I filled out an application for a freelance writing gig today. The application asked me to – ”Tell us something about yourself.” I typed some words to fit the required response and moved on. Hours later, I’m thinking about that. One of the most difficult things in life is to keep an authentic answer to that question at the ready. That seems a shame to me. The ability to tell someone about yourself hinges first of all on what you tell yourself…about yourself.
My uncle used to ask a question of people I introduced to him for the first time, ”What’s your claim to fame?”
This would have been off-putting had he not asked it so nonchalantly, and with an inviting smile on his face that suggested he wanted nothing more than to listen to your life story. Most of my teen-aged friends mumbled a lot of ”Uh’s”, and ”I don’t knows.” It would be nice to think any of us could offer more than teen-aged mumbles to that question, if asked today, but could you? How comfortable would you be to ”tell me something about yourself.”
I typed out a few words on the application the same way I answer the question, ”How are you today?” I didn’t even stop to think about sincerity. I typed what I thought the questioner probably wanted to hear. Not too much. Not too deep. Nothing controversial. I am committed to the idea of a fluid concept of self, with a guarded reserve of core beliefs and values that make me, me. But, I didn’t figure they needed my philosophy on perpetual change and personal growth in the space of a tweet.
Yet, considering these things, and my off-hand response on the application, here I am, hours later, still thinking about how important that question really is.
What can you really tell someone else about yourself? What is the minimum amount of information you can share that will still reveal the true you? Not just what you do. Not just what your achievements are? But who you are. Your claim to fame.
How would you answer that question to yourself?
I believe the answer to that starts with what you tell yourself about yourself. Is the narrator living in your head kind, or harsh? Do you entertain internal false pretenses about what kind of person you really are? Do you feel compelled to present an illusion of a person that doesn’t really exist, trying to either please or fool others, while maybe just fooling yourself?
There’s a verse in scripture that asserts, ”As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
I have no reason to doubt it. How could it be otherwise? You cannot be different than what you really think you are. You are not who you pretend to be to other people, or Facebook friends. You’re the you that you have to try to go to sleep with every night. And just who is that?
Not every situation calls for an in-depth dissertation, obviously, But knowing yourself is fundamental to a life lived well. If you don’t know who you are, what your ”claim to fame” is, then who is the person doing the living? You get to play the role in life you choose to play. You get to star in your own movie, in a role no one else can possibly play the way you can. That’s way more exciting and fulfilling than trying to be someone else.
That same uncle had a little wooden plaque in his guest bathroom that read:
Be what you is
Cause if you be what you ain’t
Then you ain’t what you is.
Note: Here is a good book that delves deeper into some of these thoughts.