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Who are you? How do you define yourself?

Are you what you do for a living? Are you defined by your beliefs? Do you see yourself only through the lens(e) of your relationships? Is the act of defining ourselves healthy or unhealthy? Does it limit us or does self knowledge empower us?

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    Mar 10 2014: Hello Jacob,

    I think the question "What am I?" (rather than 'who am I?') is the primary question for self-definition.
    Knowing what I am sets the big picture context for the living of day-to-day who I am. If I have a false understanding of what I am, I can never live authentically who I am. When we are gone from this planet, what we are will be at least as relevant as who we have become in awareness of what we are.

    Who we are is, in any one moment, our self-perception of who we are. This self-perception may be influenced by what we do for a living, by how we see ourselves in relation to others, and by many other factors we choose to perceive ourselves by.

    The act of defining ourselves becomes more and more healthy the nearer it gets to the truth of what we are. After all, false is false and what is true has never changed.

    True self-knowledge empowers us; false self-definitions limit us, and the more false, the more limiting ... until we get so off-beam something happens that wakes us up in the direction of more accurate self-knowledge. So it's a self-correction mechanism, rather like a governor on a steam engine.
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      Mar 11 2014: Joshua, Cheers! We are our own creators and performers of ourselves. Whether one feels comfortable to be a little unit of a large "powerful" crowd, or to be a one independent individual, though take more responsibility for personal moves ---- we always have a choice.

      You comment is simply WISE.
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        Mar 12 2014: Hello Vera,

        Thank you for your comment.

        The way I see it is that the incorruptible laws of the universe are geared benignly towards our evolution and growth in consciousness - even if it does not look like it or feel like it at times.

        But whatever is going on in our lives, we always have - as you rightly say - a choice; the choice being to what extent we embrace consciously and compassionately "what happens" in our lives, or in some measure reject it and push it away.
        If we take the latter course, you can be sure that the laws of the universe will operate in such a way as to give us another chance to deal with our "inner world" and its misconceptions.
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          Mar 15 2014: Dear Joshua, I admire your sense of the world, which is immeasurable in every possible sense, but is embracing us in most incomprehensible ways.

          I do believe and feel that each of us is unique to some varies degree and this is one of the laws of mighty nature. If we are all the same we would turn into one single "thing". Uniqueness of every living form or every event, means that every living form has the right and responsibility for what it chooses in life according to its always unique abilities and circumstances. No one else may have this right unless we voluntarily want to follow others.

          Another universal law, we all may sense, is instant change. Change is challenging one to change along uniquely within one's natural environment. Life is all about change for the sake of survival, learning and possible development.

          The sense of Self is what we are, no matter what sorts of sensations we may experience - empirical, tangible or ephemeral. Why our impressions of our life is so theatrical? This has explanations, but not within that imaginative theater we call "real", not under super microscopes or inside telescopes - the world is beyond what we usually observe as our reality, and we are THERE too.
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        Mar 17 2014: Hello Vera,

        I agree with you about "right and responsibility". I reckon that when we sense our 'rights' and 'duties' becoming one and the same, then we know we are acting from our centre.

        I think Shakespeare got that sense of the theatrical in life when he said "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages... " (from the play: As You Like It).
        If you imagine divine laws covering every possible eventuality of our willed choices, then "what happens next" has to be part of an ever-evolving self-adjusting play in which divine laws engineer the next scene we walk into - and nothing is left to arbitrary chance. We are never victims of the world we see.
        I'm reckoning that at any one time our "self" is our "perception of ourself" and that that determines our experience of life. So if we want a better experience of life, then we need to voluntarily go to work in our inner world and take an honest look at our perception of ourselves, especially when "triggered negatively" by some so-called external event.
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          Mar 17 2014: It's a pure delight to read your post. Not too many people I know (mostly scholars) are able to make such profound observations.

          Well, what is so bewildering is that human minds are not at all interested in HOW they are able to sense or see anything, but are very excited about WHAT they "see" on the superficial stage of their theatrical "reality". Kant is not so very popular - who would be excited by admiting that all we "see" are "things-in-themselves"..

          I'm wondering (since I was a tiny newcomer in this burlesque existence) why we are trained by adults to trust appearances - while they have any clue of how these appearances are getting in our minds (not brains, which cannot see or hear anything on their own...without that powerful but ephemeral Self) Whatever we are able to sense looks to me like extremely crude reactions on our mysterios to us "blind" interactions with the objective to us existence. Self is the creator of its "domain", its nest, its invisible to anyone else universe, where it lives.

          Please write more about your own thoughts, if you would like to. Absolutely grateful!
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    Mar 8 2014: I don't see why to define ourselves. I personally think that as humans we are beyond the limits of any definition because only inanimate objects can be under restrictions of verbal definition (and even in that I am not so sure). Definitions might empower only the ego as it relishes in the false illusion of dwelling in the pseudo secure framework which any definition creates, giving the feeling of having control within that framework. I view definitions to be like cages for animals where they have control inside those cages.
    • Mar 10 2014: I agree that any living being is beyond any singular definition, none of us has an existence that us so narrow as to fit under one label or title. As to the "ego", I think your image of cages fits very well! To identify yourself with your ego, your experiences, memories, your dreams, may give some measure of comfort and security but also keeps you from freely experiencing the world around you.
    • Mar 10 2014: Here's a good talk about "ego".

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    Mar 20 2014: It is easier to say who I am not.
    "I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Magian nor Muslim,
    I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
    not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
    not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
    I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
    not from existence, not from being.
    I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin,
    not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan.
    I am not from the world, not from beyond,
    not from heaven and not from hell.
    I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan.
    My place is placeless, my trace is traceless,
    no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls."
  • Mar 8 2014: I am a spell-checker. You spelt "lens" with an "e" on the end. Tut.
    • Mar 8 2014: Ha ha thank you sir, i looked it up just now and amended it for you.

      "The variant spelling lense is sometimes seen. While it is listed as an alternative spelling in some dictionaries, most mainstream dictionaries do not list it as acceptable.[1][2]"

      • Mar 8 2014: I am a slave to boredom, too. It is boring at the top of the food chain.
  • Mar 18 2014: I am God; a powerhouse of energy, capable of everything and anything and presented to the universe in the form of a human being.
    • Mar 18 2014: Have you been reading robert Heinlein again mint? Ha ha.

      Edit: didn't mean any disrespect by that, i got my hackles raised in another conversation and was looking for some levity.
      • Mar 18 2014: Lol, din't even read your comment prior to the edit, but would have taken it in good humour anyway. I can officially claim the comment I made above was created from my own brain as I am all powerful and capable of these types of word compounds. However there are many historic and current authors that do share a similar viewpoint.

        It feels good to know That I am the one. If you haven't tried it I suggest you do.
    • Mar 18 2014: Could you please explain to me why you made me mortal but write in your book that I am made in your image?
      • Mar 18 2014: I did not make you mortal, you made yourself mortal and the god(s) that wrote the "holy" scripture are just trying to fool you into believing you are less than they, but you are also a powerhouse of energy and capable of all and everything. But remember with great power comes great responsibility, so don't go creating a scripture that puts other gods in your shadow (although, you and I both know I cannot prevent your free will). Welcome to heaven.
        • Mar 18 2014: Mint Thinny is an anagram of My Eternity so I am going to a) make myself immortal like you said and b) write a book about it.
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    • Mar 13 2014: I think it was Plato that said the process we call learning is more akin to remembering (Meno). What lessons or ideas did you learn from your experience, if you don't mind sharing?
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          Mar 15 2014: Brendan: I think no creatures in this world we know have this outstanding telant to mimic others, as we, humans, have.

          Our Self is always a composition of very many characters we constantly play on the stage of our mind - the only playhouse we can ever observe in this life. Every Self is Many, but only one character is prevailing, even when "stands" in the corner of that mental stage.

          Whether, senselessly active, smart or stupid, we, Humans, are the most highly excited, theatrical creatures of all we may know.

          I suppose, because you're so sensative but so open to transformations of Self or "Ego" -do you like Buddha's concept?

          “All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. If a man speak or act with an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the beast that draws the wagon.... If a man speak or act with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.”
          ― Gautama Buddha
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    Mar 11 2014: Boy, love the topic. Not too many really are able to even UNDERSTAND the question.

    We are given names and IDs to "help" us be some units of the systems, but this does Not help us be individual unique creatures as nature meant us to be.

    I take this Q. very seriously. There is not a single day that I'm not asking myself "what am I, why do I have to mimic others in order to be accepted in people's mess and silly games. What is really beyond all that crazy theater?"

    I'd like to answer your wonderful timeless question - WE ARE WHATEVER WE DO OF OUR SELFS.

    Mighty nature has granted us a lot of "material", and some inborn abilities which take us our own UNIQUE ways.

    Nothing can make me feel more inspired and driven than when I DEFINE myself......

    Do you like to read great Schopenhauer, his controversial but incomparable writing on WILL and human nature driven by that power of will?
    • Mar 12 2014: Thank you for your posts! First I have to admit that I don't fully understand the question myself, ha ha. This is why I'm here in the TED community, to develop my thoughts and undersranding. Ah, the power of differing viewpoints! I have been trying to understand myself for years now and I'm not sure how much progress I've really made ha ha. This is one of my main goals in life, to "see"clearly. I wont ever have much money or material comforts, and ill only be able to retire the day after I die, but thats ok, these things are not neccessary to accomplish my goals. No maam, I have to admit I haven't read Schopenhauer, but I will definitely add him to my list (I've been a bookworm my whole life). So down to the meat,"we are whatever we do of ourselves", powerful words and they speak right to the core of what I'm trying to understand, I can see that what we do affects our identity,( if you get a chance, you might look for a conversation from a few months ago about the benefits of meditation and check out my "stolen words"), but is this iidentity truly what we are. To grasp this identity is to see ourselves as a individual, singular, beings, but as many folks have commented on here, we are constantly changing, with every thought, action and spoken (typed) word. To see ourselves as individuals overlooks the fact that there are more bacterial cells in amd on these bodies than "human" cells and they are neccessary to our survival. It is also overlooking the seemingly infinite connections between each other and the physical world around us. I am coming to see that the "ego" is a practical tool, but grasping it too tightly is unhealthy and limiting. Thank you again for your post, ill have to chew on your other one for a bit before I reply.
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        Mar 12 2014: Arthur Schopenhauer is undoubtedly the most influential among all philosophers, he has deeply moved not only one or two great minds, but a whole generation of brilliant poets, composers, writers.

        I cannot accept the idiotic category he was put into, by some lightheaded scholars - "pessimism" - I guess for his mercilessness critique of human ignorance, ugliness, stupidity and cruelty, that he's thought would never go away. His endless sympathy and compassion, his sorrow, he felt for the hurt souls, including animals was deeply real. (he has founded the very first non-profit for the animal rights, in 19th century!) Schopenhauer was the true father of what we call these days "psychology" influencing this young science.

        Please read Bryan Magee's on great Schopenhauer - Magee is the most profound philosopher alive who's writing is also a pure delight to read.

        Schopenhauer's theory was that there are two aspects of the self: the self as it appears as an object of perception and the self as a manifestation of will.

        P.S. I believe that we mimic others while perceiving them, feeling for them as much as we can, actually acting as everything and as everyone we perceive, staging everything inside the internal theater of our minds. Self is always a major character, even when it is waiting in the "corner" or behind the "curtains". It is a breathtaking field on human perceptions where I'm overwhelmed with new to me discoveries on human mind, Self, and its fantastic playhouse...
        • Mar 12 2014: I will absolutely put Schopenhauer and Magee on my list and look forward to reading them, thanks for telling me about them! Your p.s. makes me think of brain imaging scans done on people while they look at an object and again when they later picture that object in their minds and how there is no discernable difference in the scans. When we are being truly compassionate and empathetic we feel someone else's emotions as though they were our own.
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    Mar 8 2014: Hello Jacob,
    I am a human, with the name Colleen, traveling this life adventure with curiosity and love:>)

    Yes, I believe that categorizing or labeling ourselves according to what we do, what our beliefs are, etc. is limiting, because if we are really exploring the life adventure, those things can change. I believe self knowledge is empowering, and I also believe that being fully present in the moment is empowering, and if we label ourselves based on what we have done, we are living in the past, rather than the present moment.
    • Mar 10 2014: Hey there Colleen, thanks for the response. I agree about self knowledge being empowering and find that as I "know" myself better, it is harder for me to define myself. I can describe aspects of my personality, but these things arent me. I can recall past experiences but they are not me either, and as a lot of research shows, these memories are seldom even accurate, which is why two or more people can remember shared experiences so differently.
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        Mar 10 2014: Hey there Jacob!

        I agree...as I learn about all the aspects of myself, it becomes more difficult to define myself, and that is ok because I don't want to label myself anyway:>)

        Everything that I have experienced, contributes to who and what I am, and to give any one aspect more or less credit, doesn't make sense to me. I LOVE the continuing exploration of the life adventure, and when we label ourselves, often times, the exploration stops there. I do not perceive any value in limiting myself:>)
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    Mar 8 2014: who you are should not be defined by what you do. I think our lives should be more well-rounded than that. but ultimately a little bit of defining in several different ways is necessary to get by in society. one should have ideas about how one identified themselves and work proactively to keep them accurate. for example, Am I a good person?, am I smart?, emotional? sensitive? optimistic? skeptical? I think people should avoid limiting labels and encourage cultivation of expanding labels, for example instead of I am Christian, or (Muslim or any other religion) one should want to be able to say I am good. instead of saying I am a doctor one should be I am one who helps others. I also agree with what one of the Yubal Masalker said we have to be careful that our self definitions don't feed our egos and entrap and limit our thinking. just because I define myself as a good person does not mean everything I do is good and so I should be careful to always reevaluate myself in context with what I want to be defined as.
    • Mar 10 2014: I think the healthiest, but most difficult thing I have aspired to is constantly reminding myself to act instead of REacting. I think the "ego" has been a powerful tool in the evolution of humanity, but if we are going to live long enough to continue to evolve we need to loosen our grip on these narrow, confining identities and start to identify with humanity as a whole, and eventually "life"as a whole.
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    Mar 7 2014: I think people are much more inclined to define and label others than to do so for themselves, because people are more keenly aware of themselves as multi-dimensional, complex, and unique than they are of these same aspects in others.
  • Mar 7 2014: Its a very very difficult question. I hate labels,titles and designation because that limits me and makes me suffocated.My visiting card carries not label,title or designation just a name. No single word can define me . But, the meaning of my name is satisfaction which contradicts my character and personality.

    Self knowledge does empowers us and it is the Master Key which can open any lock in the world.
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    Mar 19 2014: Just posted a blog post on this today (been having some teenage "identity issues" recently)... here's pertaining excerpts: "Luckily, I think I know my identity now. As I have thought recently, it is not defined. I can't say exactly who I am, who I want to be, or who I was. My identity is an accumulation. It is shaped by my past. It will be shaped by my future. It is being shaped as I write this post." "The best way I could tell someone who I am... is by [having] a two part biography with the first part being written by people who have had made repeated impacts on my thought process in my life and and the second part being autobiographical, and including all my thoughts and actions. Obviously this is a purely theoretical work, but theory helps establish truths."

    Thanks for the question and hopefully that helped!
  • Mar 19 2014: I am a biological organism that builds, stores and retrieves internal pictures including pictures of myself in pain which are useful for self-perpetuation and pictures of myself in pleasure which are useful for self-replication. I am an it. (It's just a philosophy.)
  • Mar 14 2014: I define myself by who I am inside and who I want to be. I think it's important to know who you are and what you want to do. Also, it's better that you define yourself than to have someone define you.
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    Mar 13 2014: I define myself by how much I celebrate life and by how much happiness I can bring into the lives of others. But I also agree with the other comments. The best way to define yourself is to not do it, but we should always try to improve who we are and that does imply some standard of measurement.
    • Mar 13 2014: As I make my way through this conversation what I see is that the ego is not something we can or should try to do away with, but maybe what needs redefining is the nature of the ego and what role it plays in our life and our development. It seems that the development of the ego is just the first step in a process that we haven't yet discovered the end to. I agree that we should always try to improve who we are and how can we do that if we don't assess our traits, characteristcs, and past decisions. Thanks for your post and thanks to everyone else that has taken part in this conversation
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    Mar 12 2014: When we are very young babies the most overwhelming sense of oneself is taking us over, like a blissful sail in the sea of new life ...

    Then adults begin to teach us "how" to be a human "person" based on some man-made name.

    I think that there is no creature on this planet that is so ultimately LOST in DEFYING itself, as a human "person".

    Every newborn little bird, cat or dog "knows" who he/she is, recognized by other species instantly, no IDs or names. Every little bird, fish, snake, bug "knows" what to do and how to act as SELF.

    Only humans need some names, IDs, some man-made paterns to follow, think, believe, have some profession etc, which means we try to match to what have been told by others who we are to the rest of our lives. One's sense of Self is "fixed", squeezed into category and tragically suppressed.

    Our human minds are extremely illusive and easily losing the very compass of personal intuition, that very intuition which can be active only within our immediate natural environment.

    It is our human nature that is so different...so easily excited for many wrong reasons, and so easily gets lost.
    Once in while one might scream in the middle of the night "What am I? Where am I?"

    Well, Joshua Bond is different, a true inspiration.
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    Mar 11 2014: "Flight is a 2012 American drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film stars Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot who miraculously crash lands his plane after it suffers an in-flight mechanical failure, saving nearly everyone on board. Immediately following the crash, he's hailed a hero, but an investigation soon leads to questions that puts the captain in a different light."

    The movie end like this:
    Whip is working to rebuild his relationship with his son, who visits to talk with him, in jail, about a college application essay on "the most fascinating person that I've never met." His son begins by asking, "WHO ARE YOU?" Whip replies "That's a good question."


    'Who am I? I am the SYNTHESIS of everything people know about me, everything I know about myself, and everything people and I don't know about myself, including my ancestral memory experience." Rodrigo Feliciano
  • Mar 10 2014: Is it possible to have "self awareness" without clinging to an "ego"?
    • Mar 11 2014: The brain is an organ that allows the building and storing of pictures of the external environment, the organism that is doing the picture-building, possible scenarios, dreams and hallucinations; all of which may be stored. Clinging to an ego is building pictures of the organism that is doing the picture-building. You can stop doing that but still carry on building pictures of the other things. However, will those stored pictures of the organism that did the picture-building pop-up out of nowhere? And would that count as self-awareness? Could you try it please? I want to know.
      • Mar 11 2014: Ha ha, ill have to chew on that for awhile and get back to you.
      • Mar 12 2014: "Clinging to an ego is building pictures of the organism that is doing the picture-building." Outstanding sir! And will they pop up out of no where? That is a big question. Is this laearned or natural? I think its learned through interactions with others, like lighting a candle with another candle. This makes me think of "feral children" and how "Feral children lack the basic social skills that are normally learned in the process of enculturation. For example, they may be unable to learn to use atoilet, have trouble learning to walk upright after walking on fours all their life, and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. They often seem mentally impaired and have almost insurmountable trouble learning a human language."(From wikipedia) So it seems that maybe the ego Must be built, through enculturation for us to possess the traits the we use to describe what it is to be human, but maybe once they are built, at a certain age or level of maturity, we can begin construction of another identity, one that encompasses the lives of those in our family, then those in our community, then those in our country, continent, species, and finally our biosphere.
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      Mar 13 2014: Jacob,
      You ask..."Is it possible to have "self awareness" without clinging to an "ego"?".

      I suggest that "clinging" to any one element colors the outcome of an exploration.

      According to definition....
      Ego: "one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality esp. by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality".

      Aware: "knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists;
      feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion)
      knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you;
      realization, perception, or knowledge"

      My conclusion, is that if we are consciously mindful, cognizant, alert, attentive, heedful, observant, open hearted and open minded, we are aware of what is happening in and around us, including how the ego works.

      "Clinging" to the ego, does not give us reliable or accurate information. Understanding and using the ego as it appears to function (as the organized conscious mediator) seems appropriate and useful.
      • Mar 13 2014: I've never actually read any if Freud's work but this is from wiki-"Originally, Freud used the word ego to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory." This actually seems like a practical way of viewing the ego, but how often is the really done? It seems like most of us take these actions, especially our judgments and memories as "who or what we are". I think you're right that clinging to these functions, and identifying ourselves with them, gives us a skewed picture of reality.
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          Mar 13 2014: You ask....how often is it done Jacob? Depends on how aware a person is? How a person understands and uses the ego?

          I did not base what I wrote on Freud's work.
      • Mar 13 2014: Yes maam, I was actually asking about your personal experiences in daily life, how many of the people you know and/or meet make these distinction between functions of the mind/psyche and personal identity? I admit I don't take the time get to the people I come across, to my own detriment probably, but a lot of the folks I come across define themselves through sports teams, fancy cars and clothes, tv shows and music they like. Is it much different in your neck of the woods?

        I only mentioned Freud because he was in the wiki article when I looked up ego.
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          Mar 13 2014: Oh....I didn't realize you were asking about my personal experiences Jacob!

          Most of the people I interact with regularly are aware and mindful in the moment, which is probably why I choose to interact with them more regularly:>)

          The masses of people? Maybe not so mindfully aware. I agree....lots of folks define themselves through sports, material "stuff", clothes, tv etc.....

          This takes us back to your original question....."who are you"? How do we CHOOSE to define ourselves? What is important in our lives? If someone defines him/herself based on the tv programs s/he watches, it tells me that is what is most important in that person's life. If one defines him/herself by material possessions, it tells me that is what is most important in that person's life. Same with any other way to define oneself.

          If one recognizes oneself ONLY in relationship to sports, material goods, tv programs, etc., it gives me the information that the person probably hasn't done much exploration of "self"... and/or is content with the exploration s/he has done, and the choices s/he makes.......make any sense?
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          Mar 13 2014: Could I ask you what it means to define oneself through a sports team, clothes or TV shows? Are you saying you encounter other adults who identify themselves primarily as, say, soccer players or wearers of jeans or watchers of Downton Abbey?

          I ask because I have not encountered this in my life.
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          Mar 13 2014: Fritzie,
          My impression is that Jacob is using those as examples rather than literally? I am sure he will carify........Jacob.....where are you???
      • Mar 13 2014: Sorry, had my hands full. I lot of folks around here are Cowboys fans through and through. They spend all their time thinking and talking about the team, the players, the games. They have fantasy football leagues and sports video games to fill the gaps, not to mention sports talk radio to and from work, sometimes at work. It wears me out just thinking about it ha ha. The same thing holds for other sports or teams, car clubs, etc. I'm sure they are capable of depth, and most likely have depth, I just cant always see it.
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          Mar 13 2014: Oh, I understand now. You are saying that you know people who get caught up in their favorite team during football season and focus their leisure time on sports.

          I think having a great enthusiasm for a sport or a team is somewhat different than seeing that as your fundamental identity.
      • Mar 13 2014: Sorry Fritzie, I cant seem to reply to your comment, there's no reply option, so ill use the reply option on Colleen's comment. This is related to the question I've been pondering of course but not the main drive for me posting the conversation. I'm really trying to clarify my thoughts about my own ego and the role it plays in my life. I don't mean to be so negative about the sports fanatics, but I do think that sports and entertainment play far too big a part in American culture and there are a lot of people whose entire world revolve around sports. There's nothing morally wrong with it, of course,it just seems like a waste of time, resources, our attention/energyand I don't really understand it.
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          Mar 17 2014: Jacob,
          You say..." I do think that sports and entertainment play far too big a part in American culture and there are a lot of people whose entire world revolve around sports".

          Are you making a judgment about what other people "should" and "should not" be interested in? Are you defining those people? Are you defining yourself? Both?

          We don't always know why some folks choose certain activities, so it's good to have an open mind about it....don't you think? Can we judge what is a "waste of time" for someone else? Is there any value in making that judgment about another person?

          About 40 years ago, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease....a condition that is often disabling. It is common in older folks, but I was only 30 at the time. Rather than agreeing to fusing the spine, which was recommended by medical professionals, I chose to pursue a more holistic approach, which included focus on sport and physical activity, to strengthen the muscular system as a support for the degenerating spine.

          Someone observing from the outside, may have thought that my focus on physical activity was a waste of time, attention, energy and resources? That focus on physical activity, has helped me manage the condition without becoming disabled.

          My point Jacob, is that we never really know for sure why a person is focusing on particular activities, and it helps to try to understand, rather than making judgments. When we try to define someone else, we are only defining them through our own lens, so we are actually defining ourselves.....make any sense?
      • Mar 17 2014: Those are all fair points Colleen. Yes, I was making judgements and you are right to point out the hypocracy in my doing this, especially after all of my high minded talk in this conversation. It probably does limit my ability to truly get to know these folks, I'll admit that. Having said that I'll say that I don't see much value in the sports industry or people's obsession with it. I think physical activities and sports can be healthy, surely, if done for the right reasons, say for health or for fun. When I was a pup, the family gathered at my grandparents every weekend and we would play baseball or touch football before lunch. Good medicine! That is, however a long ways from what our national obsession with sports has become. I have things that I use as distractions, I enjoy reading and may well spend to much time here at TED ha ha, but I try to keep all things in moderation. The amount of time, energy, and money we as a nation spend on the big business sports industry seems unhealthy to me to a pointof being detrimental to us as a society and indirectly to the world at large. It Does make sense that.I am only superficially defining folks through the lens of my perceptions, I'll give you that, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of folks spend almost every waking moment thinking about "their team", or the fact that entertainment is too large a part of our culture to be healthy.
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          Mar 17 2014: It's ok Jacob.....not necessary for you to see value in the sports industry or people's obsession with it. We are all different, as I'm pretty sure you know:>)

          That being said, we are the same in many ways as well. I have addictions to reading and TED as well Jacob! I agree....moderation and balance are important :>)
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    Mar 10 2014: Who is asking this?
    • Mar 10 2014: Ha ha, if I had an answer to that I wouldn't be looking for input!
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        Mar 10 2014: And, did you find some bits of 'you' in the given feedback?
        • Mar 10 2014: I find more and more that "you" and "I" is a figment of my imagination and while "I" is a handy tool for making predictions about possible outcomes, it is irrelevant to the action and unnecessary in most situations. "We" and "us" seems to be a more practical view point since all interaction is between at least two "I"s.
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        Mar 10 2014: Interaction yes, but what about experience and thoughts? Can I really know for certain how 'we' are doing today? I can't, how can you?
        • Mar 10 2014: I seem (I continue to use I because I don't know any other way to express what I think ha ha) to get lost in the thoughts that run through this brain. These thoughts can be useful and they affect my future actions (or better yet our future interactions), but they are not singular anymore than the cells that make up this body are. These thoughts run around in circles contradicting each other spiralling farther away from the reality of the present moment. The things "I"'ve experienced are stored in the connections in this brain and can only be accessed in relation to other thoughts and emotions. How close is any memory to the reality of whatever moment in time it is a snapshot of? As it is personal in nature and limited in scope it seems that any memory is far from accurate. How can "I" know how we are doing today? By interacting with "you".
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        Mar 10 2014: But what if I fooled you in our interaction? What if I reflect a completely different state of 'me' as the one I really was in? In doing so, 'your' part of our we was correct, but your impression of mine, wasn't.

        Personally I gave up the mental concept of a definite reality a long time ago, which helped me to focus more in detail on mine, in their changes and variations.And by experience I learned, that I can never be certain about another beings state nor their current reality, as neither our senses nor our way of communications is precise enough to gain sufficient information and, even more important, to experience this information within its original 'resonance chamber'.

        Empathy is our only way to feel externally, yet also this is nothing but quite a crude and highly individualized approximation. Good enough to gain basic ideas, yet prone to misguidance.
        • Mar 10 2014: I believe there is a definite reality, we just don't seem to be capable of perceiving or understanding it in its entirety. We may not be able to be certain about another being's state or current reality, butfor that matter we may not be able to be certain about our own, but interaction is a requisite of experience. Empathy is an action of our imagination acting with the information provided by our understanding of an interaction with another being compared to our memories of our own past experiences. We may or may not be able to ever really know the mind of another, but the more we interact with any one individual the closer our approximations and/or estimations of their thoughts and feelings are likely to be.
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        Lejan .

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        Mar 11 2014: Yes, the imagination of the existence of a definite reality has a calming effect on our minds, such as a tree in the open plain has to our visuals.

        On my personal realities I can be certain about their uncertainty, which is the best I found out about it within the circles of thought you mentioned before. Practically it helps to just be, which is the most enjoyable state I can be in. From there final answers doesn't matter.

        Empathy allows us even to overcome our own past experiences by abstraction and comparative relation building. Nevertheless, quite blurry still.

        Approximation is the best we can hope for, as you say, whereas we'll never have any reference point for final comparison of how close our approximation ever evolved. Our given feelings about it remain illusive.
        • Mar 11 2014: I'll agree about final answers not mattering especially since I'm not sure there are any final answers (one thing I feel sure of is that I don't have any final answers only more questions). And maybe the existence of a definite reality is only my imagination, I don't know, but it seems that the occurance of events in the physical universe do not rely on our observation or understanding for their existence. Thanks for your replies sir, you've had me scratching my head trying to put into words what I see when I look at the world around me (I, me, you, us, we ha ha).
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        Lejan .

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        Mar 11 2014: The physical universe does not rely on our understanding about it, for sure, thats why gravity gently and friendly keeps us within the oxygen layer of our planet for our well being on the branch of our given evolution.

        Observation, however, seems to be different from that, as there is no way for us to observe without the presence of our physical representation or technical devices, which in return interact naturally with the given surrounding we observe.

        The fact, that 'I gave up the mental concept of a definite reality' is equivalent in its meaning as your imagination about it. In fact, both of our choices are valid ones in each of our felt representation of our universes, and only there.

        So keep scratching your head by marveling about this world surrounding you but stay in touch with others to not get lost on this way ... :o)
  • Mar 10 2014: Here is a good talk (the one that motivated me to join the TED community) and my response to it.


    Nov 15 2013: I think there is another example of single stories. That is when have a single story of ourselves, and I think its just as limiting to our understanding of our own nature and that of others. So many of us take the narrative of our lives as our identity. Not one of us is so narrow a creature as to be only what has happened to us and what we have experienced. We are pushed to find ourselves and it seems that so many have created an identity from their likes and dislikes, or what amuses and entertains them. I think our true nature is potential. Potential to help or harm, to love, hate, or worse to be apathetic.
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    Mar 10 2014: I have another article lead for you that again deals with how we define a course for ourselves: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3027404/scared-of-failing-ask-yourself-these-6-fear-killing-questions?partner=newsletter
    • Mar 10 2014: Good stuff! This goes hand in hand with the other article. This is the type of thought exercises that should be taught in our schools. Practicing thinking about questions like the ones in this article and visualization could help a lot more people live up to their potential. I'm gonna send these links to my nephews.
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        Mar 10 2014: Those who get training in working with adolescents learn that these are prime years for the development both of identity and of "executive function." These sorts of topics and strategies are useful "build ins" in any classroom. While some schools address such matters in "advisory" classes, much like the homerooms of yore, I think integrating these sorts of perspectives across the curriculum is probably most effective.

        How old are the boys?
        • Mar 10 2014: About to turn 11 & 14. Good kids both.
  • Mar 10 2014: I just want to thank everyone again for all the input, these have been thought provoking responses to a question I have been thinking about for some time now.
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    Mar 9 2014: Jacob, I think that some form of self evaluation is always in effect. If I yell at my kids and make them cry ... how do I feel about that. If I make a co-worker feel bad about their project ... what have I accomplished ... how much harm have I done ... could I have handled it differently?

    I will not take time to define myself ... many other do that for me each and every day.

    I do, however, look at the guy in the mirror each day and ask if I have conducted myself with honor.

    Your question "... does self knowledge empower us?" Yes. It is important for us to know who we are ... our strengths ... our limitations .... and to accept them ... to learn to like that person.

    So here is the simple truth ... I am who I am ... do I learn and grow from my errors ... am I honest and tolerant to my fellow man .... do I return home with honor each day?

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • Mar 10 2014: I think our societies would all be better served if the self evaluation you described was a bigger part of our cultures. It seems far too many of us focus to much attention on the physical mirror and far to little time looking at the mirror of how we affect the world (and the people in it) around us.
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    Mar 9 2014: Well, I won't get into the deep philosophical reasons why we should not define ourselves and compartmentalize our lives in a few different categories, but instead, I'm going to use this platform to introduce myself to the community, and share a few things about me so that maybe I can engage some of you who feel we have some interesting similarities, or intriguing differences that we could all learn from.
    First and foremost, I'm a God-fearing husband, originally from the Ivory-Coast. I'm the proud soon to be the dad of a precious little princess. I'm currently working as an IT consultant/project manager for a global software developer while I'm completing grad school as an MBA student. I'm also an avid entrepreneur in my spare time.
    I started and closed down a few businesses already, but I'm always looking for opportunities to grow my network of business contacts.
    My current industry interests are used vehicles retail, Apparel retail and Entertainment.
    Feel free to reach out to me.
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    Mar 9 2014: There are so many great replies on this forum to this question. The common question I get when meeting new people is 'what do you do for a living, and where do you live?. Although my surface answers to just those two questions are quite interesting in and of itself, a large part of me wants to give this answer:

    "What do I do for a living? Well, I love my family and respect all the sacrifices they made so I can enjoy the life I have today. Where do I live? I live in my heart and soul, holding dearly very delicate pieces of hearts and souls of those I love. Because in the end, that's all I'll be left with when I leave this body."

    Yes, pretty esoteric per today's world of societal status and judgement. I have an interesting life and have no shame in sharing what I 'do' for a living and am confident that it's quite impressive to most folks I meet. But what if we defined ourselves by how much we give and share with others, the relationships we make, good and bad, and the positive impact we make on ourselves and society by our actions of kindness? Now, that could serve to be a much more powerful definition of a person than someone's profession or that allows that person to pay his/her own bills.
    I've lately been starting to think from a perspective that when I leave this body and Planet Earth one day, what will I be most proud of having accomplished in my life? Getting that job that paid tons of money? Or giving the loves of my life the best experiences a colleague, a mentee, friend, sister, daughter, mother, and wife could ever give?
    • Mar 10 2014: The funny thing is that when people ask you what you do, they are not really trying to getto know you, they are trying to form an opinion about you based on their personal set of values and beliefs. I definitely think that what we do(all our actions, not just our professions) affects us but it doesn't define us.
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    Mar 8 2014: we dont define ourselves!! because we dont need to give our definition to ourselves!!
    people define us for themselves!
    and on that note.. ones definition changes according to what one is precieved to the 2nd person!!
  • Mar 8 2014: I appreciate all the posts. I have a habit of over replying sometimes, but have tried not to do that this time.
  • Mar 8 2014: Hi Dear Jacob,that's good question to keep asking in dairy life,I like to ask myself and to keep the consciousness of the question to keep me thinking.

    A few days ago,my father,because of the brain jam to stay at hospital.Then the hospital gave him a symbol of ring to wear on his hand with the special name and numbers.Then I said to my father:see,dad,in the hospital,the number presents of you:doctors,patients,nursers,most of them don't know your name,what you do,who are your children,but they just know the number it is you.So who are you?the number is you?my father laughing.

    I think a person no any speical life than a little grass or any plant in this planet.But human we have brain,we have the most conciousness of things potentials...keep using them to keep thinking...be being consious...to keep studying to know who am I...
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    Mar 7 2014: “Who are you?“ is a lot like “Current Role” category in TED Profiles, in that it varies per context. Everyday my role changes several times, at work I have one role and with family I have a totally different role. I guess I’m a jack-of-all-trades, when it comes to the typical categories with none of them being so overwhelming in my life to say that is what I am.

    Now if asked to define what makes me unique, I would likely say I’m a “Noble Autodidactic Divergent Buddha”. (LOL, I better clarify.)

    “Noble” believer in living by the 9 noble virtues*, not royalty or top 1%.
    “Autodidactic” AKA: self-taught/learning on my own. AKA: recovering victim of public education. ;)
    “Divergent “ Divergent thinker and outside the box doer.
    “Buddha” as in one that has awakened/enlightened spiritually, and not the Gautama Buddha himself.

    *the 9 noble virtues;
    1. Courage
    2. Truth
    3. Honour
    4. Fidelity
    5. Discipline
    6. Hospitality
    7. Self Reliance
    8. Industriousness
    9. Perseverance
    • Mar 10 2014: I have found the buddhist philosophy very helpful and the most accurate when it comes to labels and definitions. A sheet of paper is not just that, it is the trees that were chopped down to make it, the efforts of those that did the chopping, the soil that the tree grew in, the rain that nourished it and the clouds that rain fell from, the wind that carried the rain and blew through the leaves, the insects and animals that lived in the tree, etc etc, unto infinity.
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    Mar 7 2014: Existentialists object to such labeling and refer to them (Nietzsche in particular) as 'spooks'. They just mean to say that people change and so it is foolhardy to try to give a permanent label to a changing thing. A man labeled as a 'rapist' only probably did it once, but the label suggests that the man is permanently that way. Hitler's mother could probably have described him as a 'good' boy when he was young. I believe 'definitions' are just descriptors. And our descriptions should be up to date to be as accurate as possible. A good example would be, 'Last time a saw Fred, he was working at a video store.' So we know that Fred at one time was a 'video store employee' but he's probably not anymore so we cannot define Fred as a video store employee, that is assuming he had left.
  • Mar 7 2014: I try not to define myself by my profession but that seems to be the 1st question people ask me. Maybe the question is a "safe" question without asking beliefs, religion, politics, etc.