Sunday, September 11, 2022

How To Know Who We Really Are

By Kevin L. Baker

Have you ever felt like you didn't know who you really are? I have felt this way when I was young and figuring out who I was. "Finding yourself" and having an identity crisis were common back then. I really do not hear much talk like that these days. Then, at midlife, everything I thought was stable crumbled, even though I had done everything possible to have a stable marriage, family, and career. Lesson: Some things you just cannot control.

Then I discovered what it means to reinvent yourself. After living my whole life in America, mostly in Western New York near Buffalo, I ended up reinventing my life in Sydney, Australia. Now I live out on a peninsula near the sea.

I got married again, and had three more children. A new beginning, a new country, a new family, and continued growth as a business leader. That last one took some adjustment to learn the nuances of international business.

I believe one of the most important questions—perhaps the most important—is “Who am I? This is the core question we all eventually ask.

I imagine this particular question has been with human beings since conscious awareness first appeared in the minds of our most ancient ancestors. A long time ago, a wise person told me you see who a person really is when they are under stress. Another wise person, Jim Selman, came up with an idea that we can know ourselves in five basic relationships.

I am my relationship with myself (my inner conversation). 

I am my relationship with other people. 

I am my relationship with circumstances.

I am my relationship with time. 

I am my relationship with whatever is beyond my understanding (a.k.a. the mystery of existence). 

 When We Don't Know Ourselves Fully

At one point in my life, I didn’t know who I was/am. I was lost and wandering through time searching for purpose, identity, meaning, and what I should do with my life. I was married at a young age and had my first child at 21. I was a family man.  Husband.  Dad.  At that time, when I thought of who I was, I mostly found my identity in being a family man. My confidence, my behaviours, values and priorities changed when I got married and had children. 

I was also working in business by day because being a clergyman doesn’t always pay the bills.  I had grown up the son of an entrepreneur who started his own business. I was highly entrepreneurial and started two non-profits, then two businesses.  So while I was raising four children, I worked in business by day moving up the ladder through middle management to senior management, and working in my non-profit labour of love work. 

In our twenties, many of us try a lot of things, and then narrow it down to something that we think is what we are meant to be and do in life.  When we get there, we can think, I am that. Man of us at one time will think, “I am my career.” When we do, everything from my confidence and my behaviors to my values and priorities revolve around that belief. How many times do you meet people, and they ask, “What do you do?”  In that question, people might think of who you are as what you do.  Who we are is much more than what we do, isn’t it?  

At twenty two, I had started a college education at Houghton College. However, balancing the class load with work and family caused me to pause. I have often repeated that scenario doing many things all at once. 

Two years later, I moved from New York to Missouri and restarted my quest for education at what is now Evangel University in Springfield. I decided to go to university to learn how to think.  If you read my writing for awhile, you will learn I read, I think, and I write about it. I attended a seminary to study theology and philosophy. Looking back, that degree did not have had the highest probability of a sunstantial return on investment. One day, I will tell you about the Diamond-Water Paradox and show you why people who want to help people never get paid well. I did not think like about ROI on education back then. I did not look at the value of a university education as an outlay of an initial outlay of a cash investment that would generate future cash flows. I developed that outlook when I got an MBA and moved from an idealist to a realist financially. 

My liberal arts and divinity education, though, prepared me well for what was ahead. Philosophy taught me how to think and live a good life. Divinity taught me the about the nature of reality, objective moral truth, how to live a holy life, hermeneutics (the science of interpreting literature), ancient Greek language, public speaking, writing, and much more. 

All of those skills have served me well in my life of founding non-profits, businesses, and executive life in businesses. Later, as I mentioned, I added a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree to my Bachelor of Arts. These two degrees provided me a great starter toolbox of capabilities to build a life and vocation with. 

Once We Know Purpose, We Start To Have Peace 

I often translate to people outside of faith that clergy are life coaches, spiritual advisors, community organisers and builders, and they connect people to one another and the mystery of life. 

My inner and spiritual life development told me at that point in time that I was supremely loved. I didn’t have to strive for approval like I did as a teen and twenty something.  I didn’t have to please people,or feel the hurt of rejection.  My search for significance ended.  I was significant because one version of me was created. 

Personally, I was accepted just as I am, and I experienced peace. Little did I know this was laying the groundwork for something larger that would come down the road. As I had a sense of purpose, in my thirties I was accomplishing and achieving, and still finding meaning in what I do, more than who I am.  

The whole concept of human doing and human being began emerging. We are much more than our achievements. I made many good choices, and also some bad choices through the years.  That is how you gain knowledge, experience, and good judgment.  Trial and error plays a part in life, as does learning from others–trusted elders, mentors, coaches, professors, and friends.  

With each new declaration or understanding of myself came new interpretations of what I had learned or experienced in my life up to then, as well as new insights and possibilities. Today, I have another answer about who I am. It is the understanding that comes from a lived life. 

I think many of you are searching for an answer to the question, “Who am I?” Now, in later midlife, my answer to who I am is one which I believe, while not definitive, can be universally empowering. It is obviously not the only interpretation or “truth” about who we are.  

The Five Relationships That Define Who We Are

I believe we are at the core defined by our relationships. I learned this concept from Jim Selman, an executive coach and writer who has impacted my life. With his principles as a foundation, I have developed my own thought on how to flourish in life by truly knowing who we are.

Let’s look at these in more depth today, and in future articles.

I am my relationship with myself (my inner conversation). 

There is a continuous conversation going on in everyone’s head. Have you noticed you spend alot of time, energy, and attention having a talk about meaningless, unimportant matters inside your own head? This conversation goes on from the moment of waking until falling asleep. What is the inner conversation?

It is the process of asking yourself questions and answering them. It is the process of repeating words and thoughts in the mind. It is the little voice in your head that comments on your life, circumstances and situations, and on other people. Our self-talk can be cheerful and supportive or negative and self-defeating.

Self-talk can be beneficial when it’s positive, calming fears and bolstering confidence.  Human nature, unfortunately, is prone to negative self-talk, including sweeping assertions like “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m a complete failure." For others, their self talk is full of grandiose ideas about themselves!

Our inner dialogue continues while working, studying, reading, watching TV, talking, walking and eating. There is a constant activity of judging of people, commenting on what is going on, planning, desires, gossiping, and conducting mental conversations with people you know or don’t know. These inner talks create a snowball effect. The more you conduct them, the more you become chained to them, unable to stop them. That is why healthy inner dialogue forms our relationship with ourself.  

Our relationship to our inner thoughts and talk is part of who we think we are.

So, is inner speech just thinking? Thinking means everything the mind does. A certain category of thinking that we call verbal thinking, inner speech, the stuff that we do in words.   When emotions are experienced in our self talk, more power, energy and attachment are added.  This has an adverse effect on the behavior, judgment and general performance of our outer self.

On many occasions, the inner dialogue is negative, and strengthens any negative attitude or behavior. Sometimes, it is a dialogue with ourselves, and sometimes, it is just a monologue. Most people do not have enough faith in themselves and in their abilities, and therefore, they allow their mind to engage in negative inner dialogues.

How To Silence The Inner Critical Voice

The process and effects of these inner conversations are similar to repeating affirmations. Constant thinking about the same subject, affects the subconscious mind, which consequently, accepts these thoughts and words and acts on them. This is our relationship with ourselves in our self talk.  

Negative inner dialogues create negative results, and positive inner dialogues create positive results. That’s why you should switch to positive self talk. It’s simple. If you fill your mind with negative dialogues, you start expecting negative results, lose motivation and avoid taking action. On the other hand, if you keep conducting positive dialogues, you become a more positive person, seek opportunities and take action.

Many of us have had to deal with the voice inside that drags us down. Every human being possesses one of those inner voices to question, doubt, and challenge their dreams, aspirations, and sense of self. It’s a survival mechanism our ancestors needed to keep them safe from wild animals or big natural disasters, but in modern-day society this voice has evolved into this untamed inner beast that can often encourage us to shy away from greatness. 

But how can we step away from those negative patterns and turn our inner dialogue around? If we’d never speak to a friend in such derogatory ways, we should certainly not be speaking to ourselves like that either, so how do we take back control and learn to quiet the inner critic down? 

Drawing upon my divinity edcuation, the ancients wisdom of Job says, "If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do." Some of you know I ran the business affairs of a Catholic monastery for ten years. The Rule of St. Benedict requires living by the work of one’s hands, not by donations. In the monastery, I learned to practice silence, and think deeply with a clear mind. The teachings of John Cassian, Thomas Merton, and others taught me to be still and listen.

We typically have anywhere between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts each day and quieting our turbulent mental environment creates the blank canvas upon which to paint a positive internal conversation. When the mind is still it becomes a fertile field that is receptive to the seeds we plant there. In addition, meditation cultivates our witnessing awareness and helps us pay attention to our mental commentary and its contents.

Here are a few ways I learned to quiet down the inner turbulence and anxiety that can dominate our inner conversation.


Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Being thankful and grateful re-orients us and combats anxiety. Try repeating the statement, I am so grateful for _____,  By doing this we create positive momentum in our internal dialogue.  Focusing on what’s good or uplifting in your life also conditions you to stay vigilant in looking for more of the same gratitude-worthy experiences to come into your life—or as the saying goes, where attention goes, energy flows.


Negativity is easy, and it is everywhere. Our brain has a negativity bias—an actual tendency to notice negative situations and events more easily than positive ones.  We inherited this neurological artifact from our ancient ancestors who, due to their constant survival mentality, had to always be on the lookout for danger or anything that would put their lives at risk.

Negative energy can be contagious and pollute the internal dialogue with fear, anger, and other dense mental states. While we can’t avoid all negativity, being consciously aware of refocusing our attention away from the negative and toward the good can have a powerful effect on our internal dialogue.

Moving to a new country caused me to discover that my controlled life back in the USA was more predictable which caused me to not worry about survival.   When I went through what I call my period of great sadness and loss, my inner dialogue became distressed leaving everything familiar into the unknown.  Immigration. No one knowing me. No work network.  I still have to take one day at a time and fighting negativity helps me to enter peace.



Positive self-talk statements that can help to reprogram your subconscious mind and internal dialogue toward a more constructive mental environment.  To “affirm” means to make firm that which you wish to be true or experience.  Affirmations help us replace our old, stale, or obsolete mental commentary with new and more inspiring ideas.  With regular practice and exercise, we learn to keep your attention on what you we want rather than what you don’t.


It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

What our heart is full of comes out of our mouth and our actions.  Speech and behavior are natural outcroppings of your internal dialogue.  In a similar way, your actions and speech reinforce your internal dialogue.  

When you consciously choose to practice impeccable speech and behavior, your internal dialogue will automatically become more positive and refined.  Being impeccable means behaving in accordance with the highest standards of propriety. In essence, it means being unimpeachable and without fault.  This can be a tall order and while none of us are perfect, we can continually aspire to carry the spirit of impeccability within us, refraining from anything that could be potentially considered hurtful to others.



One of the challenges of being an executive in business is the politics and cut throat egotistical environment many business people cultivate.  It makes me take on what I think of as my lower nature to be in the jungle.  It becomes very easy to lose ourselves and forget our true nature as those who a born to thrive and have an unbounded spirit.  We feel localized in the world of positions and possessions, roles and titles. However, this is not who we really are

This is where we started.  How do we answer the question, who are we? 

When we identify with our true selves we have the instant recognition that we are free from limitations, that we have spontaneous knowing, and that we exist in a state of complete fulfilment.   Mastering our inner dialogue is an every day, lifelong development.   

In future posts,I will share about the other relationships that define who we are.