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  • Who are you really? Identity, Vocation and Wholeness

    “Who are you really?” is one of those cut-through-the-bumpf type of questions. If you ask it seriously of yourself, it can take you on quite a journey.

    who are you really
    Who are you really? (PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets)

    “Who are you really?” One of the remarkable things about this question is that it packs a wallop no matter where you are in your life. Whether you’re a young adult or a senior, stable or in transition, male or female—it doesn’t matter. The question is always a powerful one if we ask it of ourselves sincerely. Getting as close as possible to the heart of who you really are is always relevant.

    One of the things that happens in human life is that people can lose sight of who they are, or realize that they’ve never really come to terms with who they are. One of the characteristics of being human is that people often face expectations that they will perform a certain role, or show up in social situations in a certain way. The expectations of others can come to us in the context of relationships, family expectations, or the expectations of broader social groups or the society as a whole. These expectations may line up with who a person is, and what they actually want, or they may have nothing to do with a person’s real identity.


    “Now, wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “just what exactly is this ‘real identity” that you’re speaking about? How can we even be sure that we have some kind of ‘real identity’? Isn’t the identity that we have created by our social interactions?

    There’s truth in this. It’s essential to acknowledge that human beings are fundamentally social beings, and that the social influence of others has a huge impact on who we are as people. Any honest and complete picture of human life has to acknowledge the power and pervasiveness of the social dimension of our reality.

    And yet, we also need to acknowledge our fundamental uniqueness. I intuit that there is something about my life that is different than all the others. I’m not special, but I am unique. On some very fundamental level, I am me, and that is different from all others. As C.G. Jung tells us,

    Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncracy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination.

    At least in seed form, that “innate idiosyncracy” is in us. At times of major life transition, the need to explore that fundamental identity often assumes a great deal of importance.


    Nowadays, if you hear the word “vocation”, it’s most likely in the context of career. When we use words like “vocation” or “calling” today, we’re probably talking about what’s involved in becoming an accountant, pursuing a career in police services, or starting a physiotherapy business. And yet, there is a more fundamental possible meaning to the term.

    It’s possible to think of vocation in terms of hearing the call of your own most fundamental being and nature. This has implications for “career”, certainly, but at a deeper level it is about accepting, being and expressing the unique reality of who you are. Oscar Wilde once famously advised,

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

    We might also say, “Be yourself. There’s a place at the table with your name on it, and no being in the entirety of eternity—other than you—will ever be able to take it.”


    How do you start to answer the question, “Who are you really?” There are no instant solutions; it’s a process, and to a certain extent, the answer is always evolving. But that doesn’t mean that exploring this question isn’t worthwhile..

    There is value in trying to connect with what is most basically you. Exploring the experiences that make you feel most alive, examining what it was that was most enlivening and engaging when you were young, exploring the voice of your dreams can all be ways to begin to engage with “who are you really?” There are many more

    Working with a supportive Jungian case studies or analyst can be of great assistance in getting closer to our real identity. Integrating parts of the “undiscovered self” as Jung calls the aspects of our identity that are in the unconscious can be an essential part of our journey to wholeness. Having an ally and resource in answering the “who are you really?” question can make all the difference.

    With very best wishes for your personal journey,

    © 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario

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