Who Are You?


noun \ī-ˈden-tə-tē, ə-, -ˈde-nə-\
a : the distinguishing character or personality of an individual


Over the years I have met several women who are on a quest to discover their identity.  I know from personal experience that being asked to define oneself can be a daunting task, at best.  According to top psychology schools, an individual should define herself in two ways: defining her real self, and the other, defining her ideal self.  It does feel as if it should be the easiest question to answer, doesn't it?  After all, shouldn't I know, better than anyone else, how to describe me?

You'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever had to fill out a personal questionnaire of any kind.  Tell us about yourself, in two or three sentences, please.  Me, in 100 words or less.

Usually I sit with pencil in hand, staring blankly at the three or four lines provided, vaguely wondering if they want me to describe my history, my present, my preferences, or what I hope to accomplish in the future, and if so, how do I go about singling out the most defining characteristics of my entire life?  Nine times out of ten, I'll answer with where I live and what I do, but is that really how I view my identity?


With such a huge influx of film and literature based entirely upon the premise of 'discovering oneself,' it's easy to get overwhelmed by the concept.  I can't possibly travel the world over, fall in and out of love, try two or three different degrees and careers, massively fail and heroically succeed (in that order), over the course of two hours of cinematography, a 12-song soundtrack, and/or by the end of Chapter 17, at which point I should miraculously have discovered Who I Am and no longer feel confused.  In fact, it might take me an entire lifetime to accumulate all of those highs and lows, and if so, how can I possibly have a solid sense of identity before then?

I am reminded of that scene from the movie Sabrina, in which she tells Linus (somewhat theatrically), "I found myself in Paris."  To which he responds (somewhat dryly), "Why, were you lost?"

I love this little exchange because it points out that the concept of 'finding oneself' is, to be quite frank, rather absurd.  True, Sabrina came home from Paris with a remarkably stronger sense of self than when she left, and yes, she changed quite a bit, but she was always Sabrina.  Paris or no Paris, life would go on and she would grow up.  (Might as well interject that I definitely do not recommend visiting Paris as a means of discovering yourself, unless of course you're hoping to discover that you don't, in fact, like expensive moldy cheese, burnt espresso, touristy attractions, and being suffocated in the metro).

True, moving to a foreign country with an unfamiliar language to begin an intimidating career (like Sabrina does in the movie), is definitely guaranteed to make you grow as an individual, but you are still you.  You are braver and more experienced and possibly more comfortable in your own skin because of those experiences, but you are still you.  You may be more mature and responsible, have a better idea of what you like and what you don't, and have a list of future goals, but you are still you.  You couldn't have possibly gone off and found yourself because you were never missing.

I know from old journals of mine that I used to worry quite a bit about 'finding myself,' especially because there seemed to be so much at stake.  For instance, how do you choose your college, degree, career, place of residency, or even your future mate if you have no idea who you are?  Sounds like a lot of mistakes in the making, doesn't it?

Then I read a quote somewhere that completely changed how I thought about my identity.  I wish I could remember where I read it, or who coined it, but it went something like this:

You do not find yourself; you create yourself.

This makes perfect sense to me, possibly because I have an artist's mind, and possibly because that's just like life, isn't it?  Every experience we gain, whether good or bad, effects who we become.  That's not to say we are powerless in the hand of fate; on the contrary, we have the ability to choose our own actions, attitudes, and how we will allow each experience to shape us as individuals.  

Who are you?  You are a mixture of past and present, a collage of unique experiences, a singular combination of culture and heritage, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, talents and interests and beliefs.  More importantly, though, you are an evolving identity.  Rather than discovering yourself all at once, you are fashioning yourself over a lifetime.  You are in the process of living a life that no one else can ever live.

Ever heard that country song by Jessica Andrews called "Who I Am"?  It's certainly not a favorite of mine, but the lyrics describe exactly what I'm saying in this post.  She writes, "I am Rosemary's grand-daugther, the spitting image of my father, and when the day is done my mama's still my biggest fan.  Sometimes I'm clueless and I'm clumsy, but I've got friends who love me and they know just where I stand.  It's all a part of me, and that's who I am."

Perhaps you won't be exactly the same you in a year from now (and hopefully not), but you will still be uniquely you.  Whether you can describe yourself in 100 words or less isn't relevant; what's relevant is the knowledge that you are creating your own story.

"So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
(Mary Wilder)


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

In the mean-time, here are several relevant quotes you might like to read 
(and probably have before):

Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is youer than you.  - Dr. Suess 

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.  – e.e. Cummings

There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.   
- Nelson Mandela

What we love, determines what we seek. What we seek, determines what we think and do. What we think and do, determines what we become. –Uchtdorff

A good life is when you smile often, dream big, laugh a lot, and realize how blessed you are for what you have.  – Anon 

Be nice to yourself.  It’s hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time.  – Anon 

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.  ­ 
– Anon

She decided to start living the life she imagined. 
She believed she could, so she did.
She replaced fear of the unknown with curiosity.
She looked around, and life was pretty amazing.

- Story of a Girl -



  1. What a great post! I suffer from the whole, who am I-who do I want to be syndrome. This definitely gave me some good perspective. I like the idea that you create yourself. It is simple and it makes sense.

    I've been meaning to tell you, I have been listening to the songs you and your sister did together. I love them. I can't get "No Longer Golden" out of my head :-)

  2. I always get a much needed smile when I read your ever clever musings on life. Come try my authentic southern recipes

  3. I love the idea of not "finding" yourself but instead "creating." I've also struggled with this idea and you verbalized the struggle well...as usual.

    Also, because of your title I now have The Who stuck in my head. WHO WHO WHO WHO

  4. I like this post a lot, it's simple, but inspiring. I am thinking a lot of the whole who-am-I-thing currently, and this post really helped me! :-)

    - Natasja


  5. this is fabulous. i know i often find my identity in the things that i do: i blog, i work out, i travel...
    and i try to DO more things because i think it will make me more ME, that it will further create my identity.
    but what you said made me realize that, if all of that got taken away, all of that stuff that i DO...it still doesn't take away who i am. and that it's more about the process of the journey rather than reaching some certain destination. actually, if we all "found" ourselves, then we would be stuck. bored and stagnant with no place for growth. yeah, i think that's true:)

    "You couldn't have possibly gone off and found yourself because you were never missing."

    "Rather than discovering yourself all at once, you are fashioning yourself over a lifetime. You are in the process of living a life that no one else can ever live."

    my two favorite parts of this:) love your thoughts, lauren.


( hippies always welcome )