Who am I is probably the most important question you’ll ever ask yourself. It is also the most difficult to answer. Everything we do: how we think and how we behave is tied directly to our definition of “Self.” Our understanding of Self is the lens through which we see and create our world. We believe that if you truly understand who you are, your entire world will change.
You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.– RUMI
How we define ourselves is often influenced by our past experiences, societal norms, roles we play, and how others perceive us. In his famous play Hamlet, William Shakespeare stated, “this above all: to thine own self be true…” But to which Self should we be true? Is it the one that shows up when we’re in a bad mood? Or the one that is present when life feels incredible? Are we the roles that we play: wife, mother, daughter, career woman, stay-at-home mom, etc.? What about our past and current life situations? Does that define our true Self?
Some may argue that we are all these things. But if you took away the role of being a wife, if you no longer had a career, does this make you less of who you are? Is there a You that always Is?
Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and get comfy as we explore the question: Who am I? We’ll be looking at the Body, the Mind and the Soul.
As women, over a lifetime, our bodies change to an extraordinary degree. The body we had as an infant significantly changes during our teenage years as we go through puberty. And as we get older, our body changes even more. For some, hair gets thinner, and wrinkles start showing up, our brain doesn’t seem to work as good as it did before, and so on. With all the changes in our bodies throughout our lives, can we truly say we are our bodies? And if we do, which body are you? Are you the 5-year-old body, the 18-year-old body, or the 70-year-old body?
Let’s look at it another way, if you lose both your arms and feet, does that make you less You? If you lose all your hair, are you still You? Could it be that you are not your body but that you simply have a body?
Let’s take a quick look at the video below by the School of Life. I love their use of animation to illustrate how we perceive our bodies and our Mind.
Interesting way of looking at it, right?
Also, ladies, if you are not your body, you are not your stretch marks, you are not your blemishes, you are not your weight. The real you has no physical shape or form. The real you is whole and complete. Please know that there is nothing wrong with stretch marks and blemishes. You should embrace, love, and care for the skin You are in. But the point we’re trying to make here is that we place so much attention on things that do not matter. And we often allow these things, physical features, to define who we are when the real you is flawless. True beauty comes from within, and you, my love, are a beautiful soul.
Okay, end of rant, let’s continue.
The Mind (False Self / Ego)
Let’s talk about the Mind and how it influences our idea of Self. The Mind consists of our thoughts and emotions. “Emotion arises at the place where Mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to the Mind,” Eckhart Tolle. You derive a sense of Self from the content and activity of the Mind.
As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are, based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this artificial persona the false Self or ego.
As children, our sense of Self began to develop based on our parents’ demands and expectations. In a way, we felt the need to comply to be loved and tolerated. As we get older, the same pattern repeats itself in our educational systems, the workplace, and society. “Most of the time, we are putting on a mask, complying with our teachers, bosses, colleagues, partners, and friends.” Many of us struggle to understand who we are because of the many different masks we wear; it is hard to know which one is really you. Which goes back to what we discussed earlier, to which Self should we be true? To which construct of our minds should we identify with?
The voice inside your head
“Shoot, I can’t even remember her name. What is her name? Darn, here she comes. What is it, Sally, Sue? She just told me yesterday. What’s the matter with me? This is going to be embarrassing,” the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a mental dialog that goes on inside your head that never stops. If someone goes to the doctor and says, “I hear a voice in my head,” he or she will most likely be sent to the psychiatrist. But the fact is that most people hear a voice in their head all the time. Thoughts that go on and on and on. Think of the many times you’re trying to go to sleep, but the voice keeps talking.
“The voice comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains, likes, dislikes, etc. The voice isn’t necessarily relevant to the situation you find yourself in at the time; it may be reviving the recent or distant past or rehearsing or imagining possible future situations,” Michael Singer. Here it often imagines things going wrong or negative outcomes which causes us to worry.
Even if the voice is relevant to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms of the past. This is because the voice belongs to your conditioned Mind, which is the result of all your history and the collective cultural mind-set you inherited.
You see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s worst enemy.
When we take a moment to observe the voice in our head, we’ll begin to realize that there’s the voice, and then there’s the one that notices the voice. Come to know the one that watches the voice, the one that observes the Mind’s activity, and you will come to know one of the greatest mysteries of creation.
The Mind is an instrument
I can hear you saying, “so why do we have our mind?” The Mind is an incredible instrument if used correctly. This is evident in all the remarkable discoveries and inventions that we see in the world. Used incorrectly, however, the Mind can become very harmful. Negative thought patterns of the Mind often lead to anxiety and depression. The problem isn’t that you use the Mind incorrectly; the problem is that you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. You believe that you are your Mind. The instrument has taken you over. And it is from this false Self that we interpret the world and ourselves.
Can you see the issue with identifying with the Mind? Should past experiences, people’s opinions and expectations of you, and societal pressures define who you are, and control what you do? Could it be that in the same way You have a body, You also have a mind?
So if I am not my body, thoughts, emotions, or experiences, who am I? You are a Soul, also referred to as awareness, consciousness, or energy. You are the observer or the witness, the one who notices the “voice in your head”. But whatever term you prefer, the truth is that you are an eternal, infinite being that is connected to the divine Being. We are all unique expressions of the divine Being or source and a part of the collective consciousness that makes up this Universe. This is the You, that always Is.
Your true Self is “…your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you.”
The Power Within You
The intelligence that created the Universe lives in you and, at the same time, is you. Wait, what? I know, but take a moment to imagine what this would mean. If you come to understand who you really are and tap into your true power, your entire life will change. You will begin to realize that you can create the life you desire; everything you need is in You. The power you hold is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer. After all, you have the power that created worlds in you. Can you imagine the possibilities?
“When we understand the sacredness, the beauty, the eternal nature, of our own spirit, then we can recognize it in creation, and we can recognize it in others. When we don’t realize, experience, and perceive the sacredness of our own true Self, our perception is an illusion of the world. But when we understand who we are and understand our harmony and relationship with the world around us and the people around us, then we actually see everything as truth,” Radhanath Swami.
We know there’s a lot to unpack in this article. As we embark on this self-discovery journey together, we will be diving deeper, sharing more thoughts, ideas, and resources to support you on your journey in becoming who you are.
Remember, you are whole and complete now. You are worthy of all that your soul desires. All that Is adores you and loves you and conspires with you to create the life you want.
Have thoughts you would like to add to the conversation? Or questions? Drop us a note in the comments section below.