Defining Yourself – How Do You Define Yourself for the Masses?

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In the early days of the internet, the first BBS’s I joined we had numeric identities. Later on, Compuserve had the same model. That was my first real foray into to online world outside of the BBS for my college. My first exposure to choosing a “handle” was when AOL came along. I think I just used my first & last names.

When I started participating in Usenet, I used “AliventiAsylum.” That was what we called our home – the crazy house. I had that as my handle for a long time. It was even the handle I used when I wrote for Epinions for 14-ish years.

Back then, that was the first exposure I really had to how people defined themselves. On Epinions, there were a lot of handles that were about being a parent or spouse, particularly among female writers. I didn’t see myself as “just” a mom or a wife. Yes, I was a mom to three back then, but wasn’t I more than that? I had my own identity and didn’t want to only be defined as someone’s wife or mother. The same is true for most of my hobbies. I enjoy geocaching quite a bit (in case you hadn’t noticed) but I would never define myself only as it related to geocaching. I like to travel. I like Disney. I like diamond painting. I’m a writer.

But none of these things solely defines who I am.

There are people out there, though, whose entire identity is wrapped up in one of these things.

What happens when that comes crashing down?

I’m thinking now about people who have pledged their undying loyalty to Donald Trump, now under arrest (finally) for a myriad of crimes. I got into a discussion about this with my boss when he was supposed to contact someone with an email that began “LadyTrumper.” He didn’t bother.

I had a good friend who was very involved with the union where she worked. You’d think that would mean she would vote pro-labor. She didn’t because more of her identity seemed to be wrapped up in guns. I own weapons too, but they don’t define my life. But there are people out there whose whole identity does revolve around owning a weapon. It makes them more confident and builds up their ego when they wield it.

Neither of these last two types seems to be able to define themselves any other way. Take away their weapons, and they are lost; they are afraid. Show that this man is a horrible human being who really doesn’t care one bit about them, and they refuse to accept it. Their whole identity and sense of self-worth are wrapped up in the ability to own a weapon or their devotion to a malignant narcissist.

Yes, I am a Mom. I’m not ONLY a mom.

Yes, I am a wife. I’m not ONLY a wife.

Yes, I am a Nana. I’m not ONLY a nana.

Yes, I own a gun. I’m not ONLY a gun owner.

Yes, I am a Mets fan. I’m not ONLY a Mets fan.

I can’t say there’s one thing that defines me. Perhaps that’s why when some things go away, I can cope. When baseball has been on strike, I miss it but I have other things to entertain me. I never really mourned when my kids left home. It was a natural progression of life (plus they have a tendency to come back, with their own kids). When jobs have come and gone it was “Okay, what’s next?”

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4 replies »

  1. Patti I love this post. It is so very very true! I worked with a man who was afraid to retire. His whole life was defined by his work! Without his job he was lost! He had no hobbies, no interests or friends (outside work). In effect he was one dimensional! He finally did retire and within 5 years he died. I think it was from a broken heart – he loved working that much… And I also see it with the younger generation on tik-tok and instagram. They are all about beauty. What happens when they start to age? Or are in an accident? It makes me think of Judy Garland – she had such issues linked to her being a “star” so she had to conform to a standard of beauty that wasn’t sustainable and she seemed to think that without her voice she was nothing… Such a sad fate…

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