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