When we compare ourselves with other animals, we usually realize our unique ability to recognize the existence of ourselves and others as beings with different and changing motivations, objectives and points of view. We are, in some way, conscious beings .This may be a reason for a certain amount of unjustifiable pride, of course, but it is also just one side of the coin.

While being endowed with consciousness can be advantageous to our ability to think abstractly, it is also a source of potential problems that other species do not have to face. And one of those potential problems can arise when, inevitably, a classic question appears in our train of thought: Who am I?

Pandora’s box: Who am I?

“Who am I?” is one of those existential questions that, if we don’t know how to answer, can become an obstacle to being happy. Knowing who one is and where one wants to go is one of the bases for finding well-being not only in great projects, but in all the details of everyday life.

But not being able to answer this question in one moment does not mean that all is lost. There is nothing at present to suggest that the ability to properly ask and successfully answer the question “who am I?” is in itself an innate capacity, something unchangeable and independent of our choices and the environment in which we choose to live.Sometimes it is necessary to ask ourselves this question in order to keep growing , because it is an indicator of whether we are on the right path.

Furthermore, we must bear in mind that, from the very first minute, our knowledge of ourselves is limited. Although it may seem deceptive, many aspects of our own personality are better known by those around us than by us. Why? Because our view of much of what we do is biased .

Since our life is more important to us than most, we have an interest in distorting reality, the interpretation of what happens to us, to fit into that narrative we have created to give an answer to the question of “who I am”; the story that supposedly explains what our existence is. as individuals. So we must be humble in drawing conclusions about who we are, and admit that there is always room for rectification.

Beyond words

When we say that not knowing how to find answers to identity questions can become a problem, we are not saying that the key is to know how to answer or not to answer this type of question with a specific, concrete phrase, as if it were a vital slogan. The important thing is to check, from one’s own subjectivity, to what extent we can come to recognise a series of ideas and images that we identify with ourselves. The answer to the question “who am I?” is always beyond words.

That is why it is worth detecting to what extent certain feelings of discomfort may have their focus in these doubts about the meaning of one’s existence and identity.

If we cannot answer this question, it may mean that we are going through an identity crisis, a period of our life in which we may experience deep doubts about ourselves, doubts about the meaning of existence accompanied by feelings of emptiness, loneliness.

Now, when we manage to answer this question again, we get back into the rhythm of the events happening in our life, managing to be, this time, much more aware of what surrounds us and more realistic in our thoughts . We become empowered again in the face of life.

It is necessary to remain at one’s side despite the difficulties

Identity is forged throughout life, but there is one stage or critical period in which it has special relevance: adolescence. This was already highlighted by psychologist Erik Erikson in his Theory of Psychosocial Development. Erikson stated that the greatest obstacle that adolescent development must face is the establishment of an identity. For the author, the construction of identity cannot be understood without interaction with others.

Teenagers often go in search of that “who am I?” , because adolescence is a time of discovery. Adolescents go through a period of self-knowledge , and start making groups of friends, relating to the opposite sex or thinking about their future options. But in addition to this self-knowledge, that is, what am I, where I come from, what I want to be, the “who am I” also affects and is affected by self-esteem: Do I love myself a lot or a little or nothing? Am I what I want to be? and self-efficacy: Am I capable of going where I want to go? am I capable of being what I want to be?

Therefore, knowing who you are makes you stronger and, despite the adversities that may arise in your life, helps you to overcome difficulties.

Characteristics of identity construction

Identity has a great emotional component , and knowing “who I am” has it too. In summary, some of the characteristics that you should consider with respect to the construction of identity are the following:

  • Identity develops in interaction with others.
  • Identity is a socially constructed definition of being.
  • Identity is a subjective phenomenon, with a strong emotional component.
  • Identity formation implies a process of recognition and appreciation of oneself and of the possibilities of facing up to challenges.

The existential crisis: an identity crisis

Knowing “who I am” may not always be easy. And for some individuals it becomes a complicated question, as they are afraid to face reality. When you don’t know who you are, where you are, or what path you want to take in life, anxiety, discomfort, and fear can take over. This is what is known as an existential crisis, and can be very mentally exhausting , as well as causing psychological disorders if the situation is not resolved correctly.

The existential crisis is an identity crisis, and the solution lies in reconnecting with oneself. Do you want to know how? In this article we explain: “Existential crisis: when we don’t find meaning in our life”

Self-reflection to reconnect with oneself

Unfortunately, this fear of facing reality can complicate the situation. And this fear of seeing things as they are can keep you from yourself. The path to solving identity problems is usually solved with realistic self-reflection. Practising self-reflection is a very important aspect in the development of a person , and although it is simple, it is not easy.

As already mentioned, asking oneself “Who am I?” is an existential question. And as such, requires an active approach to problems . The solutions will hardly come by themselves, but we must look for those situations that will help us to improve every day. Only through correct self-reflection, that is, through realistic knowledge of oneself and interaction with what surrounds us, as well as habits that allow us to continue growing, will this be possible.

If you want to know how to carry out a realistic self-reflection, in this post we explain “Personal Development: 5 reasons for self-reflection”.

A Final Reflection

Answering the question “Who am I” implies, among other things, facing the tension between what we think we are and what we want to be .

It is practically impossible to value oneself without comparing oneself to a version of the ideal self, with everything we would like to be. Working on self-esteem as well as on our potential and capabilities will make us face that question without fear.