Who? or What are you?


How do you define yourself when asked who you are or what you do?  What is the answer that you most often give?  Does that answer change or vary depending upon the context or company we are in?  Do you present a single answer or give a list of talents, hobbies or skills?

I enjoyed a great visit this weekend with a family friend.  In a discussion with one of their children I learned of a recent identity crisis this young person had encountered this year.  This individual had been an athlete their entire life, concentrating on one particular sport.  They had received tremendous accolades, attention and success in this area.  This success led them to be a significant part of a major University and the team in this sport.  Dreams and goals were achieved in reaching this pinnacle of success.  They had achieved what they had intended to throughout this young lifetime journey.

The end of last season, this individual was injured and no longer able to compete.  With humility and tremendous gratitude for the opportunity they moved forward into their senior year in school.  Keep in mind this individual is extremely goal oriented, driven and finds success in life.  The identity crisis occurred when the new school year started.  Their entire life had been this sport, each time they were asked to tell something about them, they replied with the same answer, I am a _(athlete)___.  They would proudly tell others what position they had on the team and who they were.

This part of the team became who this young athlete was.  This is how they identified themselves and who they viewed themselves to be.  When asked this year who they were, they were confused and unable to respond.

Now this young person is far more than just an athlete.  They are an amazing example to so many in so many other areas.  They are a very intelligent, motivated, strong and determined young person.  They were simply in the process of discovering truly WHO they were, not what they were.

Many times we find ourselves struggling with WHO we are and get caught up in the what we are or were.  This confusion paralyzes many.  Some get stuck in the glory days of High School and end up a fifty something still talking about that one pass that would have won state.  Others get hung up on the what we are and become puffed up with pride and ego, unable to see the true world around them.

It is in the Who we are that changes the world.  When we focus on the what we are we change nothing.


18 thoughts on “Who? or What are you?

  1. This is an inspiring, thought-provoking post. The young person you talk about could be any one of thousands of athletes that face the end of there competitive dreams after an injury or having reached their pinnacle and knowing they aren’t able to continue. It sounds like this young person found a great sounding board to offer perspective.


  2. This is a powerful reminder to not just hang on to the past. I’ve been struggling with this personally because I became disabled two years ago and had to leave my job as a children’s librarian which I had for 26 years. I never thought this would happen and I’ve always defined myself through my title and the job I loved so much. I’ve been trying though to look ahead. While I’m unable to work, I discovered the wonderful world of blogging where I’ve met so many incredible people and I can share my love of books. I’m also plugging away at my own YA novel which I hope will be published one day. So, like the seasons, life is continually changing and we must change with it. Thank you for the kovely post.


    • Thank you so much for sharing your personal connection to this post. We always have to keep in mind that when one for closes, another is waiting for us to open and more often than not the other door creates a better world for us.


  3. Reblogged this on unnamed and commented:
    so interesting that i come across this blog entry from jisbell22 after a few intense days of reading and writing around this very subject. what i was, what i am now, are just labels – #hashtags – that in no way reveal WHO i am.

    i have an idea of who i am, and i sort of like it, but i’ve also been so focused for so long on the what and how, that the idea of ‘who’ is still just a tenuous one. as if i’m not confident in who i sorta think i am. maybe that’s just because i’m a Pisces and am so changeable from one moment to another.

    … or that i’m fickle and afraid to commit.
    … or that i’m afraid to be wrong
    … especially about myself.


  4. I am always thrilled when I have a new friend (I don’t have followers), so thank you, for stopping by my little blog. Welcome! And..I will take my time to snoop around your blog as well, nothing beats a good coffee in the morning and a good read 🙂 Nice to “meet” you!


  5. Excellent message. Great reminder to think of ourselves as who we are, not what we do. My youngest daughter reminds me, since I have ‘lost’ my teaching career… not enough time to explain that one, “Your profession doesn’t define you, Mom!” and other times, “What you DO is not who you ARE!” Wiser words can not compare to how this reaches my inner self, helping me to remember how to be a good, caring person, even while working manual labor in a warehouse. Thank you for carrying this message, which seemed to reach out to me, sharing it about the son of your good friends.


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