I Am What I Am

By Cath Brown. Cath, 33, lives in the UK but is originally from South Africa. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

When we are born, we come into this world as a clean canvas. A spiritual being in a human bodysuit. We have no concepts of life, no models of reality, no judgements or pre-conceived ideas. As an innocent child we lived in each present moment – crying one second and playing the next, without being emotionally-attached to what caused us to cry in the first place.

We are like a sponge that absorbs everything around us and over time we begin to limit ourselves in order to find our place within the world around us. We start to take on the beliefs, values, and behaviours of our parents; as we get older, our friends and teachers influence us with their perceptions and guidelines on how to live life. We are indoctrinated by societal norms dependent on how and where we were raised, and are shaped by media, politics and religious views.

As we try to figure out our identity, our unique array of life experiences moulds us into who we think we are and we cultivate our personality traits accordingly. We start to associate things that have been said or seen to who we are ‘meant to be’ and what we are ‘meant to do’. We start to lose touch with our innate wisdom and take on board the expectations and knowledge of others. We start to reside more in our head – dwelling on things, judging ourselves, questioning our abilities, worrying about life – becoming trapped by the constant mental chatter, which separates us from the wholeness we once felt.

We develop the constructs of time and carry with us the pain of our conditioned past and fear of the unknown future. We often become crippled by self-doubt, criticism, and stress, resulting in us spending our lives looking for meaning, purpose and the elusive happiness that we associate with “I’ll be happy when I… but”.

“I’ll be happy when I have more money… but people with money are corrupt and self-serving.”

“I’ll be happy when I get that dream job… but I’m not confident enough to apply for the role.”

“I’ll be happy when I find the right partner… but my parents got divorced when I was little and I don’t want to get my heart broken.”

“I’ll be happy when I leave this toxic relationship… but I don’t feel worthy of love and this is better than being on my own.”

Before we know it, we have wished our life away without realising that our self-imposed limitations are merely thought-created concepts.

Michael Foucault said: “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”

However, this statement is flawed.

It is inevitable that life will change us into someone we weren’t in the beginning. Our brain is like a super-computer and we internalise, process, and react to everything in our external environment. We are bombarded with sensory data every second and filter this based on previous events in order to consciously perceive what is familiar from moment to moment. As we accumulate more information and experiences, we hardwire neurological pathways to guide us through life, often unaware that our limited viewpoint might not be serving our best interests. And so, life happens and we end up becoming someone else, but to do so without awareness of what we truly are often creates disconnection.

The schooling system is a rigid structure that teaches children about who they should become and what they need to do in order to be successful, based on erroneous assumptions about what life is actually about. The subjects that fall under modern education target the critical faculties; however, they do not nurture skills around emotional intelligence.

Throughout the developmental years, children face constant comparison to others regarding grades and milestones, which creates a lot of pressure for each generation and often deepens the wound of “not being enough” that most of us are inflicted with for one reason or another.

We often forget to teach our children about what they really are, the true essence that goes beyond their name, culture, intellect and career path. We focus more on how to make a living rather than on how to truly live. What’s lacking is teaching children about the nature of thought, the link with their emotions, and the fact that behaviours are an expression of their thinking in action. Dysfunctional behaviour stems from insecure thoughts; poor grades stem from a busy mind; mental ill-health comes from a feeling of imperfection.

We do not adequately equip our youth with the ability to tap into their own intuition and think freely for themselves so that they can become emotionally-grounded individuals that have clarity on their unique path and purpose. Instead, we put people into boxes and give them labels that limit growth and self-awareness.

Without an understanding of what we are, we enter adulthood and keep striving for things outside of us in order to become something we are not. We strive for titles, accolades, and recognition… Why?! To complete us? Make our parents proud? Give us a sense of self-worth? Fit into society? Fill a void within us? Accumulate wealth and material gain to feel accepted or good enough? Alternatively, we fear life due to our deep-rooted insecurities and never reach our full potential.

As the years go by, we often look back and realise “something is missing” or “we’ve lost ourselves along the way”. We forget that our experience happened, and is happening, BECAUSE of us.

I used to suffer with anxiety and very poor self-esteem. I never felt good enough and was extremely insecure. I believed I was this way “because I was given up for adoption”. As a result, I attracted situations into my life that matched my frequency of inadequacy, which created a self-perpetuating internal dialogue of lack and longing. I carried that with me throughout University, into relationships, and into job roles. I was stuck in a cycle of inner-turmoil, self-loathing and emotional baggage. I was afraid of failure, I was scared of rejection, and I stayed in my comfort zone. Make no mistake, I became someone else, but I wasn’t living life in alignment with who I was truly meant to be, and that’s because I didn’t know what I am.

Uncovering what I am has been critical to the quality of my human experience, regardless of whatever life throws my way…

To understand that I create an internal representation about my external environment in every given moment reminds me that I CHOOSE how to think, feel and react to obstacles in life…

To know that my past no longer exists has allowed me to let go of suffering by no longer keeping negative stories alive in my mind…

To realise that my thoughts create my experience, and my experience creates my reality means I am a player in this game of life, not a victim of my hardships…

To know there is an intelligence of life that signals when I’ve gone off track, a quiet whisper that reminds me to quieten my mind and look within for the answer, gives me resilience and inoculates me from looking outward for validation…

The Truth is that my external environment, life situations, obstacles, and victories – none of that is what I am. What I am is a fragment of consciousness experiencing itself through the power of thought. I am more than a name. I am more than my behaviours. I am not the labels given to me.

What we are is a Oneness, separated merely by our individual thoughts. The thoughts that you are this and I am that. Yet, despite being different genders, ages, nationalities and cultures, the true essence of what we are is the same.

Life is about levelling up our consciousness; however, that does not mean becoming someone else that you were not in the beginning but rather coming back to who you’ve always been, before the contamination of thought. Before the layers of self-criticism, judgement, limiting beliefs, values, and insecurities. Strip all that away and you will uncover the innate well-being that we all have within ourselves. To live life through that feeling of ‘wholeness’ means we know WHAT we are, and as a result we can manifest whatever we desire – not from a place of need, greed or lack but from a place of love and purity.

Our identity is the role we play in this production of life.

When we shed all the layers of who we think we are, what is left?

In Sanskrit SO HUM translates to “I am that”, meaning I am creation, and when we deeply know that to be true, how we show up and serve humanity is based on inspired action and unconditional love rather than insecurity and separation.

I am what I am; and what I am is consciousness itself.

11 comments on “I Am What I Am

  1. Phillip Warris on

    Eloquently expressed. If only more people could find this understanding the world would be a more harmonious place. The understanding moves on one person at a time and eventually all will realise how they experience the world around themselves. From inside not outside.

  2. Kathryn on

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this.
    “Coming back to what you have always been….”
    This is the secret and it is wonderful to hear.

  3. Maria kilkenny on

    I love this article thank you so profound. Raising my toddler has shown me how much more I can learn from her than teach her. She reminds me everyday how to live in the moment.

  4. Lisa on

    Such a meaningful blog, well done Cath and thank you for sharing.
    Here lies the true meaning of life & the secret to knowing /trusting ourselves is where peace & wellbeing is at.

  5. Jorene Swanepoel on

    You have always had a way with words! This resonated deeply with me and I will remind myself daily of this wisdom so it can serve me well. X

  6. Chelsea Meyer on

    Your writing and wisdom is music to my ears. It was everything I needed to hear to today. I’ve wondered lately if becoming ‘enlightened’ is taking me away from who I was but you write that it is about coming back to who I have always been before the contamination of thought. Seriously that is a powerful sentence right there!! Thank you for sharing your life and light with others.

  7. Ashley fox on

    An outstanding piece from an outstanding point of view and mind. Absolutely resonating and insightful. Beautifully constructed and what a way worth words indeed. You are indeed like my very own Ted Talk 💖💖💖 Thank you for this 🙂

  8. Margie on

    I have watched you grow through the pain and insecurity that life handed out. You are so profoundly right to acknowledge how society and expectations have an amazing effect on us all and generally individuals strive for acceptance from others in order to find their inner peace.
    But true peace is not found in chasing societal norms but in finding self acceptance in spite of having everything, or having nothing that society expects. A very wise man told me that happiness is a decision not a consequence of the place you have, or the job you have, or the position you hold. You came into the world as an individual full of potential and your journey is bringing you to fulfill that potential. You are so very fortunate to have walked this path that is bringing you to a place of self acceptance like a boomerang,
    Thank you Cath for sharing this.

  9. Megan on

    Beautifully written and thought-provoking. This self-reflection and insight into what it means to be human is deeply moving and inspiring. As I am about to embark on motherhood, I find this article particularly pertinent when it comes to thinking about raising a child and allowing them to truly be themselves. Thank you Cath for such an interesting article!


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