Self-awareness in three words


Whilst out with friends not so long ago one of my chums was commending another on her cartooning skills and whilst accepting the compliment, wholly unlike me in that regard (Ten reasons I can’t accept a compliment), she commented that drawing wasn’t one of the defining aspects of who she was. We pushed her on this and she explained that if she were too summarise herself in three words she would describe herself as ‘scientist, feminist, geek.’

The rest of us fell silent and I knew that we were all pondering the very same question ‘ how would I define myself in three words?’

My scientist feminist geek friend (let’s call her SFG for short) explained that as a frequenter of dating websites and an expat abroad she’d become accustomed to having to summarise herself in brief. Three words of brief. But in those three words she could convey an idea of who she was, what’s really important to her and put out the gauntlet that if you don’t like it move on or swipe left or whatever you do on these websites.

Whilst we sat around the table drinks in hands, starting at the smooth wooden surface for inspiration of who we are in three words not one of us came up with such a succinct description of ourselves. Everytime I mentally tried I’d find myself getting bogged down in meaningless adjectives or explanatory clauses.

It doesn’t help that I don’t have a career that lends itself to a one word summary. I’m not a doctor, a teacher or unicornologist. And I’m still not sure if the career I do have is the one I will want to have forever and a day. Just as I wasn’t interested in a career in law ten years ago it wouldn’t’ surprise me if there were other career options I haven’t even considered now that I might have a burning desire to do in another ten years. Certainly there are a lot of things I have an interest in and projects I’d like to do beyond the current scope of my existing work role.

When I returned to the flat, I decided that my fella aligned himself with me exactly so that he could be of use to me in these sorts of existential crises, so I asked him to summarise me in three words and he came up with the following:

Driven, friendly and … actually something else, it was a few weeks ago and I can’t remember.

Anyway whatever the final word was I definitely didn’t resonate with the first two as that particular day I’d had a very unproductive day at work, where I seemed to be at the mercy of distractions and I was feeling pretty grumpy (possibly as a result of being unable to label myself in three words) so neither seemed appropriate at that time.

It’s not that those two words are terrible per se, and if that’s the image I project to people that’s not so bad, it’s just that they are transitory in nature. I can be driven, friendly and whatever. At different times I can be lazy, grumpy and something else. The words the fiancé picked can’t always be applied to me and don’t really give a sense of what’s important to me in the way that SFG’s words did. I’d hold him to account for his poor choice of words but as I probably didn’t really explain what I was looking for and couldn’t come up with anything myself I’ll let him off.

Adjectives alone aren’t enough if I’m going to summarise myself in three words, I need to find something that is a stable part of who I am regardless of whether I’ve spent the day grumpily writing a 10,000 word report or an entire day on the sofa cheerily watching an entire season of my latest Netflix addiction.

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If I don’t know who I am right now I think I can pick out the three words that best sum up who I’d like to be:

Counselor, Polymath, Humanist

My interpretation of these terms may be a bit different to dictionary definitions so I’ll briefly explain:

Counselor – because I have always wanted to be there for and to help people and, whilst I’m still toying around with the best idea of how to do that on a consistent basis, that aspect of wanting to help has always been a part of me.

Polymath – one of the reasons I find it so hard to summarise myself in three words is that there are so many things I am interested in and would like to know more about in the future (for example history, politics, art, drama, writing, law, psychology, cybertechnology – ironic considering I’m quite the technophobe, photography, languages, to name but a few). Whilst this will probably prevent me from ever becoming an expert in a single thing I’d rather embrace that multidimensional, eclectic part of who I am.

Humanist – by this I just mean that I believe in people, we can do terrible things, we can do awesome things. I think that given the opportunity most people are pretty decent. Perhaps this makes me naïve but I can live with that.

So in conclusion I don’t know who I am but I know who I’d like to be. How would you sum your current and/or future self up in three words?