Who do you think you are?
That particular phrasing is usually reserved by someone who’s offended by a presumptuous statement. As in, “Who the #&#^ do you think you are?”
But there are more practical uses for the phrase.
In fact, it may be the most important question you can ask of yourself if you want to have a powerful (and comfortable) presence online. Why?
Because who you think you are is precisely who you should try to convey online.
It’s a tough premise to get the head around. The question, “Who am I?” is so packed with existential angst that it becomes a cliche to ask it. But by asking “Who do I think I am?” there’s some headroom for creative thought and even constructive wishful thinking. Just asking the question takes you out of yourself and lets you see yourself (and your digital ID) as something ready to be sculpted a little bit.
For instance, a friend of mine is an excellent writer and actor. He can jump into a story or a character (or a caricature) on a coin toss. But he can also write his way through life with the best of us. He’s a guy who’s in demand on the lecturing circuit. He also loves to write about how Sci-Fi concepts are blasting their way into the real world faster than we can track.
He’s been struggling with which person he should show online. Presenting both was becoming overwhelming. It was making the world want so much more from him than he had to give.
This last weekend, just before heading into a movie, we sat on the food court and ate two competing Chinese restaurants’ food. “If you want to be online in a way that’s true to who you are, then ask yourself who you think you are,” I said. I get like that sometimes. My buddy knows me well enough to call me on my bullshit.
But he thought about it. He knew I was being sincere (as pop-psy as the question may sound, at times).
His answer was that he may be good at acting, but he saw himself as a writer of Sci-Fi. He wants to own that corner of the literary house; where he can observe what is happening to our world by showing us what’s about to happen to our world.
But think about it. What mess of balls did he have to juggle to get to that answer? It’s an ocean of data! He had to juggle who he thought he should be, who he’d wanted to be two years ago, and who people expected him to be. Oh, and he had to shed the angst of the implied question of “Who am I?” enough to think about it and not feel silly, or judgmental.
And, somehow, the question yielded a clear path forward. He just sent out a newsletter earlier this morning. He stuck a stake in the ground, telling everyone (even his fans) that he was putting his speaking gigs aside for now.
But only because he dared to ask,
Who do I think I am?