Ever since we were babies and children we started listening to several tags and labels that create our persona. Many of these labels are firstly pushed down on us by the people around us, with comments like: “You´re a good boy” or “You´re a bad boy”. As young children we don´t really have the criteria to determine whether if what we´re listening to is true or not. We simply accept it and assume it is the truth because it is what others are telling us that we are and we start forging the perception and idea of ourselves based on what other people say that we are. Instead of finding our truth within ourselves.
As we get old enough and our minds begin to mature and understand the world around us we start using our surroundings as a tool to forge a deeper sense of who we are. By looking around us and using others as a parameter to measure ourselves by, we start forging a deeper perception of who we think we are.
Lets take a black girl in a white environment as an example. As a baby the girl doesn’t have the perception of black, white or Latino. The baby is completely oblivious to these labels, but as the baby grows up she starts seeing (and being told) that everyone around her has different skin colors to hers and so she forges the idea in her head that she is “different”, that she is black. If the baby would be born in a black environment she wouldn’t perceive herself as “different”, she would see herself as “normal”.
We use something as stupid as skin color to forge a perception of who we are. We say labels like: “I´m white” or “I´m black” to forge an idea of who we are. But seriously, think about it, can a skin color really determine what and who a person is? The person HAS white or black skin color, the person IS NOT black or white. What we have is not what we are but we use the label to determine who we are.
Lets take another important label that people use to catalog themselves by. A baby doesn’t have a notion of its religion, the baby is born without a religion. Religion is then passed on to him by his parents, who at a young age start teaching the boy that he is Muslim, or Jewish, or Catholic and this is how the boy starts saying: “I´m Muslim” as part of his identity, he doesn’t say “I follow Islam” no. The religion becomes part of the identity of the child.
The first label that we use to identify ourselves with is our name. Our parents repeat it since we are babies “Ca-ro-li-ne”. You´re Ca-ro-li-ne”. (That´s not even my real name but I´ll use it as an example) and so I start identifying myself with my name and I introduce myself by my name: “Hi, I am Caroline”. But who is Caroline?
But truly, who am I? The most complex question a person can ask themselves. Who am I?
And then we start saying all the superficial labels that we´ve learned in our lives:
- “I am Muslim”
- “I am black”
- “I am gay”
- “I am pretty or ugly”
- “I am a husband”
- “I am a child”
- “I am smart”
- “I am dumb”
- “I am a doctor”
- “I am a nice”
- “I am Mexican”
- “I am American”
- “I am…”
But truly, who are you?
This is a complex perception that cannot be discovered by using what others are telling us that we are, and this starts with the labels we´ve adopted since we were young and the ones we go on to adopt as we grow older. We first have to remove external perceptions to get to our true essence. Labels like: black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, dumb, smart, ugly, beautiful, Canadian, American, Mexican, Russian etc.
Just think, who are you using as a parameter to determine if you´re pretty or ugly, rich or poor, are you really a doctor? If you can no longer be a doctor then does that mean that you lose your identity? In some cases it happens, a person can no longer work in the profession that they identified themselves by and they have an identity crisis. With thoughts like “If I´m not a doctor, then who am I”.
If you´re determining your beauty by what models in magazines look like? Then that means that you´re using an external parameter to determine who you are. Can something external fully comprehend and determine who you are? Of course not, only you can discover this on you own. You think you´re ugly because you view yourself as different to the preferred beauty standard. But can others truly tell who you are? No. If someone says: “You´re dumb” is this true? Can they really know and fully comprehend your entire intellectual capacity? No they can´t, they´re just making an assumption based on one or several mistakes, but this doesn’t determine you´re intellectual capacity.
You´re not everything that you´re parents told you that you were and you´re not everything that the world tells you that you are. Marketing strategies for example will always push to try to get to your identity to try and sell you things you don´t need. It will make you feel poor so that you´ll want to feel rich and buy an Audi, and through this purchase your psyche will forge an idea that you´re rich. Even if it´s not true, you´ll work to try and feel like it is. But are you? There will always be someone richer than you are, so does that mean that you´re poor? And you´ll always be richer than someone else, so does that mean that you´re rich? It is all relative, so… can you really determine who you are by this?
It´s scary stepping away from what we think is our identity, it is stepping in unknown territory because we rarely actually think about this: Who am I? The question is so complex that it can actually cause people to become lazy when trying to find the answer to it. But do we really want to walk around not even knowing who we are? Like robots being programmed by others, others who want to take away our personal mission in life to discover who we are? Of course not.
And the answer will not come in an afternoon of thinking about it. It takes years and a lot of self-analysis and exploration to remove all the external clutter by which we identify ourselves by. But it´s a journey worth taking.