Who am I?
Seriously, do you know who you are? Really?
Which role (mother/father, husband/wife, insert your career title here, sister/brother, aunt/uncle, athlete/gamer/couch seat warmer/movie & TV show fanatic) fits you the most and best describes you? If you had to pick only one answer (like some horrible multiple choice question on a final exam), could you? See, I don’t think I can.
What defines us and makes us who we are? Nature? Nurture? A combination of both, and if both, does one take precedence over another? Do our circumstances define who we are? Can we change who we are?
If we as adults and supposed role models struggle with understanding this overwhelming question of “Who am I?” then how can we better help our students (who are constantly bombarded with images and expectations from media, peers, parents and school) to learn to authentically be themselves?
I like me. I really do. But like everyone else, there are moments of indecision, second guessing and wishing that I had too had legs up to my neck like Giselle Bundchen (boy, legs like that would do wonders in my yoga pants) and that I could be as stylish as Kate Middleton (with her perfectly coiffed hair and her Christian Louboutin pumps) instead of being more like the character Liz Lemon in 30 Rock. I can’t change what I was physically blessed with when I was born but I can control how I feel about it and I can choose to rock those attributes and characteristics I do like. I want to teach our students, especially the female ones as well as our daughters/nieces that even though we are surrounded by a culture that promotes photoshopping and editing of pictures (think Instagram, Keeping up With The Kardashians and magazine advertisements) that its better to be yourself than to try and be someone else. In an era where girls take a million “selfies” to get just the right angle, with the best lighting that features their best assets (among other things) before posting a single picture in the hopes of receiving a multitude of “likes” by their peers and total strangers. Unfortunately we live in a culture where “likes” equals social acceptance. But is that posted picture, really representative of who they are as individuals? Take away the special effects of editing and the make up and the “poses” and is it not the same person underneath? Why are we so afraid to show that person to the outside world if they are one and the same? What defines us and makes us who we are?
What about personal characteristics? Those not seen in a photo or revealed through our physical attributes or our clothing (worn like armour protecting our inner vulnerability)? Have we become a society that places a higher value on outward appearances rather than how we treat others or our personal morals? Would you rather be remembered for your physical beauty or your inner beauty? How can we teach and model for our students this important lesson? Is it not better to be able to get along with others in life and form lasting relationships with peers/parents/teachers/colleagues based upon our genuine interest in their lives rather than the superficial, surface skimming kind that lasts only as briefly as our initial self-serving interests?
As teenagers and young adults getting ready to head off to high school, I want my students to learn how to think for themselves. I don’t want to tell them what to think or how to think. I want them to question life. To question what makes them unique individuals. To ask, “Who am I?”
On an episode of the TV show Brain Games, the host set up an experiment where a studio audience listened to a lecture by an esteemed professor on brain development. The esteemed speaker was actually a fake and the lecture purposely didn’t make sense. However, the audience stood and gave the speaker a standing ovation at the conclusion. Why on earth would people give a standing ovation for something that made absolutely no sense? The explanation was that there were two people planted in the audience who were in on the experiment. Their job? To stand up at the end and clap enthusiastically while looking around at the people sitting nearby. Slowly, and perhaps with a little reluctance, members of the audience around these two, also stood up and clapped. And before you knew it, almost the whole audience rose up. Thus, demonstrating the power of peer persuasion in action. Have you ever done this too? Did you ever stop and ask yourself why? Why did you choose to go along with the crowd?
Robin Williams, in his infamous role as Mr. Keating in the movie Dead Poet’s Society taught his students the gift of being able to think for themselves by demonstrating to them how easy it is to fall into conformity and be swayed by what others are doing in the outside marching scene. By the end of the movie, his students came to the realization that they are ultimately responsible for their own choices in life.
Questions I plan to write on the board this year and share on Google Classroom for my students to discuss will be:
“Who am I? Really. What defines me and makes me who I am? Why is it important to be me and what controls do I have when it comes to being me? Am I different on the inside than what I portray to the world on the outside? (If yes, why is this?)”
So, who are you? Really.
We would love to hear back from you. The real you.