Who are you?

Who are you?

What are the labels that you identify with?

A few years ago on a yoga teacher training we did an exercise where we had the opportunity to examine the labels we associate to ourselves. One of the first exercises we did in pairs was to sit on the floor across from our partner (who was a total stranger at that time) and answer the question ‘Who are you?’

My partner kept repeating only those three words, ‘who are you?’ His job was to offer space for me without any response or judgment to the answers I was giving.

I started answering with who I was at work, ‘I’m a manager,’ because it was an easy place to go. ‘I’m Irish,’ ‘I’m Canadian’ – still easy. I then elaborated by identifying my relationships to others, ‘I’m a sister,’ ‘I’m a friend,’ etc. Then I got uncomfortable as I felt I was running out of answers. Who am I?

I wondered what would be left if I wasn’t defined by these labels…

It was all part of the exercise, to encourage us to go deeper. I felt more awkward as I was getting stuck and with a nervous laugh and feeling the heat in my cheeks I eventually said ‘I don’t know.’ Thankfully my part of the exercise was over and it was my turn to ask him who he was!

At the end of the exercise our teacher, Vishva, shared that ultimately we are love. That’s one thing I didn’t say during the exercise. In yogic philosophy the concept of “I am that,” which is spoken in the mantra ‘So Hum,’ means you are identifying yourself with the universe or ultimate reality. There is no separation between you and another, or with you and nature.

Your false identity

Fear around releasing your labels or identity is something that’s very common in the coaching work that I do with others. Even if you are holding on to an identity that is not serving you, it can be scary to think of what might happen or who you will be when you let that go. The identity often acts as a security blanket, allowing you to feel protected because it’s been built up over time and it’s all you know. Once people find the strength and support to release the blanket, they feel lighter and often wonder why they held onto it for so long.

Curious to go deeper? Read more from Life Reboot >