When we meet someone for the first time, we often ask: What do you do? The response almost always starts with “I am a _________,” which is actually a statement of who we are. But that’s not who we are… that’s what we do.
Example: I am a writer, a life coach, an author, a teacher, a therapist… the list can go on and on. I am a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a friend. It continues: I am a woman, an optimist, a lover, a truth-teller. You can see where I’m going. But none of those things ARE me. They are what I do, or they are who I am in relation to someone or something else. And it’s the same for every single person on the planet.
We need these titles or labels in order to relate to one another and form some sort of basis for understanding, communication, and connection. However, once that’s established, it seems that we would be better served if we dropped all labels entirely and remember that everyone we meet is a human, who probably experiences a lot of the same emotions and thoughts we experience, regardless of how they define their “what,” how they dress, or even what they believe (to name just a few “categories”).
We are all so beautifully and amazingly different in our expression of self. And yet, at our cores we have uniquely human experiences in common:
- the shared grief of loss,
- the unifying joy of celebration,
- the collective concern inherent in fear, and
- the contentment of love and connection.
I am fortunate. My work affords me the opportunity to remember this truth time and again. Regardless of all the measurable demographics or categories we have to define ourselves, the commonality of our emotional lives never ceases to amaze me.
In fact, it’s the miracle of being human that we can be infinitely diverse, while also being incredibly similar. Thankfully. Perhaps, then, we can celebrate this gift by asking people what they do, and then following it up by getting to know who they actually are. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? 🙂