Who am I? We want to be authentic and self-accepting, so we ask this question. We also want to know how to navigate this vessel we call “self,” and navigation requires accurate knowledge. However, we have become so intent about trying to be the person who others will love and respect, that we have attempted to become someone different that the person who we really are and have lost track of ourselves.
On top of that, we endlessly try to build our self-esteem, changing the way we see ourselves, see that we can feel okay and prove to others that we are okay. However, this endeavor takes us even further away from ourselves, in an attempt to be something else – something that will earn the esteem of others.
Meanwhile, we desperately want to return to ourselves, no matter what others might think. However, in our vain attempt to find authenticity, we identify ourselves with our desires, especially those that yell the loudest. Food yells loudly to me. However, does my love to stuff myself define who I am? Am I no more than a collection of my desires and needs?
Many erroneously define themselves in terms of their sexual desires. However, CNN reports:
- “More often than not, non-monogamy leads to the demise of relationships,” said Karen Ruskin, a Boston-area psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in couples counseling. Instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners are turning to others for fulfillment.
- "Even if non-monogamy is consensual, it's still a distraction from dealing with each other," said Ruskin, author of "Dr. Karen's Marriage Manual."
- "It all goes back to choice. Non-monogamy is choosing to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled."
According to Ruskin, non-monogamy (polyamory), rather than reflecting who we are at our most basic level, represents an escape from ourselves.
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t seem to be much help. Psychologist Miriam Grossman writes:
- “According to the AAP, a teen boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants his genitalia removed is ‘normal,’ just different.” But, Grossman asks, what if an African American teen is convinced she’s really Caucasian? “Should her pediatrician affirm her belief, and support her wish for facial surgery and skin bleaching?” The AAP also supports finding an affirming therapist for a boy who believes he is a girl. Grossman notes. “But if my son is attracted to boys, and his urges feel foreign and distressing, you [AAP] advise me to find a therapist who will tell him ‘This is who you are, accept it.’ However, does that make sense?” (Salvo, Fall 2013, 32)
Are we our desires and our choices? When we embrace our greatest desires as who we really are, are we embracing ourselves or what our society now wants us to affirm about ourselves. Is the real me polyamorous or adulterous? Must I now live in this manner to be fully me or is there a more authentic me lurking beneath the fading sexual desires?
Is there any real answer to the question, “Who am I?” Is there a truth that transcends the changing social fashions and definitions?
How might we answer these questions? Well, how might we know whether we have put our jigsaw puzzle together correctly? If the pieces and the patterns all fit together! After following Jesus for 40 years, I find that the puzzle of my life has been harmonized. With the assurance of His love and forgiveness, I have been enabled to face myself, my failures and inadequacies, and to accept myself, and that hasn’t been easy. For years, I had fled from the ugly things I had seen in myself. Instead, I built my self-esteem, convincing myself that I was a good person, denying the bad.
Consequently, I was never able to resolve conflicts with others. Resolution requires two people to talk about the same conflict, the same two people and their behaviors. However, if we cannot or won’t see these warring elements, it will be hard to reach any satisfying agreement about our roles in the conflict. My puzzle remained fractured. After all, I had convinced myself that I was right and, therefore, could no longer see my own culpability.
How do we know when the puzzle of the real-me fits? When our mind is at rest! When we no longer obsess, trying to fit pieces into slots where they do not belong.