Who are you?

What’s your answer?

If you’ve got an answer then keep that in mind but strip away everything in your life that’s not guaranteed beyond being alive. No job, no friends, no family, no home, no clothes, nothing left but your body and soul. Did you just take away your answer? If you did then it’s not a real answer; try again.

The question is not what are you, but who are you?

It’s not an easy question to answer, and it’s one I’ve been struggling with for a few weeks now. Since my work has always been the focus of my life I started there. I’m a software engineer, a sysadmin and a project manager / team leader, but they’re all what I am, not who.

I’m a man, which is irrelevant.

I’m Stuart but that’s just a label, a convenient identifier.

I’m a son, a brother and an uncle, and while those things are important to me they’re still what not who I am, they’re just more labels. They also define me relative to other people, so that’s not really who I am.

I consider myself to be a good person, but by no means perfect. I also consider myself to be a good friend, always ready and willing to be there when I can help. I’m always happy to offer a personal opinion on any given situation, but I’m also more than capable of providing comfort by way of presence, hugs and anything else you need.

Now we’re getting nearer to the point, but that’s still what I do rather than who I am, so it needs to be rephrased and ideally summarised.

Does that even mean anything? Is it an accurate picture of who I am, or just who I want to believe I am? I’m not done thinking about this yet, not by a long shot, and I probably won’t be done for a while. It’s a key question that I know I need to answer. I feel that discovering my true identity is an important part of my journey, without which I won’t have a stable foundation on which to build.

Everything we experience gets filtered and interpreted by our sense of self, and when that sense is constantly changing we find it difficult to separate ourselves from a situation and end up assigning meaning to meaningless events, projecting motive and expectations on to others, and ultimately we fail to maintain our perspective such that the true meaning of the experience is lost.

If I don’t know who I am, how do I keep myself grounded no matter what happens in my reality? How will I separate myself from a situation and maintain perspective? Stability is key when it comes to dealing with the multitude of experiences the universe has in store for us, and as of right now I don’t feel at all stable, but knowing that I don’t know gives me some sense that I’m on the right path. My journey continues.

So how do you define yourself? If you were dropped in the middle of the Sahara Desert, naked, with no possessions, all alone, how would you define yourself then? Let’s say you come across a Bedouin tribe, how would you relate to them without any of the things you probably use to define yourself.

Who are you really?