This is an interesting question we all ask of ourselves at some point in our lives and indeed often a number of times in our lives. For instance in the antiscript stages of 2 years old, 4 years old, adolescence and 40 years old (for some). Outside childhood it seems to become important whenever we arrive at a point in life where we significantly reassess our goals and what we want out of life and what we want to give to life. When we meet a significant fork in the road of life where we can go one way or the other.
Some people present with a lack of identity which generally would be seen as a lack of Free Child. Some people with poor access to that part of the personality can report a difficulty in answering the question. Of course it is easy to answer such a question from the Adult ego state. We are all a particular gender, particular age, have an occupation of some kind and so forth and these answer the question – Who am I? But these answers ring hollow and the person does not feel fulfilled with such an answer. It lacks any depth and substance. It lacks Free Child involvement.
But it does gives us an avenue for working with people who present with this kind of difficulty. If such a person has poor access to their Free Child then that is obviously a therapeutic avenue to follow.
Also they may have a strong Please me driver. This person defines self according to the needs and wants of others. The intent of this driver is to obtain nurture (love, approval) and avoid abandonment (rejection, loneliness) but in doing so they present as lacking substance or lack a sense of who they are. This driver allows people to define who they are at least to some extent. In most this driver is not too strong so there is not a lack of identity. However in others it can be strong and the person presents with what is called pathological compliance. These people truly do need others to define who they are which can also make them very vulnerable in relationships
There is another type of person sometimes known as the asthenic personality and is drawn like so, indicating that they have week ego state boundaries:
This means they easily and at times quickly move between ego states. Hence they appear to lack an identity and it is hard to discern who they are. They present as slipshod and quite changeable.
To quote Berne, “The permeability of ego boundaries also has two poles… Asthenic people who lack identity, who slide from one ego state to another without much intensity have lax ego boundaries. Child and Parent, although both weak, leak into or burst through the ego boundaries of the Adult with little difficulty, and the real self shifts under small stresses.”
In such cases there needs to be ego state strengthening of the Parent, Adult and Child.
Another way to answer the question is provided to us by the teenager. In this stage of development the person is doing the same. It is sometimes called the stage of identity formation. They use two main strategies, RC rebellion by doing the opposite to what is expected and FC experimentation by doing something new just because they can. Indeed this may explain why teenagers as a group are seen as risk takers. If one takes risks they are afforded a wider range of experience. As they do these things they find what is right and wrong for them, what they don’t like and do like and what is just them and just not them. It could be assumed this would also help answer the identity question at hand.