Define Yourself By What You Are

Language reflects the culture. We make up words, we abandon them. And there are fads in the language–awesome used to be an important word, indicating deep emotion. Now it’s a filler word, like “ummm” or “OK.”

We’ve also begun to use negatives to frame our possibilities. We say, “I don’t 7747no sign - jobhouseunderstand,” instead of “Could you explain it again?” Or, “We close at 5 p.m.” instead of “We are open till 5 p.m.” The other day someone agreed with me by saying “You aren’t wrong.”

The other day, I found myself reciting a list of what I cannot eat to a befuddled waiter. Had I listed what I can eat, which is a much shorter list, he would have been able to know what was in the kitchen and find a match. Instead, hearing only what I could not eat, he stared at me blankly.

YES_sign1It’s easy to let the negative creep into how we think of ourselves. And then we begin to define ourselves by what we don’t like, won’t accept, reject outright, or want to distance ourselves from. “I don’t like country music,” doesn’t define your musical taste–it tells someone what you won’t put up with.

It’s far more exciting and clarifying to define yourself through positives–what you like, what you want to do, what your plans are. Defend what you like and what you want to protect and project. It clears your head and your heart. Being clear on what you want, who you are is such a more positive way to face the world.

—Quinn McDonald is fascinated by language and how it defines us.