“Hi, I’m . . .”
What comes to mind when you are introducing yourself? Do you ever think about why you list things about yourself in the order you do? It may be a socially conditioned response – for instance, men are often asked to list their occupation first. There are certain things that are socially acceptable to share when you’re asked to “tell us a little about yourself”, and you do have to start somewhere.
More than that, though, our answers may be an interesting reflection of who we think we are. There are so many ways to finish the sentence above, and each of them says something different about a person.
For example, your:
- major in college
- family position (oldest/youngest/middle child)
- family relation (so-and-so’s father, or daughter, or brother)
- religious beliefs or denomination
- nationality, home state or town
- personality type
- character traits
- disability, illness, injury, addiction
To introduce myself, I am a Protestant Christian, a nursing student entering my fourth year (of five) at a private Christian university, and a youngest child. I am a naturalized Californian, having lived here for just over half my life, born and raised in Texas. I am a lover of books and movies. I am a caregiver, for older adults and children, but also for my friends and family. I am a Myers-Briggs type ESFJ. I have an unusual joint condition that has caused me daily pain for 3 years.
Although all of these things are true of me, and many of them are important to me, they are definitely not the sum of me. Why do I tell you that I am from Texas, but not where I want to be living in 5 years? Why say that I love books and movies, but not mention what sort of music I enjoy, or my ideal pets? Why include my home state but not my ethical heritage? Why not tell you that I’ve been skydiving, or that I just went camping?
What determines what items merit mention in the first moments of an interaction? Why do these dry statements feel like I’m trying to place myself in a box? Is labeling ourselves a necessary coincidence of introductions?