Recently an actor came to me and said, “I’ve learnt so many skills and developed so much that I don’t know who I am anymore, and that upsets me. What can I do?”

The issue is at the heart of just about every philosophical system right back to the ancient Greeks and the Bible: Know thyself. And of course for actors it’s vital because you play so many parts that a little confusion is understandable.

So how do you deal with this question: Who am I? Here are two broad suggestions.

Firstly, you can consider that ‘you’ are not your mind – the ego – and therefore you can choose the way you think. The first stage in doing this is awareness: hear the little voice in your head. If what it’s saying is not useful to you, delete that programme and choose to think differently. For example: “I’m a failure as an actor because every audition I go to ends in rejection. I’m not going to get this job.” Not very useful, but this can become, “Whether I get this job or not, it’s not the end of the world. But in the audition I must remember to project my natural enthusiasm and be comfortable in myself, rather than trying to be what I think they’ll want.” And that will change your behaviour in the audition.

Secondly, as a very useful exercise you can write down your personal values: what’s important to you in your life. For example: passion, success, enthusiasm, integrity, love, health, creativity, recognition, innovation, risk, excitement, wealth, fairness, helping others, loyalty, honesty, trust, fun. Get a lot of them down, then choose the top 10 and rank them in order. It’s been found that when you write things down, it’s much more powerful because it’s organised thinking.
Thirdly, you can write your mini- biography (a page or two) answering the questions: Who is the real me? What have I learned and how have I contributed to the world around me? What am I totally committed to?
Fourthly, you can write your obituary. As a journalist I’ve written the obituaries of several famous people, but writing your own obituary is powerful because it’s your statement of how you would like people to remember you.
Put those four exercises together and you should have a clearer answer to the question: Who am I?

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