For some people it's their careers. They've worked long and hard to get to where they are, so being able to say "I'm an actor/accountant/lawyer/chef/business owner" etc is where they forge their sense of self. Or rather than career, it may be the role they play in the world - a mum, a mentor, a friend, a helper. For others, it might be their possessions, or their characteristics or their personal history.
And for others, it's how they look. They define themselves, and their worthiness, by their body shape, their hair colour, the clothes they wear, what foods they do or do not eat.
So how do you define 'you'?
Most people will list off multiple things, usually a combination of the above and more:
"I'm a nice person. I like to help others"
"I'm quite shy"
"My friends say I'm a very positive person"
"I'm a doctor, I save lives"
"I'm a mother of three"
The combinations & possibilities are endless, because exactly how you define yourself is unique to you. But what's missing from all of these evaluations is just that...you. Whatever measuring stick you use to define who you are, usually it is something that's not really you.
Let's look at that for a moment. If you take out a piece of paper and write down the top 5 things that define who you are, how many of those things are not you? Meaning, how many of those things are your actions, behaviours, habits, skills, possessions etc? Even if you've written down 5 characteristics - like "positive, reliable, hard-working, loving and energetic" - are they really you? Are those thoughts, mindsets and feelings what make you who you are, or are they choices & habits?
We live in a society & cultural environment that has made it very easy for us to lose sight of who we truly are, and attach our identities to false ideas. We identify with our personalities, our careers, our children, but very rarely do we identify with our true selves.
So where to from here? What defines 'you'?
If you were to follow the path of developmental psychology, CBT, NLP, human potential movement etc you will invariably end up in an Eastern Philosophy space. In this space, the understanding of the True Self, the true 'You' man be called Enlightenment, Brahman, Oneness, Universal Consciousness or Supreme Reality.
Whether these are ideas that resonate with you or not, the important lesson to take is that an experience of the real 'you', of your pure consciousness, is always available. Implementing practices such as meditation into your life can help you to experience a new dimension of being. And what's the value in that? If you tend to define yourself purely by how you look, what you do, what you have etc, you're missing a broader view of your being, of 'you'. A view of yourself that is void of any suffering or pain. A more realistic view of you.
Rather than confine yourself to the constructs of your personality, why not liberate yourself and start to experience a broader way of being.