There Is No “I” Without a “You”
“I” Is an Elusive Concept
I usually assume that I know who I am. I am a person. I am a man. I have a particular kind of body, and a particular kind of mind. And when I see myself that way, I see myself as a unique individual in the world. I “know” who I am.
But when I look closer, when I question who I am, it starts to fall apart.
Who I Am Depends on Who I’m With
And I’m not just talking about my tendency to be a chameleon at times. I’m talking about how naturally I become something different each time I interact with something.
At one moment, I am a cook, when I’m cooking dinner. At another time, I am a listener, full of understanding. At yet another time I am a harsh critic, when I face someone I don’t like. When I’m riding my bike, I am a kid. When I’m budgeting my money, I am a grownup. When I’m with my father, I am a son. When I’m with my nephew, I am an uncle.
Who I am depends on who, or what, I’m with. That outside thing is actually what defines me in that moment. It is the client that makes me a facilitator. It is the reader that makes me a writer. It is the dirty sink that makes me a bathroom cleaner.
It is natural to have so many changing identities. But the problem comes when I fight these changes.
I Do this by Favoring Some Identities Over Others
I prefer to think of myself as a nice guy, rather than as a mean person. I like to see myself as competent, rather than naïve, or even stupid. I like to think of myself as successful, and I’ll do anything to hold onto that image of myself.
In fact, I spend a lot of time trying to hold onto ideas of who I am, trying to pretend that I am something that I’m not.
It Takes a Lot of Effort
It’s hard to be someone that I’m not. Either because I’m trying to be someone new, or because I’m holding on to who I was.
Life keeps changing. One moment I’m writing an article. The next moment I’m taking out the garbage. If I judge one role as better than the other, I may resist switching roles. And that’s how I make my life harder than it is. That’s when I feel stress.
The Work Brings me Back Home
The moment I feel stress, I know I’ve stepped out of sync with reality. The Work simply brings me back to my truth, to reality, to the truth that I was trying to hide from myself. And it does so by inviting me to look at my thoughts about you.
How I see you tells me who I really am. There is no hiding it. This look in the mirror will quickly set me straight.
When I find that I am just like those whom I judge, the pretense stops—and humility begins. My definition of who I am expands to include everything: the good, and the bad, and everything in between.
There is nothing that I am not. This is the end of denial. This is the end of pretending. And this is the end of struggle and stress trying to prove myself.
Have a great weekend,
“If you don’t separate reality into categories by naming it and believing that your names are real, how can you reject anything or believe that one thing is of less value than another? The mind’s job is to prove that what it thinks is true, and it does that by judging and comparing this to that. What good is a this to the mind if it can’t prove it with a that? Without proof, how can a this or a that exist?” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy
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