This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
When the Caterpillar asks this infamous question in Alice in Wonderland, he's mainly just being difficult. But there's a reason such a pointed question stirs feelings in Alice - and in us. Ask any of us who we are, and there's at least two dozen ways we could answer.
Most of us, if we're asked how we see ourselves, start listing off our titles and our accomplishments. "I'm a daughter. I'm a sister. I'm a Tarot reader and a coach. I'm a Floridian." We can go on and on with the labels we attach to ourselves, right down to things that set us apart from the mainstream, put us in categories, or even just put us down.
The thing is, so many of those things aren't permanent. They're changing, and our sense of self changes with them. Jobs are lost, divorces are filed, people move across the country or even across the world. One minute we "have it all together", with the relationships and careers we're told make us capable adults, and the next something changes - as life inevitably does - and the way we talk and feel does too.
But what changed? Are you any less 'you' when you've lost the weight, converted to the new religion, or made the move to another country? Or is there a core 'you', when you peel off all the layers, that remains constant no matter what is going on around you?
I'm not saying some labels aren't important parts of who we are. Sometimes they describe an experience we only share with certain people. Or they're part of an identity that's so important, we want the world to know it.
But you ask five different people what those labels mean, and you'll get ten different answers. For a friend of mine, calling my ADD a "disability" meant I thought I couldn't do anything I set my mind to. I had to explain that for me, it meant I knew what naturally came harder to me, so I knew where I had to focus my energy - and to be patient when it took a little longer to improve.
In the end, it's what a label means to us more than the word itself. When I first went into business for myself, I researched the business style of a professional Tarot reader. Then I looked at coaching, and found that it was a huge element of what I did in my readings: helping clients take the next step towards the person they wanted to be, the life they wanted to live. But was I a life coach? A Tarot reader? How to market myself? I came to realize that these two parts of my work - the spiritual and the practical - were so intertwined they were both a part of what I did. Ultimately, no matter what the term, these were my tools as someone who loved to counsel, guide, and give.
So who ARE you?
Start writing - or talking, or vlogging, or whatever's comfortable for you. Think about what comes to mind when someone asks you that question. And then look for the meaning inside the words. What are the qualities in you that guide that huge part of your life? If you suddenly didn't have the money, the job, the spouse, what feelings from those things would still be left, shaping who you are?
And if you suddenly feel like you'd be less loveable, capable, or "together"...well, take a look at that. Where does that come from? You'd be no less loving, ambitious, or accomplished if you were still looking for a way to share it. And wanting something you feel you don't already have - well, that means you value those qualities. And that's a powerful thing all on its own.
Who are you? I guarantee you know, maybe even more than you think.