You know that game, Psych professors and/or team building coaches assign it a lot, it’s a game where you have a piece of paper for each person in the group and everyone writes what they think of the others in the group. Mostly people use one word adjectives, words like ‘Funny’;'Kind’;and’Outgoing’. I remember playing this game in grad school. The word that many people used to describe me was “smart”. It was a bit of a shock to see that I had tricked so many people into believing I was intelligent. I knew better. I knew I was just hard-working and motivated. People were confusing my perfectionism and my willingness to read everything on the suggested reading list as ‘smart”. I’d hoodwinked them, I told myself.
It took some time and continued hammering by friends, faculty and even Igor to talk me into owning the identity of a smarty. Now if I played that game and people wrote the word “smart” to describe me it wouldn’t seem so ego dystonic( just FYI: fancy words are useful if you want to trick friends, faculty and anyone else that you are smart. I had a supervisor whose opinion of me entirely changed when I described the weather as being “autumnal”. In her mind I went from an ordinary intern to a Mensa member just with the use of an ordinary SAT word).
There are words that I know I am assocaited with. ‘Therapist’, ‘Blogger’, and ‘Writer’. These are what I do. I’m okay with these words. It’s more the adjective words that I am more uncomfortable owning. Some more so than others. There are a whole series of words that my boyfriend uses to describe me that I would NEVER utter about myself. Seriously. Nothing will ever get me to reveal his adjectives for me. Well,okay…there’s a few that I can share. Other than the inutterables, he also calls me ‘smart’ and ‘funny’(I blush a bit at admitting that to you as I fear that as soon as you read that you will say, um..”but she’s really not that funny.” I may not be to you but it is a word that those who love me tend to use that word when describing me. Other words I indetify with that are not about me but more about my preferences, words such as: “leopard”, ‘Morrissey’, ‘Lily’, and ‘Psychoanlaysis’ are all words that are associated with me. And then there words that are inadvertently part of my identity, words such as ‘infertile’,and ‘childless not by choice’.
Yesterday I was looking at the words that people Google that get them to my blog, thanks to Statcounter. And yesterday two people found my blog by searching the term ‘bitter and infertile’. Ouch. Those are not words that I want to be identified with. I will own infertile. I recoiled in horror when considering bitter. It tasted bad in my mouth. I spit these words out and refused to digest them in an act of self preservation. I reacted in similar way when my mother used to call me “strong”. She always called me strong when I had just endured some attack to my self and she brought the word out in order to stop the outpouring of emotion that the attack unleashed. “Stop,” she’d say, “Your strong.” The context of her use of the word made me reject it. But the truth is, she’s right, I am strong. I am strong enough to feel my emotions, even if my doing so, on occassion,makes other people uncomfortable.
The other words my mother used, or should I say overused, to describe me were “too sensitive” and “too analytical”. I have also taken these words which were intended as a condemnation and have decided to own them as a strength. She’s right; I am very analytical and I am also very sensitive. Both of these qualities are, at least in my mind, strenghths.
My father’s favorite word for me was “quitter”. It was a word that took me a long time to overcome, but I didn’t quit until quitter quit being a part of my identity. He’s right, I did quit taking guitar lessons. However, I didn’t quit going to college. I didn’t quit grad school. I stuck out 3000 hours of intern hours that were required to become lisenced. I’ve been blogging for four years. I stayed in my marriage for nearly 20 years. So, yeah, that quitter identity is not one that fits. Sorry, Dad.
If I had to pick five words to describe me (or at least my more positive aspects), I’d choose the following five words:
5. Courageous(not in a physical sense but in an emotional sense)
So, are you up to giving me five? Who are you in five words or less or more? I’d love to know. After all, I am curious.