Friday, April 9, 2010


I was looking at a friend's calendar for April, and I noticed their handwriting looked familiar but still unique. We learn to write letters and words at a very young age by attempting to copy examples. However, even though a classroom of students receive the same instructions, they still interpret and write differently. Some might be more similar than others, but every writing style is unique. How come?  If we are given the same instructions, why wouldn't our styles be the same?

This is just a small example of how we are all unique, and create our own identity. I find it interesting that when we meet someone new, we usually use familiar adjectives to describe ourselves. One person might say that they're "easy going," "compassionate," and "sweet." But how can just a few words really give another person a feeling and an impression of who you are? And if someone were to use more specific adjectives such as "precocious," "gregarious," or "aloof," would that help us get a better understanding of who this person is? What is a true representation of someone's personality? Are there more suitable ways to get an idea of a person's disposition?

Of course, there is also the famous saying, "actions speak louder than words." We get to know someone better by observing their actions over time. This is how we discover more about our friends and decide on the type of people we'd like to interact with. But at the same time, just as someone could lie when describing their personality, they could also mislead through action. However, I think it's fair to say that consistency is an important factor here because if someone continually repeats a similar action, such as talking behind someone's back, then that action becomes embedded within their being.

On the other hand, what if someone is very shy and has trouble showing his/her personality through action? Is that person more defined by his/her inaction? Similarly, an individual might act in a particular way in one environment, but then change their demeanor in another. In this case, one might show different variations of their personality, depending on the situational setting. This can occur when being with family, co-workers, friends, lovers, strangers, authority figures, etc. These deviations can also be affected more specifically; for instance within different groups of friends, or when being around one side of the family. So, if there are multiple factors that can alter one's presentation of his/her personality, does that mean that action, along with verbal description, is not a completely fair indicator of one's identity?

These characteristics can morph from moment to moment. Therefore, the pure essence of a person cannot be absolutely defined through specific words or actions because they are always in fluid motion. However, through observation and some sort emotional interpretive process, we can get a sense of a person, and grasp a feeling. The beauty is that this feeling has the propensity to change because we change. We are not fixed beings and continually learn and adapt to life. At the same time, through growth and discovery we do seem to form a set of core values, morals, and opinions that guide us though our decisions and actions. I believe this core can be somewhat defined by the proportion and balance of our displayed and described characteristics. Therefore, the mix of how someone presents and describes him/herself through actions and words is in fact unique and showcases their individuality. Additionally, the combination of the feeling a person gives off, and the distribution of his/her many actions, together provide a sense of a person.

This motivates me to not only reconsider how I view myself, but also how I look at others. Instead of pigeonholing ourselves and the people around us into classifications and stereotypes, I think we could all benefit from reconsidering that every person is unique and in a category of their own. We know who were are, because that's just who we are.

Discussion Questions: What do you think defines a person? What is a true representation of someone's personality? How do you define yourself?


  1. i wonder whos handwriting that is, i bet you still draw swords the same way too lol but anyway...
    i would say its hard to define anyone well at all from just what they say. i read a (poker) book about an fbi guy detecting tells and the key is to watch a person from their feet up. were trained to lie with our heads, weve been doing it our whole lives but, your mom prob wasnt watching for your feet tapping.
    This (and politicians) shows me what a poor indicator words are and how powerful actions are when defining a person.
    ya theres an emotional element where out of necessity we make a snap judgment(perhaps a den of society is relatively few go further that that). but id bet our records on those stereotypes are spotty at best, as each person is unique not because of what they say but what they do; which includes how they act with group a, group b, and group c.

    "one great use of words is to hide our thoughts"

  2. JB: Here's another interesting question about uniqueness. Why is it, though we feel ourselves to be unique, do we so often give up our authenticity so easily. We appear to let others define us, whether it's society, friends or family. I wonder if too often we try to prove ourselves to someone and then bargain away that uniqueness that is so precious. Perhaps the more we let our uniqueness shine the easier it gets to be out there with it. Any thoughts?

  3. What great comments! I agree that a person's uniqueness can be shown better through actions than words. This definitely includes all the different groups he/she interacts with and can give an impression of who they are. But what if group a is so much different than group b and c? How can you tell who a person is if they act very differently depending on the situation? Perhaps that just shows that a big part of their personality is their ability to adapt to the situations they encounter and that they focus on showing other people what he/she thinks they want to see.

  4. I also really like Terry's point about bargaining away our uniqueness. That happens to me sometimes when I try to act a certain way in order to receive approval from those around me. But whenever I recognize this and move beyond my fears, I love experiencing the power realized by showing my true self. I always feel more at peace and stronger showcasing my uniqueness. I think one of the greatest feelings is the confidence that explodes from within when you speak your truth.