WHO am I?
It seems so basic a question, until you begin answering it. You could start with your name, age and gender, but surely you are more than these. You could tell us who your parents are, what your family is like, where you live, but again, you are more than just these.
So you go deeper and look at your interests, your motivations, your beliefs, your passions, and still, you are more than these.
This is a question people ask, whether consciously or unconsciously, until the day they die.
As I grow older, I believe more and more that a healthy self-identity is fundamental to finding joy and meaning in life.
In my family, I was the youngest of four children, and I had huge age gap with my siblings - nine years to the one next to me, and more with the others. That meant that when my oldest sister went off to college, I was still five years old, running around the garden with a runny nose.
My siblings would say I was lucky because I lived a more comfortable life than they did -- they had more responsibilities growing up as they had to report to work on Saturdays to help my dad grow the family business. The situation was more stable when I came along so I did not really have to do that (though my dad still hauled me off to the office, but I could just sit in a corner and draw or go play with imaginary friends in the warehouse).
But I think that affected how I saw myself. I was always a shy, quiet kid in school. I had a huge stuttering problem when speaking before a group and I always hated the first day of class when teachers would make us introduce ourselves because I would feel like a total idiot when I struggled just to say my own name.
I rarely had a strong opinion on things, content to just let others argue and fight over this and that. Perhaps because that’s how it is when you’re a child in a house filled with grown-ups. What you think doesn’t really matter.
A huge step in the development of my self-identity took place when I was in high school. I was fortunate to become best friends with a fellow ping-pong player, Ritchie, who connected me to a larger group of friends and I became one of the barkada. The healthy thing about our barkada was that it was a healthy mix of boys and girls where most would be all-boys or all-girls.
That helped me a lot because I was always shy around girls and could never carry a conversation with them. Having girls who were friends boosted my confidence in more ways I could imagine. Of course, this is all in hindsight as I couldn’t see it this clearly back then.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.