Sometimes a simple question can be very difficult to answer, even when there is no right way to do so. The query I’m thinking about is, “Who am I?”
Most of the time when we are asked to provide an answer, we respond by describing what we do for a living. I am a carpenter, a factory worker or an engineer. What I find interesting is that the answer generally deals not with who we are, but what we do to make money. Even people who have retired still define themselves by what they used to do. When I was unemployed, I described myself to others as an out of work journalist.
I suppose the reason we resort to defining ourselves by our careers is because it gives us a sense of worth. It tells others about our education and abilities. Some professions even provide a glimpse at what we think is important. Nurses are generally considered warm and caring. So are moms. On the other hand, lawyers and members of congress are not held in such high regard.
For instance, someone who describes themselves as a homemaker and a mother is telling you that family is very important to them. Given how many moms and dads today work outside the home, it also tells us that they are willing to sacrifice income in order to spend more time caring for their spouse and children. It can also mean that their partner makes enough to support such a lifestyle.
The problem with being defined by what we do is what happens when it is taken away from us? Young adults who are just starting out in life sometimes find themselves suffering from what can best be described as an identity crises. If I’m not a college student, then who am I? What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
I have a nephew who is struggling with what he wants to do with his life. He’s in a holding pattern as he searches for something to inspire him. He’s not alone. There are many others like him. Sometimes the crisis of identity happens when we reach middle age and we realize we have not achieved what we first set out to do.
The problem, as I see it, is that we have become a culture that does not allow us to just be who we are. What is wrong with just being me?
So next time someone asks who you are, maybe you should think for a moment about how you want to answer. There is nothing wrong with just being you.