What Is It Like To Be You?

If a question can be loved, I love this question.

I don’t recall who first asked me this question, but when I was asked, I do remember feeling a bit stunned at its power. I was surprised that I could not easily find the words to explain to the other person what it was like to be me.

This question has come up lately in light of the political unrest and strong divisiveness that is occurring in the United States. These actions have been bringing up so many conversations around racism and religious discrimination.

I just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. where I attended an international conference with one of my professional associations, the International Coaching Federation. There were members from 63 different countries some of which I bet (and I am ashamed to admit) I could not easily find on a map.

Whenever I attend conferences where there are people from other countries, I make it a point to introduce myself to them and to get to know them a bit better. These encounters bring such richness to my life and allow me to get very different perspectives than the ones I carry.

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”  — Malcolm Forbes
I believe I, as a citizen of the United States, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, can become so myopic in the way I view the world from my perspective that these encounters allow me to open up my narrow-mindedness. Through these encounters I have learned that my way of thinking opens up, my beliefs and assumptions are challenged (by me), and I realize how my conclusions come from one viewpoint and only one viewpoint, mine.

I met a gentleman from Africa and we got into a conversation of what it is like to live in his country. I asked him that question. “What is it like to be you?” He answered this question without skipping a beat. His stories were rich with his experiences. The way he described his country and his people I could feel the colors, hear the music, and smell the food. His life was rich and he easily shared what it was like to be him.
“Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?” - Lillian Hellman
He returned my question with the same question.

He asked me “What is it like to be you?”

I looked straight at him and said, “This is a question I am just being with. I am living in this question, asking it to myself, and I don’t know how to answer this right now.”


The power of this question is that it isn’t about what I do, or what I have done, or what I own, or where I live, or whom I know or any other thing that seems to be irrelevant to life as life.

When we ask this question to others, it is a question that helps us understand those we are biased against. It is a hard question to ask because what would happen if we begin to understand what makes another human being the way that they are. What if our beliefs need to change? What if what we thought before and what we believed in our whole life is broken open as false?

I don’t know. What would happen?

I just know it’s a question I love and am living in.

Answer me this.

“What is it like to be you?”


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