Who I Am is Not Really Me

At the start of my recent Creating Love & Power event in Santa Monica – which turned out to be an intimate 4-day dialogue between myself and about two dozen others sat in a circle inside a gorgeous ballroom with giant windows overlooking the city, mountains, and Pacific ocean – I told everyone there that while I had intentions for our time together, I had not too much of a plan. This, I shared, was the case because at the heart of Creating is the possibility that pure creation occurs in the sweet spot between order and chaos, between certainty and uncertainty, between having a definite plan and a willingness to explore.

One of the things I said I was sure would occur, beyond the incredible insight and transformative value for everyone attending, is that I too would be transformed. In fact, I would pay to be in conversation with me too because I know that when I am in dialogue with brilliant people, those dialogues are energetically life-giving and they produce valuable life-changing insights for me as well as them.

I don’t come to a conversation with a wagon full of ideas, ready to share and distribute where it serves. I come to a conversation with an empty wagon. There are, of course, times when fear has me blind spotting a heavy thing or two in my wagon, but in the bliss of conversation, when I see this, I can offload it. There is something about the context of service in dialogue that gives me a mighty power to surrender anything I find to be in the clutches of fear.

I come with an empty wagon because it is inside conversation that I fill my wagon. I thus leave conversations with a wagon of things; of ideas, of possibilities, of augments to visions and dreams…and I take these home with me. I play with them. I set them on shelves in my studio. I look at them over the days, weeks, and months that follow. Some become permanent pieces…like the thing of ‘allow everything, accommodate very little’ that I put in my wagon many years ago, also in Santa Monica, in a conversation at my office with Darren Farfan and Lea Ann Mallett. It was an idea born in a conversation with them and that has since been a life-giving concept for me and many others.

During a break at Creating Love & Power, I was standing with my wagon by the coffee table with Hakim Lakhdar. It was just the two of us having a brief conversation during a break. I remarked to Hakim how I didn’t know that he had been an actor earlier in his life, which I thought was interesting as, besides coaches of course, I tend to end up in conversation with many lawyers, computer programmers, artists, and actors. I shared with Hakim how, for me, this whole practice of creating a way of being – which was at the center of our 4-day dialogue – was just like acting. I shared this having just come out of a very challenging conversation in the circle. He responded with something that went straight into my wagon.

“Yeah, but in acting it’s a lot easier.”

“How come?” I asked.

“Because in acting, I know it’s not really me.”

Those four words landed like the space shuttle touching down gently on a runway after spending many weeks in outer space. The words came from so far away and yet, at the same time, they also felt familiar and like a return to home.

“It’s the same for me, actually.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that when I create who I am, it is easy for me because I know it’s not really me.”

It was something that felt entirely accurate, but that I’d never articulated that way before.

Since returning home, I’ve been reflecting on the difference between ‘me’ and ‘I am’. In synchronistic timing, my 3-year-old is at the stage of language development where he starts to use the word ‘I’. Until now, he has used only the word ‘me’ to refer to himself. After some brief reading on psycholinguistics, a field of study concerned with the bidirectional relationship between language and psychological development, I’ve learned that the expansion from the word ‘me’ to both the words ‘me’ and ‘I’ is the beginning of the development of our ego.

When we use the word ‘I’ we are referring to our ego or our ‘self’. It is an identity construct and it is the center of our consciousness as an agent that can act on the world.

We remember, though, that we were a ‘me’ before we were an ‘I’. There was a time that our being in the world, while without agency, without identity and without story…indeed still was.

Me was here before I.

Without realizing it, this is what we mean when we say ‘my-self’. We are referring to the ‘I’ that we own….or the ‘I’ that we are, the ‘I AM’.

What’s the practical application of all this, you may be wondering?

Well, when I realize that who I am – in the sense of my identity – is not really me, then I can hold such concepts more lightly.

When I realize that even the most true stories of who I am are character roles that the ‘me’ is playing, then I can remember, as Shakespeare remarked, that this whole world is a stage and I’m simply playing my part.

When I know that who I am is not really me, there is paradoxically a freedom to be who I am with more vehemence and vibrancy.

When one discovers that “who I am is not really me”, the wrong question to ask is then…
“Who is the real me?”

The me is not a who. There is no story, no identity, no personhood that makes up the me.

The ME is a WHAT, not a WHO.

When you’re the ME, you’re remembering the experience of being in the world as part of the world.

Remember what you are: You’re the ME.

Once you remember that, have a blast playing the part of WHO you ARE!

Loving us all, JPM