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I Am What I Am

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"I am the Emperor of the United States, Pain. I am content to be what I am. What more than that could any man desire?"
Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, The Sandman (1989)

Often a character will be ashamed of some aspect of themself (or society insists they should be). It might have something to do with their heritage, such as being illegitimately born, half-demon or some other inheritance considered unfortunate by society. It might have something to do with their lifestyle—from being geeky to collecting belly button lint. Maybe they were forced into an Emergency Transformation which can't be undone, and have been bemoaning "What Have I Become?". They might have just learned they aren't who or what they thought they were and are in the middle of an Identity Breakdown. Or maybe it's an obstacle they face, like being handicapped, dyslexic or incapable of thinking rationally. Could even be a matter of love. Whatever the issue is, expect the character at some point to receive an epiphany that leads to them embracing whatever makes them different.

Often leads to a Moment of Awesome, an In-Universe Catharsis, An Aesop, or all of the above. If in a musical, expect a whole song to be given over to this, and it may be a Dark or Triumphant Reprise of the "I Want" Song. May result in a character repairing broken mirrors and defaced pictures of themselves. Due to its nature as a characterization trope that signals self-acceptance, confidence, and a certain degree of enlightenment, not to mention vanquishing inner demons, may be a rather spoilery trope. Where the character decides they're happy being a monster (although often Dark Is Not Evil) see Fully-Embraced Fiend.

Compare It's What I Do and I Am Not Him. If someone else needs to learn this lesson, they may be advised, "Be Yourself." This is the typical outcome of A Chat with Satan.

Not to be confused with I Am Spartacus or I Am Who?. Or "I am Who I am", which is the best translation that scholars can find for YHWH, the name of the Judeo-Christian God (the context of that quote isn't really an example of this trope either way). Goes with Conditioned to Be Weak, where a powerful character is only docile and submissive because they are conditioned to follow orders and/or fear their leader.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Matsuri is split into male and female versions, and the girl Matsuri becomes convinced she's a non-human duplicate who should abandon the "real" Matsuri's life, including her love for Suzu. A while after running away, she instead decides, human or not, she's still Matsuri and wants to live besides Suzu.
    No matter what form my body takes, I want to protect Suzu from right by her side. As long as my wind revolves around her, I am Matsuri Kazamaki.
  • As of the defeat of the Impure King Blue Exorcist's Rin has accepted his Hellfire and heritage as the Son of Satan. Unfortunately, others aren't so ready to agree with him...
  • Dragon Ball Z: Goku, The Hero of the series, had learned that he was born originally to conquer the Earth, but an unlikely injury to his head led to his personality changing and becoming the kindhearted person the audience sees. For his part, Goku vehemently denies his race and heritage and identifies as an earthling, but when confronted against the one responsible for nearly leading his race to extinction, and seeing just how much of a monster he is for himself, Goku reconciles his identity, particularly after achieving his race's legendary Super Mode.
    Goku: I am a Saiyan born on Earth and I'm here to defeat you [Freeza].I am the warrior you've heard of in legend, pure of heart and awakened by fury, that's what I am.. I am the Super Saiyan, Son Goku!
  • Renton in Eureka Seven says this a lot, especially as he tried to climb out of his father's shadow early in the series.
  • Inori in Guilty Crown accepts that as long as she can protect Shu, she doesn't care if she was just created to be the host for Mana's soul.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! is full of people with subtextual identity issues. The two surviving members of the Half-Human Hybrid Rutenburg division make a study in contrasts on this point:
    • Yozak is the cheerful, improbably competent, muscled, crossdressing red-headed spy who seems incredibly at home in his own skin, though some of that might be a coping mechanism. His mother died and he spent his childhood (i.e. about thirty years) starving because of the customary ostracizing of anyone with half-Mazoku children in Shimaron, and he harbors some resentment against Mazoku for their less virulent but still racist treatment of half-bloods. At any rate, he is very much this trope by this point in his life.
    • His best friend and captain Conrad, though, is "the perfect guy," probably the best swordsman in the world, of practically royal lineage on both sides but unable to hold any rank higher than 'sir', gives off the creepiest Stepford Smiler vibes sometimes, especially when explaining without rancor about some other shitty thing, and has apparently, his entire life, needed to have someone else to base that entire life around. When he was a kid, he had a Big Brother Instinct around Wolfram. After Wolfram rejected him for being half-human, he eventually attached himself to Julia. After Julia died, Shinou arranged for him to transport her soul to Earth and make sure that the baby it became was born safely. And after that, his whole reason for being is Yuuri.
  • William of Log Horizon and his fellow guild members all came close to giving up on raiding because each death forced them to face all of their personal failings and weaknesses. After the worst death yet he began a rant about his weaknesses, but his acceptance of them and refusal to just give up turned it into a Rousing Speech for his entire guild.
  • In Midnight Secretary, Kyouhei at first considers his vampiric side the most important thing that defines him. However, later in-series when he gets called out by other vampires on how low he has fallen, he claims that it doesn't matter what he does; he is he and that he's a vampire no matter what. He also claims that he doesn't want to be bound, but realizes that his own pride made it so.
  • Kabuto of Naruto came to believe that his existence was a lie and so he reshaped himself into a different person to escape that lie. Itachi trapped him in an Epiphanic Prison which Kabuto only escaped when he accepted his original life.
  • Setsuna Sakurazaki from Negima! Magister Negi Magi. She's not particularly ashamed of the fact that she's half-tengu and therefore can sprout wings at will, but she is ashamed of the fact that said wings are white rather than black (it's hinted she may be albino), which marked her as an instant outcast of her demon tribe. Never mind the fact that her True Companions think that the wings are awesome and that she looks like an angel.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    Shinji: I hate myself...
    Shinji, Asuka, and Misato: ...But maybe I can learn to love myself.
    Shinji: Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here!
  • Much as she wants to look like a normal girl, Nano Shinonome from Nichijou can't get rid of the robotic Wind-Up Key on her back because of the bratty little professor. She learns to embrace it in the end.
  • One Piece:
    • Usopp gets this a lot, admitting to his enemies that he is a weakling and a coward. That's usually a sign that he's about to mop the floor with them.
    • Robin surrenders to CP9 in order to ensure the safety of the Straw Hat Pirates in Water 7. When they try to rescue her in Enies Lobby, she tells them that they will inevitably turn against her in the future once she's no longer a burden worth bearing in an attempt to make them leave. The Straw Hats then declare war against the World Government and make it abundantly clear how wrong Robin is, at which point she breaks down in tears and begs them to save her, accepting that she's grown fond of them after their time together and embracing both her life as a pirate and her place as a member of the crew.
    • Ace in the War at Marineford Arc finally comes to terms with his heritage as the son of Gold Roger. Too bad he dies soon after.
    • When Kyros spreads a rumor that his daughter Rebecca is the secret lovechild of her mother Scarlett and a foreign prince, in order to not have her branded by his criminal past, Rebecca has none of it and angrily tells him that she's not the daughter of some prince: even if her father is a former criminal who killed people, she's still the daughter of Kyros. Then again, everyone in Dressrosa already knew that Scarlett and Kyros eloped over 16 years ago, so starting the rumor in the first place was rather pointless.
    • Right before the Onigashima Raid begins, Momonosuke is captured and brought before Kaido, who threatens to execute him if he really is the son of Kozuki Oden. While none of his allies would blame Momonosuke for lying in order to save his own skin at this point, he musters the courage to confront his fear of Kaido and proudly and defiantly declare his lineage loud enough for everyone to hear, which only inspires further loyalty from his retainers.
  • In the manga of Sailor Moon, the character arcs of the various Sailor Soldiers include this.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann combines this with He's Back!, in the shape of a Badass Boast:
    Simon: "Just who the hell do you think I am? I'm Simon. I'm not my bro. I am ME! Simon the Digger!"

    Comic Books 
  • Too many characters to count among Marvel Comics X-titles and mutant spin-offs. Whether hero or villain, whether their ability has inconvenient side or not, whether angsty over it or taking it in stride, before, during, or after an about-face (or about-heel) and back, almost everyone has a moment of this trope at some time.
  • When Bane reappeared at the Battle for Metropolis and killed the original Judomaster during Infinite Crisis, this originally seemed out of place, as he had last been seen with a clean slate after the events of "Veritas Liberat". In the collected edition, he is given this dialogue:
    Bane: I finally know who I am. I am 'Bane'. I break people.
  • Ms. Marvel (1977): When Death-Bird briefly touches on her backstory, namely killing one of her sisters in a berserker rage which got her exiled, Ms. Marvel momentarily tries to offer sympathy. Death-Bird violently refuses it, and goes into an even bigger rage, announcing that she knows what she is, and doesn't mind (in case the fact she calls herself "Death-Bird" wasn't something of a tip-off).
    Death-Bird: I am Death-Bird! And I live only to kill!

    Comic Strips 
  • Popeye: "I yam wot I yam, and that's all wot I yam."

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • Balto: Balto spends the first half of the movie angsting over his half-wolf heritage, but then buckles down and uses his wolf abilities to save the sled team and get the medicine to town.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Sam reveals to Flint that she was teased for being a nerd as a child, so she changed her look and hid her smarts behind a bubbly ditz personality. Flint not only gets her to reclaim her nerdiness but to revert to her earlier glasses-and-ponytail style.
    Flint: I mean, this is the real you, right? Smart, bespectacled... who wouldn't want to see that?
  • Dumbo: Dumbo is teased for having abnormally big ears, which are what later enable him to fly. As his friend Timothy Mouse puts it, "The very things that kept you down are gonna carry you up and up and up!"
  • Frozen: After spending her life trying to conceal her ice powers, Elsa finally comes to terms with herself and her powers, resulting in the song Let It Go, at least until Elsa gets informed of the Endless Winter she created and she ended up going back to square one, especially when she struck Anna in the heart. The sisters enjoy a happy ending in the end, though, after they learn to reconcile her Snow Queen identity with her life in Arendelle with her family.
    Elsa: Let it go, let it go
    Can't hold it back anymore...
  • Kung Fu Panda: Po pulls this off in every movie thus far:
  • Ratatouille:
    Django: Where are you going?
    Rémy: Back to the restaurant! They'll fail without me!
    Django: Why do you care?
    Rémy: Because I'm a cook!
  • In the opening of Megamind, the eponymous Villain Protagonist spends a decent portion lamenting that as he child he caused nothing but trouble when he attempted to be a good guy like the Mr. Goody Two-Shoes who would eventually become Metroman. Eventually, though, he decides that being the bad guy is his destiny and proudly embraces being the bad guy.
  • This is perhaps the main moral behind The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, had become bored and dreary with scaring and longed for something more. After discovering Christmas and attempting to take a shot at it, only to fail miserably, he has a BSoD Song which leads to up to this trope:
    "Well, what the heck! I went and did my best! And by god, I really tasted something swell! And for a moment, why, I even touched the sky! And at least I left some stories they can tell, I did! And for the first time since I don't remember when, I felt just like my old boney self again! And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King... That's right. I AM THE PUMPKIN KING! HA! HA! HA! HA!"
  • Popeye: Popeye uses this phrase as a catchphrase, mangled by his usual pronunskiation: "I yam whats I yam, and dat's all wot I yam". Probably the Trope Codifier.
  • All throughout The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, SpongeBob is told that he is Just a Kid. After his harrowing journey, he realizes that "no amount of mermaid magic, or managerial promotion, or some other third thing can make me any more than what I really am inside - a kid," and that he is OK with it because he managed to do what nobody believed he could for this reason. And then he unleashes The Power of Rock.
  • In Turning Red, Mei comes to the realization that the panda spirit is part of her true self.
  • A villainous example in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit where Victor Quartermaine says this to Lady Tottington in regards to killing rabbits.
  • Wreck-It Ralph has the Bad-Anon Creed: "I am bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me." Repeated at the end — he feels proud of being a hero in Vanellope's eyes, even if the rest of the world views him as a villain.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Kingdom of Heaven: A dark example. Raynaud de Chatillon has been shown to be an amoral Knight Templar (literally) throughout the movie before he's thrown in jail. He's eventually released, and the first thing he does is slaughter a Muslim caravan. Even he seems depressed by this, saying, "I am what I am. Someone has to be."
  • One of Max's last actions in the movie Bent is taking off his shirt and replacing it with a blood-stained shirt with a pink triangle sewn onto it, to finally show pride in himself against the Nazis. Then he kills himself.
  • That's the main motive behind A Better Tomorrow. Initially, Mark is convinced that gangsters like him can't really change their ways and run an honest life, and at one point even scolds about it his former boss Ho, who is trying to do just that. But later on, Mark acknowledges the fact that only by taking their destinies straight in their hands, people can really call themselves free, and even ends up being killed while lecturing Ho's brother (who is a cop and quite the Inspector Javert of the situation) on the goodness of Ho's efforts.
  • The Color Purple (1985): "I'm poor, black, I may even be ugly. But dear God- I'm here! I'm HERE!!"
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Del Griffith delivers an incredibly touching rebuttal to Neil Page's tirade about him, which may be the perfect rebuttal to any "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Del: You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I'm an easy target. Yeah, you're right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you... but I don't like to hurt people's feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I'm not changing. I like... I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get.
    • Note Del's very brief hesitation before saying "My wife likes me;" it's a beautifully subtle touch from actor John Candy as well as some rather tragic foreshadowing to the reveal that his wife actually passed away years ago.
  • Frederick in Young Frankenstein, after confronting his creation, he tells him how wonderful he is and promises to show that to the entire world, embracing his heritage at last.
    Inga: Dr. Fronk-on-steen! Are you all right?
    Frederick: My name is FRANKENSTEIN!
  • Mystique. From X-Men: First Class, "Mutant and proud".
  • When the "Rig family" reach the lands of Vuvalini in Mad Max: Fury Road, Furiosa introduces herself with her whole tribal lineage. This is probably the first time in the last 20 years when she fully acknowledges her origins and starts reconnecting with her past.
  • Averted in The Naked Spur (1953). Bounty Hunter Kemp drags the dead body of outlaw Vandergroat out of the river after his partner has been killed trying to drag it across the river. When Lina gives him a What The Hell Hero Speech Kemp gives this trope but eventually decides to put his past behind him and go on to another life with her.
  • Citizen Kane: Strangely, this trope is inverted in this movie when two characters come to terms with the fact that they can’t be the men they once wanted to be, and then they have their In-Universe Catharsis.
    • When he is forced to give up the control of his empire, Kane reflects that, in an inversion of I Coulda Been a Contender!, all his advantages had stolen his chance as true greatness.
      Kane: You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man.
      Thatcher: Don't you think you are?
      Kane: I think I did pretty well, under the circumstances.
      Thatcher: What would you like to have been?
      Kane: Everything you hate.
    • When 'Boss' Jim W. Gettys tries to blackmail Kane, he admits that even when he is the archetype of the Sleazy Politician, even he has more standards than Kane.
      Kane: In case you don't know, Emily - this - this gentleman - is -
      'Boss' Jim W. Gettys: I'm not a gentleman, Mrs. Kane, and your husband is just trying to be funny calling me one. I don't even know what a gentleman is. (tensely and venomously) You see, my idea of a gentleman, Mrs. Kane - well, if I owned a newspaper and if I didn't like the way somebody else was doing things - some politician, say - I'd fight them with everything I had. Only I wouldn't show him in a convict suit, with stripes – so his children could see the picture in the paper. Or his mother. (physically restrains himself from attacking Kane) It's pretty clear - I'm not a gentleman.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: After Loki learns in Thor that he was adopted from a race of enemies, he believes himself to be a monster. He continues to call himself Asgardian to hide his origin but denies being a son of Odin. Years later in Thor: Ragnarok, with his play, he openly admits that he is a Jotunn and frames it in a positive light. Before the elevator scene, he also refers to himself as a "son of the crown", which is one step short of saying that he is Odin's son. By Avengers: Infinity War he has finally found self-acceptance. Shortly before his death, he acknowledges that he isn't Asgardian and is indeed the rightful King of Jötunheim, but at the same time, he understands that this does not change the fact that he's an Odinson and the Prince of Asgard.
  • Carl from We Too Together hates being labelled and seen as different, and projects that onto his son Rob, whom he has told never to tell anyone he's autistic. At the end of the movie, Rob gives Carl a speech about how being autistic is who he is and there's nothing wrong with using the word.
    Rob: There's nothing wrong with being special. I'm proud of who I am. Why can't you be proud of me, too?

  • Jane Eyre: Jane decides that, if she has to live without friends and without love to keep her self-respect, she will do so. That is her nature, not to compromise, and she will be true to it: "the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself."
  • This phrase and variants of it are repeated throughout the first book of the Sword of Truth series, usually after one character or another laments that they wish they were someone else, who didn't have to worry about their magic or saving the world.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Wee Free Men, Tiffany Aching overcomes the Fairy Queen with the very selfishness the Queen taunted her for when she realizes she's willing to fight for the things that are hers. Then she lays claim to the entire land.
    • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Spider berates Dangerous Beans for having the gall to dream of living in the manner of humans, reminding him that he is a rat. Dangerous Beans considers this, and acknowledges that, yes, he is a rat ... but he also declares that he is not vermin.
  • Forgotten Realms:
    • Drizzt, once he stops apologizing for being a drow.
    • Galaeron Nihmedu. First, he suffers from prejudices as a sorcerer, then he's cut off the Weave (one of worst fates for an elf) and others see him almost as The Undead. But once he regains control over himself, he does what's right for him and neither reacts to cold reception nor wangsts himself out.
  • This is a dominant theme of The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, which is told from the viewpoint of an autistic character. That said, given the choice at the end of whether to undergo surgery that will cure them, not all of them will end up choosing alike.
  • The Bible: In The Book of Exodus, God famously responds to Moses asking Him for His name with something we can't quite translate into English - it's often rendered as "I AM WHAT I AM" or "I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE". In doing so his God proclaims that He is beyond mere names and references the Hebrews' (sacred) placeholder-name for their technically-nameless God, YHWH (lit. "that which was, is, and will be"). Another translation of the line (quoted in Dogma) is "I AM HE WHO IS CALLED 'I AM'."
    • This can also be interpreted as God saying that as He's the only one, He doesn't need a specific name. If there was only one tree in the universe, we'd just call it "the tree", not a fig tree or a birch tree or anything of the sort. note 
  • From the same Source is an arguable contender for the Trope Namer. Paul, while addressing the Church of Corinth, explains the simple origins of faith and the ideas around which the Gospel is shaped. He describes the humble salvation of the twelve disciples and then his own, giving us this piece:
  • In one fantasy short story, God tells the modern world (by having every single broadcast radio and TV signal at the same time announce it) to justify humanity's continued existence within a short deadline. After the U.S. government puts every known fact into a computer, the computer gives them the name of someone to talk to. When they talk to him, he thinks for a few minutes and replies with the (slightly adjusted) Bible quote above. "We are what we are".
  • The following exchange from Night Watch (Series) between the Light Other Anton and the Dark One Zavulon:
    Anton: "Zavulon, you are the spawn of darkness."
    Zavulon: "Indeed, I am. But only that darkness that was inside me."
  • In V. Gor's Demon series of novels, a human brain copes with the dogfighting in space all right, the problem is the body housing said brain. A few planets start searching for volunteers to undergo augmentation.
    • The eponymous Demons are said volunteers for whom the Bio-Augmentation worked properly, including a few who were successfully treated for the various Psycho Serum side effects.
    • The Devils are former rejects from the Demon project. The project was considered a mixed blessing at best as a significant number of volunteers became Super Soldiers without the desired piloting skills. They became the dedicated ground force for the war to free the far more valuable pilots from planetside action.
    • The Ares project claimed to replace human pilots with a superior AI. Since no known AI can handle space combat, the unscrupulous scientists simply took both volunteers and rejects from society and encased their brains on life support in the ships.
      Demons and Devils are fertile, but only amongst themselves, effectively becoming a new humanoid species. All three groups, Demons, Devils, and Ares fighters, slowly come to realize and accept that they aren't human anymore. Avoiding both Pro-Human Transhuman and Transhuman Treachery, they pledge their loyalty to the Demons' native planets only.
  • Redwall had the words "I AM THAT IS". Used as part of a riddle, it was revealed to be an anagram for "MATTHIAS", the name of the book's main character, and chosen as Redwall Abbey's next defender.
  • Lucifer, from The Tragedy Of Man: "I cannot give anything other than my being." That is, a scathing criticism of Creation, to God. It doesn't end well.
  • In Worm, Taylor. after failing to prevent the end of the world, admits to herself that she is a hypocrite, selfish, and occasionally short-sighted in spite of her attempts to be better, coming to terms with these parts of herself.
    I’m just a little bit of a monster.
  • In The Broken Earth Trilogy, Nassun ultimately concludes she's proud to be an orogene despite the world and her father's views on such things, leading to her confronting her father.
  • At the end of The Yellow Bag, Raquel learns to love herself for who she is, getting rid of her wishes of being an adult and being a boy.

    Live-Action TV  
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "D.N.A.", Kryten the android becomes human. At first he's thrilled because mechanoids tend to view humans as awesome. As he starts belittling his origins and insulting his spare heads, he starts to realize that he can't change what he is inside; an android who can't tell the difference between Popeye and Descartes. Also, it provides this funny moment:
    Human Kryten: [hands Lister a Poloroid photograph of his penis] Is that normal?
    Lister: What, taking pictures of it and showing it to your mates? No, it's not.
  • Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it."
  • Parodied in The Catherine Tate Show. Jamie, fed up with his grandmother constantly criticising and swearing at people, says in despair "Why are you like this?" She responds by launching into a rendition of "I Am What I Am" from La Cage aux Folles.
  • Spock throughout Star Trek: The Original Series. He even addresses it word-for-word in "This Side of Paradise":
    Spock: I am what I am, Leila, and if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else's.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Warhead", the crew are trying to disarm an Interstellar Weapon with Artificial Intelligence, despite its objections. Harry and Janeway try to assure the AI that they were only trying to remove its explosive component, but it can't see any difference between the two. "I am what I am!"
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Ninth Doctor's regeneration can be considered this. Having been tortured by what he's done in the Time War for this incarnation's entire life (implied at points to be 100+ years), he is able to come to terms with who he is and express satisfaction with it, thanks to the cathartic Heroic Sacrifice he gives to save Rose Tyler.
      Nine: Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I. [teary-eyed grins from both Rose and himself]
    • The Twelfth Doctor's realization in "Death in Heaven" that he is not a good man, or a bad man, but an idiot with a box and a screwdriver who tries to learn and help where he can. It's a nice summation of what the Doctor has been throughout their various lives, and a declaration of self-acceptance that's rarely seen for a character with such a low view of themselves.
  • One episode of Pushing Daisies has Ned say that he's not sorry or ashamed about what he does, because "it's what brought everyone I love into my life".
  • Kurt from Glee: He decides he's not afraid to be who he is and tells his father that he's proud to be who he is and that he won't hide in the closet.
  • Scrubs: Three words, "I'm. The. Todd"
  • In episode seven of Game of Thrones, the Magnificent Bastard Petyr Baelish describes to a couple of his "employees" the epiphany he had in regards to this trope after getting defeated in a duel, saying, "I learned that I'll never win, not that way. That's their game. Their rules. I'm not going to fight them. I'm going to fuck them. That is what I know. That's what I am." Rather than try to be a warrior, he vows to be The Chessmaster.
  • In the season 3 premiere of Breaking Bad, Jesse, blaming himself for the death of Jane and the airplane crash that her distracted father accidentally caused, tells Walter, "It's all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am. I'm the bad guy."
  • Veronica Mars: Invoked word for word in response to people sometimes calling her out on her role in upheaving people's lives (she's a private investigator - and naturally nosey).
  • Mother & Son has a variant, in the context of Arthur being Mistaken for Gay:
    Arthur: It's just what people are! Some people are and some people aren't. But it doesn't matter whether they are or they aren't because they are what they are.
    Maggie: ...What?
    Arthur: I am what I am, and as it happens I'm not. But even if I was, I'd be what I'd be. But I'd still be what I am.
  • Power Rangers RPM has the episode "Ranger Blue," wherein villainous humanoid cyborg infiltration unit Tenaya attempts a quick Breaking Speech on the Blue Ranger, Flynn. Flynn's life has been one long litany of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, with every attempt to help people getting him in trouble or otherwise not working out, leading to a lot of old doubts. That said, Flynn is still a Power Ranger, meaning he is finally in a position where bravery, enthusiasm, stubbornness, and a total drive towards selfless altruism aren't hindrances but downright mandatory job requirements. As such, he has no time for Tenaya's attempt at mind games, which leads to a highly entertaining exchange:
    Tenaya: (grappling with Flynn) Red is the perfect one, Black is the brooding bad boy, Green is the clown, and Yellow, well, she's the girl. So, who are you supposed to be?
    Flynn: (casually throwing her aside) Ah'm Scottish!

  • Eminem: "I am whatever you say I am! If I wasn't, then why would I SAY I am?! In the paper, the news EVERYDAY I am! I don't know, that's just the way I am."
  • The song "What I Am" by Edie Brickell and New Bohemians ("What I am, is what I am, is what you are or what"); referenced in the Aretha Franklin song "A Rose is Still a Rose"
  • The Bonzo Dog Band had "What Do You Do".
    I do what I do,
    I am what I am,
    We are what we are
    We do what we can!
  • Meredith Brooks' song "Bitch" is all about this trope; the chorus proudly proclaims "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover," followed by several other contradictory attributes (Child/mother, sinner/saint) and announces "I do not feel ashamed!".
  • The Imagine Dragons song "It's Time", about embracing who you really are and how it's impossible to do so, even when minor changes in your life are made.
    It's time to begin,
    Isn't it, I get a little bit bigger, but then,
    I'll admit, I'm just the same as I was,
    Now don't you understand?
    That I'm never changing who I am.
  • "I'm Mee, I'm Now, An That's Orl" by Slade:
    Everybody's tellin' us that we're insane,
    Anything goes wrong, we always get the blame.
    We know what they're thinkin' when they ladies' winkin',
    Sure must count for somethin' if they know our name!
    'Cause I'm me, I'm now, and that's all!
    Yeah I'm me, I'm now, and that's all!
  • "Let Me Be," written by P. F. Sloan, a 1960's hit from The Turtles.
    Let me be, let me be
    To think like I want to
    Let me be, let me be
    That's all I ask of you
    I am what I am
    And that's all I ever can be
  • Pearl Jam's "I Am Mine", where the singer is reassuring himself to find some peace of mind (it's the first song Eddie Vedder wrote after nine fans accidentally died during a festival concert).
    The North is to South what the clock is to time
    There's east and there's west and there's everywhere life
    I know I was born and I know that I'll die
    The in between is mine
    I am mine
  • Samantha Fish's "Wild Heart" is about a woman who is in love with a man, but needs him to stop trying to change her.
    How many times do you have to see if you can tame
    The one you can't tie down
    The one who needs you now
    Oh baby, why can't I get you out of my wild heart?
  • "So What" by Three Days Grace is all about the narrator accepting his flaws.
    I am who I am and I'll never be like you
    You can say whatever you like
    If it's so wrong I don't wanna be right
  • Origami Angel: GAMI GANG includes "Neutrogena Spektor". At first, the singer is jealous of Hollywood actors and movie stars, hating his "boney-ass self" with "cystic acne". However, he realizes that it's an unrealistic standard to live up to, and he has the "best fuckin' friends", so he's happy with his life.
    Wouldn't it be nice to look like I'm a movie star?
    Honestly, I don't wanna be
    And my life feels up to par

  • God Himself does this in Exodus 3
    Moses: Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you," and they ask me, "What is his name?" Then what shall I tell them?
    God: I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I Am' has sent me to you."

  • A Prairie Home Companion: Lake Wobegon's town motto, according to Garrison Keillor, is the plural form of this: "Sumus quod sumus, we are what we are"

  • William Shakespeare's works:
    • Don John, the villain of Much Ado About Nothing makes an introductory speech in which he tells his henchmen that he's being a Jerkass because he is, in fact, a Jerkass and has decided not to fight what he is.
    • Richard III: "Since I cannot prove a lover, I am determined to prove a villain".
    • When Iago of Shakespeare's Othello says "I am not what I am" in a soliloquy, he means a couple of things. Firstly he's telling us he's a manipulative bastard, and possibly a psychopath rather than the honest and reliable man the other characters think he is. Secondly, this statement also roughly equates to him saying that he is soulless and therefore daemonic. Iago is fine with this and he's quite happy admitting his true colours to himself and to us as the audience.
    • The statement was actually code for the Shakespearean audience that Iago was saying he was the Devil since God's words were "I am what I am."
  • La Cage aux folles: In the Act I finale, Albin, a professional drag queen, has learned his longtime partner and their adoptive son want him out of the way to avoid offending the son's conservative future in-laws. He sings the eponymous song in defiance, declaring that he, at least, is not ashamed of who he is.
    • The musical featured the Trope Namer, later covered by Gloria Gaynor:
      I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses...
  • Elphaba, in Wicked, sings 'Defying Gravity' as a realization of her own nature and her own standing in the world: she will never gain the love she's dreamed of and still be able to respect herself. She's hated being a witch, and she's tried not to be a witch, but it's her nature, and for the first time she really embraces it.
  • Monsieur Madeleine, in Les Misérables, comes to accept who he was before and trusts in divine providence to come to the bar and say, "Who am I? I'm Jean Valjean!"
  • In Oliver!:
    • Fagin seems to always come back to this trope.
    • Nancy is fully aware of the fact that Bill is a complete bastard, but she can't help loving him, complete with song. And then, to top off the love fest, he kills her.
  • West Side Story: "I love him, I'm his, and everything he is I am too - I have a love, and it's all that I need, right or wrong - and he needs me too."
  • Funny Girl: In a vein combining 'I Have a Love' with 'Defying Gravity' above, 'Don't Rain On My Parade' is Fanny Brice telling the rest of the Ziegfield follies, and Ziegfield himself, to go jump in a lake because she knows what she wants and she's not going to let him get away.
  • Man of La Mancha:
    • "I, Don Quixote" says it right in the title: "I am I, Don Quixote! the Lord of La Mancha..."
    • His "fair lady Dulcinea" spits out the darkest possible version of this trope as a song, saying that she is what she is: an unloved, unremembered whore who comes from a dog-eat-dog world and that's only way she can be, and all she deserves.
  • Shrek: The Musical: Near the end of the show, during the titular character's 10-Minute Retirement, the various fairy tale characters exiled from the kingdom band together via the song "Freak Flag", wherein they embrace what makes them different from "normal" people, and decide to fight back against Farquaad themselves.
  • The Odd Couple:
    Oscar: You mean you're not going to make any effort to change? This is the person you're going to be—until the day you die?
    Felix: We are what we are.
  • In the 2013 stage adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka has the song "Simply Second Nature", in which he explains that his strange confectionery creations are born of a desire to create beautiful things; he cannot help but follow his muse, he happens to use sweets as his artistic medium, and he doesn't care if others find him strange for it.
  • The titular Elisabeth has two songs.
    • The first is her big act 1 solo, "Ich gehör nur mir" (I Only Belong to Myself). She affirms to herself that she is free and cannot be controlled, and anyone who seeks to own her will only make her flee.
    • The second is her act 2 duet with Death, "Wenn ich tanzen will" (If I Want to Dance), as she rejoices in her success of Hungarian independence, and reaffirms that she dances to her own beat.

    Video Games 
  • J, the leader of the Reaper Squad in Armored Core, is what is known as a "Cultivator": an artificially grown soldier cloned from the best pilots with no purpose other than to fight and who has had their consciousness digitized and uploaded into an AC. With the massive war between the Three Great Powers finally ending, J realizes that his purpose is coming to end as well. He confronts the player in a final battle, admitting that "there is no place for me but the battlefield. To live as I please... and die a senseless death."
  • At the end of his optional introspection storyline in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Desmond arrives at the realization: "My name is Desmond Miles. I am an Assassin. I am an Assassin." Notably, he has denied being an Assassin multiple times since game one.
  • A rather sobering example shows up at the end of Batman: The Telltale Series: Bruce Wayne is faced with the choice of either allowing his butler Alfred Pennyworth to Resign in Protest, or send Batman into early retirement. This is Bruce's line should the player choose the former option:
    You're right, Al. It's who I am. I will always be Batman. That will never change.
  • In the canon route of Blaze Union, Garlot has it dropped on him quite abruptly that he's not who he thinks he is—as much as his mother tried to hide it from him, he's actually a pureblooded descendant of the demon Brongaa, and his real name is Gulcasa. As this comes in the middle of a brutal Trauma Conga Line, it would probably be forgivable for the poor kid to break down from the identity crisis... but he just accepts the truth calmly and then sets about trying to find a way to use his newfound power to protect people. At the very end of the game, he puts the spirit of this trope into words, but by then it really comes off as more of a Tear Jerker than anything else, as several people who meant a lot to him have utterly rejected him because of this.
  • In Devil May Cry 4, Nero is deeply ashamed of having demonic power in the form of his Devil Bringer arm. Once he awakens a rudimentary form of Devil Trigger, he accepts that he may have to use said demonic power in order to protect Kyrie.
    Nero: From that day forth... my arm changed, and a voice echoed... "Power... Give me more power!" And if I become a demon, so be it! I will endure the exile... Anything, to protect her!
  • Terra in Final Fantasy VI is at first terrified of the fact that she's half-human, half esper (basically a magical creature from another world). However, she comes to accept the fact that she is what she is and uses it to try to make peace with the espers, although Kefka ultimately ruins that.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series:
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Riku spends most of Reverse/Rebirth trying to fight his inner darkness. When he finally decides to use it to save himself, he's called out on it by one of the antagonists—and responds with a reworded version of this trope:
      Zexion: Heh... After all your protests you're still just another darkling.
      Riku: I know who I am.
    • In Kingdom Hearts III, Vanitas defines himself as Ven and Sora's "shadow", since his entire being is comprised of the former's inner darkness that the latter replaced. In Vanitas's final moments, Ven tries getting him to understand that he's his own person who's free to choose to be more than just someone else's darkness, but when Vanitas throws it back in his face by revealing his self-image is entirely his own choice, Ven begrudgingly accepts he's sticking to that choice to the bitter end.
  • MadWorld: "I don't save people, I kill them."
  • Metal Gear Solid series: One of the constant struggles for Solid Snake's character is that he has Blood Knight tendencies. Snake's father Big Boss and his brother Liquid remind him that inside of him there is a warrior spirit that loves to fight and that he should embrace it, and revel in the joys of battle. After a long internal struggle Snake does eventually come to terms with his love for violence and embraces his fighting nature, but tries his best to separate himself from the examples of his family by using his combat talents for good causes. As an outward sign of his internal struggle Snake gives non-lethal combat a chance in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but eventually falls back into using lethal weaponry on the battlefield. Despite his attempts to do good Snake eventually despairs in the knowledge that he can't escape his violent nature and admits that he is a bad person at heart with an irredeemable killer nature. Snake actively protests the idealistic images people have of him being a hero simply because he stopped a few terrorist incidents, stating "I am no hero, never was. I am just an old killer."
  • Overwatch: New Blood is A Day in the Limelight for Cassidy, as he is approached to help reunite and reform the titular Heroes "R" Us, and decides to use the opportunity to come to grips with his criminal past and silence "McCree", his darker self, for good.
  • Every party member in Persona 4 does this to obtain their Persona.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series:
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic gives one in response to Shadow's inquiry of what special kind of creature Sonic must be to have been able to conduct Chaos Control (especially notable as he did it with a fake Emerald, something Shadow views as impossible) and escape certain death from that explosion. Sonic's answer is the defining moment of his character: "What you see is what you get: just a guy that loves adventure. I'm Sonic the Hedgehog!"
    • In Shadow the Hedgehog, at the end of several story routes and especially the final, canon route Shadow states, "This is who I am!" when he is finally at peace with his (perceived) identity and has put the past behind him once and for all. Shadow comes to terms with the idea that he is a weapon designed by Gerald Robotnik, but he has decided that he can be so much more than just a weapon: with his powers, he will find a way to bring the people of the Earth happiness, just as Maria had hoped.


    Web Original 
  • A memetic PowerPoint presentation sums this up succinctly:

    Web Videos 
  • Mean-spiritedly subverted in Demo Reel. After four episodes and God knows how many years of self-loathing, Donnie DuPre accepts himself as both Donnie and Jimmy Boyd, a filmmaker who will make good movies and someone who can remember his tragic past but not obsess over it anymore. Turns out he's neither, he's The Nostalgia Critic, and his whole existence is a punishment.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: "My name is Zuko, son of Ursa and Firelord Ozai, Prince of the Fire Nation and heir to the throne.". This doubles as a Badass Boast, although while it intimidates his opponent, the people he was protecting from them really don't like who he is and run him out of town.
    • Zuko also comes to embrace the fact that his uncle Iroh, who most of the Fire Nation view as a lazy failure, has rubbed off on him.
      Fire Lord Ozai: (laughs) Your uncle has gotten to you, hasn't he?
      Zuko (smiling): Yes. He has.
  • Batman: The Animated Series had a rather dark and depressing example in the episode "Sideshow". Killer Croc escapes from a prison transport and ends up stumbling across a small community of retired circus sideshow performers living in the woods. They see him as one of their own and even defend him from Batman when he tracks him down. Croc seems to enjoy the acceptance and peace the group offers... at least until he finds out they have a large amount of money stashed away for emergencies and can't resist trying to make off with it. As Croc is lifted away by helicopter back to jail, the seal boy he'd bonded with tearfully asks him why he betrayed them. Croc can only solemnly reply with this:
    Croc: You said it yourself, kid. "Out here, you can be yourself." I guess that's what I was doing. Being myself.
  • In the first episode of Gargoyles, Goliath responds to humans' dislike of his race with "We are what we are".
  • Justice League Unlimited episode "The Doomsday Sanction" features a villainous example. When Doomsday says that he'll kill Superman, he asks why. The creature replies "It's what I am. I don't care why."
  • Kim Possible's Ron Stoppable: "I am what I is."
  • What started as a fantasy sequence in the opening of The Owl House pilot, becomes a self-affirming Badass Boast and Pre-Asskicking One-Liner for Luz in the finale episode when she takes down Emperor Belos once and for all.
    Luz: For I am the Good Witch Luz, child of the Human Realm, student of the Demon Realm, and Warrior of Peace. NOW EAT THIS, SUCKA!


Video Example(s):


"I killed lots of people."

She says this in regards to shrugging off Marona's death once Nona separates from her, noting that she's a killer, and Marona is just one amongst many, so she feels no real guilt for her sister's passing.It's implied this perception of herself in Lucrecia's mind is what allowed the Maligula personality to become dominant in the first place, with Lucy's shattered mental state upon finding Marona's body deciding to embrace the public perception of her as a vicious monster to deal with the pain.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / IAmWhatIAm

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