Who Are You?

Uncategorized May 29, 2019

She’s known far and wide for her television show, her acting, and her advice. Oprah Winfrey has made a name for herself trading in inspiration, and with good reason: she’s incredibly successful and very good at instilling passion in others. In a speech from 2018, Oprah calls on her audience to answer one question that will sharpen and improve the rest of their lives with great clarity: Who are you?

She says that the answer to that question entails a vision of who we are as people and what we want from our lives. This does not necessarily mean knowing what kind of grades we want to get or trophies we want to win, or even what job we want to do. The answer that Oprah seeks is deeper than this; it cuts to the core of who we are as individuals.

As the late poet Mary Oliver once said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In order to find the answer to this question, we have to look at ourselves deeply and fully. The result of not answering this question honestly and meaningfully is quite devastating, Oprah says, because if we do not, life will ultimately take us where it wants, not where we want to go with our lives.

As the question develops, then, we realize that the question is not really about who we are, but about whom we want to affect with our lives. In other words, the question can be reworded a bit. Instead of asking, Who am I?, perhaps it should read, Whom will I impact?

When we see the question of our own identity and self-worth not a measure of anything we are but of how we will act and the people that we will affect and perhaps even change, we begin to see the nature of life as a means of service to others. Oprah believes that life is best lived in this manner, that looking at our own lives through the lens of being an agent of change for other people helps to clarify our own identity and distill our desires and beliefs into one clear idea.

In some ways, this distillation makes the original question much harder to answer. In another sense, though, ironically enough, it makes the answer perhaps more helpful for becoming who we want to be.

Oprah says that once we come up with an answer to this question, it is important that we act on it each and every day. Mistakes will happen. This is a good thing! It means that you’re trying. It means that you have an opportunity to learn and to grow and to evolve into the person that you are meant to be.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more fulfilling than doing that which brings you and others joy. Whether you want to become an athlete or an actor or a teacher or a politician, thinking of the people you will affect with your life first might just make all the difference.

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