Karolyn Sherwood, Author

Who Do You Think You Are?

Describe yourself. Go on … five quick words. Who are YOU?

As for me? Mother, wife, writer, daughter, sister. That’s my quick answer, but what if, God forbid, all my family members died? All I would have left from that list is writer. But go back ten years, and I wasn’t a writer. I was an art dealer. So which is it? And will I still be a writer ten years from now?

How do we define ourselves? My natural instinct was to start with external facts like my family members, then my vocation, but if those elements can change then how do they truly “define” us? What does define us? Do you allow other people to define you? And here’s the big one: How does the Definition of You dictate the daily decisions you make? Do you cook dinner because you love to cook, or because your family would stage a mutiny if you didn’t put dinner on the table tonight? About twenty years ago, I had to fill out forms for my son’s soccer registration. It asked for my occupation. I put down Maid & Chauffeur because that’s how I spent most of my time. But I was kidding. Sort of.

Let’s try to figure this out together, shall we? Who are you—really?

We are all born with Family; there had to be a mother and father to create you. You may or may not have siblings or grandparents. You may or may not get married or have children. Either way, these relationships could all end in an instant. Sorry if that’s harsh or morbid, but it’s true. Let’s switch to an analogy: Say you own a Honda. You are a Honda Owner. But if someone comes along and offers you a Mercedes in a straight up trade for your Honda, you’d probably jump at that. Now you are no longer a Honda Owner so it doesn’t define who you are inside. See? We shouldn’t define ourselves by anything that can be taken away. Sure you can say, I USED to be a Honda owner. You can also say, I used to be a Daughter until my parents died. Yes, it’s part of your story, but it’s not who you are. (Notice are = present tense.) None of us asked to be born so let’s eliminate Family from our definitions. Agreed?

Sex. No, I’m not talking about whether or not you engage in sex, but the basic Male/Female question. You have to be one or the other (medical abnormalities or transgender operations not withstanding), but again you had no choice in the matter. So while some of you might have said “Man” or “Woman” in your five quick words, let’s eliminate that as a factor of determining who you are because it’s kind of a default. One or the other.

Sex. Okay, now I am talking about whether or not you engage, and with whom. If you choose a member your own sex, then that becomes part of who you are, but it doesn’t have to. I wouldn’t put Heterosexual in my Top Five words, so if being Homosexual is ho-hum to you, then you don’t need to list it either as far as I’m concerned. But if you’re Gay & Proud, then include it if you want.

Skin Color is a very interesting element. We don’t choose it, but right or wrong, it usually defines us to some degree. It’s not like sex (the M/F kind) because there’s a rainbow of options. Bi-racial, tri-racial, heck, Tiger Woods describes himself as “Cablinasian” (Caucasian, Black, American Indian, Asian), yet in his case, Asian includes Chinese, Thai … oh, and he may have a Dutch ancestor back there somewhere. I imagine a black person in Africa probably wouldn’t list Black Person in their Top Five anymore than I would pick White Person in my own.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Now Careers. Careers do a better job of figuring out who we are because we can choose a career. However, some people go into their family business not because it’s their choice or calling, but because the family needs them to, or they feel obligated to, or they were pressured into it. “Occupations” are seen differently in different cultures. Americans are notorious for defining people by their profession. In the moderate amount of traveling I’ve done in my lifetime, I’ve noticed that one of the first questions my husband or I ask a new friends is, “What do you do?” Same goes for most Americans, and I’m sure many other nationalities, but not everyone. In certain countries (I could come up with a list if you wanted me to, but I’d rather get on with my thoughts), it’s considered gauche to ask a person what his or her occupation is. And, most of us could be any number of occupations. I know some people who’ve had a dozen occupations. So, count your career in your top five ONLY if believe it truly defines “who you feel you are inside” as opposed to “what you do.” If you’re a mechanic so you can pay your bills, but your heart and passion ache to get up on stage become a rock star, then don’t necessarily put Mechanic in your Top Five. 

Religion? Yes, if you have chosen your religion, then you can definitely count it. If you only go to Mass or Temple or Jamestown because your parents insist, then maybe don’t count it.

Is this starting to get tough? Good, then we’re getting somewhere. What’s next? What about your Hobbies? Running? Good. You’re a Runner. Baking cupcakes? You’re a Baker. Do you rescue injured birds, dogs, or horses? Then I’d say you’re an Animal Lover. Yes, I think Hobbies define us better than even families. It’s what we choose when we have the chance to dream. If someone gave you an all expenses paid week by yourself, what would you choose to do? Don’t just say, Lie on a beach, because we can all use a little R & R. Think of something you’d love TO DO. Don’t worry about the salary it pays. Don’t worry about your talent or your skill level. If you love to swim, but can only dog-paddle, who cares? You are a Swimmer.

What else? Blonde? Brunette? Redhead? I suppose hair color can define us to a degree, especially if you dye your hair a specific color.

I think you get where I’m going with this, so, quick. Five new words to define yourself. Go!

Me? I am a Reader, Writer, Traveler, Animal Lover, Investigator. Ha! I just discovered right now that I am an Investigator. I have an insatiable curiosity. I love to learn new stuff, so I chose the word Investigator. I like that.

What do you think about all this? I haven’t even touched on Personality Traits yet. That’s another interesting list: Confident/Insecure? Kind/Angry? Caring/Selfish? Whew! Let’s save those adjectives for another day, shall we?

So how many of your Top Five words changed? Any? All? I’d love to hear Who You Really Are!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam Quiz: