Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

Who Am I? Who Are You?

6 Comments

One assignment in Blogging 101 is to create or update your “About” page. You know that page. The one where you either write a succinct little synopsis that reads like Business 101:

“Hi, I’m so and so from such and such place.

I like pink ponies, purple butterflies, and strawberries.

I make –fill in the blank-.

My blog is about this, that, and the other thing.

I. I. I.”

Or maybe you write a little ditty that is quite poetic. Or funny. Or all visuals.

Sadly, mine is currently more like Business 101. A potential snooze fest. Poetry doesn’t quite roll off my fingertips. If I try to write “funny” it can feel forced. Suffice to say I’m having a hard time re-writing my “About” page.

But this whole concept of “Who Am I?” and “What Am I About?” has got me thinking. Are we simply those rote answers we easily spit out? Or are we more than that?

Labels As Identity

You go to a social event. Inevitably someone asks “What do you do?” Do you immediately

A: go into your standard speech:

“Hi, I’m Amy. I’m an artist and a Reiki practitioner.”

-Or- B offer more about yourself?

“Hi, I’m Amy. I paint pictures inspired by spirit, guided by an inner voice that encourages me to add various colors and shapes and multiple layers. Most times I have no idea where the painting will take me. I’ve learned to listen and allow it to lead me on the adventure. I also practice Reiki which allows me to be of service to people in need; in need of relaxation, stress-reduction, and healing. Sometimes, I combine Reiki with my paintings.”

Certainly labels are easier to produce. They’re usually short, simple, and to the point. They may be more relatable to the listener. Then, if the listener is interested, he or she may ask additional questions. Or not. (Come on. We’ve all been there. You exchange pleasantries and then…crickets.)

I, personally, don’t like that question, “What do you do?” The best response I heard to this question was from someone during an interview who said she liked to reply: “Do about what?” Because, come on people, we ARE more than those labels.

I prefer the question, “Tell me/us about yourself.” It sounds more inviting. More interesting. And wa-a-ay more open ended. Granted, you may still roll out your rote introduction. But it also invites you to open up and elaborate.

There are the typical labels that we identify with: Mother. Daughter. Artist. Painter. Engineer. Speech-Language Pathologist. Geek. Animal lover. Reiki Practitioner. Father. Son. Aunt. Uncle. Grandparent. Sister. Brother. Real Estate Agent. Builder. Administrative Assistant. Graphic Designer. Teacher. Priest. Professor. Store Clerk. Etc, etc. etc.

And then there are other labels that we give to people. But that’s not what this post is about.

I’m not sure when we became so connected to labels as our identity. Certainly there is more to each person than a job title or a job description. Perhaps it had something to do with prestige, as one may perceive certain job titles as better than others.

Perhaps it had something to do with tribal behavior. It’s easier to identify someone with a label than an elaborate description.

Perhaps it had something to do with compartmentalization. Our brains can only hold so much information in a sound bite. So give that person a label and be done with it.

Sadly, I think labels can reduce us to monotonous identifiers that may contribute to separation and polarization. If we don’t get beyond the label, we may miss some really cool stuff about that person.

I know labels aren’t going away. They can be necessary and serve a purpose. But I think the next time I meet someone, instead of asking them “What do you do?” I’m going to ask them to tell me about themselves. And I’ll listen with open ears.

So, “Who are you? Tell me about yourself.”

P.S: This has helped me rethink my “About” page. Now I have a better idea of what I want to write.

Hanging Around in Sedona

Hanging Around in Sedona

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6 thoughts on “Who Am I? Who Are You?

  1. Always good to revisit “who we are”, “why we are”. I’ve been guilty asking people “what do you do”. I’ve also asked, “tell me about yourself” and I think they are surprised and like that question. Open us a great conversation that flows. I did’t realize how strong you are to hang on that mountain edge; I think it’s time to go on American Ninja Warrior.

    • I think we are conditioned to ask the question “What do you do?” It’s like a cultural thing for us as society that seems to value a person by their occupation rather than the person as a whole.

      Regarding that picture; Someday I’ll let you in on a little secret for how I was able to hang onto that mountain edge.

  2. So well said. And for those that are unemployed for whatever reason, I feel like “What do you do” is a triggering question. I wish everyone would follow your example and ask that friendlier, more open-ended question!

    • You make an excellent point, Andrea, regarding a person’s employment status. That is another very good reason to ask “Tell me about yourself” instead of “What do you do?” Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  3. I love the “Do about what?” response to the “What do you do?” question. Many years ago I was flipping through an old etiquette book that said you should never ask it, because it sounded like you were trying to “place” someone (professionally, educationally, or socially).

    I liked that, because it had always struck me as a rather odd question to ask someone you’d only just met. And people do so many different things in a lifetime.

    If you meet on neutral territory, like at a gallery opening, or a book launch, or a Blogging Event, “What brought you here?” can illicit some lively responses, and make for a good conversation.

    • Thanks for your comment toutparmoi and for adding to the conversation. I agree with that old etiquette book. I think that is why it has become such a common question in society. It allows you to form an impression about someone based on their answer.

      “What brought you here?” is a great question to ask and a nice icebreaker to start a conversation. Hopefully.

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