Who Do You Think You Are?

Who do you
you are?

A phrase that can mean at least four things.

A phrase that when heard, is rhetorical; an expression from someone who believes we have overstepped some boundary, and often says more about their sense of propriety and the way in which they are sensitive or unprepared for the fact that not everyone arranges the world, authority and priorities the way they do.

A phrase that when said by us, is a challenge, or a ‘put-down’, where we believe the recipient has acted entitled or with disregard of boundaries, convention or due respect.

It is a fundamental question we live on the knife edge of all the time actually.

It can ask the question about who is the person we believe ourselves to be?

It can ask us about how we define ourselves as opposed to how other might describe or define us.

It can suggest that there might be difference between who we are and who we think we are, pointing to the way we live so often by the words Anais Nin left us with: “We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”

We hallucinate the world we believe we exist in; every sound, every colour, every smell, every sensation is something we hallucinate the context of in our minds. Every person we are in relationship with, we are actually in relationship with our limited and imprecise version of them we store in our minds. Even our own self, our own identity is something we carry a version of in our minds that do not always track with objective reality, such as it is.

Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”; a saying he spoke at his trial after which he was sentenced to death, for alleged ‘impiety and corrupting of youth’, which most certainly would have been framed by people who imagined themselves to be at best his peers, or more likely, his betters, in the sentiment captured by these very same words: “Who do you think you are?”

Where we get our permission, is where we get our power. If we wait for the permission of the crowd, we all remain small.

What a wonderful question in the right hands: “Who do you think you are?”

Arrogance is often the implied charge behind the rhetorical question: “Who do you think you are?”

So often it is the unspoken question.

“There are two circumstances that lead to arrogance: one is when you’re wrong and you can’t face it; the other is when you’re right and nobody else can face it.” – Criss Jami

The first trick then is to have the courage to have your own voice and have the conviction to accept your own truth and speak it into the world, without the need for validation or permission.

The second trick is making sure that you are in fact not simply self-deluded.

The third trick is allowing your ideas and beliefs to be challenged in the interests of testing them.

The fourth trick is to be discerning about whose judgement and opinion you place stock in.

The fifth thing to remember is that good people may do bad things, clever people believe stupid things, we can be right about almost everything and wrong about one small thing, and that one small thing might make all the difference.

Finally, when we ask and sit with the question “Who do you think you are?”, we are invited to sit also with the deeper question actually: “Are you prepared to revisit who you think you are based on the earnest exploration of the question?”

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