I read a really interesting article yesterday that talked about the character Ryan Gosling played in La La Land. I didn’t disagree with it’s point of view – in fact, I said leaving the theatre that “Sebastian” was actually a loser who didn’t deserve a date in the first place – but it was one part of the article that really stood out to me:
“I use the male gender advisedly, because I have yet to meet a woman who insists on imposing her taste on everyone around her. Meanwhile, I have largely dated men like that, who think the world needs to shape itself around them, and who confuse their interests with their sense of self, who are incapable of accepting that different people have different tastes. This is what happens when male entitlement meets boyish insecurity, otherwise known as A Really Bad Date.”
So this got me thinking: how do we define ourselves? What makes us who we are? I am not one of those individuals who would ever try and impose my interests on another person, despite how passionate I may be about them. But it also got me thinking: who am I, separate from these interests? Who am I, truly?
Far too often, when you ask a person about themselves they will tell you what they are interested in. But this article raises a very good point: why are we so lacking in our individual existence that we feel our interests define us? I started to think about what I tell people:
I’m a teacher. (This is my career, but is it truly me? Though it has implications that I am a nurturer, an avid learner, and someone who enjoys roles of leadership in my career.)
I am a bibliophile. (I love books, I love to read books, I love to write, I love the world of word. Does this define me? No. But it does imply ongoing desire to grow and learn, a constant need to be intellectually stimulated, and that I’m someone who enjoys moments of stillness!)
I am a very big nerd who is passionate about many fandoms. (I know so many “nerds” who say they could never be with someone who wasn’t nerdy, but my question to that is “Why?” I am not defined by my love of all things nerd. They are merely interests and pass-times. Sure, I am ‘Darth Claudia’, but there are no factors within this passion that truly define my existence as a human being. As such, it does not hold much value to me in regards to making sure that those I interact with are also nerds – friends or otherwise.)
I am a feminist. (This factor holds true to who I am as a person – passionately fighting for equality in any way I can. If you are not a feminist, we are not on the same page on social justice and change that needs to happen in the world. Move along.)
And the other words I would choose to describe myself finally fall into qualities and characteristics and not just interests or careers: passionate, strong-willed(/hard-headed), independent, intelligent, wise, spiritual, intuitive, empathetic.
And yet, just as the article stated, I know so many people who “confused their interests for their sense of self”. How quick are we to believe we won’t get along or “jive” with someone because we have different interests? My previous partner, Mr. J, had everything in common with me. And I mean, everything. Our interests lined up perfectly. How quick were we to define ourselves by those interests and believe our relationship would succeed?
Are you stuck in the rut of defining yourself by what you like, as well? Let me know in the comments below.
1 thought on “How Are We Defined?”
Still attempting to answer this question…perhaps it is a lifelong search. It intrigues me that the sense of self is mostly defined by society but varies depending on culture. Some societies define who you are based on what your parents do, or what profession you chose, or what religion you are. On a related note, I am also wondering how we define the characters we read or watch?
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