Who Are You Really?

"In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself."
J. Krishnamurti

Behind the roles you play, the strategies for getting by, the defenses against being hurt, who are you?

Growing up we are exposed to forces that shape our personality. We experience pleasure and pain, are nurtured or not, try out behaviors that succeed or fail. We watch other people. We learn from them how the world works, and what our place is in it. We become acculturated and we accumulate our code of beliefs. In adolescence, we struggle to find ourselves, and maybe by early adulthood we have pretty good sense of identity.

When we introduce ourselves to a group of people we may describe our role or occupation or achievements, but is that who we really are? Too many of us have no idea who we are beyond the superficialities. We’ve spent our lives being molded into civilized members of society. We’ve had to adapt to our particular family. We’ve accommodated to the conditions of our upbringing. We’ve made choices that seemed for the best at the time, but took us away from our real self.

So many of us have talents that were cut off by choices and circumstances. How many great athletes and artists miss the chance to develop their greatness? How many teachers fail to teach? How many writers fail to write? How many natural mothers and fathers do not parent, or don’t give it their all due to the pressure of  circumstances?

When emotional pressure mounts most people develop strategies for dealing with it that take them away from whom they really are. We choose to avoid or deflect or retreat from emotional discomfort. We may hide in a bottle or a cloud of mind altering smoke. We may eat too much, or escape into fantasy or into unhealthy relationships. We may become dishonest with others, and more dangerously, with ourselves. Consequently, we feel incomplete. We develop feelings of emptiness and pain. Where we should be full of life, we feel dead inside. Life feels out of balance, and essentially unfulfilling.

What a pleasure it is to find ourselves. Think of those moments when you felt most complete and comfortable with yourself. Think about what you most love to do. Where do you feel most alive? These are hints of your natural self.

We become more natural and real when we are honest in our emotions and when we can be around honest and loving people who will reflect back to us who we are. It’s not always easy. We may have built up strong defenses against the pain in our lives. We may need to go through the fear and sadness to come out the other side. We must be willing to face our fears to be our authentic selves.


Think about the following questions. Seek your authentic self. Consider writing down your answers.

Who are you really?

Behind the roles you play, the strategies for getting by, the defenses against being hurt, who are you?

Of all the roles you play in life, which do you feel most at home in?

What gives you joy?

What are your talents?

Do you express them?

If not, what keeps you from expressing them?

What is your deepest desire?

Under what conditions do you tend to abandon your authentic self?

How could you act differently under those conditions?

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© 2000-2004 Tom Barrett