Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who are you?

Who are you? Or, who am I? It's such a profound and yet superficial question. When I call it superficial it's because I don't really know what you mean by the question. The easy answer is "I'm me" - and to me it's true. If I were not me, who else would I be?

Some people would argue that they are different characters in different environments. It's the same for me. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I talk, other times I listen. Sometimes I am confused, at other times I find that everything is clear and easy. But no matter how I am or how I feel - to me there are no doubts: I'm still me!

I recently got the question from a friend: "Who are you in relationships?" My first inclination was to simply answer while laughing, "I'm me", because I strongly believed that this was not the answer he was looking for.

But the question was lacking specificity because I have many relationships. See below a list of some of my important relationships:

1) Hogan, my dog. I mention him first because he is the one I spend the most time with. Our relationship is a mixture of love and obligation. I love to walk him and to watch his playfulness, but at times I feel too tired to train him, and I can see how he reacts to that.

2) Maiken, a friend from college. She lives nearby and I love dropping by spending time with her, her husband Michael and their kids. I love that they allow me to bring my dog. I am not always 100% authentic with them.

At times they remind me of the life I wanted to have. In those moments, I sometimes get sad and I do not always tell it. If this happens I usually will come back the next day and tell them then, because by then I feel better. So, I could say that most of the time I'm authentic and relaxed with them, but at times I'm 100% inauthentic. I believe that in those moments, I'm still just being me.

3) My colleagues. This is more complex. Most of them are Swedish. I am Danish and even though Scandinavians share many fundamental values, we have very different ways of carrying them out. So, part of my relationship with them is full of curiosity: how do they think, how do they understand what I am saying to them, what do they mean by what they are saying, and, how can we get the work done. Compared to other jobs I've had we talk a lot about what we are doing outside the job. It's part of the Swedish way, and it's nice.

4) My neighbors. I've only been living here for a few months, and I'm only partly authentic with my neighbors. I would love to get to know them, but I've never told them straight out, which seems a poor strategy. We chat a bit on the stairs or when we meet walking the dogs.

I could go on an on... As I do so, I'm surprised how often I see my self as being inauthentic. I hold things back that I find "unnecessary" to say. It's not that I am fearful; instead, I might be care-taking or believe that it is the best thing to do in the moment. In some funny way I see myself as authentically inauthentic.

The friend who was asking me about how I was in relationships... He was thinking about romantic relationships (or at least, that's my guess).

In my marriage, I was constantly trying to find out how to get love and appreciation from my husband, and he was trying to say what he thought I wanted to hear. In some way, we were both lying, giving what we wanted to get. I never heard what he silently said: "I just want no disagreements".

In my next relationship, I did my best to be me, to be authentic. But I am sure I did it with fear and anger, and what I meant to say as a want probably regularly came out as a demand.

I haven't been in a relationship for three years. I believe that me describing "how I am in a relationship" is guesswork. It's a compilation of how I do in my other relationships and what I now know that I want in romantic relationships.

What are the differences in the way you are in different relationships? Are you aware of who you are in your relationships? Are you always behaving the way you say you want to be?




  1. Joy: that's a great question to ponder: Who am I? I personally feel that's the ultimate question. Answering it with a "I'm me" is really not satisfactory (in my view), because it's a sort of circular reasoning - not very enlightening. It's a question I continue to play with, and I've been helped to a large extent by reading works of two particular teachers. Basically the I that I know is a bundle of beliefs & labels accumulated over time, but I have a strong but not-yet-well-defined sense that there is another I for whom these beliefs and labels are stimuli.

    As for relationships, I do have areas where I'm inauthentic, but they are 'considered inauthenticities', ie I have considered whether to open up myself more and decided not to for the moment. Sounds somewhat similar to what you describe.

  2. hmmm , I do not consider my self as in authentic. I do consider authenticity as "saying everything that needs to be said" and never to lie.
    I do not tell a lie, knowing that is is a lie. I might tell lies if in the moment i did not know that it wasnt tru.

    I absolutely believe that being autentic is the safest way to be in this world...


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