One of the current social media trends is to take a quiz to find out who you are – as in which character from a variety of sources like The Big Bang Theory or Game of Thrones or Star Trek, or Peanuts or a classic book. There is no shortage of these quizzes to determine whether you are more like Sheldon or Leonard, Tyrion Lannister or Theon Greyjoy, Captain James T. Kirk or Mr. Spock. Apparently, of all the Disney characters, I am most like Mickey Mouse. Huh? In my mind I think I am more like Jiminy Cricket.
I get that this is just the latest Internet distraction but it points to our tendency to seek inner validation from outside sources. Too often we allow ourselves to be defined by other people – parents, spouses, children, co-workers – rather than figuring out our own answer to the question: Who am I?
Probably the first time we really considered that all important question is some time during our teenage years when we were trying to establish our identity. Then life got busy and for most people that question didn't surface again until mid-life.
By then it quite likely morphed into, "Who am I now?"... now that the kids have left home or now that retirement is approaching or now that I have fewer years ahead than I do behind me.
It's easy to answer the “who am I” question with a superficial list of the roles we fulfill. I am a wife, mother, sister, friend, life coach, speaker. But the real answer to the who am I question is about the qualities we embody or values we embrace. It encompasses ideas of life purpose and legacy which requires a deeper conversation with ourselves.
Reflecting on who we are can be a moderately uncomfortable experience. Perhaps that's why we spend so little time actually doing it. According to a University of Virginia study, people are so uncomfortable with quiet contemplation that they would rather get a minor electrical shock than be alone with their thoughts.
Perhaps there is way to play with this question that is more desirable than an electric shock. Instead of thinking, “who am I?” in the great cosmic sense, consider asking yourself, "Who am I being right now?" Your answer might be supportive, compassionate, light hearted, argumentative, judgmental, dismissive or any number of other qualities. Then ask yourself, "Is this who I want to be?"
If no, you can always choose to show up differently in a way that is a better fit with how you want to see yourself.
When people do those Internet quizzes sometimes they are happy with the result because they see that character as a match for the qualities they believe they have. Sometimes they push back thinking, I am not that, I am more this. Some people even repeatedly take the test, changing their answers until they eventually get a result they like.
Here's the point. Life is not a quiz and you are not a character in a television program. Maybe it's a good time to shock yourself into a little personal reflection.
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