Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who We Are

I'm continually fascinated by how people communicate to the world who they are. We do it through thousands of things - from the clothes we wear and the cars we drive to the way we speak. What we choose to do for a living and how we spend our free time all give clues to who we are. Then there are a million more subtle clues. Of course, none of those tells the whole story - they're just a little bit of the picture.

Sometimes it occurrs to me that I barely know myself, so I'm not sure what I am communicating at any given moment. And, almost immediately, I think of all the time I've spent discovering one thing or another about myself and am astonished I don't know more. But it seems foolish to expect anyone else to know much about me when I'm a mystery to myself in many ways.

It's quite amazing how much we tell about ourselves by things we never even think about. For example, if you didn't know me at all and saw me wearing a vintage pin, you might assume:
1. Either I spend a lot of time hunting for it or I inherited it. (It's the former.)
2. I don't pay much attention to fashion - at least not current fashion. (Although there was a brief few months a couple of years ago when sparkly pins were the "in" thing. But by and large they are not.)
3. I am probably more of a girly-girl than a tom-boy girl. (Most tom boys don't care much for sparkly pins of any sort.)
4. It's likely I have other vintage things in my home because it would be unlikely I'd go to antique stores for only one thing. (I've never bought a new piece of furniture in my life.)

Multiply that over dozens of little things like that and you get a good idea of who someone is.

In fact, in communication theory classes, a common trick of teachers is to ask students twenty questions about the teacher on the first day. Although they're just meeting, the number of questions students can answer correctly is quite high.

Even when we think we're being impersonal, we're broadcasting to the world who we are in a hundred different ways. I suppose the bigger question is how we got to be who we are. That one, I'm afraid, takes far more contemplation.

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