There are 1001 potential answers to the question ‘Who am I?”
It sounds like a simple question but it’s got a complicated answer, least of all because there is no single you.
Your own answer will likely depend on who is asking and how deep you want to go.
Answering “who am I?” in an interview or on a date, is probably going to be more descriptive and less philosophical.
But on another level, the better we know ourselves, the more insightful we become. As Aristotle once said: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Get to know yourself better with these “who am I” example answers that help you to delve deeper into who you really are.
Why is it difficult to answer the question: who am I?
“Who am I?” is how we see and define ourselves. It creates our identity, and in turn our reality.
I am my name, I am my job, I am my relationships, I am my network, I am my sexuality, I am my affiliations, I am my hobbies.
These are all labels you could use to describe yourself. Even though many give clues and pointers to who you are, they’re still limited.
One of the reasons why answering “Who am I” is so tricky is because the social roles you play in life —as an accountant, a brother, a father, a heterosexual man, etc.— don’t get to the heart of who you really are. Neither does simply listing your interests or hobbies.
You may be a keen cyclist, who enjoys crosswords and watching anime. Although that can give you and others a snapshot of you, you are clearly so much more.
If you’re seeking self-knowledge, or even just more interesting conversations, the really juicy stuff tends to live below the surface.
Beyond the mundane categories, we put ourselves into is what makes us truly tick.
It’s often a collection of our interests, experiences, characteristics, choices, values, and beliefs that show us who we are.
Understanding these things about ourselves is what helps us to understand the complexity of our identity.
“Who am I” example answers for self-reflection
1) What lights me up?
Figuring out what lights you up is perhaps the key to figuring out your purpose in life.
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What type of work would I also do for free? What do you spend hours on and the time just flies? The things that light us up are so incredibly unique to you.
2) What drains me?
All kinds of things can drain your energy — whether it’s bad habits like doomscrolling through your phone at 2 am when you should be sleeping, or taking everything personally when you know you need to let that sh*t go.
Figuring out the people and things that are our energy zappers shed light on who we are, and helps us identify what we need to let go of.
3) What are the things that are most important to me in life?
Asking yourself what really means the most to you helps you figure out your values.
Sometimes it’s not until you take the time to clarify what matters most to you that you see where your words and actions aren’t matching up.
A lot of the time what we say is important isn’t reflected in where we put our time and effort.
Your values should determine your priorities, which then become a measure of whether life is turning out the way you want it to.
A lot of the time when we’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or unhappy we discover we’re not living by our values.
4) Who are the people who are most important to me in life?
One of the biggest mirrors we have in life is the relationships we create. Who you are is to a certain extent a collaborative effort between you and the countless people you meet.
It’s been shaped by the parents that raised you, the people who have loved you, and those who have hurt you too.
Relationships mold who we are, where we belong, and what we will leave behind.
5) What stresses me out?
Stress is our body’s response to pressure. This is exactly why it can tell us plenty about ourselves.
It can be triggered when you are dealing with something new, something unforeseen, when you’re feeling out of control or when something threatens your sense of self.
Even the way we handle stress says a lot about us. According to the Yale School of Medicine, stress dates back to the origins of humanity but we all experience it differently:
“In general, women are more likely to think and talk about what is causing stress. Women also are more likely to reach out to others for support and seek to understand the sources of their stress. Men typically respond to stress using distraction. And men often engage in physical activities that can offer an escape from thinking about a stressful situation.”
6) What is my definition of success?
Who doesn’t want to be successful in life, but what exactly is success?
For some, being successful might be money, fame, or recognition. For others, the legacy of success is more about the impact they want to make on the world or helping others.
Success isn’t always about the biggest wins, with some of life’s most rewarding successes coming from more humble pursuits — raising a family, cultivating loving relationships, living a balanced life.
Finding fulfillment in success means pursuing your own definition of it, not someone else’s.
7) What makes me angry?
Anger isn’t all bad. Rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet, what really gets us mad has a lot to tell us.
There are plenty of occasions when anger is powerful. It fuels strength and courage to stand up for the things you believe in. It highlights the behaviors and the social causes we feel strongly about.
Working out what gets you annoyed can give you clues to what you are most passionate about.
8) What gets me out of bed in the morning?
Other than the alarm on repeat for half an hour followed by a gallon of coffee, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Figuring out what motivates you is the cornerstone of success and purpose. Much like success, when you try to follow someone else’s version, it won’t last long.
As the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ Stephen Covey, puts it: “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”
9) What relaxes me?
If everybody is prone to stress, then everybody needs to know how to destress too.
Especially in the digital age, relaxing is often easier said than done. A lot of us have forgotten how to truly unwind, with experts suggesting this is why we spend so long glued to a screen instead.
Speaking in the Guardian newspaper, Psychoanalyst David Morgan says:
“People have got so used to looking for distraction that they actually cannot stand an evening with themselves. It is a way of not seeing oneself, because to have insight into oneself requires mental space, and all these distraction techniques are used as a way of avoiding getting close to the self.”
So, what truly relaxes you?
Is it a walk in nature, cooking your favorite meal, or perhaps a destressing meditation session?
Personally, this 20-minute Self-Healing Meditation always helps me get free from distractions and relax.
And if you’re not sure what this simple thing is that can always relax you, you could do with some self-healing too.
10) What brings me joy?
Do you ever get the feeling that figuring out exactly what makes you happy in life is just as complicated as trying to figure out who you are?
Psychotherapist Linda Esposito says one of the reasons happiness is so hard is that we often get it all wrong.
We think life is about always feeling good and so we desperately do whatever we can to dodge suffering whilst simultaneously chasing external rewards and validation.
“Sure we experience joyful moments and blissful memories, but life is about the journey and enjoying the steps along the way.“
11) What scares me?
The things that scare us most are the glaring big flashing signs to our inner psyche.
Roller coasters, drugs, and getting really close to someone are a few of mine. They all have one big underlying thing in common — they trigger my fear of losing control.
If you’re terrified of public speaking, you’re probably a people pleaser with perfectionist tendencies. If you’re afraid of the dark then according to research, you may well be more creative and imaginative.
Your biggest fears are reflections of your personality.
12) What makes me curious?
Another important breadcrumb to follow on any path to purpose in life is that little spark of curiosity inside.
One of the most unique features of human beings which has been crucial to our evolution as a species is the lifelong capacity to learn.
This childlike feature of curiosity, known as Neoteny in the science world, helps us advance through exploration.
As psychologist and cognitive scientist, Tom Stafford writes “Evolution made us the ultimate learning machines, and the ultimate learning machines need to be oiled by curiosity.”
13) What are my failures?
We’ve probably all heard the saying that “failure is feedback”. Our biggest failures can be simultaneously our greatest disappointments and our greatest opportunities.
Failure may cause suffering in the short-term, but if dealt with in a healthy way, failure allows us to learn in a way that ultimately contributes to our wins in life.
The world is full of people who refused to define themselves on their failures and instead used past failures to fuel success.
14) What keeps me awake at night?
What keeps us awake at night offers us insight into the changes we may need to make — even if it’s just to stop drinking caffeine after 5 pm.
Whether it’s daydreams of another life (quitting your 9-5, moving country, finding love) or the worries that have you tossing and turning unable to switch off.
The nightime hours when it’s dark and quiet can tell us a lot about who we are.
15) What disappoints me?
How we handle disappointment often comes down to how we manage our expectations. It happens when our hopes and expectations about a situation fall out of line with reality.
The disappointments we feel are signposts to our biggest desires, as well as our beliefs about ourselves and other people.
16) What are my insecurities?
Our insecurities tend to be shaped by our “critical inner voice”.
According to Dr. Lisa Firestone, who co-authored ‘Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice’:
“The critical inner voice is formed out of painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or those close to us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others.”
17) What do I want to learn?
Countless lockdowns over the coronavirus pandemic left a lot of us pondering how we spend our time, and how we can use it to improve ourselves.
Life’s endless learners are usually the most successful and happy. A growth mindset sees everything as an opportunity to grow.
Lifelong learning builds the mental flexibility that helps us to adjust and thrive.
18) What do I respect most about myself?
Self-respect is about treating yourself the way you’d want others to treat you.
The respect we feel towards ourselves is the qualities, achievements, and areas of life in which we hold ourselves in the highest esteem.
It is a sense of admiration for all that is good or valuable that you see in yourself.
19) What are my regrets?
Regrets can shape or break us.
Research found that it’s also true what they say, you’re more likely to regret something you didn’t do than something you did. Results showed inaction regrets lasted longer than action regrets.
It also showed that most of our regrets tend to come from romance rather than other areas of life. So it seems that perhaps we are our regrets in love. Although regret can seem useless, feeling regret allows us to make different (potentially better) choices in the future.
20) What am I good at?
There are a lot of clues hidden in the things you seem to have a natural aptitude for which can help show you who you are.
Some have a gift for communication, a way with numbers, a creative streak, an analytical mind.
Taking a look at past achievements, asking what you love to do most, and trying out new things help to reveal your talents and strengths.
21) What am I bad at?
Just like every yin has a yang, every person is bound to have strengths and weaknesses.
It’s tempting to quickly drop the things we feel like we’re not good at. But when you wrap your identity up in solely what you are good at, your identity can start to be defined by your skills.
What we’re bad at is sometimes where we discover what we’ve been dodging in life. But asking what we could do with improving can help push your comfort zone and put you into a growth mindset.
22) What are my beliefs about myself?
Your beliefs shape your reality in several ways.
Who you believe yourself to be is powerful. On a fundamental level, your beliefs create your behavior. As noted in Psychology Today:
“Research suggests that while guilt (feeling that you did a bad thing) can motivate self-improvement, shame (feeling like you are a bad person), tends to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, reducing hope and undermining efforts to change. By the same token, some evidence suggests that praising character as opposed to behavior is a more effective means of promoting positive behaviors.”
23) What are my past hurts and pains?
The choices we make for ourselves are often influenced by our past. When we are making healthy judgments we may use our pain as a marker for what we do not want in our lives.
But when reflection turns to ruminating on past negative experiences, we may start to feel stuck and define ourselves based on the bad things that have happened to us.
24) What are my habits?
Happiness researcher and author Gretchin Rubin says that
“Habits are part of your identity. Changing them means changing a fundamental part of who we are.”
“Habits are the invisible architecture of our lives. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence and our future – both good and bad.”
25) What do I envy?
Do you wish you could say “I am fluent in French”, “I am a world traveler”, or “I am a great cook”?
The things we envy about others and wish we had or were ourselves give us great pointers towards our desires. They help us to set goals.
One of the best things about “I am” is that it isn’t fixed in stone, and you can grow and change it to incorporate whatever you want to be.
“Who am I” spiritual answer
We’ve seen how difficult it is to answer “Who am I” psychologically, especially as our identity is an ongoing process rather than something static.
But on some level, “Who am I” is just as big of a question as “Is there a God?” or “What is the meaning of life?”.
The majority of people in the world have some form of spiritual belief. That’s why, for many people, it becomes not just a psychological question to answer, but a spiritual one too.
In contrast to self-knowledge on a psychological level, many spiritual teachers say the key to discovering who you are on a spiritual level lies in shedding who you perceive yourself to be.
In his book, The End of Your World, Adyashanti defines meeting the true self as a melting away of the very concept of self.
“In that instant (awakening), the whole sense of “self ” disappears. The way they perceive the world suddenly changes, and they find themselves without any sense of separation between themselves and the rest of the world.
“It’s this yearning that underpins all spiritual seeking: to discover for ourselves what we already intuit to be true— that there is more to life than we are currently perceiving.”
In a spiritual sense, the very notion of being separate from the whole is an illusion to be overcome.
“We realize—often quite suddenly—that our sense of self, which has been formed and constructed out of our ideas, beliefs, and images, is not really who we are. It doesn’t define us; it has no center. The ego may exist as a series of passing thoughts, beliefs, actions, and reactions, but in and of itself it has no identity. Ultimately all of the images we have about ourselves and the world turn out to be nothing but a resistance to things as they are. What we call ego is simply the mechanism our mind uses to resist life as it is. In that way, ego isn’t a thing as much as it is a verb. It is the resistance to what is. It is the pushing away or pulling toward. This momentum, this grasping and rejecting, is what forms a sense of a self that is distinct, or separate, from the world around us.”
Perhaps any spiritual truths about the nature of who we are are bound to remain shrouded in mystery. In the words of the 14th-century mystical poet Hafez:
“I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing ‘Now!”
Condensing the enormity of an entire Universe into words is no doubt an impossible task.
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