Who Am I?

I’m not talking about some crazy existential, quarter-life crisis here. I just mean, who am I, really?

English: A name label. (Hello, my name is...)

English: A name label. (Hello, my name is…) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it’s a natural desire to try to classify everything. We label things. It helps us to make sense of all the information that we process on a daily basis. People label and group, arrange and organize. Some people are more inclined than others, and some are better at it than the rest of us.

It’s not about judging people, although that happens all too often. It’s about our natural tendency to group things into more manageable information chunks. It’s part of why stereotypes resonate with us and why we find ourselves believing them without much reference information to back them up. What really intrigues me is how we try to do this to ourselves.

It starts with cliques and groups in school. We try to figure out “where we belong” and we tend to gravitate toward people with perceived common characteristics. We think its as simple as aiming for the lowest common denominator, but it’s really about trying to classify ourselves. We’re trying to label and group ourselves. It doesn’t stop in school though.

We tend to find like groups to identify with. Then we start giving ourselves labels and titles. Especially as we become adults. It makes things easier we think. We can speed up social interactions by identifying with certain groups, which will communicate information to other people very quickly.

I could tell people that I am a Sports Fan, I  am a Gamer, a Reader, and I am a Creative. I’ve just attempted to sum up the entirety of my 28 years in 4 classifications. Because it’s easier, right? We all try to find what labels we can give ourselves that are the most descriptive. It saves some of the messier questions. It gives dedicated topics and lines of inquiry that I am comfortable talking in depth about.

What I have really done is tried to simplify who I am. I have tried to compress myself into 4 little boxes for you and for me. Because it’s easier than opening myself up to scrutiny, whether from you or from me. Because we don’t really want other people to know, do we? More to the point, we don’t want ourselves to know, do we?

It’s much easier to call myself those things than it is to tell people about things that really matter. If I were to talk about things that really made me who I am, that really had a profound effect on my life, it would be more uncomfortable. I would have to tell people about how my mother died when I was 9, and how I’m not sure I ever made peace with that, or if I even know how to. I would have to tell people that I don’t know how different my life would have been if I hadn’t had a degenerative hip disease that resulted in a hip replacement that always has, and continues to, limit my physical activity. I would have to tell people about how my constant need for approval consistently puts me in a position where I’m not acting from a place of comfort and confidence, but rather a place of fear and doubt.

See? People don’t really want to hear those things. I’m not sure if I want to dig at those things. It’s much easier to try to label yourself, isn’t it?

Think about it. Think what you tell people, and then think about what really makes you who you are.

Try, just a little. Try sharing a small piece of that with someone close to you, or someplace like a blog. You might find it’s more meaningful that just being another “Sports Fan.”

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6 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. I see where you’re coming from here. You’re right–people get uncomfortable with too much too fast. When you and I met in college, I don’t think we were battered by this yet. We were in a new place and almost felt like we had to explain ourselves. That’s why I always led with, “I’m from Fremont. That’s why I’m like this.” But it took only a couple of weeks before we were no longer keeping secrets.

    Sharing those insecurities is something I think we reserve for people we trust after we get to know them. If we all just went around unloading our baggage on people, I think the world would become overwhelmed. I know that I would simply because I have too much empathy. That’s why we have friends and acquaintances. Friends know your soul, acquaintances need only to know those four simple boxes.

    And if they really decide to open up those boxes and dig around, they’re probably worth being a friend.

    • You know, I never thought of it like that. Sometimes as I get older, it becomes harder to distinguish between friends and acquaintances. You never get to see your friends as much, and you meet so many new people, that it seems like everyone is just an acquaintance.
      Don’t you also think that sometimes were still a little too reluctant to root around in our own boxes? We might never want to open them at all. That makes it that much harder to get them back open when you might really need to share what’s inside with someone. Or am I completely crazy?

      • Well sure–you’re crazy. But I think you make a point that we’re afraid to get to know ourselves too well. I’ve always made it a point to be an open book because if I’m not hiding anything from anyone else, I certainly can’t hide it from myself. Sure, that brought on bouts of panic attacks, but I’m better for it.

        The awesome thing is that you don’t “need” to share anything with anyone. It’s all in your power. There are people you SHOULD share with…but I think we know all too well that sometimes the people that are supposed to be closest to us know us the least.

      • That’s pretty accurate. It can be hard to share the deep, dark stuff with those closest to us because those are the people who’s opinions actually matter to us. I do think we all need to share with SOMEONE. Maybe not all the deep, dark stuff, but some of it. It doesn’t do any good to to shut it all away completely. It always manages to seep back out anyway. At least if you open the box, maybe you can find the leak.
        I always enjoyed the open book quality about you. It made it easy to form a strong bond, quickly. It’s exceptionally refreshing to have someone you can kind of just drop bombs on. We’ve had some interesting conversations over the years, and some of them started with what might otherwise be considered inappropriate or sudden statements.
        Of course, you’re right that something like that wouldn’t work with just anyone.

  2. Excellent post, I really enjoyed reading this, especially since it relates somewhat to the topic I’m currently studying in Philosophy.
    Thanks for writing and sharing this 🙂

    • Absolutely!
      It’s really nice when whatever it is that I’m writing, serious or funny, strange or sincere, resonates with someone.
      Thank you for the kind words.

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