Who am I and how shall I be?

Peter Mitchell by Lukas Wojtasik
© Lukas Wojtasik

That has to be the eternal question that we are all asking all of the time, even if we aren’t conscious of it. Socrates said it was the prerogative of all philosophers (and at the end of the day we are all philosophers of sorts trying to weave our way through this confusing world we find ourselves in) to “Know Thyself”

So what is identity and how does that relate to the different masks we appear to wear? How deep does it go? Is it just an idea that we hold so very closely till we actually believe it, or does it actually reflect something substantial and authentic?

Peter Mitchell by  Thomas James Fisher
© Thomas James Fisher

Masks that we wear! For many years I tried to please. Everyone! I wanted to manifest what others seemed to want me to be for various reasons but mainly to fit in (especially because I thought I didn’t fit in being gay/queer/poofta – I do go back a long way) That all fell apart when I discovered I couldn’t be all those things at the same time (a spectacular revelation) – a bit like trying to juggle umpteen balls all going in violently different directions.

It’s been a long journey of discovery (the details are irrelevant) and what I’ve found is that at the real core of my sense of being, I have absolutely ‘no idea’ whatsoever who I am. The more I look, the deeper I delve, what continues to be revealed is an endless mystery with no definition and no limits.

Peter Mitchell by Manel Ortega
© Manel Ortega

I think when I was younger this unknowable core terrified me and I hid behind all sorts of rigid ideas of me to avoid facing that indefinability. The problem with any armour however is that while it appears to offer some sense of security it is also amazingly clunky and limiting and there is always a chink for the deadly arrow to penetrate. Hiding behind being someone – some self created mask – is ultimately a place of fear – fear of being found out, fear of that identity being revealed as fake and false, and so we build up the defences higher, creating ever more elaborate designs on the mask.

Peter Mitchell by Thomas James Fisher
© Thomas James Fisher

But this unknown and unknowable core is our deepest sense of self – the I that soon becomes I am this. It is a place of radical creativity unlimited by any of the ideas we hold so close (if we let it). With this as the centre I find I can be incredibly fluid in how I exist in the world but because it comes from this core it is all real, all authentic and there is no need to defend or protect any of it – It is like the many facets of a diamond – they all reflect something different but they are still that diamond (I make no claims to be a diamond by the way, even a rough one). And if I ever find that I am protecting some sense of self it usually means that it is yet another mask to drop rather than to be polished, painted and presented anew.