An Identity Struggler

There’s something I’ve often struggled with. My Twitter bio. “Your what?” That short summary statement on Twitter where you list all your fancy labels and titles so people know about you and your tweets.

One of my favorites is by comedian Brian Regan. His bio: “Human Person.”

It’s like those group exercises where you have to “describe yourself in a few words.” For me, being an introvert prone to introspective overthinking, a dash of self-scrutiny sprinkled with self-doubt, it’s a little bewildering sometimes.

But there you go. I just labeled myself an introvert in that last paragraph. That about sums me up. Guess it’s not so hard after all. But then why does it seem difficult to self-identify?

Well, you could get philosophical or psychological and check out existential identity. But let’s not get complex.

Instead of asking myself questions about who I am or what I am, which relate to being, I think along the lines of doing. It’s not what I am but what I do. (Sounds like that quote from Batman Begins!) Now I get that those are related. But again let’s not overthink it.

I do a lot of structural design. It’s my occupation, my day job. And it’s my professional title. So that one is easy. Yet it wasn’t easy before!

For some quirky reason, for years, I did not want to claim the title, “Structural Designer” as something I personally identified with. Why? I think it was because it was “just my job” and not fundamentally “who I am.” I think I over-thought it. I do that.

Maybe that can be in my Twitter bio: “Overthinker.”

Anyways. The other easy ones are that I’m a husband and a dad. I could say “father,” but “dad” is simpler. Would it be okay to say, “Dad of 5?” Or is that too much, like I’m showing off? It’s risky. “Dad” will suffice.

One thing as a parent that I’ve started trying recently is changing the age-old question to my kids. Instead of asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Time may tell if that makes any difference.

I could go on with more examples. But I think you get the point.

Labels are used to help us identify people and things. My theory is this: we often confuse people with things, and that causes trouble!

A “Baker,” a “Shoemaker,” or a “Smith” are not things. They’re people. And occupations. Sort of. Mr. Baker is the person who does all the baking.

You can probably apply a whole bunch of labels to yourself. But even if you had 50 labels, that would not really summarize who you are. It would not truly and accurately tell others all about who you are at your core.

Labels can help simplify our understanding of things or people. But labels can also polarize with false dichotomies. You know, like you either fit into one camp or another, which omits the messy gray area in between two ends of a spectrum.

People are nuanced and complex beings and don’t always fit into a nice little category box. You can spend a lifetime with a person and still learn about them or get to know them better.

And to muddy the waters, people also can change over time as they grow! Our roles in life may change with stages in life. In high-school I was a Skateboarder! But that’s not my identity anymore. Now, in this space, I’m…a blogger. 🤓

What do you think about identity? Feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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