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.