Our identity is multidimensional. It can change based on who we’re surrounded by and where we are in life, but it’s also wrapped up in how we perceive others think of us. In Chapter 1 of Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty paraphrases sociologist Charles Cooley, making readers stop and ask, “Am I who I think I am, or am I who others think I am?”

We have a work identity, a home identity, and a friend identity … but we generally fail to really explore who we think we are. Separating ourselves from who others think we should be is hard. Our identity is a perception within a perception of ourselves, and most of our efforts and attempts at self-improvement are tied into meeting others’ expectations. 

“We try to live up to what we think others think of us, even at the expense of our values,” Jay Shetty writes. “Rarely, if ever, do we consciously, intentionally, create our own values.”

So is that it? Are we all just method actors living out a role day-to-day? To a degree, yes – and it’s necessary. There are different responsibilities at work, at home, and at play. We alter how we move through the world based on what we are doing and who we are with. 

The danger comes when we don’t stop to evaluate ourselves and what we think or feel about who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. It is easy to slip into a persona without even realizing it, and it starts young. For Shetty, it began when he was still a student.

For years, Shetty balanced his summers by going between a professional internship and living as a monk in an ashram. Upon graduating from university, he had a choice to make. Deep down, he knew what that choice would be, but it wouldn’t be easy to break it to his parents.

“When you try to live your most authentic life, some of your relationships will be put in jeopardy,” said Jay Shetty. “Losing them is a risk worth bearing; finding a way to keep them in your life is a challenge worth taking on.”

Many of us aren’t in touch with ourselves enough to really know who we are underneath all the personas. We must learn to recognize and identify who we are and what makes us happy.

That’s what Jay Shetty did when he split his summers between an internship and the ashram. He was able to explore what he felt drawn to and what was expected of him. When he did, he found that he was drained mentally, emotionally, and physically when leaving his internship. When he left the ashram, however, he was invigorated and excited about what was next. Knowing this about himself, his choice was clear. 

Have you allowed yourself the same courtesy? Have you given yourself permission to let go of external pressures and discover your down values? If not, now is the time. 

Unless you allow yourself to sit down and sort through the values that are important to you, you can’t move forward and find your true identity. To learn Jay Shetty’s step-by-step process for uncovering your values and building your own personal identity, order your copy of Think Like a Monk today.