Sportscasters are known to say some interesting things. During a recent Major League Baseball game between two division rivals in the AL East, the analyst was attempting to explain how young players deal with hitting slumps. He mentioned one particular player who allegedly had to ‘go back to who he was’ in order to start being productive at the plate again.
It is not clear whether or not professional athletes think in those terms, but the point was understood, nonetheless. It was a point we hear made throughout our modern culture. We may use different terms, like ‘finding yourself’ or learning to be ‘true to yourself’, but they all mean pretty much the same thing. Unfortunately, doing what all of these phrases suggest is not necessarily easy.
For example, who are you? You can answer by offering your name and address. You can talk about your family history. You can even attempt to explain how you came to be who you are in a physical, mental, and emotional sense. But do you really know who you are deep down? Does anybody really know?
Our Desire for Authenticity
If we had to choose a single phrase to describe the cultural era that we now find ourselves in, self-awareness would probably do the trick. Never before has humanity paid so much attention to self. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you to decide. This post isn’t going to touch the issue. That said, it is appropriate to question the need for self-awareness in light of the companion need to be authentic.
Authenticity is generally defined as being true to who you are and making a concerted effort to line up your actions with your genuine thoughts and emotions. Such authenticity manifests itself in multiple ways. For example, consider a New York company known as Plurawl. They design and sell clothing and accessories for the LatinX community.
Right on their homepage, the company asks the same question posed in the title of this post: who are you? The point of the question is to get customers to think about their place in the LatinX community. Why? Because part of the company’s philosophy is to encourage Latinas and Latinos to embrace their heritage and culture with pride, and to show that pride publicly.
More Than Just Culture
Taking pride in one’s culture is a good thing. So is authenticity, at least in the sense of not trying to fit into someone else’s culture as a means of getting along. But authenticity is more than culture. Who you are as a person runs far deeper than the culture in which you live and participate.
Culture has a way of shaping us. It has a way of influencing us. Change cultures and you are almost guaranteed to experience some changes in the way you think and feel. Therein lies the difficulty with this whole idea of being true to yourself. If your thoughts and emotions are fluid enough to be altered by culture, do they really represent the core you?
No One Has the Answers
At the risk of sounding fatalistic, the whole idea of discovering who you really are seems to be a pointless exercise with no viable conclusion. Because when you stop and think about it, no one really has the answers. No one knows you as well as you do, and you don’t even know who you are. What’s more, the fact that people change over time strongly suggests that who you are today won’t be who you are 10 years from now.
So, who are you? Does anyone really know?