Who am I?”, is a question that is asked by many people all over the world. Perhaps you ask yourself this question sometimes or have pondered about this question in the past. Asking yourself “who am I?”, implicates a feeling of not belonging. It reveals that you do not know the reason you are here on planet earth, and it shows that you feel alienated. Not knowing who you are (your identity), may cause you to walk the journey of life without purpose; causing you to merely exist instead of live.

When you do not know who you are (your identity), it causes you to easily get influenced by others: your family, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors, your acquaintances, your sports-buddies, your Christian brothers and sisters, and so on. When you do not define yourself and walk around with the nagging question “who am I?” in your mind, you cannot live up to your full potential and cannot flourish in all your God-given talents and abilities. After all, you do not know who you are, why you exist, and what you should do with your life. When you do not know your identity, any wave in life may influence you, causing you to be generally unstable.

On the contrary, when you know who you are, you will also know why you exist and what you ought to do with your life. In effect, this enables you to live your life to its fullest and to operate in your God-given abilities and talents. Thus, the more reason to get to know who you are.

Why do you ask yourself “who am I?”

When you do not know who you are, it means that you have not defined your identity. Hence, let us look at your identity, what is it? Identity is the fact of being who or what a person is or the characteristics determining who or what a person is. As you can see, your identity determines who you are. Therefore, when you ask yourself “who am I?”, you have not formed (or found) your identity.

Your identity is the way you define yourself. This includes your values, your beliefs, and your personality. It also encompasses the role you play in your society and family, as well as your memories, your hopes for the future, and your hobbies and interests. All of these together form your identity and serve as the basis for knowing who you are.

When you do not know who you are, you easily live based on a false identity or an ever-changing identity, causing you to be insecure in all your dealings. When you do not have a sense of your real identity (who you are), you can feel disconnected from who you were before and have no sense as to who you will become next. Thereby opening ways for others to influence you.

9 consequences of not knowing who you are

“Who am I?” is not just a simple question; it has deep roots in your inner-being and has far-reaching consequences for your life. Usually, when you do not know who you are, you manifest the following behavior:

  1. Changing with your environment
  2. Being easily influenced by others
  3. Having frequent radical shifts in your opinion
  4. Not liking when being asked about yourself
  5. Shifting views of yourself
  6. Distrusting yourself, deep down inside you
  7. Getting bored easily
  8. Being molded by your relationships
  9. Relationships do not run deep

There could be several reasons for not knowing (or not accepting) your identity; below are a few causes.

Not knowing who you are because of your culture

Your culture has a major influence on your identity. Even though your culture is not something you choose; birth simply propelled you into it. Your culture influences your beliefs about what is true and false, your attitude, including your likes and dislikes, your values regarding what is right and wrong, and your behaviors. These cultural influences form your identity.

If your culture pushes you in one direction, especially for a woman, but the enforced identity does not click with your view of yourself, you could enter a state of not knowing who you are (or supposed to be according to your culture). Or perhaps you were born with a leader mentality but have been pushed down since you were a child simply because, according to your culture, your ‘tribe’ does not lead. And what about religion, a major part of one’s culture; religion has the power to force you into someone you are not. Consequently, you end up living a fake identity, out of fear of (repercussions of) your religion.

Not knowing who you are due to influence of family, relatives, and friends

Even if you initially felt that you knew who you were, people closely around you can easily become a channel of influence on your identity. For example, when people constantly treat you as being inferior or lower than them (or less important), you could definitely build up a false view of yourself.

Family values, morale, and ethics also have the capability to influence your self-identity. When you are forced to behave in a certain way, you could construct a facade to obey the demand being placed on you. But in reality, you are different. This causes conflicts in your identity and self-view.

Another example is when you have been raised in an authoritarian environment. Being repressed all the time causes you to create a fake identity, in order not to get punished. After a longer period, this can cause you not to know who you are.

Overall, your childhood is extremely important in building a healthy self-view. The way you were treated as a child, greatly determines the way you see yourself as an adult. Even though you may know your family background, your name, and your history, your childhood experiences could cause you to ask “who am I?” later in life.

Not knowing who you are due to influence of history

The history of your ancestors could still be an influence on you. For example, the trans-Atlantic slave trade of colonial times caused many people to be displaced and scattered around the globe to places where they did not have links to their (cultural) roots. The so-called colonial masters purposefully cut off the culture, history, and identity of millions of slaves around the globe. Foreign morals, culture, and history were forced on native populations. As a result, many people lost their identity and feeling of belonging. The people who suffered most from colonialism and slave trade were Africans. They are also the ones facing most of the consequences of it up to date, whether living in their country of origin or scattered abroad.

Who am I ? – Effects on people’s identity

Even though the era of slave trade is over, millions of people all around the globe still feel the effect. They do not know their identity and have a feeling of not belonging, even though the facts occurred hundreds of years ago. The descendants live with the results up to date: not knowing their identities and frequently asking themselves, “who am I?”.

Google analytics of the search term “who am I?”, reveals that the top five countries in which citizens ask this question are former colonial countries; four are African countries (Zambia, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria) and one is Asian (Philippines). It is noteworthy that not everyone having this question takes the step to key it in on Google as a search term; moreover, not everyone with this question has access to the internet. Meaning, the number of persons wondering who they are is even higher.

Who am I ? – Slave mentality

Another effect of colonialism and slavery is having a ‘slave-mentality’. Many descendants of slaves now living in ‘foreign’ countries, as well as inhabitants of former colonial countries, have a slave-mentality even though they literally have nothing to do with the past of their forefathers. The impact of slavery has negatively affected their mind and behavior though.

Having a slave-mentality causes you to let other people determine your life and your identity. It lets you feel that it does not matter who you are; so why should you identify who you are (and what you want)? As a result, having a slave-mentality causes you to remain stagnant in life instead of progressing; after all, you think, others are always better and more important than you.

Who am I? Doomed not knowing who you are?

Whether your family, friends, culture, or history have negatively influenced you up to now, it is not too late to break free from it. Now, you may feel alienated, but remember that your past is not your end. It simply is your past and you cannot change that. However, you can change your future. Start doing so by stopping to look at your past. Focusing on your past keeps you in bondage to your past (or the past of your forefathers). Ask yourself a question: did your forefathers create you? Does your past determine who you are today? Or does your family or culture determine your life? The answer to these questions is ‘NO’.

No matter where you were born or live, do not let your past define you. Your past is just your past. Your past did not create you, but God did. Yes, your past has shaped you through all the good and bad experiences you have gone through. However, those experiences do not ultimately define you; but God does. He created you. He knew you before you were born. And He created you for a purpose,

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.”

Jeremiah 1:5a (NLT)

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

Who am I as a Christian?  

When you feel like you do not know your identity, and the people around you, events, and life in general get in the way of your ‘knowing’ who you are, you will wonder “who am I?” and “why am I here?”. As a result, you may say, “I need to find myself”. Well, as a child of God you do not have to search far to find out who you are. You must only realize that you are part of something bigger and connected to a bigger purpose than life here on earth.

As a child of God, you should not look back to your past, your culture, or your family to find out who you are. As a Christian, God defines you; He describes who you are. All you need to do is find out what your identity in Christ is. Let us have a look at what the bible says about your identity:

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So, I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

We so easily forget who we are. And we forget it is even more important to know whose we are. When you know whose you are as God’s child, you will know that you belong to Him and that your identity is in Him. But you have an enemy that wants you to forget who and whose you are. Therefore, you must find out from God who you are.

Who does God say I am?

The Bible provides many scriptures that describe who and whose you are. Keep reading God’s word and keep reminding yourself of who and whose you are. Why should you read the word of God? Because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17; NKJV). You should not just read who and whose you are but believe it. When you believe, you can act on it and will subsequently live a victorious life, in the full knowledge of who and whose you are.

Why should you keep reading, reminding, and believing? Because we human beings are weak in our flesh and easily forget what God tells us. Our “spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41; NKJV). Moreover, knowing who we are is not just for the benefit of ourselves. God wants us to know who we are and walk in that knowledge. Satan knows that too well and would do anything to keep you wondering who (and whose) you are and is happy when you keep asking “who am I?”. Hence:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

Who does the word of God say you are?

You are His child:

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

John 1:12 (NLT)

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:26 (NLT)

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

1 John 3:1a (NLT)

You are His:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession”.

1 Peter 2:9a (NLT)

You are New in Christ:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

You are His masterpiece:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Live your life based on who and whose you are

Find out in the word of God who and whose you are, and then live based on that revelation. Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and know that He cares for you and loves you. Knowing whose you are, can take an enormous weight from your mind and ease many anxieties.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

To have a solid identity, you need to see that you are the same person in your past as you are now, and as you will be in the future. You need to feel the same no matter your environment. That will give you a stable identity. And you can only achieve that when you know whose you are (you are God’s own possession) and who you are (God’s child). Only this will enable you to know your ultimate identity: your identity in Christ.

Remember

Remember who and whose you are. When you remember that you are God’s child, you will not allow yourself to doubt your identity and be influenced by your surroundings. Rather, you will be stable in all your affairs and unwavering in all your doings.

Remembering who and whose you are is not a one-time event. You do that continually by:

  • Staying in the Word of God
  • Praying constantly
  • Following His commands
  • Trusting the Lord with all your heart and mind

When you do this, you will live your life in the restful knowledge of who and whose you are.

Let us pray:

Thank You Lord, that You have already dealt with my question “who am I?”. You have engraved in my heart that I am Yours. I am grateful that I am not my own but belong to You. My identity is known, I do not have to worry about it anymore; because I am new, I am your child, and I am perfect. I accept and embrace who I am in You.

Created in Your flawless image, I will live my days here on earth and will fulfill your purpose for my life; the true reason why You created me. Help me Lord to stay in the knowledge of who and whose I am. Whenever I tend to wander away, remind me with your still and loving voice that I am Yours and will forever be Yours. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

©copyright 2021; Christel Owoo

Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash