Who Are You?
You’re in an interview, you’re on a date, you’re teaching a class and someone asks you, “Who are you?” How would you answer that question? Would you relate it to the job that you hold? Would you base it on the things you’ve done in the past? Would you answer it using facts that characterize you?
Imagine “who you are” as an infrastructure constructed through your particular mix of core values, giftings, personality, skills, passions/interests, boundaries, and even including key constraints, current realities and limitations.
Each of these aspects can stand alone to capture a piece of you, but they are interconnected in such a way that as you honor more aspects together, you will convey a much richer sense of who you are.
What kind of response would you possibly get if you answered with this type of information, and if you could articulate it clearly and confidently?
A common response I get at this point is, “Ok, I get it. But don’t I already know who I am?”
Yes, throughout your life you’ve been growing in awareness of who you are. As you’ve been developing your convictions, skills, personality and other traits as mentioned above, you’ve been serving the world in ways you were created to do so.
"There’s an inner compass that many of us have allowed to rust"
However, I believe there’s an inner compass that many of us have allowed to rust. You are the expert on you. But sometimes we lose touch or can’t keep track of all the components that make up our individual infrastructure–childhood skills left unattended, personality traits diminished in dark times, core values silenced in order to perform, passions and interests put on the backburner until after some seemingly important season of life is completed. The beautiful complexity of who we are, deep and layered, can sometimes be distracted by other voices. We may have inadvertently compromised our infrastructure during times of vulnerability, allowing in many external opinions and pressures.
Why is it so important?
If you’re like many others, you have a desire to do something meaningful with your life and for your life to have some sort of impact or significance.
But if you are not grounded in who you are, then it's like entering a war with no shield. Potential employers and dating sites will tell you who you ought to be to impress them. Family and society will influence you on what you ought to want to be successful and happy. Well-intended people may project their values on what would be meaningful for you.
From over 15 years of actively helping people get clear about who they are and what they’re looking for, and then live it out with integrity across all areas of their lives, I’ve seen a consistent pattern:
People want to steward their lives well. They study hard, get good grades, get into the jobs they’re “supposed” to get. This process is arduous enough, so there’s not much time along the way (nor much guidance or encouragement) to stop and reflect on what would truly be meaningful and worthwhile… or even guidance on how to make solid decisions along the way.
So then one day, something happens and they suddenly feel they’re in the wrong place altogether and begin thinking about what they should be doing instead with their lives. Without previous understanding of how to consider these life changes, they start soliciting the opinions of others–reading blogs, talking to others, seeking advice from people who are happy to tell them what they should think and don’t necessarily walk them through discovering themselves or how to make wise decisions on their own.
That is such a dangerous scenario. Navigating a job search can be confusing or even overwhelming if your foundation isn’t solid and you don’t know who you are–and especially difficult to discern whose voices have your best interests at heart. Back to my earlier analogy, entering a war with no shield is not just vulnerable, it’s suicide. As a result of listening to others’ voices and stories, many unfortunately start making drastic and typically unnecessary changes to their situations. Some decisions are redeemable; the impact of other reactions are irreparable.
Following this trajectory, not only are you leaving YOUR life in the hands of others–worse yet, without learning these key skills and establishing the foundation properly this time, you're left needing help again the next time it arises.
Practically speaking, it’s simple: If you’re not clear about who you are, you won’t represent yourself well. If you’re not clear about what you’re looking for, it may be very difficult to find it.
At the end of the day, here’s the point:
The result of knowing and honoring yourself? Being able to know what you are looking for, so you can live it out with integrity.
When you live in integrity, you have an amazing ability to live purposefully with confidence and peace, to trust yourself to honor your needs and make solid decisions. You have a secure infrastructure to sustain you through life – clear, articulated well, the life with integrity is evident to employers, potential dating partners, everyone around.
Don’t worry -- figuring it out is not long and scary
At this point, you may be thinking all this sounds daunting, or maybe even fluffy. Don’t worry! You may be surprised to learn that this pursuit of understanding what you were created to be and what for is not long, hazy, or even intangible.
Perhaps you feel like you don’t have the time to do such deep soul-searching. Or you have practical timelines to honor (eg, I really need to get a job asap). Or you think it’s not tangible enough to be helpful (eg, “something meaningful” is not going to pay the bills). Or you think it’s important, but can wait until after xyz.
The awesome news for you is that it doesn’t take years of hiatus, trekking in Tibet, traveling the world, quitting your job, or any other major change to figure it out. It does, however, take a commitment to spending some time in reflection. Many of my clients get clarity in less than a month! And you may be also surprised to learn how practical and tangible it can be.
In fact, it’s one of the most practical things you can do – it’d actually be impractical NOT to do it. Why would you choose to walk into an interview not knowing how to talk about yourself?