What if instead of asking “How are you?” we ask “Who are you?” Would such a question seem odd? Would it baffle and confound? Or would it encourage people to reveal themselves?
Surveying social media – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter – demonstrates that people want to share who they are. Pictures and descriptions tell what/who they love, what they celebrate and what they feel. Small clips offering insight into the human, modern experience. We want to be seen and heard. We want to assert our significance on the screen view of life.
Yet I wonder, do we truly reveal who we are or do we create a persona that we wish the world to see and believe? Do we take our cues from others and emulate them more than demonstrate ourselves? If we honestly answered who we are, would we have the courage to tell it like it is. Because that would be the kind of post worth reading.
Who are you?
We define ourselves by roles. Wife. Husband. Mother. Father. Daughter. Son. Friend. Occupation. Roles that have in them measures of success and failure, as well as moving scales of significance depending on various factors, such as time of life. What we do, particularly in our jobs, can form our self worth along with the impression we give others. The better the job, the greater our worth. So the logic might go.
Who we are can be very different from what we do. Who we are is a deeper part of us that may not have anything to do with our job, our title, our roles. It is where honesty resides. It is the core of your life experience from which you relate to your roles, to others and to the world. The job or role cannot in and of itself make you. Unless you love your work, it remains something you do but not who you are. Who you are is the driver. Always.
Getting to the answer of “who are you?” requires at least one other significant question – “What makes you happy?” Think about it. When you are happy you thrive. When you are doing what makes you happy, you forget time and parameters and become engrossed in your actions and thoughts. Happy is the state of being that occurs when we are best aligned with who we are and are in control of what we do. We can bear sadness and disappointments and challenges if we are generally and significantly happy. And happy always relates to how true we are to our desires, our values and our relationships.
Most people, when you ask them how they are will respond with something close to “Good, how are you?” We respond in kind. Whether it’s true or not, we say we are good most frequently. Then we move on. It is more a greeting than a question. But who are you requires a more thoughtful consideration because we have to go beneath the surface, beyond roles and responsibilities. We must uncover and bring out into the light the real stuff. The stuff that began when we were kids responding to the question of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I so appreciate Lennon’s response because it hits home that happy is success and the goal. It resides at the centre of our who and our why.
Who are you?
Is it a beautiful question that promises much in return. When you walk down the street and meet person after person, you are literally walking amongst story after story. Some like your own. Some very different. All interesting and worthy and compelling. You may catch a glimpse of who people are when you look at their face or into their eyes, but you will never truly know unless you ask them. Until they speak. Until you listen.
The more I learn about the lives of others, the more I realize how important it is to honour who we are and to find our happy. Being happy means being able to say “I am great!” when someone asks you how you are – and mean it. Yet I maintain, that asking the more searching question of who you are will always engender better conversation and the pleasure of learning about another human being.