I think the process of asking who we are is largely a process of boiling things down to our core, our deepest selves. One thing many people seem to struggle with is associating who they are inseparably with what has happened in the past (perhaps something tragic, shameful, regretful), or what job they have, or how they are perceived socially.. so it's easy to understand why we are encouraged to look past those elements of our lives in order to see who we are beyond those often unstable contexts.
Something I read recently stopped my mind in its tracks. It said that we are more than our history (which I have heard dozens of times) but also that we are more than our egos, our fears, our expectations, or even how we feel from day to day. Though this may not sound novel, it struck me. I've known that I needn't be defined by my job or education or by others' perceptions of me, but I've unwittingly been tethering my identity to other unnecessary weights. That I haven't accomplished as much as I would've liked by now, that I can be fearful, self-critical, pessimistic, over-analytical... I've been assuming these things were not just occasional descriptors, but that they actually were me. As a result, I've been functioning (minimally on some days) under the notion that I am only as good or as capable as these kinds of qualities. But considering the possibility that I may, in fact, be quite distinct from these things, is a bit jarring (in the best kind of way).
Of course my behavior and choices greatly impact my story, but they are not necessarily accurate reflections of who I am. How peculiar that the things I've often defined myself are in fact the oppressors of my true self.
So this begs the question: beyond those oppressors, who the hell am I?
The things I know for sure are few and simple, like:
I am a thinker and a writer.
I crave and seek restoration, of things tangible and intangible.
I need to live with a sense of meaning, and for something bigger than myself.
..but I suppose that's how the answer should be, brief and simple.
In the spirit of finding and cultivating our true selves as we cut through the dense fog of oppressive forces great or small, I think of the quote by Maggie Kuhn, "Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." May we live our truth as best we can, despite everything in life that says we shouldn't or can't.