Actually, I don't know who I am. Do you?

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I feel like I’ve written a variation of this post to myself every 6 months for the past 6 years. I dunno whether it’s me getting high second hand off new year’s resolutions, or I’m just feeling a little discouraged—but moments like these where I’m forced (or encouraged) to reflect, I always feel disappointed in myself.

My output could be better. I could be doing more. I feel like I’m stuck a lot. I don’t know how helpful it is to think these things, but it’s not like you can control what you think. So maybe a better way to look at it is… Where do we go from here?

I get asked the question “what do you do?” a lot. My answer always begins with “…I don’t really know”. But it’s not like that is objectively true, if I actually think about it I do a lot of things, but the things I do don’t feel like they move me forward in a direction that is easily understandable by others (or even really me at the end of the day).

I think part of my answer is me trying to be “humble”, and me also trying to “not talk myself up”. I think about how there’s a hidden context to pretty much everything I say, where I want to precede every sentence with “I don’t really know what I’m doing, I’m doubtful that any of this will work or amount to anything, just because I say this doesn’t mean I’m actually successful in anyway, I’m still trying stuff and have no idea where it’s going to go. Now with that out of the way [insert actual response here]”.

This is a weird thing I’ve started to notice after podcasting. When I’m speaking, my brain is saying “that made no sense, you rambled, you don’t sound articulate”. But when I hear it played back it actually doesn’t sound too bad. It’s as if my experience in the moment is affected by these thoughts and self-doubts, and if you play back the experience without them—it’s… actually fine.

And if you think about it, how could your experience not be affected by your thoughts in the moment? How much of my experience so far has been coloured by the internal critic that lives inside me (sorry for that image).

So I guess the corollary is that I am the only person in the world that interprets my actions in the moment through my self-doubting lens. And my default (and probably inaccurate) temptation is to assume that others need to see me through that same lens to get an accurate portrayal of who I am and what I’m trying to do. When in reality, my perception of myself is probably inaccurate in many ways—and I’d do well to at least be more open to other’s perceptions and opinions of me, knowing that they are also probably inaccurate in many ways.

I don’t know if that’s a useful framing, to come to the conclusion that no-one (including yourself) really knows who you are. I mean writing that down, I’m thinking: “duh, you’ve spent the last 10 years trying to figure out who you are”. So I guess in many ways it is, at the very least, an accurate framing!

It’s a bit counterintuitive to me, for someone that’s spent so long trying to detach myself from the opinions and judgements of others, to now be more open to those opinions and judgements. I guess like all things, there’s a happy medium—and just because I’m my worst critic doesn’t mean I should aspire others to be that too.

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