Who are you?

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)~ The Who

An interesting question presented itself today. How do you define yourself? Is it by the people in your life? Your socio-economic status? Your kids? Your pets? Your faith? What adjectives do you attach to yourself? Do you care what adjectives others attach to you?

I looked through my “friends” list on a certain social media platform as well as in some of the “groups” I belong to on the same platform. Some people have chosen pseudonyms that reflect either what they identify with or perhaps how they feel about themselves. Some are whimsical, others are clearly well thought out. But, in the end, these are people who for whatever reason don’t want people to know “who” they really are.

Over the years, I’ve been “mom” to many, “George” to 10 years of Girl Scouts, friend, spouse, and family member to others. I’ve been a teacher, a volunteer, an advocate and a person with disabilities. With so many labels to choose from, it’s hard for some people to figure out “who” I am.

Yet, for me it is easy. I am a person. I have done things right and I’ve done things wrong. I’ve lived, loved and yes, even disliked. I don’t use the word hate, except in conjunction with Brussel sprouts. I’ve surmounted many challenges and failed a fair number too. In short, I’m just like every other person on this planet. I have no reason to hide my identity and no reason to be ashamed of who I am.

Does that mean I don’t attach adjectives to myself? Or accept the ones other people attach to me? Well, yes, I do. Sometimes, it’s a matter of convenience. When I was teaching in public school, I used “Mrs.” as my label with students. I still do when I’m working in an educational setting. I’m still George to a large group of people whose lives I touched through Girl Scouts. Those labels will always be a part of me because those activities were a significant part of my life. I’m still a mother who is blessed that her kids still speak to her, even after that horrid stretch of adolescence. None of these labels bother me, for they show that I’ve lived a rich life.

Yes, I have privacy settings for my online accounts. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t feel the need to share details with people who may not have my best interests at heart. For me, that is a valid reason to keep information private. My real name? Not so much. I can type it into a search engine and I pop up within the first 25 hits. If you really want to take the snippets you know about me and search, it’s not that hard to find out who I am. I’m not in witness protection and have no police record, so why hide?

So who are YOU? Are you the sum of your experience like me? Or are you someone who feels that one experience defines them? Do you need to hide from the general public for security reasons or do you choose to remain anonymous out of principle? Do you trade your reputation on words or deeds?

Today, think about how you use labels to define yourself. Figure out what is truly important to you. Answer for yourself why you choose to be called a certain name and why you get angry or upset when others don’t follow your lead. Your family picked your birth name for a reason. Give equal thought to why you choose to be called something different. And don’t be surprised when people who have known you for a long time ask you why you changed your name.

(Based on an online discussion, 8/28/2013)

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