“Who do you think you are?”

If you grew​ up in my kind of environment then you get to hear that question when you have hurt someone’s pride or feelings by your actions, achievements or misadventures. Your boss asks the question when he thinks you are trying to outshine him.

 Your spouse asks the question when he thinks you have become disobedient to him and are trying to have things your way. 

Your peers ask the question when you have a sudden break they envy but are unable to say. Your parents ask when you really get them mad. So who do you think you are? None of these persons ask genuinely to get an answer. So most likely you don’t have a genuine answer right now because the question puts you in the defensive mode.

The friendly version of the question is the one that strangers ask you when they meet you for the very first time. Who are you? Your family will never ask you this. Your friends will not ask you. Your boss will not ask. They believe they know you already. 

So only strangers ask this question and because we are not trained to open up to strangers our answers 90% of the times are superficial responses tailored towards the particular circumstance in which we are asked the question.

Here are the common answers to the simple question “Who are you?”

I am a lawyer. I am a doctor. I am a banker. I am a businessman. I am an applicant. These are all the wrong answers. These answers are for the question – what is your profession?

Your profession is not who you are. But we have so succeeded in using these answers to define ourselves that we eventually believe that we are bwhat we do for a living. 

So the houseboy, the security man, the gardener, the driver – the ones who do not have glamorous jobs with fat salaries tend also to see themselves as the jobs they do. But the prostitute, the armed robber, the looter of public funds knows that they are not what they do. They are better than that.

Who are you?

I am the father of the governor. I am the owner of xyz company. I am the child of the president, I am the wife of the commissioner… These answers are not who you are. They are what you own and your relationships. We tend to validate ourselves by what we own – our cars, educational qualifications, number of wives, children and our relationships. But all these are not who we are. We can lose what we own but we cannot lose who we are.

So who are you?

I am a Nigerian. I am a US citizen. This also is not who you are. It may be a prestigious citizenship bought by years of labour or moments of favour. It may be conferred by birth or acquired by marriage. But that is not who you are. It is only your country of citizenship. There are millions who share it with you and they are not you.

I live in Ajegunle. I live in Lekki. I live at Apo Quarters. As inferior or prestigious as it may be, it only shows your geographical location. It is not who you are. You may share your neighbourhood with armed robbers or dignified personalities and still that is not who you are. You are not where you live. You are more than that.

I am an Olympic gold medalist. I am a Nobel laureate. These are your achievements. They are not who you are. If you never made those achievements, you will still be you.

I am a widow. I am a failure. I am a sickler. No, that is not who you are. You are not your experience. Yes, your experience may affect what you think or what people think about you. But in its purest analysis that is not who you are. No matter how good or bad your experiences may be.

I am loving, kind, considerate, honest, hot-tempered, quick-witted, street-smart. These are descriptions of your emotional state or mental capacity. They say a lot about your preferred tendencies. These show the kind of person you may be or hope to become, they are not all there is about you. You are still much more than this.

Who then are you? I want you to give a serious thought to the question at least this once in your life. I want you to look deep into your heart and tell the world who you are. Do not be defined by the labels of society. Refuse to be constrained by your experience. Determine to go beyond your dreams of tomorrow. There can only be one you. So who are you?

Take a good look at your identification card. It carries your image, your signature, your name and the name of a particular organization. When you are asked to identify yourself you simply produce your ID card and it suffices. But think about it – If you were to leave your present job, nothing on that ID card will change, but if you use it to identify yourself you become a fraud, an imposter. It is the issuer of the card that validates who you are, not you!

The question truly is “Whose are you?” Who issued you? For what purpose where you created? Once you can answer those questions you have taken a giant step to knowing who you truly are. I can assure you they are not easy questions to answer. After all you are a complex and complicated creation.

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