mind? What are you thinking about? Where is your attention focused right now? Notice and root out any self-judgment, negative comparisons, or assumptions.
  • How are your emotions? How are you really feeling right now and how is this affecting you?
  • How is your body? Are you tired, tense, energized? What is your gut telling you?

We’re not talking here about self-undulgent navel gazing. We know that people high in insight feel more in control of their lives, show more dramatic personal growth, enjoy better relationships, and feel calmer and more content. So the benefits that come with truly reflecting on our beliefs and actions are profound.

How to Navigate Introspection

Avoid Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for, interpret, and even favor information that confirms or supports your current beliefs without taking into consideration the big picture. This is almost default for most people because we want to be right.

Look for ways to challenge your conclusions. Seek information from a range of sources, not just ones that agree with you. This can create an echo chamber where all your biases will be reinforced. Try getting another’s opinion, discuss your thoughts with others. Ultimately, get the bigger picture before you decide.

Look At The Parts

It’s helpful to make a list of your wrongdoings. Either where you were in the wrong or were hurt by someone else. Look at each interaction as objectively as possible and write it down. 

Separate it into parts. The who, the when, and the why. Then take a moment and look your part in all of it. What could you have done better or differently, were you being spiteful or judgmental, or are you shifting blame? 

A word of warning. This isn’t an easy exercise because true introspection means opening ourselves up to alternatives that may not be easy to swallow. But, if you’re seeking to answer the who am I? question, that’s part of the deal.

Stay Calm

Taking a hard look at yourself and your actions can bring up some heavy stuff. Take it slow and easy. The last thing you want is to get all revved up and do something you regret. Anger, disappointment, and feelings of loss may come up. You are taking a hard look at your past and that can be ugly.

Get Support

If all this sounds a bit like heavy going, I’d recommend you seek a properly qualified therapist to help steer you through the process. Perhaps there are aspects of your past that are hard to revisit or understand? Perhaps you’d just prefer someone to lean on and help to interpret the stuff you bring up? A qualified therapist can be a real asset.

Other Ways

There are different ways to practice introspection and self-reflection. The best way, I believe, is to ask yourself questions and record your responses in writing. That way you have a running record. It doesn’t need to be an essay. Notes that make sense to you are all that’s required. So, find a comfortable, quiet spot, grab a drink, and sit down with a pen and paper. The questions you ask will depend on you and what you’d like to take from this process. 

This is simply a starting point. However, to get you started maybe think back on what you believe are some of the most defining moments of your life. Choose three to get started. Take each defining moment in turn and get to know more about each. 

Think about your experience – what you did, what you were thinking, and how it felt at the time. What were you experiencing at that moment? What was going on inside you at that moment? Once you have done this you can reflect on what you have learned. What does the experience suggest to you and what can you learn from it? You can compare each experience to the values or principles you try to follow in life. Finally, you have to take the lessons you have learned and apply them in practice. How can you deal with future situations? What has reliving this experience taught you about who you were and how has it shaped you as you are now? What would you do differently? What do you intend to do about this based on your period of reflection?

The answer to these questions will become the building bricks to who you are. They represent parts of your identity but your history is exactly what it sounds like – history. It may well have shaped the person you have become but it says nothing about your future which is still open and yet to be explored.

Be your authentic self