Contemplating the Timeless Question 'Who Am I?'

By Lorraine Lee, February 22, 2024

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Beyond Shame is a mission-driven column, aimed at destigmatizing difficult human experiences, offering insights and strategies to empower personal growth, healing, and deeper connections.

The timeless question of 'Who am I?' is a lot for anyone to grasp.

If we're fortunate, our journey to find the answer is filled with moments of meaningful introspection, self-discovery, and eventual growth that can impact our lives for the better. However, if we disregard its significance, this question can haunt us, echoing in the back of our minds, subtly limiting our sense of belonging in the world.

From traditional media to the curated feeds of peers and influencers, the core of what makes us unique can easily become lost amongst a sea of societal norms that dictate what success looks like, what beauty is, and what it means to lead a fulfilling life. 

As children, we’re often taught that ‘who we are’ relates to our value or status in society. We learn that our eventual worth will be measured by external standards: the prestige of our professions, the size of our accolades, our looks, our popularity, or even the labels on our clothes.

These external markers of identity become the masks we wear, concealing our deeper gifts and most meaningful qualities beneath layers of societal conditioning. But associating our identity with value doesn’t have to be negative.

Feeling that we add value in a meaningful way helps create a deep and profound sense of fulfillment in our lives. It’s when we tie this to status, achievement, or material wealth that it becomes counterproductive.

I believe that developing a meaningful identity for ourselves can be done by building awareness and intention around the values that guide our choices and the person we show up as in the world each day.

Who we are isn’t static; instead, it's a fluid and dynamic expression of ourselves through the choices we make on a daily basis.

The good news? It means we can change who we are at any given moment through the power of choice, despite any mistakes or hurtful experiences from the past.

We create who we are every moment by actioning behaviors that reflect the values we feel most reflect the person we wish to be. And one day after we pass, our legacy will be the sum of all these actions and choices. Big or small.

Understanding this has been a game-changer in shifting how I fulfill my own sense of purpose and belonging in this world. It’s so incredibly important that we choose values that resonate with who we truly want to be, not the ones we’ve adopted by default.

Taking the time to explore some of the questions I’ve included below had a profound impact on shaping the values and beliefs I want to stand for. And although just a starting point, I believe that by exploring these questions for yourself, you can start to uncover the values that may lead to greater purpose and meaning in your own life.

And remember, values are not external markers, but qualities that shape our decisions and actions. Unlike superficial values, our core values can exist even in the absence of external validation or possessions.

A few questions for reflection:

1. When you die, what will your loved ones and those who knew you say about who you were and the impact you had on their lives?

2. What are the most painful experiences you’ve been through?

  • How have these experiences shaped how you treat others for the better or worse? 

  • Despite being difficult, what gifts have these experiences given you that could help you lift others up who are struggling with something similar?

3. What are the happiest experiences you’ve had in your life? What makes you feel most alive in a positive and healthy way?

  • How could you replicate this in key areas in your life?

4. Who do you look up to and respect amongst your friends, family, peers or public figures?

  • What is it about them you respect/admire?

  • Are there patterns in the types of attributes or feelings these people evoke?

  • Do these attributes inspire you to want to be better?

  • Do they do work that inspires you or that feels meaningful to you in some way?

I’d love to hear what you find, and if you do take the time to do this exercise, please reach out to me and share what you discover.


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Lorraine Lee is the Founder of Mental Health platform Inward Living, and CEO of The Kindness Dealer, a confidential and bespoke consultancy that specializes in in-depth sessions for people to gain a 'birds-eye view' of their struggles and the influences that have and continue to shape them. 

To get in touch or follow her advocacy and work, contact Lorraine through the WeChat ID: Inwardasia or follow @growwithlorraine on Instagram, and @growwithlorraine on YouTube.

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[Cover image courtesy of Lorraine Lee]

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