When asked "Tell me about yourself", most of us will list our occupations, credentials and commitments as if a job or the fact that we have children is what gives us legitimacy as human beings. We explain how we fit into our homes, schools and societies. We highlight our contributions and connections as we try to deliver compelling evidence of our value.
Growing up, a combination of nature and nurture taught me to be useful. This could mean being funny and lighthearted, or doing well at something so as to become conversational fodder that reflected well on others. It could mean working hard or without complaint, or just staying out of the way. Whether these were attributes that those around me actually wanted or needed, I can’t really say for sure. But my young mind was constantly evaluating my worth based on the reactions I’d received from those around me. I developed a sense of what I thought made me valuable and harshly held myself and others up to these fabricated standards.
I still don’t know exactly what to say when asked to tell another person about me. I know this is often used as a conversational ice breaker or to be friendly, but it’s a terribly difficult question for me to answer truthfully. I have learned that I am not my job, but it is a convenient way to package myself. I have learned that I am not my personal relationships, but it can be clarifying or interesting to others to declare my marital status or to explain how children fit into my life. I have learned that I am not my hobbies, but these can be how I show others my individuality. If I am not my job, the people in my life, or how I would spend a free hour, then who or what am I and why am I here?
I would really love to say when asked "Tell me about yourself" that I am that part of your heart that sings good morning on a bright and sunny day. I am the warmth of a hug with a loved one. I am the calm of knowing it’ll all work out. I am part of everyone and everything, and everyone and everything is a part of me. That’s me and that’s you, and this is our shared value.