Who am I? is one of my favorite questions. And it's an important one - because what we know and believe and understand about ourselves shapes how we live, dream, and engage others and the world around us.
However, I find the answer people give to this question is often a role - a set of expectations and ideas defined by others - when who we are at the core is so much deeper than that. I think this is because we are asked and conditioned to extract the truth of our identity (in all its wondrous, paradoxical vastness) and shove it into too-small containers.
Roles (like student, teacher, parent, partner, employee, etc.) can be useful and even accurate, but they never tell the whole story and can never contain or hold us in our bigness, depth, and wholeness.
I was working with a client recently who was in the midst of a significant ending and life transition. As the roles that used to define this person’s life and self broke apart, one-by-one, they felt like they were dissolving into nothing, when really, they were being invited into a deeper conversation with identity. Underneath all of those roles and external expectations, who were they really?
What they found was that this transition was an invitation into depth, vastness, and mystery – an opening into looking at self, identity, and possibility in a new way.
If you too are being invited into explorations of self and identity, here is a simple exercise I recommend for getting in touch with the wisdom of your identity.
1) Get grounded and settled in your body and take a few deep breaths.
2) Come into connection with the vastest, deepest, wisest part of you – the part of you that is fully alive and dangerously powerful.
3) Ask this self: what do I know?
What is the profound, resonant, dangerous, deep-in-your-bones truth of the moment?
Maybe it’s that you need something you’re afraid to ask for or claim; maybe it’s an insight into a relationship or life situation; maybe it’s a knowing about who you really are at your core.
Maybe this knowing is lighthearted and simple; maybe it’s alchemical and potent; maybe it’s terrifying and electrifying; maybe it’s hilarious and beautiful. Whatever it is, you’ll know it’s right by how it lands in your body: clear, resonant, powerful, expanded, enlivened, relaxed.
When I did this exercise earlier this week, mine was: my freedom is worth any price.
This knowing asks something of me and isn’t super easy in terms of its implications, but it’s also a truth that when it landed, immediately clarified my next steps and intentions around a tricky life situation I have been trying to sort out for the past couple of months.
The trick is to be willing and brave enough to be with the answers that arise within us, to confront our truth with power, authority, and self-possession, and to trust our ability to hold complexity and stay with ourselves when it gets hard.
Not always easy, but worth it (in my experience). Because when our introspection, courage, and truth-telling collide, shit gets magical.