how do we know who we are?

May 1, 2007

A simple question right? How do you know who you are? There are lots of quotes, studies, and all sorts of mumbo jumbo about the idea of a person. Some say the collection of experiences makes you who you are. Some say it’s a soul. I think we are defined by the people around us. How they react to us, think of us, and tell us who we are.

Did a rose name itself? Most certainly not. Things cannot define themselves, that’s for the observers. Someone knows you, so you interact with them. Their reactions define yours, and so on and so on. So you are defined by their perceptions. You cannot decide if you’re pretty. You can’t decide if you’re fat. You can’t decide if you’re an asshole. That’s for others to do.

One incident observed by several will not yield the same results for all. Say you are drinking one night, driving your friend’s car, and hit a pole. What are the reactions that define who you were in that moment? Your friend may show concern, but think you’re an asshole. The police consider you a criminal. The insurance company considers you wreckless and a liability. So what do you know about yourself at that moment? You’re a wreckless asshole and a criminal.

Of course it’s all about perspective, as well. Since two people don’t view the same thing the same way. The difference between spanking and child abuse is the person that calls Child Protective Services. If you are spanking the child you think nothing of it.

That being said, if the people around you define who you are what about people with no one? The basically don’t exist. To exist you have to have a presence and effect on the world. If a tree falls in the woods and noone is around, does it make a sound? If noone’s around to hear it, what does it matter, I say. Far as the person that comes along later is concerned, it’s just a dead tree. Now it has definition and a place in the world.

LA would say “I look terrible today.” I would respond, “Only I can decide that. You’re biased.” She would do the same to me eventually, and it changed my perception of myself. She was helping me decide who I am by her reaction to me.

I sometimes wonder if I’m a good father. The Ex can tell me that, and does. She helps me feel like a good dad. Course, the fact my son loves coming to see me tells me that too.

So if you find yourself wondering “Who am I?” try listening to the people that know you. You can’t decide for yourself, because you’re biased and a fool.



  1. I dont know there is a difinitive answer that we can all go by. Yes our opinion of ourselves is shaped by how people see us but then we can also have a opinion based solely on what we think. It’s a tough one…Ill sleep on it and get back to you tomorrow.

  2. It’s how I understand things. Like a mirror. We wouldn’t know what we looked like without one. Our personalities are mirrored in the people around us.

    If noone tells you it’s bad to hit people, why would you think it was? We depend on social structures to tell us what is right, wrong, normal, strange, truth, and a lie. It all depends on perspective and majority. Much of the world thinks killing is wrong, so killing is bad.

    History is written by the victor. The victor is the majority.

  3. Yet with the killing thing…half the world is waging war on the other half in some way shape or form. Iraq is a prime example…killing is bad but they kill to ‘free’ a country that was seemingly doing ok.

    I do understand where you come from though. I guess Im at a point where I dont trust what the majority of people say…society comes from a holistic veiw point, but why can we not break the mould and just be what we think we should be within reason…I mean thinking we can be serial killers might just get us into a shitload of trouble.

    someone said to me “normal is what society says it is” someone said “well that aint right” and it spread…now its societies veiw. Im by no means normal but im not abnormal either. I fit in where I need to and i dont when i dont have to.

    I think you are doing just fine. some people just like to bring others down to make them feel better.

  4. I’m good. Just have deep thoughts sometimes.

    Well, I have a plan to change the world, and that’s by helping my son to be a better person than I am. If everyone did that we’d be good in a few generations. Then again, better is all opinion anyways.

    As far as Iraq goes, one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. All about perspective.

  5. Indeed it is all about perspective. I just dont see the point in war. It is needless in most cases…a must in others. I opinions more than thoughts…though maybe one day ill share the thoughts i do have…

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