Who Am I?
In my interpersonal communication classes I challenge my students to answer the question: Who Am I?
At first glance this seems like a relatively easy question to answer, right? Many of us are asked a similar question in an interview situation or new social situation when someone says, “Tell me about yourself.” Hopefully we can answer this question relatively easily, especially if you’ve read my article: Tell Me About Yourself.
The question, “Who am I” asks us to reflect on who we are internally, which requires a bit more thought and analysis. When we answer this question we are reflecting what is called our, “Self-Concept.” Our Self-Concept (as I describe it to my students) is our subjective description of who we are. It is comprised of our attitudes, beliefs, values, roles we assume, etc.
So, how can we begin to attempt to answer the question, “Who am I?”
To help my students answer this question I have them do an in-class exercise that asks them to split a piece of paper in half (hot-dog style, yes, I say that!) and on the left side write “I am” and on the other “I am not.”
I ask students to list at least three to five adjectives/descriptions that apply to them in each column. I challenge them to figure out who they are and who they are not because I have learned that, “You find out who you are, by meeting who you’re not.” (Author Unknown) It’s also a good idea to know who you are not to help prevent against getting sucked into doing something that is not part of your authentic self. It’s also easier to think of things we are not when we are put on the spot because we have probably already decided what labels we do not wear in our lives and focused on them.
Quick example of what this would look like: I am a runner, I am a teacher, I am a helper. I am not a dancer, I am not shy, I am not one to hold my tongue.
Once my students have completed this activity I then ask them to visually answer the question, “Who am I?” using a standard sized poster board and ONLY images. My right brain students love this activity because it allows them to show their creativity. Left brain students, not so much, but they all turn in posters that represent them.
My students have about a week to complete their visual poster and then come to class and present on their poster.
I really like this activity for three reasons:
- In our relationships it’s important to know who we are before we attempt to form a relationship with someone else. It’s also really important to realize that who you are changes and that with each relationship you engage in your self-concept is adjusting. At the end of the day, if you don’t like who you are becoming you can always change the relationships around you and guide your inner self toward who you want to be.
- It allows my students to delve into who they are, who they were, and who they want to be in a way that is (hopefully) fun and entertaining. Hearing their explanations and reasons for why they identify as one label over another and why they chose one image over another to represent their label is something I enjoy listening to.
- At the end of the class a number of my students write in their reflection paper that the Self-Concept Poster Assignment was their favorite assignment and that it allowed them to get to know not just themselves but their classmates as well.
Why not give this activity a try? A poster board is only a dollar or two and I am sure you have some old magazines lying around that you can cut up and use for images.
How has your self-concept or sense of self changed from who you were 5, 10, 15 years ago?