How to Figure Out Who You Are

Nikhil Sethi
Jun 4, 2017 · 3 min read

1. Grow up looking racially ambiguous

Every year in school growing up, you’ll realize that you don’t really look like anyone else in the classroom. Not the white, black, purple kids, and not even your fellow Indian Americans…Your shy and introverted self will embrace being the quiet kid, and you’ll only make friends with extroverts who like your Pokemon t-shirts.

Later on, you’ll get used to being asked “what are you?” and “where are you really from?” However, you’ll never really stop having existential crises from these questions. Stereotypes will be thrown at you in the weirdest way possible — “you’re not annoying enough to be Indian.”

2. Develop a Unique Style

Maybe you’ll be the guy who wears sweaters over a collared shirt every day in high school. You’ll get compliments from girls about how you dress cutely, making your teenage self-esteem expand slightly. Your fellow brown (South Asian origin) acquaintances will respond by letting you know that you “dress and act white,” while sporting striped t-shirts and plaid shorts, tastefully paired with luminescent Nike athletic shoes.

Your taste in fashion will begin to make you associate “acting white” with being better to bandage your wounded pride. Later, when you begin to re-imagine your relationship with the concept of whiteness, your style will fall apart.

3. Obsessively Listen to Music

Those aren’t just headphones, those are your connection to another universe and constant companion. Your first taste of hip hop will come from a cereal box, a will.i.am song about the TV show Dexter’s Laboratory, and eventually you begin to identify as a “hip hop head.” Through hip hop, you discover Motown and jazz and you begin to explore black culture.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison will become your favorite book. You will start to learn about the injustices against those who create your favorite media — growing up in the projects, living in the trap. Systemic racism, the private prison system and other things you never thought about will start to gain meaning. You’ll have trouble connecting with the music of your homeland. It will seem so distant and you will fail to find any Hyphenated-American music that you can relate to. Your identity will only get murkier.

4. Take Buzzfeed Quizzes

It’s impossible to figure out who you are all by yourself. That’s why you’ll need to go to the seasoned professionals down at Buzzfeed in order to answer the deeper questions about yourself.

Like, how else would I know that I’m a people pleaser if I hadn’t taken the Font Quiz to Reveal my Secret Desires? When all else fails, at least Buzzfeed can tell me how dead inside I am based on a hypothetical funeral.

5. Give Up

You do your best with what’s important to you. You’re not going to find a definitive answer of who you are, so you might as well just try your best. Just as you can never ascertain the meaning of life, but only continue to search for it — the same is true for identity. You try to at least enjoy the ride of trying to figure out who the heck you are.

Who you think you are is completely different from 2 years ago or even 2 days ago. Your individual experience shapes your identity constantly, so at the end of the day, all you really are is yourself.

6. Write a Medium Post

How else will you communicate that you’re finally slightly comfortable with who you are?

Nikhil Sethi

Written by

designer, writer, etc. follow me on twitter @nikhilrsethi

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade