Who are you? It’s a question that gets asked many a time in self help books. Who are you? A simple question but the answer can be quite complex.
If you are like me, you often start with how you relate to others in the world. I would answer this question with, a mother, a wife. a business owner and then pause. I pause because after that I don’t know who I am. The next thing I would do is define myself by what I do, I’m a knitter, a weaver, a creative.
Really who am I? If I wasn’t to define myself by my role and what I do. How would I describe myself? How would you describe yourself?
Part of my journey to mental wellness is to discover who I am, without the roles I have in life. Who is Tracy? What does Tracy want in life? I like many get lost in the roles I fulfil. I don’t know who I am.
My wants and needs are not my own. The day to day obligations of raising a family, of being a wife, of earning an income, have taken over and I do not know what it is that Tracy wants from life.
This question is at the peak of Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs. A very privileged place to be, a place many never get to.
It’s a place where all great art, science and thinking comes from.
I would define my position on the hierarchy of needs as Esteem. For once we know who we are, we have confidence in ourselves and our achievements. We have respect for others and the respect of others. Then we can start answering the question, “Who am I?”
My anxiety and depression comes from not knowing who I am. Not having self-esteem, confidence and respect for myself . Not knowing my place within the world.
I listen to Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections and it made a lot of sense to me. The loss of the human need for place and belonging within the world, being a contributing factor for the epidemic of depression .
My journey to wellness is about finding me, finding where I fit. Maybe anxiety and depression are a normal part of life as we rise through the hierarchy of needs. It’s very much a luxury to spend the time and energy to ask this question of myself.
Some might say it’s a self-centred, self indulgent place to be. I would argue for all great human accomplishments there has had to be a knowing of self and purpose.
Part of my journey has been to discover where I come from, who my ancestors were and my place within the world.
I lived for four years on a remote aboriginal community. The old people there knew where they belonged, they knew who they were and their ancestors, they knew their land. I was privileged to see that deep connection to land and place.
That connection and knowing is something I wanted for myself. Last year I signed up for ancestry.com and did a DNA test. I wanted to know where I come from, who my ancestors are. I hoped it would give me a sense of who I am.
My DNA ties me back to the oldest inhabitants of Britain. My DNA comes mostly from North Wales. There is Scottish, Irish and Norwegian too. Using my DNA made it easier to research my ancestors. Many who were DNA linked to me had already done most of the work.
I discovered my ancestors ranged from coalminers to Kings. From paupers to princes. They died in battles and in poor houses. I discovered their names and read about their lives. I marvelled at their achievements and their bravery. I shed tears for the babies they lost, in the hardship of their lives.
I marvelled to discover over 1000 years of Catholicism in my family which has ended in my generation.
I discovered it was easier to follow the line of the privileged then it was the line at the paupers. That history only remembers the privileged, the heros, the villains and the great.
All of this research has given me a sense of where I come from but not who I am. I’m proud to be the descendent of paupers and kings and to know the land I come from. I’ve enjoyed learning the history of Britain. Reading the struggles of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish to keep their identities seperate from the English. I discovered I’m not English, something I’d always thought I was.
Peter discovered he’s mostly Scottish and the family rumour of a Chinese great great grandmother is true. And I’m excited that my children are descendants of the earliest Chinese Australians.
Now I know where I come from and who my ancestors are. With this foundation in place I continue my journey to knowing who I am. a journey that I’m discovering has only one end. The same destination we all eventually have.
Know thyself. An unexamined life is not worth living.Greek Philosophy