Who Are You, Now?

Reflecting on the previous post, Finding Out Who You Are, last week I found myself going back to and enhancing a technique I have often shared with students, based on the idea of  ‘the onion skin self. ’  Francis Hsu, a psychological anthropologist, has used a similar approach to examine variation in cross-cultural concepts of personhood.

First: Reflect and list 7 personal traits that answer, for you now, the question, Who Am I? List these seven identifiers as they naturally come to you.

Second:  Look over your list of personal identity traits and NUMBER them 1-7, according to which of these traits or characteristics you identify with most deeply (highest = 1), especially right now, from your current life perspective.

Third: Rewrite your list of self-identifiers, placing your #1 rated trait at the top of your new list and writing the traits down from that through #7. (When I did this for myself, I started with 10 traits, but then only enumerated 1-7, lopping off the 8-10 traits.)

Fourth: Review your rank ordered list. Are there thematic (or else, distinctive) KINDS of traits that these traits represent in your life? For example, are one or more of these traits based on Family or Relationship, Career, Spirit/ Religion, Talents, etc.?  NAME these KINDS of identifiers to the right of each item on your rank-ordered list (see below for my example), so you will label each of your seven traits according to its KIND or type.

Fifth: REFLECT about the question prompt Who Am I, Now? Why or how are these seven traits ranked for you as they are from your current point of view?  You may journal, or contemplate about, or talk with a loved one about, or create art around what this listing reveals to you about your CURRENT, core sense of personal identity.

I was surprised when I did this exercise for myself last week. Some KINDS of identifiers that a decade ago or so I would have listed and ranked as of high priority were either not on my list at all or were in the #8-#10 items sloughed from the current set of seven.  While in the past I would have identified myself highly according to my profession or public facing roles, below is my current profile:

ECKist (spiritual affiliation) – {Spiritual identity}

Dog/ Cat lover – {Loving relationship}

Sister – {Loving relationship}

Friend – {Loving relationship}

Teacher – {Service role}

Co-Worker – {Service role}

Writer – {Avocation/ talent; Service role}

I find that in my early-retirement stage (still teaching part-time but having relocated to be nearer to my family five years ago), my values have shifted, so relationships are of even greater importance to me now in terms of my sense of core self. To me this represents a welcome, still emerging ‘better ending’!

What does your current ‘onion skin’ self-portrait say about you?

images are from pixabay.com

I can envision my #1 trait as at the CORE of an image of concentric circles, with the other six traits radiating outward as bands from nearer to further from the core.

To add another layer to this technique, try imaging yourself at an earlier stage or marker point in your life, and do the exercise again from that earlier perspective. Then you can compare who you were then to who you are, Now.