Define yourself by what you do, not who you are

When finding out about someone’s personality, the things people ask the most are 1) “Who are they?” and 2) “What do they do?” At first, these questions may seem similar or even the same question asked differently, so it is natural to question why there is a distinction between the two. But these questions are very different. A person defining themselves by what they do reveals more insights than who they claim to be.

When people define themselves by who they are, they usually use traits such as friendly, kind, intelligent, honest and other positive traits. At first, these may seem like a good start to introducing oneself to another person because it is important to maintain a good image when starting any relationships, whether it be business-related, platonic, or even sexual. But defining oneself only by claiming personality traits brings in the problem that traits are entirely subjective. It is impossible to prove that someone possesses a good or bad character trait. For example, a liberal, atheist family will have different expectations of modesty than a conservative, Christian family, but that does not mean their definition of modesty is wrong. But if expressing subjective traits is the best a person can do to talk about himself, they are not going to be an interesting person to be around.

When people focus too much or only on their subjective traits, it is hard to feel good about oneself because deep inside, they may feel useless. Feeling useless is one of the worst feelings that one can have and it leads to depression. Depression is not simply people feeling intense sadness for a short period. It’s a constant battle of feeling lonely, feeling as if they have nothing to offer, constantly seeking validation, not being able to get out of bed; experiencing emptiness.

People must stop asking who a person is and instead ask what people do in their lives. Asking what a person does is not only not entirely subjective, it also reveals more about a person’s life. For example, if a person works in advertising and markets products such as detergent and soap, this can pose many questions. What made him interested in selling detergents? What does his job entail? If the person asking questions also likes detergent (other than buying it as a necessity), this can make for interesting conversations regarding detergents that may lead to acquaintances, friendships, and even a relationship in the future. This is because the person advertising the detergent can talk about something he knows and not just something that he claims to have.

Furthermore, people defining themselves by what they do allows them to make the introspection necessary to see how they can improve both their lives and people around them. Once a person realizes that what they can offer to other people is more important than what they claim to be, they can start doing work that helps other people. A person who surrounds themselves by various types of work, such as a job, organizations (not just for students), volunteer efforts and even creative art (if it is not their career) will feel much better about their lives than someone who watches TV all day and complains about how no one recognizes their brilliance. I challenge everyone to spend a month defining themselves not by who they are, but what they do. It may lead to higher self-esteem than what they have been accustomed to.

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