Who are you?
How do you generally answer the question ‘who are you’? Perhaps the first thing you say might be your name. Then what? Cultures vary on this one:
In the UK you are often defined by your job, so my response is likely to be “Head of Programmes at The Leprosy Mission”. In fact, my job is so much part of me I find it hard to separate the two. Who would I be if I was not The Leprosy Mission’s Head of Programmes? An entrepreneur with my own Cookie business?
But isn’t there more to me than my job?
In India registration documents of women require that you give the name of your father or spouse – defining you as a child or wife of ……. So I suppose I am daughter of Chris and wife of Amit.
In Zimbabwe women are usually know as the mother (Amai) of their first child i.e. Amai Tasha.
These responses all state who I am in relation to others or what I do. But if we take that away, who am I?
Philosophers and social scientists have debated for centuries the concept of identity and I’m not going to go into that now. However, during my recent studies on Mindfulness, I’ve become conscious that life in not just about doing, its about being – being one with God, being who God has called us to be. So some of the questions I have been pondering are: Who am I? What is the real me like? How can I be more Christ-like and live the life God has planned for me, being the person He wants me to be i.e. the person He created – ME?
Being still, sitting quietly in reflection I’ve been trying to consider who I really am and what the difference is between the ‘me’ that I portray to others and the ‘real me’, the ‘me that God sees’.
How much do I bury the ‘real me’ and put on an a facade so that I seem stronger, more confident , more capable and more acceptable to the people I am with? How much do I conform to cultural expectations and what I perceive to be the expectations of others, rather than ‘be me’?
Today I watched the Hindi film Tamasha. It starts off with a man and women who meet in Corsica and agree not to tell anything to each other about who they are (i.e. the labels indicated above in terms of job and relationships) – they are just themselves, have great fun and a bit of a holiday romance. After a very enjoyable week together they go their separate ways. Two years later they meet up back in Delhi. However, Ved is not the man that Tara met in Corsica. He is an office worker who follows a routine, conforming to the rules and society’s expectations. Tara sets about convincing him to be the real ‘him’, the free spirit, rather than the corporate slave.
The movie made me reflect that we spend so much of our life doing the things that others want us to do, with our thoughts and actions shaped by the society in which we live. I’m not saying that we should all break the rules and do what we like oblivious to the needs of others, far from it. Although it is great to break the rules sometimes, if they are man-made rules rather than the God given ones. Our actions should be shaped by our beliefs and values. However, should they be governed by our culture and our perception of the expectations of others, or should we be ourselves? How can we be ourselves and better enjoy the moment, rather than shoehorning ourselves into the shape of the world?
Romans 12: 2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I am beginning to recognise that mindfulness helps us to do just that. In the stillness we are able to question the ways of the world, to better understand who we are in God, so we can be our true selves – the person God has created us to be.
When we are silent and resting in God, in union with Him, we are perhaps the closest to our true self as we will ever be. And what’s wonderful is that I can be ‘me’, the ‘real me’ and know that despite my imperfections God still loves me, and has plans to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11).
So today when the movie finished, I decided to be the ‘real me’. The ‘conforming me’ would have walked quietly out of the cinema hall and back to the car discussing the movie on the way. The ‘real me’ danced out of the cinema hall and gave Kung Fu Panda a run for his money….. mindfully enjoying the moment! Watch out folks – I think the more I get into this mindfulness business, the more you might get to see the ‘real me’ ….