I was recently asked a relatively strange question: How would you describe yourself?
I was surprised, mostly because I didn’t know how to answer. This wasn’t at an interview (I consider myself a firm but reasonable teacher who uses structure to maintain a supportive and educational environment), or a date (I’m a 20-something year old who enjoys videogames and fantasy books). This was just a friend who turned to me and asked: How would you describe yourself?
I thought about it. And thought about it. There were a million things I could have said, none of which were incorrect, but none of which could truly encompass everything I am, either. What a deceptively easy question!
I could use nouns. I’m a teacher. A wife. Sister. Fighter. Bitch?
Or adjectives: Happy. Awesome. Intelligent. Unbreakable. Afraid.
In a myriad of beautiful words—in a swirling ocean of phrases and descriptors—suddenly none seemed accurate. They were all too small to encompass everything. Or too big for what I am.
I guess the reason that this is such a difficult question is because the answer changes depending on who I’m with or what I’m doing. It depends on the day. The circumstances. Too small of word, and it might not be true tomorrow. Too big of one, and it would be so vague that it was unworthy of consideration. I tried to explain this to my friend and she frowned. “Don’t you get tired of being fake?”
That’s the thing, though. I’m not fake in any of the scenarios. I am myself at all times, but not all of the different aspects of myself are obvious. I love reading, but I don’t do so at meals. Therefore, my “lunch friends” have never seen me read a book. Does that make me any less literate? I choose not to discuss religion at work, but does that make me any less faithful? I don’t discuss my sex life with my parents—does that make me less feminine?
Even here, where I discuss such a wide range of topics in a variety of ways—my blogging personality is a honed trait, and certainly not an accurate portrayal of me as a whole. It’s only a glimpse of who I am—a specialized showcase. I could talk about my love of screaming goat videos and a capella songs here, but I choose not to. That does not make those videos on my facebook any less representative of my personality, either.
I suppose that this is why it is so much easier for us to describe other people in a word than we can describe ourselves. We only see small portions of other people—and thus may easily mold all that we know into a word or two. We’re incredibly simple (and kind of offensive) when it comes to judging others. But ourselves? We know too much about that subject, and we consider ourselves too important to fit into a single word or phrase. I realize this, and can attest to its accuracy. Should I then describe myself as arrogant? It’s certainly not wrong. But it’s not exactly right, either.
I suppose, if I had to choose a word for myself, I would choose passionate. I rarely do anything halfway. I know what I want and I achieve it. I love (and hate) with everything I have. My ideas are big and my ideals are bigger, and I cannot find a single word to truly explain anything in life. Because I love all of it. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve probably seen that.
So yeah. Passionate. It is no less inaccurate than any other, and more accurate than some. Maybe tomorrow it will be different, or maybe I will mold myself to more correctly fit the label I’ve assigned myself. I guess we’ll see, right?
What about you? How would you describe yourself? In a language that nearly defies borders with its complexity, which word(s) are worthy of your personality? Why?