It sounds like a generic interview question, but what is the one adjective that best describes you? Do you consider yourself hardworking, motivated, conscientious, methodical, a team player, honest, reliable, confident, ambitious, or punctual?
There’s not a soul that doesn’t have their own best intention in mind, and certainly for a job interview we all want to ensure we put our best foot forward. The same goes for cover letters and resumes but also for online profiles, in-person networking opportunities, the first time meeting your partner’s parents — nearly everyone wants to present him or herself in the best possible light.
But, halt the superficial scenario for a moment. Look yourself in the mirror. Between you and me, who are you really? What is your one word description? What is your label? How do others see you? What is it about your personality that jumps out at people during an initial meeting?
Writers know that when creating a character it needs to be multi-layered. If not more evolved and developed, a one-dimensional character will likely weaken, even kill a good story regardless of how well structured or thought out the plot is. In real life, the truth is everyone is three-dimensional. We are highly complex creatures with layers, upon layers, upon layers of intricacies and quirks that make us unique.
In fact, we’re so original that we can’t possibly be narrowed down to one word. But, so many of us try to label others and ourselves because it’s easier for us to know where to file people away in our minds. Maybe it’s easier for us to live with our one word because it matches the story we’re accustomed to living and telling ourselves. That one word, good or bad, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if it’s not the word we’ve chosen for ourselves, it’s surprising how the influence of someone else’s projection can take a hold of us.
Tell a child enough times that they are stupid and eventually they’ll believe it. If you are told enough times that you’re crazy, slow, odd, quiet, talkative, hyper, angry, snobby, and so on, either you become what you’ve been labeled or you try desperately to prove the world wrong. But often the trend is that labels hold power over us as they have a way of sneaking into our subconscious and living there. We can sometimes manifest an apparent one-dimensional personality, but don’t be deceived. We’re much more complicated than we look.
I am a highly passionate, creative, sensitive, intuitive and extroverted soul. But, I am also technical, logical, matter-of-fact, and introverted in given situations where those traits are necessary. I tend have a Type-A personality, but I also know when to be a Beta. I can lead and I can take direction. I am both and much more. And I am sure that when you dissect yourself, you’ll see that you too are multi-layered with various facets to your personality that makes you much more than what others try to label you or the label you place on yourself.
You’re more than a CEO, business owner, secretary, assistant, doctor, mailman, dog walker, writer, freelance artist, or stay-at-home mom. And yes, if you’ve earned a nice fat title because of diligence and hard work, you’re title and career can very well be your one word. It’s easier to live behind a big title. But, it’s also not who you really are, and that’s why sometimes it’s the closest people in our lives who are least impressed with our big titles. Family can see past what you’ve attained, not because they’re not supportive but because they know the three-dimensional you. But, sometimes family and those who profess to be closest to you can equally be destructive. Because regardless of how much you’ve evolved, grown, and blossomed, they might want to choose to see you as the one word they feel most comfortable with, the negative label they’ve chosen for you.
I’ve actually been in situations where I’ve gone to breakfast with people I just met, I am actually sitting there totally quiet most of the time. I ask to pass the butter and then I’m told afterwards by a close friend that I was seen as “intense.” Wow. Really? You’ve sized me up just like that?! You don’t even know me?! This specific situation actually happened to me, though I didn’t say, “pass the butter.” After remaining quiet for a good amount of time I answered a question or two in a couple of sentences. Where I was calm, talked in an average tone, didn’t stand on my hands or hang from the chandelier. I assume if I were looking at me I would think that I appeared rather calm, collective and even quiet. Yes, I am extroverted, but in situations where I first meet people I am rather reserved, as I was that breakfast meeting. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you behave. People will size you up and slap a label on you. They’ll judge you just to make themselves feel better about themselves. If they’re not doing that, they’re projecting. They’re often really criticizing because inside they’re not happy with who they are.
The Bottom Line:
I don’t care who you are and what label you’ve carried around all your life. You’re fat, skinny, stupid, smart, depressed, lazy, negative, brilliant, nerdy, a bookworm, unimaginative, manic, OCD, or whatever. That one word is not the end-all of who you are. It doesn’t matter how great or awful the word. It matters less how accomplished you are or how disappointing you think you are; people are three-dimensional. We are not robots. We are not just one thing. We are complex human beings with varying emotions and personality types mingled into one soul. You and I don’t have to live in someone else’s one-dimensional, narrow-minded thinking.
We can break free from labels thrust upon us either from our own doing or some else’s warped view of how they want to see us. We are more than our skin, more than our medical condition, more than our sex, more than our fancy titles, more than our economical standing, more than that one personality trait that seems to make it easy for people to categorize us as. We play a number of roles and wear many hats in our lives. We can be a lot of things at different times and places and in varying situations and circumstances. And those that truly get to know us, the people in your life who truly love and respect you, will accept the true chameleon you with all your layers, quirks, dimensions, and intricacies and they’ll accept you without judgment, regardless.