Who am I?
It’s a question we spend our entire lives asking, isn’t it? After all, we change our minds. We change in other ways. We grow. We experience different situations, which naturally affect and shape us. We are always evolving.
But we tend to have a good understanding of who we are overall. We likely know what we want. We likely know what we don’t want. We likely know what feels right and what doesn’t. Again, this may change, but we tend to have an idea of our soul, our core selves. What makes and breaks and sparks us.
We show parts of ourselves every day. We might show our humor and dedication at work. We might show our love and compassion and silly sides at home. But who we really are is who we are when we’re with someone very close to us. We might show this person our faults, flaws and idiosyncracies. We might reveal our “weirdness” in all its glory. Who we really are is also who we are when no one is watching. When we’re in an empty room. Just us.
Sometimes, some years, many of us ignore who we are and let others dictate our preferences, beliefs and actions. This is especially common in our teens and 20s when most of us are so unsure of ourselves, when we want so badly to fit in, when we want so badly not to be alone.
For many of us, because of insecurities and a deep longing to belong, we pretend. We second-guess ourselves. We tell people what we think they want to hear. We become who we think they want us to become. And these may be issues we struggle with, to a lesser or larger extent, our entire lives.
But we can take all sorts of steps to explore, embody and express ourselves. Below are some ideas to do that a regular basis. Because the more we delve into and essentially declare ourselves, the more natural this becomes in all areas of our lives. The more comfortable it becomes. The less we pretend and people-please and stuff away.
— Check in with yourself regularly to see what’s on your mind and in your heart, what you need, what brings you joy, what brings you comfort.
— Practice expressing your opinions and beliefs—respectfully— to someone else.
— Use the arts to express yourself. Channel your feelings, your experiences, your traits, your silliness, your love of hot pink, your favorite words, your many questions, your self-doubts, your favorite scents and sounds into a written story, or a painting, or song, or some other kind of tangible expression.
— Engage in activities that you deeply love, whether that’s gardening or running or reading or learning about cars or American history or penning poetry or traveling or watching documentaries. Your desires and longings are an important part of you. Give them room to breathe and blossom.
— Explore your values. If I ask you what’s most important to you right now, what would you say? Maybe you’ll say family, faith, personal growth and passion.
— Build your days according to your values. There’s nothing more powerful than knowing what you value and prioritizing your life according to these values. So if faith is critical for you, you might carve out time to pray and read the Torah. If family is critical, you might eat dinner most nights with your spouse and kids. You might spend Saturday mornings taking a walk together. You might say no to other committments because they infringe on these activities.
— Embrace what you like. Listen to the music that cuts straight to your soul. Watch cartoons or read children’s books because they make you smile. Watch movies no one else likes because you find them entertaining. Don’t be embarrassed about what you like. Don’t diminish it by relegating it to a “guilty pleasure.”
Being ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give—both to ourselves and to others. Because that’s when we foster true intimacy. That’s when we experience real growth as individuals. That’s when we cultivate healthy relationships and beautiful lives.
How do you express yourself? What does it mean to you to be who you are?