No really. A question people really struggle with when asked. It isn’t what defines you, or what you do for a living, what hobbies you partake in or who your partner is. It is who you actually are as an individual consciousness.

When someone requires help in any aspect of their life, the defining question of how that improvement can manifest is the answer to the question who are you? This is due to our lack of awareness of ourselves essentially fucking things up in our lives. We are often unaware of the problem because we never undertake root cause analysis. Much of the time it will come down to the person not actually knowing who they are.

Whilst this may sound like wishy washy, faux-spiritual bullshit which I am the first to criticise, I concede that understanding of self is the first step anyone should take towards bettering their lives.

Our lack of self-awareness is evident in the old institution of portraiture. One of the greatest leaders in modern history, Winston Churchill, was famously so appalled with the portrait commissioned for his 80th birthday his wife had it burned. Churchill did not believe it was an adequate representation of himself, even though it was an extremely accurate depiction.

Although portraiture does not necessarily reflect our internal selves, the comparison is relevant. We choose to view ourselves through the lense of bias that is imposed on us by ourselves as well as society. As a white heterosexual male, there are certain things that society implies must fundamentally dictate part of my character. Which is both ridiculous and likely incorrect. Society says that men shouldn’t do anything that is regarded as feminine. For one, I enjoy wearing nail polish because I don’t feel women should be the only ones with the right to self-expression. And manicures are satisfying. When my partner and I went to burning man, we were approached by a girl that commented that we completely represented a balance between the masculine and the feminine. I see that as flattering not insulting, as we are completely comfortable with who we are as a heterosexual couple.

As it is hard to understand who you are, people tend to drown out that understanding by defining themselves by what they do. For example, the stockbroker is defined by his bank balance, the crossfitter is defined by how much he lifts and how quickly, the vegan is defined by how little animal products they consume etc. Surely you can see why defining yourself by what you do is a dangerous path to walk down. You’re effectively doing what some depressed people do with alcohol. Using your activities as a substitute for identity because you don’t know where to start looking.

This is not a new thing. People have done this for generations, using tribalism, religion, rationalism, sport and so on so that they can identify as something rather than someone. This identifying as something has caused no end of conflict throughout human history, yet we persevere. Society dictates that we define ourselves as something, because on the whole people get very uneasy with others that don’t. People that truly understand themselves are often considered weird for not conforming to the neat structured box they are expected to sit in.

I am reminded of a date I went on years ago, where the girl in question was very surprised that I had a good understanding of politics and any other subject she wanted to talk about. This was because we had met in a gym. She assumed that because I lift heavy things for fun, I must be one of those ”stupid gym guys”. At the time, I was working as a Diplomat which she was clearly unaware of. This highlights how fucking idiotic people can be in making assumptions because the majority of people define themselves by what they do.

So, what does one do to help in remedying this situation. For one, define yourself by character not type. Just because you do a particular job or activity does not make you just that. You are an individual first and everything else second. When you engage with others, don’t pigeon hole yourself. Develop an understanding of the world around you and find intellectual and physical curiosity. Challenge yourself daily and learn to live, not just exist.

Nathan Masters