Finding Out Who You Are
TEDxGeorgetown 2015

TedX (1)Do you know who you really are? Circle one of the following answers. Ill tell you what it means when youre done.

  1. I am
    1. An extrovert.
    2. An introvert.
  2. I make judgments by
    1. Thinking through rational choices.
    2. Judging how I feel about them/my gut response.
  3. I am…
    1. A dog person.
    2. A cat person.
  4. I see myself as
    1. Part of the crowd (think basic/normcore).
    2. Unique or diverse.
  5. I am
    1. A logician.
    2. An artist.
  6. I am good at
    1. Mathematics and sciences.
    2. Literature, writing or art.
  7. When it comes to my workspace and life
    1. Everything is organized into neat spaces.
    2. I am a mess and am easily distracted.
  8. In a relationship, I am
    1. The brains.
    2. The beauty.
  9. I tend to be
    1. A leader, happy to take control of situations and organize othersactions.
    2. A follower who is most comfortable within set guidelines.
  10. My favorite movies are
    1. Romance/adventure (Titanic, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.).
    2. Hardcore sci-fi/action/war-drama (Iron Man, Saving Private Ryan, etc.)
  11. I am attracted to
    1. The female sex.
    2. The male sex.
  12. I like
    1. Oranges.
    2. Apples.
  13. I prefer to usewhen texting.
    1. :) or :D
    2. ;) or :P

Done? Admit it. Youve probably answered most of these questions dozens of times before in online personality tests and then anxiously waited to see what career or spouse or chocolate was appropriate for you.

Well, Ill tell you what your answers mean: Absolutely nothing. Thats right.  Absolutely nothing. In fact, Im surprised you could even circle one or the other.

Apparently, were all supposed to be just one thing. Just a lawyer, just a nerd, just a singer. And were all racing through our lives to find out the one thing we are.  

We have to find it out, right? We have to figure out if were going to be physicists or artists or extroverts or introverts or gay or straight. Everything is an either-or. Everything is unchangeable.

Most of us believe that once we find out who we are, we can say, Hey, Im a right-brained extrovert and international trademark law corporate lawyer,and then well be happy.

But I have a daring proposition: Stop it. Stop trying to tell people or tell yourself who you are. Stop trying to reach the end of this puzzle.

Just keep discovering yourself.

In my TEDxGeorgetown talk, I tried to get this simple fact across to the audience: If you know exactly who you are, youre not going to be happy. The payoff never makes us happy. The risk does. We love living in a state of hoping there will be a reward and feeling the adrenaline that maybe were going to fail. We love taking risks.

So why not take the risk of never finding out who you are? Why not say, Im not going to be just one thing?

The truth is I hate the question Who are you?mostly because I dont have an answer. Im good at writing and good at math. Im bad at sports and history and driving. I like pretty dresses and singing, and also motorcycles, astrophysics and everything Marvel.  

So whats the one thing I am? I dont know. But I have a lot of fun finding out. Im always living in the exciting middle of the movie where the protagonist doesnt know whom he or she is.

If you try being different people, by the way, and never find out who you are,youll always be motivated. Youll risk new things, like I do. Youll discover things about yourself that you never thought were possible.

At the end of the day, youre not static and youre not going to be one person for the rest of your life. If you stop feeling like you have to find out who you are, youll stop feeling like every decision you make defines you. It doesnt.

Just because you decide to go vegan, doesnt mean youre a liberal. Just because youre fiscally conservative, doesnt mean you think abortion is wrong. Just because youre an introvert, doesnt mean youre a bad leader or hate parties.

But lets get back to the quiz: This is exactly why I hate labels.

All the questions are equally dumb. People can be attracted to both men and women, or neither.

Dogs are not the opposite of cats and oranges are not the opposite of apples. They are biologically, completely different things. Mind-blowing stuff, I know.

So why do we keep trying to bifurcate people into one camp or the other? Most people answer the questions and assume there is some meaning to them even though there isnt.

The truth is that all the answers are situational. You should use smiley faces in appropriate situations and winky faces in appropriate situations. Hopefully youre a leader when you need to be and a follower when you need to be. Hopefully you realize you can be good at math and art.

So stop trying to answer who you are. Just keep trying different things out in an endless effort to discover yourself.

Risk being a different person every day.

Risk you.


Isvari Mohan is a second-year student at the Georgetown University Law Center. 


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