Who I Really Am

jny published on
4 min, 610 words

Do you ever get confused about your identity as a person? Do you feel like you have a good grasp on who you are inside?

Yes and no.

Yes, I have no frickin clue where I stop and the trauma starts. I don't know if I'm the me on the days on anxious or on the rare days I'm not. And most of all, there's the version of me that I hate, and the version of me that I have to tell myself is what's real and the one people really see. But who I am every day feels like a toss of the coin.

No, because I believe that basically that applies to all of us. That we are all just patterns of behavior, from genes that were switched on and off even from when we were still in the womb. And that the whole idea of the "ego", the sense of self that makes choices and thinks thoughts and has feelings, is not really what it appears to be, so nothing that I think "I" am is actually me, because there is no me.

But I still have to get out of bed everyday and think of myself as a me so the pragmatic answer is yes, I mostly have no idea who I really am.

Our minds do have a certain type of "fingerprint". I have different neurotransmitter connections that you do and thus have different patterns of thought and behavior. And, in that sense, yes, we have an identity.

But if there's a traumatic brain injury that vastly alters someone's behavior, can that said to be the same personality, or just a similar one? My personality is very different than when I was younger, and I think that applies to every amount of time: we are not the same person we were yesterday, or even moment before.

I tend to speak more in terms of philosophy which is concerned with whether or not there is a soul, free will, etc, but at the same time, even if there is none of that and we are just a bunch of particles bonking around that could be reduced to an equation, there's too many variables to ever grasp the slightest of what's truly going on.

But back to the prior point, if it's never the same from one moment to the next, how can it be said to be the same identity?

I guess I like to think of identity more as an ongoing function. We're an algorithm that takes in an inconceivable number of inputs –including everything from the previous moment– and adjusts itself based on that input to produce an output. Repeat for the next one, ad infinitum.

For me, changing from seeing my personality as some ineffable part of who "I Am" to just behavior and patterns –inputs and outputs– has been vastly freeing. Before, I used to want to have a more social personality, and how do you do that? How do you change something about your essence? But if it's just patterns that change the way my neurons fire? Well those are more concrete. I can work with those. Plus, it helps me accept the things I can't change because it justifies there being limitations. If personality is this shapeless thing, what's stopping me from being as social as my most social friends? But if I keep in mind that my brain is built on my history it's like, duh, no wonder I'm not as social. And that's okay, because personality is just a thing about you, shaped by all these variables, most of which you are unaware of.

To be continued...