Who Am I?

Who am I? It is one of the first questions we ask as children. It is the question parents dread and seldom know how to answer. For many of us, the answers offered to this question were far from satisfactory, and if anything, derailed us from finding our truth. Parents often assume that what they say to a little child with such a big question isn’t that important; that they should keep it simple for our sake, for the child’s sake, for surely a child cannot grasp a complicated answer like “I do not know. Only you know.”

Instead of being encouraged to explore our questions further, our curiosity is stunted by our parents’ own fears of that question. Parents often think they cannot answer a question with “I do not know”, because they think it would scare the child, but the truth is, it scares them. It scares them that they don’t know, so they hold on tightly to what they do know and that is that we are their children. But we are much more than that. They think by telling us they do not know something, they will rattle our sense of security, our trust in them. On the contrary, by pretending they always know, parents unconsciously create this expectation from us that they know everything, that everything they do is right, that they couldn’t possibly make any mistakes because they know. And so, when they do make mistakes, it traumatises us and shatters our world, because we were not warned of this possibility that they might not know everything. We find it hard to trust them afterwards because they unintentionally lied to us about their knowing everything. They didn’t give us a heads up that they are human, that they are imperfect, just like everyone is, just like we would grow up to be. And so, they instill this expectation in us that when we are adults, we will know everything too. But we quite quickly reach adulthood and realise we know very little, and then we panic. We feel like failures, like inadequate people who do not know everything but should know everything according to what we were told directly or indirectly by our parents, and then we grow grievances towards our parents, disappointed that they let us down, that they lied and made the world seem simple, that they refused to expose us to its complexity because they thought we couldn’t handle it, that they sheltered us and never taught us how to swim through life then expected us to be able to navigate its storms.

And so, to all parents, to all prospective parents, and to all quarter lives soon to become parents, I ask of you for the sake of your child’s survival to always speak the truth, the complex truth, the truth that we do not know everything, and that we must get comfortable with not knowing, that until the day we die we will not have known everything and that that is absolutely okay. To make your child comfortable with the unknown, to teach them how to surf its waves rather than fear them, is the greatest gift you can give your child. 

So let us discard the answers that attach our children to false identities that they must later work very hard to unlearn. Let us not answer them when they ask “Who am I?” with “You are my little genius.”, “You are my happy child.”, “You are my beautiful girl.”, “You are my funny boy.”. Because they are more than that. They are much much more. So do not let them believe that their worth depends on these labels. For it does not. For their worth is infinite, it is eternal. And they should know that. They should know that they are love. That they are light. That they are the sun, the moon and the stars. That they are everything and anything they want to be. And leave it to them to realise what it is they are, what it is they want to be, what it is they are not. Like you expect your children to trust you, the parents, you must trust them too. You must have faith that they can find themselves. You must allow them to discover their own answer, not what you think the answer should be, or what you think the safest answer is. You must trust that deep inside they have a knowing that will guide them to it. All you need to do as a parent is to encourage them to listen to themselves, to hone that skill of listening so that they can discern the answer from all the noise. It is that connection to their inner voice that will guide them through life. You, as a parent, are there to hold space for your child to grow. You are there to witness their growth; you are not there to grow for them. And so, it is this deep knowing that we all have inside of us that eventually screams to us from the deep depths within, that alerts us to the inadequacy of the answers we were given. It is this knowing that always brings us back to this question. Whichever phase of life you find yourself in, whichever age you are, you will always ask yourself this question — Who Am I?. And I believe that we never truly stop seeking answers to this question. It is our guiding light. It is the question from which all other questions come. It is no ordinary question, and neither shall its answer be.

As the question extends the span of our lifetime, so does the answer. It is always formulating itself, showing us just a little more every step of the way. And so, we should never stop asking it. What we should stop doing is expecting an answer so finite, so limited that it must be expressed in words. For there are no words that can begin to express this answer. The part of us that asks this question does not speak the language of words. It is that part of us that is infinite, and so lacks the capacity to fit into words, for they are too tight, too small, too two dimensional. Just take a moment and imagine all the words that exist, all those words that have been invented to describe and communicate all the things that these words represent. And then imagine all the words that don’t exist, that have never been invented, the words that could not have been invented because they could not represent the things they would represent in just words. And so for these things, there are no words. No words with definitions adequate enough to describe them. For words themselves need to be as limited as possible in order to serve their function. Every word must be so limited, so precise in its definition, that it excludes all other definitions, all other possibilities of things it could represent so that it only represents one thing. And so, given the natural limited nature of words, do you think it’s even possible to try to answer the question of Who am I using them?

I continue to ask myself this question Who am I? everyday, not as a luxury, for it is who I am. It is no small feat. There is a reason it is one of the first things we ask as soon as we are able to ask. It is why we are here. It is how we grow our connection to Self. It is how we find our own voices, our unique vibrations. For this connection to our Selves is the most vital of all connections. It is the connection of a lifetime. It is why people who are disconnected feel so isolated. It is why those who spend time alone, but are connected do not feel alone. It is not solitude that is lonely; it is disconnection from one’s Self. 

Leo Tolstoy once proclaimed in the diaries of his youth that the entire essence of life can be encapsulated by two questions: “Who are you? What are you?”

Till next time,

S.A.