This is a philosophical question and the answer to it is the hardest of all. In fact, it is so difficult that one of the famous philosophers and authors of our time, Khalil Gibran, once said “I have never felt helpless as much as when I had been so before the one who asked me ‘Who Are You?’”
Since the beginning of time, this question has been asked in many different ways, and it has been answered unconventionally as well.
A great example of a person who defined himself would be the famous Arab poet Abu Al-Tayyeb Al-Mutanabbi. He was later called arrogant for describing himself as such, and it was also claimed that these very words have got him killed.
I am the one whose literature was seen by the blind
And whose words have been heard by the deaf
The horses, the night, and the desert know of me
The swords, the spears, the papers and the pen do too
Personally, I’m an admirer of these verses of Al-Mutanabbi’s; as he had defined himself by his passion that he was so proficient at. However, these do not necessarily represent the complete answer to our major question here.
My hypothesis was that people state their accolades and flaunt their achievements only because they have the time to do so. Furthermore, I have a true belief that a human is modest in nature, and would not act so proud had they been taken off guard by the question.
With that thought in mind, I wanted to not only test my theory, but also essentially satisfy my curiosity of knowing how people truly define themselves. So, I asked several people the following “If you were asked the question ‘who are you?’ and you had only a few seconds to answer, what would you say?”
Out of the 35 people I asked, I received 4 types of answers. Most of them gave their names. If anything more, they’d mention where they’re from and/or how old they were. Another group of people gave me their qualities (e.g.: crazy, ambitious, etc.). The third group stated their occupation (e.g.: Student, Engineer, etc.). Finally, the last group gave an insight of what they value (e.g.: I’m a person whose family is everything to them, I’m a person who believes in equality and human rights).
My first understanding of the above was that my theory was correct. The second was the obvious fact that people perceived themselves in different ways. Now, my intention was not to analyze those answers nor judge whether they were right or wrong, but I’d like to share with you an observation that I found intriguing. Before giving me their answers, around 80% of the people I asked were skeptical about the ‘Who Are You?’ query and gave an initial response insinuating a slight disregard to the question and its importance. My only takeaway of that observation was the belief that several people do not understand the significance of realizing the answer to that question.
Going back to the examples mentioned in the beginning, Al-Mutanabbi would’ve possibly lived a little longer had he been careful in the way he defined himself. And Gibran was right by his hesitance and fear towards that question.
You are a combination of what happened to you, who you wish to become, and what you believe in. Therefore, I present the following steps to identifying yourself.
First, write a detailed description of who you are now; based on your roles and qualities (e.g.: sister, lawyer, intelligent), or the painful/joyful moments that you have experienced in your life (e.g.: abused, complimented) and what they made of you. This will allow you to know whether you want to stay the way you described and keep the influences that the past events have made you become, or move on to being better.
The second step is to rewrite your history. This includes the lessons you learned from the past, and a detailed description of who you want to be.
The third step is to define your philosophy. This represents your beliefs (e.g.: “nothing is impossible”) and your values (e.g.: family, learning); as those two are the building blocks to your behavior and decisions.
By following these three steps, right now, you will be more confident, self-sufficient, and clearly aware of how to reach your set visions and goals. Do remember now, that the definition of yourself is not set in stone; as you can always reinvent yourself; whether to be a better you, or to adapt to the changes around you.
There’s a blank white canvas before you. Now paint.
Founder of @BetweenTheSips -a social media initiative that moderates social conversations. Alanoud’s passion is public speaking and designing infographics, reading and researching.
Through “Beyond Inspiration”, Alanoud aims to share personal experiences, struggles, and aha moments that can spark a flame within the reader to reach their full potential.