I’ve written about this before in more general terms (What Does the Self Consist of?), but in this post I’ll try to get a little more specific.
I think a major part of the foundation of who we are is the sum of our life experiences. No one else has had the exact same combination of life experiences; that’s unique to each of us. Memories of each individual event aren’t going to be retained, but there’s still a wealth of knowledge and skills that we accumulate throughout our lives.
We’re all influenced by our social environment. In addition to early childhood, I think the transition to adulthood is quite a significant time. For myself, my university experience had a huge impact on the adult that I became and my worldview. I went to a large university with a lot of international students, and it was a very culturally diverse place. I was pretty open-minded already, but had grown up in a small town where I wasn’t exposed to much. That exposure came in university, and it was also the time when I caught the travel bug. I’ve seen firsthand that there are many different ways of living life, and that’s really shaped the attitude that I bring to my own way of life.
While our interests don’t define us, they can certainly reflect who we are. I’ve also been interested in learning, and that’s an important part of what makes me, me. My formal schooling may be finished, but without ongoing learning what’s the point of anything? Aside from that, in the past, I would have been more inclined to say that my interests, particularly travelling, were part of what made me, me. Now, blogging takes up a lot of my time and gives me a sense of purpose, but I don’t feel like it’s a fundamental part of who I am.
Values may shift over time, but the core values can be important reflections of who we are. I wouldn’t be the same person if I didn’t believe that we as a society have an obligation to support the less fortunate among us.
Of course, personality traits shape who we are, with some playing a more defining role than others. Introversion is a huge part of who I am, although it’s only in the last few years that it’s swung to such an extreme.
I don’t feel like my illness is part of what makes me, me. The fact that my illness didn’t make an appearance until my late 20s helps me to have a clear separation of what is me and what is illness. The illness is a skin glued onto me that isn’t going anywhere, but it doesn’t make me who I am. If anything, it acts as a barrier to being who I am.
Being a nurse has been an important role identity for me, but I don’t see it as part of what makes me, me, although I might have thought differently about that a few years ago. What I would say, though, is that it was a natural fit for the empathy and desire to help others that are more integral parts of me.
So, that’s a bit about what makes me, me. What makes you, you?
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