Discovering your True Identity

How does our past shape who we are? On this episode, we explore stories of long-buried secrets, and how their discovery changed people’s sense of identity.

Listen 53:09

Identity’s a complicated thing — a mixture of nurture and nature, ethnicity, gender, culture, conscious decisions, coincidences, and more. In many ways, though, who we think we are boils down to the stories we tell ourselves; stories based on our origins, our families, and how we came to be.

But what happens when those stories change? When we discover that the narrative of our lives is completely different from what we’ve always believed?

On this episode, we explore stories of identity, and what happens when long-buried secrets are uncovered. We hear about a journalist who discovered that his father wasn’t who he thought he was, one woman’s search for her childhood self in the records of a long-running experiment, and how a fateful medical decision changed the future of a baby born in 1986.


  • As a kid, investigative journalist Matt Katz always longed for a closer connection with his largely absent father. But it wasn’t until his 40s that he realized he was on the wrong journey altogether. The true story is wrapped in confusion and secrecy, and in the end it upended the truth about who he is – raising questions about identity, fatherhood, medical ethics and what family really means. He unravels this story in his new podcast, “Inconceivable Truth.”
  • Growing up, Sophie Ottaway always felt different; like there was something about her that didn’t quite make sense. She knew she’d had medical issues as a child, but she had no idea what had really happened to her. What she discovered in recent years fundamentally changed her sense of who she is. Reporter Marcus Biddle tells her story.
  • As a young child, Susannah Breslin loved her nursery school — an exclusive program run out of the University of Berkeley. But this was no ordinary pre-school. It was a study — where she was a subject. We talk with Breslin about what she discovered digging into the long-running study. Her book is “Data Baby: My Life in a Psychological Experiment.”

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