A few days ago one of my teachers asked my class a question which seemed simple, but left everyone wondering what they might say. The question was this: Who are you? At first glance, it seems obvious. If we don’t know anything in life, we should at least know who we are. Or, at least, theoretically we should. The fact of the matter is that it’s difficult to put into words who we are as people; not because we don’t know, but because we imagine ourselves to be many things – and often, who we imagine we are is different than who we actually are.

It was strange to be having an existential crisis in the middle of a class discussion, but I couldn’t stop wondering “Who am I?” To answer the question in class, I threw together some words that describe me: I’m a student, I’m a writer, I’m a daughter, sister, and friend, I’m a feminist, I’m a leader, I’m kind and positive.

Is that who I am? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I am all of those things, but I am also more. I am all of my life experiences, thoughts, and actions. It would take a long time to sum those things up – and it would also be unnecessary. Unless you’re directly asked “Who are you?” by someone (a teacher, in my case, or perhaps an inquisitive blogger in yours) you don’t ever have to answer that question in words. You will still have to answer it, though, in actions.

As you go about your life, you are showing who you are. I don’t walk down the street shouting to strangers that I’m a kind person – rather, I let kindness guide my actions so other people can infer that I’m kind. One of my favourite pieces of writing advice is to “show, not tell” and I think the same advice can apply to life. Instead of spending your time telling people who you are, spend your time showing them who you are.

By doing this you not only focus on your actions and their outcomes; you also prevent yourself from being caught up by the labels of who you are. People can be held back by who they think they are, even if it’s not who they really are. If you focus on doing things you love and surrounding yourself with people who make you happy, you won’t be confined by the image you have of yourself in your head.

That being said, sometimes it’s a good idea to sit back and think about what kind of person your actions portray you to be. Self-reflection is, in my opinion, the basis for self-improvement, especially when the reflection leads to positive action. So, with this in mind, I have a question for you – let me know your answer in the comments. Who are you?