“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Waves
As we journey through life, one of the questions that we continuously ask ourselves is “Who am I?” We are taught to classify ourselves according to specific features: age, favorite color, occupation, religion, race – all of these are concepts that people often include in a synopsis of who they are when asked to “tell us a little bit about yourself.” Western culture emphasizes categorization and identification with a social group or belief system – we are constantly putting ourselves and others into boxes. And while these features are undoubtedly important factors that influence us, allowing us to feel a sense of belonging and are most certainly parts of what make us who we are, they are not the entirety of our being.
When I took PSY100: Intro to Psychology, one of the concepts that stood out to me and that I still remember all these years later is the difference between the “I” and the “Me.” The “Me” is the version of the self that is influenced by societal norms and practices, whereas the “I” is internal, even a response to the “me” version of the self. For me, this idea was truly eye-opening. Even research proves that each of us is not simply one thing, we are made up of different parts, our identities are multi-faceted, malleable and shaped by our contexts, constantly being made and remade as Woolf puts it. Answering the question “Who am I,” is so hard, partly because maybe there is no one answer. Our identities and our sense of self are constantly evolving as we journey along our individual paths.
Knowing this cognitively, however, does not negate the challenges of grappling with your own, internal sense of self. How do you, while existing in multiple spaces – your family context, in a friend group, in a religion – reconcile your core truth? This is something I myself have struggled with and so, unfortunately, I don’t have an answer, but I do find that spaces of conversation, where I can share my thoughts and ideas, and ask questions have made a difference for me, just the fact of sharing being cathartic.
As the Multi-Faith Center’s blogger this year, I’ve been able to attend a couple of the sessions and programs that the Center hosts. A common theme throughout all of them is prioritizing a sense of community and creating a safe and inclusive space for everyone, regardless of belief or lack thereof, to get in touch with their inner truth. Being involved in these spaces has already helped me to better understand myself through sharing and through conversation with other individuals and there is a wide range of programs available to anyone who is seeking support or simply an opportunity to have discussions on this continuous journey to discovering identity. “Who am I” has always been a question that I find fascinating and equally daunting. I am many things, I am a student, I am a daughter, I am a friend. I am an “I” and I am a “me.” I really don’t have one answer to the question of who I am, but perhaps, that fact is the answer in itself.