“Who do you think you are?!” I was asked this provocative question recently, in an somewhat hostile way. People often lash out with words towards what they don’t understand or feel threatened by. It’s primal, more of a defense mechanism really. An attempted act at leveling a perceived playing field.
Fortunately, sigh…my answer comes from a similar place regardless of how the question is posed. Years of searching, reflecting, contemplating, processing, (breathe), learning, struggling, (breathe again) understanding, realizing, succeeding, and repeating – are all based on asking myself the same important question (albeit from a much calmer, kinder, more spiritually intended place).
Renowned Spiritual Teacher Marianne Williamson wrote about this pointed question ‘Who do you think you are?’, used in Nelson Mandela’s 1994 now famous inaugural speech. She wrote “…it is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.”
Indeed. Miraculous, unique creations! Children of God. It is impossibly perfect that with millions of us humans inhabiting the planet, no two of us are the same. We are each Divine! Different DNA, different fingerprints. It’s a miracle of the truest proportions. So one possible answer offered to the sometimes daunting ‘Who do you think you are?’ question is relatively simple. You are a miracle. I am a miracle. We are each a child of God. We each have a right to be here, breathing, Divining, discerning, doing our best at showing up every day.
Mandela goes on to say in that now infamous speech with Williamson’s words…that when we let our own inner lights shine, it will ultimately effect those around us and inspire them to give themselves permission to do the same in their own life. I have drawn much strength from Mandela’s life and Williamson’s powerful words. He was a man politically imprisoned for 27 years for his beliefs in freedom and equality. A man whose life symbolizes the triumph of the human spirit over man’s inhumanity to man. I trust his essence. I trust Williamson’s. I know that the person who angrily aims a “Who do you think you are?!” question my way is threatened in some way by what I represent. I just secretly wish I could ‘inspire them’ to ‘get with their own program’ a wee bit faster…
A few years ago, a wise mentor helped to guide me through the mechanics of answering this soulful question of ‘Who do I think I am?’ It was during one of our regular mind walks that I still cherish. “So who do you think you are?” she put to me gently. “Really, from your heart…be unflinching.” Mentors are really great at challenging you and not letting you shrink away or be afraid. They don’t let you get in the way of you.
I remember pausing for several seconds while collecting myself. “Okay,” I began tentatively, “I know I’m a spiritual being on a human journey.” “That’s true, ” she said, “but tell me your truths, what would you want to say without holding back if you were owning your power? Aren’t you always saying what a unique miracle we all are? Tell me about who you are uniquely.”
“I am a student. A teacher. A seeker of truths, a spotlight shiner.”
“Yes,” she said, “All true. Go on.”
“I am a sister, a daughter, a survivor. A woman, a lover, a surrogate mother. A mentor, a healer. I am a contributor, a listener, a compassionate, a sensitive. I am a participator. A visionary, a thinker, an admirer, a releaser, a searcher, a collector of ideas. A care giver, a cherished friend. An advocate, a metaphysician, an anchor point. A creative, a humanitarian, a writer, a channel, a light. I’m a worrier and a free thinker. Respectful and respectable. An optimist and a realist. A comforter, a loner, a romantic. A thoughtful, overly generous, compassionate, empath.
I am a business owner, a colleague, a leader. I am daring, conservative, forceful, gentle, inspirational, and quiet all at once. I am an ally, a beloved confidante, imaginative, contemplative, funny, kind, simple and complicated. I am dedicated, sincere, hardworking, inquisitive. I am a driving force and a force that is driven. I am ageless, and aging. Studying, learning, integrating. Asking, always asking. I am a world citizen and a global family member…
“There!” I exclaimed, “Now THAT is who I think I am!”
“Exactly!” said my mentor. “Well done.”
That infamous speech says, “There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” It says each of us are “born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” So go ahead… Ask and answer this all important spiritual question for yourself: Who do you think you are? Ask it with love and sincerity; with kindness. Answer it and learn. Embrace it and live. Your spiritual truths will help protect you from angry attacks and prepare you to live your best life. What we are always speaks louder than any words that may be said about us. So be who you are. Discover it…own it…claim it!
And the next time someone asks you the million dollar question, whether out of confrontation or inspiration or idle curiosity – you will get to smile and calmly respond: “This is who I think I am.”