How We Define Ourselves

5 years ago

We've all been in a social gathering and somebody has asked us the question, "What do you do?"

How do you answer that question? "I'm a mother." "I work in customer service." "I'm a lawyer." "I work in a top secret environment. What's your security clearance?"

Hello, my name is anonymous

I've noticed a difference in how men and women answer the question. Men easily identify their occupation and move on. Women generally provide their job title and then follow that with an explanation of all the things they are involved in.

Do women feel we have to justify our job and our other roles?

I know I've had a twenty year career in telecommunications at a major corporation. I've had a twenty-five year career raising my family. I've been a small business owner for many years. I've been a daughter all my life. I've been active in community service organizations time and again over the years.

Why do I have trouble answering a simple question about what I do? I have had to explain the mysteries of life to corporate executives and teenagers alike. And I've been successful in those explanations. Why can't I explain myself to somebody at a dinner gathering?

What is the most important job I do? That answer probably varies based on the time of day and day of the week when it is asked.

What is the most rewarding job I do? Again, that's going to be a variable answer!

I'm sure that many other women are in the same position that I am. I hold so many roles that I am hard pressed to provide a concise answer. (How can I explain in 20 words or less what I do in a day?)

This is a question that our mothers and grandmothers faced. It's one that our daughters and granddaughters will face. We are multifaceted individuals. We have many talents. We take on many roles. We can't be defined in simple terms.

That is the answer. We are complex beings and can't be confined to set roles.

The real answer that I give at dinner gatherings isn't that high minded. I usually considered the group of people at the gathering and provide a simple answer: "I work at the phone company," or "I'm a writer," or "I'm Michael and Alexis's mom." I define myself in terms the questioner will understand.

Keeping my answer in context with the surroundings means I respond politely in a socially acceptable manner. If the person is truly interested in learning more about me, they'll pursue the conversation by asking more questions and I can then talk about my many roles!

One piece of advice my mother gave me rings true: "Keep It Simple, Sister."

Thanks, Mom!


Photo Credit: quinnanya.

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