I was recently asked to describe myself in as simple terms as possible, namely one word. It was a table discussion topic at a Christian moms group, and the instructions encouraged us to avoid more obvious words such as labels or titles and to think of ourselves in our most basic sense.
This proved difficult for everyone. We are so accustomed to simplifying our existence into “what we do” (mom, wife, friend, lawyer, etc) that describing “who we are” is a true challenge. Challenging too is defining oneself in a unique enough way as to preserve the essence of “me” that is distinct from “you.”
Several thoughts, phrases, and words came to me as I tried to land on a theme that truly fit the essence of “me.” My initial thought was to describe myself as a “child of God.” While this phrase conveyed my faith and my attempts to experience the wonderment of the world, it felt more like the answer the teacher wanted to hear instead of the honest truth, not to mention it was two words too many.
I thought of my role as mother, wife, friend, daughter, etc. In all these relationships, I tried to imagine what those around me would universally agree described me. Even though we wear different hats around different people, the essence of ourselves still shines through. I also considered whether I’d agree with them. After all, this elusive word was meant to describe me, and who better to know me than, well, ME.
We also change and adapt over time to new circumstances and experiences. Yet, I would contend that the “me” this question sought is an undeniable “me” that has always and will always exist. Thus, my word needed to be one that someone who knew me at 3 would agree with just as readily as someone who knows me at 30.
Amusingly enough, neither “defiant” nor “domestic” fit me this way. When pressed, I’m not all that “defiant.” In fact, I’m a rather obedient rule follower in most areas of my life. My defiance is more subtly counter-cultural in a nuanced way in which I will try and describe at another time. As for “domestic,” while I’m certainly “domesticated” and live my life as a stay-at-home mom, I consider myself more cosmopolitan and worldly, not to mention outgoing, than “domestic” strictly implies.
At this point, I had to admit to myself that I may have overthought the assignment for one Friday morning discussion table. But I MUST answer the question was my next thought.
Finally, and rather begrudgingly, I had my answer.
“I am aggressive.”
This, I unabashedly announce to the table, honestly embodying what I believe to be the simplest word possible to describe the undeniable “me.”
It was a wonderful exercise in self-awareness and acknowledgment, and I highly recommend it. Having one simple word to describe myself has given me a small place for the “me” that is purely my own.
On those days where I feel that I am being torn in too many directions or where I feel lost seeking my purpose in life, the knowledge that “I am” has been oddly soothing. I may not be succeeding at any of my titles or living up to my potential in my career or any other barometer, but I am still something describable. I find comfort in the fact that this word describes something about my self that is undeniable and universal. I have an identity, even if it is just one word at the moment. That’s enough for now. After all, the best stories start with a single word.
I invite you to give it a try:
Who are you in one word?
An undeniable attribute that you embody.
A way of viewing the world.
A truth that exists and has existed as “you” for all time.
Once you have your word, rest in the knowledge that there is a “you” free from titles or referential relationships. “You” has definition and weight. Use this word to develop purpose, to encourage growth, and to foster self-love.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr. Seus