Life's Great Personal Quest: Figuring Out Who I Am

Who I am

At some point in life, each one of us has pondered who I am.

It's a question that is central to religions, literature, psychology, and many other areas of life.

From the time we are children, though we see ourselves as the center of the world, we wonder about ourselves constantly.

As children, when someone asks us who we are, we often answer with our name.

That seems to be the answer, right?

As we get a little older, we understand that we are part of a larger unit so we add a little detail to the question. We say our name, then add in other aspects of our lives. We have a sister, a brother, an uncle, or an aunt.

Maturity and Who I Am

As we mature, our world expands even further. But, does our knowledge of who we are?

Certainly, we embrace broader identifications.

I am a teacher, a woman, a citizen, a Muslim, and on and on we go.

The "I" becomes many different entities. We are all of these things. 

And yet...

Do we know who it is we are? And, more importantly, are we really willing to find out?

Developing Viewpoints 

With maturity comes various viewpoints that we acquire almost unconsciously. These are also known as paradigms.

They are opinions or constructs we have formed about the world around us.

Viewpoints can be limiting to our self-development. When we lock ourselves into rigid viewpoints, it becomes difficult for us to relate to others and accept new information.

Who I Am - Through the Ages 

There are many approaches to gaining a deeper understanding of "who I am."

  • Ancient thinkers thought that the self was the highest mystery and the ultimate question was "Who am I?" 
  • Traditional religions taught followers to subjugate themselves to a greater entity: God or Allah or another deity. Through study and worship of a supreme being, we would discover our place in the universe.
  • Many writers have addressed the question of who I am. From Aristotle, who regarded an individual as something real in itself, to Jean-Paul Sartre, who was a leader in the 20th-century philosophy of existentialism, writers and philosophers have been fascinated by the question of self.
  • Artists such as Ana Mendieta, who addressed feminist issues in her art, and Barbara Kruger, who uses text and pictures to challenge how we think of ourselves, explored ideas about self in the modern world.
  • And many of us have turned to the science of psychology to consider "who I am." Unlike some religions, psychology pushes us to think about the self intentionally, rather than focusing on a higher power.

Ultimately though, only we can choose how to explore and pursue our path to self-understanding.

The Road to Self-Knowledge

Whichever path you choose, the process of self-knowledge requires committing time to quieting your mind and considering many questions.

Many spiritual endeavors involve the practice of silence, which provides the room to explore the "non-space."

And with a quiet mind, we begin to ask ourselves questions.

Questions To Ask 

Ancients used a process of inquiry, in addition to silence, to discover the self.

That process looked something like this:

Questioning

  • Who am I relative to others?
    You might think about your partner, children, parents, and so on.
  • Who am I in the world?
    Here you might think about your occupation, education, and organization affiliations.

Then, inquiry goes deeper.

  • Is who I am my physical body?
  • Am I more than my body?
  • Am I more than one "I"?

We can each become a different person as we respond to various circumstances.

Being in the self, and getting closer to knowing ourselves, allows us to remain grounded regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. 

With self-inquiry, we begin to live from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

How Do I Find Who I Am?

There are many paths you can take on the quest to learning who you are. Here are just a few.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of living your life with intention. It entails performing your daily tasks with a high degree of awareness of your thoughts and actions.

With mindfulness, you employ focused breathing while you also quiet your mind. In this state, you are able to observe your thoughts rather than allow them to overwhelm you.

The focus of mindfulness is to lead your life in the present and be hyper-aware of the present moment. 

Spirituality

Another option for learning about ourselves is spirituality, but not necessarily in the religious sense.

Spirituality has many meanings but here we're talking about a quest for understanding of the world and our place in it. It's a way to find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace in your life. 

Personal spirituality can be developed through music, art or through an appreciation of nature. You might also find spirituality through acts of kindness and selflessness, and altruism.

The Avatar Path

There is another process we can follow to discover who we are. This is called Avatar and it's also a pathway to self-awareness and self-knowledge.

The Avatar Path is a series of experiential exercises and programs that help you discover yourself and what you want to achieve.

So, What's The Next Step?

Figuring out life's most difficult questions is a process that has been undertaken by millions of people across the globe. 

But, the road to discovering who I am is not an easy one. It is paved with many challenges along the way.

Those challenges all tell us something about who we are, and, though the road to self-awareness is not a straight one, the twists and turns are as exciting as they are instructive. 

Finding out who you are is a true journey into the self. As such, there is no right or wrong path. It is simply a matter of choosing the path that speaks most to you.

Should you wish to seek some help on your journey, the Avatar Path is here for you.