The Secret to Answering One of the Most Difficult Questions In the World

Culture & Society, Learning To Love Yourself, Re-framing Your Thinking


Raise you hand if you’ve ever asked the question, “Who am I?”

You could have asked it to yourself, to a friend, out loud.

Have you answered that question for yourself?


Maybe it’s just the recent anniversary of the March 11th tsunami and earthquake in Japan, but I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and honesty.

The most painful thing wasn’t watching the footage on March 11th. It was something that was said to me by a former friend and classmate (who shall remain nameless).


Upon overhearing a conversation between myself and a friend about the earthquake, he asked me (and I quote):

“You’re not Japanese. Why would you care?”

Excuse me?!

I think I blacked out for a second after he said that. I was overwhelmed with the desire to punch him in the teeth. I pretended to be okay in front of him (since I didn’t want to start a shouting match in the middle of the dining hall), broke down later and punched my pillow for a solid half hour.


I understood his point. Going back and forth to Japan, it’s very clear that I don’t belong there. It doesn’t matter that I can speak the language, that my friends call me fluent (to which my response is to look at them like they’ve grown horns out of their heads) or that I have family there.


But understanding his point didn’t make it hurt any less or make me any less angry.


Even if I didn’t have family or friends there, even if I didn’t have Japanese language skills, I would have still cared.



You didn’t (and still don’t) have to be Japanese to want to help the people recover. It’s not like they’re holding a screening or application process for people who want to help them with a checklist going, “Black hair…check. Brown eyes….. check, speaks Japanese, check.”


They were just grateful for the support and compassion people showed in helping them recover.

My ancestors may have come from Japan, nameless classmate, but that doesn’t define who I am as a person. I don’t have to be from a culture to show compassion for its people in times of pain.

You are not your heritage. You are not your parents. Yes, your parents built a foundation for you, but they didn’t build you. You are not your successes, or your failures, or your career.

You can choose to abandon that foundation and create new beliefs. No one can tell you who you are except for yourself.


Yes, you heard me. You get to decide who you are.

So next time you ask yourself “Who am I?” and try to define yourself, know that you have the power to CHOOSE who you are.

Who will YOU be?

Image Credit: Pinterest.





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