>Do we know who we are? Really?

>”I seem to see my self from his eyes while i have always possessed the
intelligence and politics to know or perhaps i should say interpret
who i am as a woman. But this knowledge i cannot assimilate in me, the
experience is of being in ruin, ………… “

mail from a dear friend to me, in response to an anguished mail sent to her.

Says another vivacious, lively, intelligent, perceptive woman, to me, on her first meeting with me as a therapist:

” I am so sorry that I have cried…. I mean this is a first meeting with you and all that”.

“Why the shame?” I ask her.

“shouldn’t I be calm and composed and not really show my emotions at all? I mean isn’t this what the world wants from me, from you, from all of us?” she responds, albeit a bit surprised that i am even asking her this question.

“well you are here to meet a therapist, and you are talking about your distress and while you share all that, you would feel emotional – most of all, this is not a social visit” I try to pose another exploration point.

She pauses for a while … and then she talks about her aspiration of wanting to be someone who should take all the shit coming her way and not flinch, not react but remain calm.  and her “role model” is a person who actually looks down upon the whole world and their cousins, has cholesterol problem, not able to have a healthy conjugal life and so on.

when i point this out to her, she agrees quickly but is not really convinced about being who she is really.

As I look at two of these instances and many others including myself at times, I often wonder, do we really have an idea of who we really are?   Or has this “me” become an amalgamation of images and perceptions generated and received from people around us, images which have provided a temporary relief, images which have saved us from many embarrassing moments,  images which tell us who we “should” be and not who we “are”?

for many of us, the inner being is shrouded in shame for being too alive, too impulsive, too demanding, too verbose, too sensuous, too argumentative, too questioning, too much to take.

for some others, it may be that the inner being is held back lest others make fun of us, lest others take advantage of us, lest others desert us, lest others make us feel weak and so on and so forth?

so what is our stance of being who we are?  how do we experience ourselves internally?   What is our politics of who we are?

The world  of relationships is totally made of perception.  We never really see the other person as who he or she is, but what we perceive he or she is, through our unique and individual looking glass made up of our world view, our biases and our values.  In other words, it is humanly impossible to see the person as it is.  What we can gather are only the objective data about name, family name, degrees, work, education, etc but can never be objective about the person.  We look at the world through perception and it is always subjective.

So, in all these, how do we perceive us?  Do we look at ourselves through these looking glasses as well?  is there a difference between me perceiving myself and others perceiving me?  what happens when there is a difference?  Is there a struggle to say this is who I am?

When I look at myself, I see myself and I quote from a mail that I have written to a friend, below:

“like i was telling you the other day, i feel very masculine internally, so my first descriptors of myself always are that I am intelligent, tough, quick on my feet, analytical and highly action oriented.  the next level would be that i am sensuous (not the way a woman is described) i.e. my senses are strong, i hear keenly, i smell keenly, i see keenly and i am quite aware of touch of any kind.  i am also very intuitive and am aware of the bodily sensations that i experience.

all these are devoid of other people, i.e. I look at myself irrespective of how others see me as.

the trouble starts from now on – any other descriptors of me such as:

loving, gracious, accepting, rude, scary, generous, pretty, ugly, argumentative, petty, kind, irrational, intellectual, stubborn, giving, caring, loyal, sexy, unsexy (can’t think of anything else at the moment that describes me) are all other people dependent.  If they see me like this then i am like this, otherwise, i don’t see myself as scary, petty, rude, etc, etc.”


I wonder what is it for others?  do we even ask these questions or do we tell ourselves, oh well, I have no problem in declaring to the world who I am and if they can’t take it, it is their problem?  Really?

or do we tell ourselves, actually I don’t even want to know who I am as it is too much of a bother, or it is of no use.  Too much of intellectualisation.  Really?

I don’t believe people actually like to imprison themselves in either of these two extremes, most of us perhaps live in the in between world.  what about you?

I live in Bangalore, India, and by profession, I am CEO of a consulting organization, an Organization Consultant and an Executive Coach. I write because I like writing my thoughts and reflections for me to review my life and the life as I see around myself. However, sometimes it makes sense to convey my thoughts to others and connect with others. Maybe it strikes a chord; may be it does not. My life has been my most outstanding teacher, which is why I like sharing my experiences, memories, encounters and other narratives that I build as I go along. I am interested in people, society, culture, ways of life, individual and collective narratives/stories as they lead us to discover each other as nothing else does. I also write about coaching, people's lives, culture, stories, mothering my daughter, believing in a feminine way of life, and most of all, believe that all politics starts from the self and personal convictions

14 thoughts on “>Do we know who we are? Really?

  1. >I have been thinking on these lines since past few days as i was reading 'Rebecca'. It seems like a Gothic love story but underneath it is a very complex web of human emotions. The narrator who is a small, timid woman get's married to a widower. She gets so obsessed with whatever she hears about his beautiful and brilliant first wife, that she conjures up all kinds of images about her. In her head she creates an entirely imaginary Rebecca (the dead wife) according to her perception who begins to haunt her life and hinder her marriage. In the end her image turns out to be entirely false. What we hear or speak about a person is so strongly based on our perception that mostly we miss the truth by a far mark. I have been wondering after reading both the book and your post…how many people have i conjured up as images in my head and let them haunt around? Is it also not true that what people reflect at us is a mirror image of what we show them? I have often found myself getting so lost in these mirrors that the 'in between' world becomes hard to find.


  2. >@Antara: yes, we do, exactly what you have written. Talking about Rebecca, please watch the Hitchcock version of Rebecca, made in 1940 as his first psychological thriller. great movie.


  3. >Nice. Lots of loops and spirals for me here…."I have no problem in declaring to the world who I am and if they can't take it, it is their problem?" Actually I do have a problem…. and so I tell myself that only know who I am and the others – they don't , so i am right and they are wrong about me…or a whole lot of other stuff… which makes me arrogant or submissive in their eyes …. and of course that's not how I see myself at all, for I see what they don't! so who am I?


  4. >@RC: ummm… and what is the nature of the dialogue internally? it sounds like an either or world – i.e. either I see or others, both are never looking at the same person. interesting. 😉


  5. >Hi, Thank you for visiting my blog and for suggesting me with the layout. Will certainly make some changes…and sorry for the inconvenience caused…hope you visit my blog again…:)


  6. >This is a great post. Yes, so often we allow others to define us – even the most well-meaning of people. I often think we're too scared of our real selves ….Marianne Williamson puts it so beautifully. Allow me to quote:“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”


  7. >Sharbori – I think we tend to live up to others' expectations of ourselves . is it because of low self confidence or is it that it is the easy way out or what is loosley termed "adjustment "? I wonder , at times . I could be any of those people you talk about . I have forgotten who I am,actually . I have been conforming to people's ideas about me for so long .


  8. >@eve's lungs – hey, please control-alt-delete the word "low self confidence" from your system. adjustment is part of our living process and if people did not adjust a little bit, the world would lose its balance. I would think that question that one needs to ask is what are we adjusting to, and at what cost? same follows when we are asking others to adjust?second point may be is what is the parameter of adjustment? internal or external? which is heavier and why?


  9. >@Corinne – that is such a moving quote – "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"and so right, we are afraid to be who we are and who we can be!


  10. >Yes, we often let others define us and it is sometimes out of convenience and indifference. but with those about whom we really care and who really care for us, we let our hair down, so to speak and revel in our true colours. And deep down we all know who we are, only try not to show it all the time, right?


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