Who are you and why are you here? It may seem like a straightforward question. Most would answer by giving their name without giving it much thought. However, on deeper reflection, do you really understand who you are?
Our world today has one great irony that is mind-boggling: the majority of people in the world are trying very hard to conform to what someone else wants them to be. It is often so subtle that we fail to realise that that is what we are doing. As Sarah McLachlan points out: “We’re constantly being told what other people think we are, and that’s why it is so important to know yourself.”
It happens at many levels. For instance, television bombards us with images of how we should look and dress, what we should eat and drink, what car we should drive and even what kind of person we should marry. Some even go as far as telling us how to fall in love!
We look around us for things that will help us define who we are. In-fact the majority of people have no sense of identity apart from the clothes they wear, the car they drive, where they live, who they are married to and so on.
If we had to strip you of everything you own and leave you on some island away from everything you think defines you, would you still have a clear sense of who you are? What defines you?
Discover the real you – images of self
Some would think of themselves in terms of their body. The image of their face and body defines who they are. If we were to remove you from your body, would you still know who you are? It sounds weird, I know, but understand that man is a spirit; he lives in a body and has a soul. Your body is simply a means of expressing yourself and interacting with your physical environment.
So your body is not really who you are. At the core of it, you are more than that. In-fact that is why it is so hard for people to fully understand and appreciate who they are. Who you are cannot be seen, touched, smelt, heard or tasted. Your senses cannot tell you who you are.
The concept of self in the true form is something beyond the grasp of our physical bodies and senses. We are complex beings. We cannot be defined by the things around us, but by the things within us. I believe that in essence we are what we think. Physically as human beings we are all essentially the same. It is our thoughts and experiences that differentiate us.
Discover the real you – your true identity
Our true identity, then, lies within us, not outside of us. We should define who we are based on our thoughts, our values, principles and beliefs. It’s okay to have material things and all, but they should not be our sense of self. They are just things that are there to make our lives easier. If you were suddenly homeless today that would not change who you are as a person. You would still be you.
What is the importance of all this, you might ask? Ralph Waldo Emerson warns that “The greatest difficulty is that men do not think enough of themselves, do not consider what it is that they are sacrificing when they follow in a herd, or when they cater for their establishment.” So you are sacrificing something when you go through life blindly conforming to everything. You sacrifice your true potential and purpose, which you can only fulfill when you truly understand yourself.
Discover the real you – the answer lies within
Look within yourself, not without. For everything begins and ends with your thoughts. Sidney J. Harris adds that “Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.”
It may seem like an overstatement, but it is so. Many lack an understanding of who they are, without which they are unable to know what they care capable of achieving in life. In the days of slavery in Europe and America this was well understood. Black people were forced to change their names to Western names so they would not remember who they really were.
Furthermore, they were banned from knowing how to read or write. That should make the lights flash in someone’s head. The reason this was done was that their masters knew that if they knew how to read they would discover many things, not only about the world around them, but about themselves. Their minds would be stretched to new levels of understanding.
Discover the real you – the road to self discovery
Reading is a powerful means of discovering who you really are. If you read the right books and other material you will gain a deeper understanding of others as well as yourself. Unfortunately, there are many who are in a self-imposed prison of ignorance even today. The books are all around them. They just don’t want to read. The culture of reading is not well established in many Zambians. For such people Atwood H. Townsend has some timely advice: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”
Discover the real you – conclusion
Choose not to live in ignorance about who you are and what you can do. Decide today to discover more about yourself and to start on the journey of self discovery. My best recommendation – read your Bible. Without it, you may never know who you really are.
In the words of James Allen, “Only by much searching and mining are gold and diamonds obtained, and man can find every truth connected with his being if he will dig deep into the mine of his soul.”
You are all you can be. Go on and be it.