Social Question

Haleth's avatar

What makes you who you are?

Asked by Haleth (17799 points ) June 30th, 2014

Most people introduce themselves with their age, their job, or where they live. A lot of us believe that interests and opinions make us who they are, or how we relate to other people.

I think all of these answers have some merit, but it’s not really what I’m after in this question. What is the “stuff” of our identity? Is it our memories, our learning, or our beliefs? Like, if you were stripped down to only your consciousness, with no work/ school or everyday life… who would you be then? What kind of person would you be?

I swear I’m not high or anything. The other night I was coming home and it was a really starry night, so I pulled over on this hillside to look at the stars for a couple minutes. It’s very dark and quiet out in the country where I live, and I got a sudden sense of deja vu.

For some reason, it made me feel… old. Like, really old, as if my soul were a shirt that was faded from many washings. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but it was a spooky feeling. It was a feeling like maybe on some other night, seventy thousand years ago, I had stood on a hillside to look at the stars in the same way, and at the core I was still the same person. It made me wonder what kind of “stuff” my consciousness or character might be made of, or what all of our identities are made of.

Again, totally not high right now. Maybe I’m just in the mood for some rambly late night philosophical nonsense. :)

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16 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What, or who?

I make me who I “are”.

I am the culmination of everything thought I’ve ever thunk. Those thoughts are like bricks which build the structure of my mind.

lostinyoureyes's avatar

I want to know this too. What I want to believe is the answer and what I feel to be true are two different things. I feel like who I am is composed of my upbringing and the events that have unfolded since. All the things that have or have not happened to me. It is sad, and I wish to change this belief.

Symbeline's avatar

I love looking at the stars. I always go for walks after dinner, so I often see them, especially in Winter when it gets dark earlier. I get an odd but enjoyable feeling when I do. If you look too long, it becomes confusing and frightening, but it always has that ’‘awesome’’ feeling. Not sure why, but it doesn’t only happen to me, I know that.
But I like stars, I can stare at them forever and imagine all this shit. It’s like it’s some other world out there, and perhaps it is. Sorry, didn’t answer nothing. Just wanted to talk about stars.

I wonder like, centuries ago, when Vikings looked at stars while sailing in their drakkars, or just minding their farms at the break of dawn, what it is they were thinking when looking at them.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Me myself and I and that is all.

canidmajor's avatar

I have often wondered what sort of thoughts about…well, everything, and how they were organized, that Helen Keller had before she learned someone else’s methods of communication. Interpreting the world without the two senses that most humans rely on for the vast majority of interpersonal and educational interaction probably developed a totally different style of consciousness.

Which, I guess, is just a rambly way of saying that I think I am a product of all that I have perceived, how I have perceived it, and how all of that has enabled me to interpret the perception.

hominid's avatar

I have no idea. It appears that we’re just a result of a long series of prior causes. I used to at least hold onto the idea that I was the author of my thoughts. But that is clearly not the case. I have no idea how to answer the question.

majorrich's avatar

I am the sum of my experiences, that which I have been taught, and that which have chosen to constrain those things. I am every choice I have made. I am a father, a son, a husband, a friend. I am a dream, a nightmare, a soldier, a poet. I am a patriot, an insurgent, a fool. And sometimes in the wilderness, under the wide sky, I am nothing at all.

Bill1939's avatar

Perhaps the question is not so much who am I, but what am I. Were it not for the stars, the 118 known elements that make up about “4% of the total mass of the universe, . . . [and] about 15% of the total matter, with the remainder of the matter (85%) being dark matter” (see) we would not exist. The notion of “self” as contrasted with “other” is a product of our inherent tendency to be egocentric. When we look up at the stars, we are reminded of our connection with the cosmos and how insignificant each of us is.

The notion of “self” as contrasted with “other” is a product of our inherent tendency to be egocentric. Perhaps it is the sense of inconsequence that motivates us to identify with our beliefs, vocations and social status. This desire to be important drives our efforts to acquire ever increasing material possessions, to control and to dominate. Yet despite how much we succeed, we never satiate the demands of our egos. However looking outward instead of inward, we are reminded of the significance of being part of creation and of the true value we have when working to nurture it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I started out with some DNA and then it was how I was raised, physically, mentally, and spiritually. From there it was all my life experiences, my family, and the influences of others, but more importantly, how I chose to handle those experiences. I could have gone down many different paths, some really not nice, but I think I made the right choices.

thorninmud's avatar

One way to look at it is that we are all constantly making each other who we are. It’s only our limited capacity to grasp the infinitely complex web of interdependence that gives rise to the conceit that “I am who I am apart from others”. That separation is just a contrivance that breaks down under close examination. If everything about me depends on everything else, then where do I draw the line that marks where I end and everything else begins?

Coloma's avatar

I was able to live that way for years, no pressure to survive, peace and serenity and who I am just naturally manifested with ease. Light hearted, just happy to wake up and be alive, no special needs, light hearted and at peace, filled with creativity, easily able to be alone and amuse myself with all sorts of simple things. Oh, memories. lol

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

This is an age-old question, and probably the one that makes the idea of having a “spirit” more feasible. Yes, you start with DNA, and add to that your upbringing, culture, experiences, education, the places you go and the people you meet.

But someone else could have been born with the same DNA, upbringing, and etc. etc. and become a completely different person than I became. The closest evidence that we have of this phenomenon is our siblings. Same DNA, same culture, same parents, same upbringing, but yet they make different choices that take them down a different path. So yes, it is a mystery.

Bill1939's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I doubt that two individuals can have the same DNA. Even if it were possible, the environment of the womb, greatly influenced by the emotional, nutritional, physical and psychological realities of the mother, effects a genome’s development. The increasingly limited space that identical twins occupy in utero also effects their mental and physical development. Even after their birth, it us unlikely that twins experience exactly the same circumstances in life. It would be a greater mystery if the expression of siblings’ character was identical.

Coloma's avatar

Personality and temperament are huge factors as well, the nature/nurture dichotomy. Why people can have similar or the same experiences but vastly different ways of perceiving or coping with them.

MarvinPowell's avatar

Atoms and DNA.

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