Who Are You, When All You Have Left Is Yourself?


The easiest thing to do in the world is to latch onto identities that make us feel like part of a community. And there is almost something seemingly natural about it; we take it for granted that it’s natural. I love the concept of identity – the things that we describe ourselves by that give us meaning – religion, culture, etc. I have no problem with them mostly because I believe the world is big enough to contain all of us; I think one of the greatest gifts of humankind is that we are different. It’s a pity that these differences have led to so much tribulation for so many.

And I do not buy into what I would call “personblindness” where we negate the communities and attributes a person belongs to in order to treat them how they wish, or how they ought to be treated. Yet at the same time, I think it is never authentic to one’s soul to truly be defined by identities, many of which we do not have control over. It is one thing to acknowledge the characteristics or communities that you belong to. And it is another thing to solely see yourself as these things – there is danger that exists in this.

Beyond the categories that we check in a census, there is also a practice of defining ourselves by what we do – our jobs, what we have – our accomplishments, our formal education, and of course our “stuff.” And there is nothing wrong with taking pride in any of these things because we do construct a part of ourselves by them. Or rather a part of our self is constructed by these things, whether we wish it so or not. But to be defined by the things you have or what you do, seems to be something only persons who are lacking a connection with their humanity engage in. It is not good enough, I think.

So when we look at the mirror at day’s end or lay awake at night, and have to face our souls and our conscience – who are we really? And it is often in the silence of these moments, these moments that we have to face ourselves, that we discover who we really are. It is in these moments we ask ourselves: Am I really who I ought to be? And is that a person who is kind or cruel? Am I thoughtful or inconsiderate? Do I value myself and others? Am I the best I can be? Do I try to be good?

In the silence somehow, I believe our conscience always responds to us – that is of course if the conscience has been formed well. And sometimes it’s not the answer we want to hear. But it is always the answer we need to hear. And when all you have left is you – naked, raw, and bare, it is important that you can still stand yourself. Because it is this person more than any other that is the real you.