My mentor Peter, used to ask me that frequently. It wasn't one of those rhetorical questions that was really asking me to consider my behaviour, disguised in the tone of a question, 'Who the hell do YOU think you are?'
It was a real question; he was asking me who I really thought I was.
Did I think I was a good guy? A bad guy? A dumb guy? A nice guy? A bit of a pillock? A smartarse? A decent guy? A silly guy? A serious guy? A wise guy? The list went on.
One day he said, 'You're not always a nice guy. You can be abrasive, a bit impatient, a bit abrupt. But', he went on, 'I think you're a decent man.'
I was very glad to hear that. Peter, was a man very high in my estimation, and being considered his kind of decent was a big accolade for me.
The peculiar thing is that I've spent my life from that time trying to live to Peter's idea of decency. I don't know whether or not I've succeeded, but it's a daily aspiration, and one which I'd be happy to have achieved in life.
It makes for attention and effort in all areas; Peter's decency ranged from being a decently considerate kind of man, to making a decent effort in any undertaking, to having a decent sense of perspective in the trials and tribulations of life.
The word 'decent' covered a multitude in his South London parlance, and his tolerance and understanding of human nature was immense. Because he was well in his own skin, he had no concern about others' opinions. Which did not mean that he cared little for others as humans, he did. But their opinions, as far as he was concerned, were none of his business.
So, one of his regular questions to me was , 'Who do you think you are?'
It was regular because he insisted that I should think about it often. He said that when you think frequently about it, you begin to get an idea of who you are, who you might be, and who you might like to be. When you do that, he said, then you start looking for ways to become who you could be when you're firing on all cylinders, and you start thinking things, doing things, saying things, that never would have occurred to you beforehand.
I agreed with him, still do.
The thing is that we give ourselves a level of behaviour within the parameters of our interpretation of 'being decent'. So it has a lot to do with who we want to become. So, 'who do you think you are' has a lot to do with who we really are. It's a question of how we think and feel about ourselves and others.
It doesn't do any harm to stop every now and again, ask ourselves the question, and taking the time, try to give as honest an answer as we can. It can be an exercise in revelation.
And when we've done it, let it sit for a day or two, then go again. As we keep on doing it, we may find more information coming to the surface.
And if it's not always pleasant in the short term, because we might not always like our answers, it can be very informative, and helpful, in the longer term, and for the bigger picture, and to our eternal benefit.