Who Are You?

Image used for representation only.

Born as Rolihlahla, meaning troublemaker, Nelson Mandela stated that his friends ascribed to his birth name, the many storms he both caused and weathered.

While maintaining that nurture rather than nature is the primary molder of who we are, he attributes his “proud rebelliousness and stubborn sense of fairness” to his father.

Nurture is the shaping of your character by the many different interactions you have in the many different relationships you engage in your world. Nurture offers you choices. Choices to shape your character. Choices that make you cause and weather storms. Choices that exhibit proud rebelliousness or stubborn sense of fairness in your character. Or something else. Choices that you make that bring out the best in you, or the worst in you. Choices that define who you are.

Who you are is, then, a choice. It is your choice defined by who you want to be.

Yet, you may often describe who you are through politically correct and cool descriptions of yourself – your qualifications, your memberships, your organizations, your titles, the names of those you rubbed shoulders with, your affiliations, or your claims about your accomplishments. While these may describe the artifacts you leave behind, they do not describe who you are. They do not describe your character. They do not explain the choices you made about who you wanted to be. 

If you understand systems – the art and science of interactions – you understand that the power that drives your interactions defines who you are. The power that decides how you feel your world, the power of how you respond to your feeling, the power of your choices about why you respond the way you do, and the power of choosing those with whom you feel the world. The power that drives your interactions results from nurture. From your choices.

Your interactions are driven by your sensitivity to different experiences – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the touch, the sixth sense, the sense of beautiful, the sense of the sublime, or the sense of dignity, fairness, liberty, and equality. When you cultivate your sensitivity to sense your world and feel it, you shape your character.

When you choose to see, hear, acknowledge, or appreciate your friends, or your colleagues, for example, you choose to interact with them. When you choose not to see, hear, acknowledge, or appreciate your friends, or your colleagues, you choose not to interact with them. Your choice defines your character. It defines who you are.

Your interactions are shaped by your learning or inventing your reactivity – your responses to that which you have chosen to be sensitive to. When your response to seeing or hearing your friends is to engage in a conversation, spending time with them, celebrating them, or sharing joys and sorrows with them, you choose your reactivity. When you choose your response to use or betray your friends, you choose your reactivity. When you choose the nature of your interaction, you shape who you are. You mold your character. You define who you are.

The purposes that drive your interactions shape your relationship. The purposes that you grow to adopt as your own or those that you refuse to see value in pursuing define the interactions in your relationship. When your purpose is similar to the purpose of your friends you choose a common purpose. When you choose purposes that are different from those of your friends, you choose your personal purpose over a common purpose. Your choice underlines the purpose of your interactions. Your choice of purposes that drive your interactions defines your character. It defines who you are.

Your systems are shaped by the actors you choose to include or exclude in your interactions to the purposes you have chosen. When you choose to include those who share common purposes in your interactions, you choose the system you want to be part of. When you choose to include actors with purposes that differ from the common purposes of those you already interact with, you redefine the system you want to be a part of. Your choice influences your character. It says who you are. 

Who you are is, then, a choice. A choice that you make through the way you allow nurture to shape who you are and what you value by making the choices about your sensitivity, reactivity, purposes, and the actors to pursue your purposes with.

Mandela was who he was because of the choices he made. Choices about his sensitivity – what he chose to feel. Choices about his reactivity – how he chose to respond to what he felt. Choices about his purposes – why he chose to interact with those he interacted with. Choices about those he invited to share common purposes with or exclude from interactions as they brought in their own private purposes. 

Next time you are asked who are you, think hard. Think again. Pause before you respond. Think about your choices that you have come to define you. Your sensitivity, reactivity, purposes, and those you choose to be part of your systems. Think about who you have chosen to become.

Who are you?


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals or institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not subscribe to the same.

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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