My recent online Journaling Experience featured 10 days of questions designed to help us gain a better understanding of our identity, what drives us and what stands in our way. We began with the simple (profound) question: who am I?
When we meet someone new we often lead with questions such as: Where are you from? Are you married? What do you do?
So, we answer: I’m from California, not married but happily coupled, I teach yoga and dance.
These are all perfectly fine questions and answers but how much do they reveal about who we truly are?
For the “Who Am I” journaling assignment I advised the participants to avoid biographical descriptions and instead use the writing to explore who they are in essence, to dig deeper in expressing their self -identity.
The experience of eschewing labels and focusing on essentials makes for a rich journey indeed. For me, what showed up on the page was a riff on three core traits (peace, doubt, love) that are present, for better or worse, in all that I “do” and in my relationships.
My pen delved enough to expose unexpected aspects of these seemingly general traits. I also played with owning them (I am peace) rather than wearing them as adornments (I am peaceful).
It was a fascinating exercise and I would encourage you to try it! In fact here it is, if you are interested: Day One: Who Am I?
The workshop questions got more specific from there, giving us more angles to examine. This was a great reminder that if you really want to know someone (including yourself) ask specifically.
For example, switch “How is work?” for “What about your job gives you the most satisfaction/frustration/reward/challenge?”
Trade in “What’s New?” for “Tell me about an interesting experience you’ve had this year!”
Instead of “How are the kids?” try “What activity is Susie excited about these days?” Or “What personality trait do you think Tommy shares with you?”
There are endless ways to make small talk more robust and to connect more deeply. Additionally, it is sure to make party chatter more interesting this Holiday Season!
We are many things. We are a complex collage of experiences and emotions. Each of us, I believe, wants to be seen for who we are. Let’s peel back the labels and get a clearer view of who that is. That knowing is sure to incite us to look outward with wider eyes and curious minds. With that comes more compassion and connection.