Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Definition Of You

Who are you? What defines you? What makes you you?

You can probably write an essay - or even an autobiography - to answer that. But there's no need to. Just test yourself using this simple exercise:
"How would you introduce yourself to someone you're meeting for the very first time?
What would you say in the first few sentences?
Your workplace and expertise? Where you stay and come from? Your hobbies and interest?"

You may think that the opening introduction don't matter much, because you still have plenty of time to describe yourself fully, covering all angles of your life.

But in fact, those precious few lines matter the most. They represent what's at the tip of your tongue and top of your mind. They represent the first impression that you want to leave on others. They represent who you think you are.

If you drop your company name right after yours, it means that your job defines you.

If you enjoy talking about your kids, then family matters more.

We All Wear Masks

And yet, we all wear masks. Different masks, in front of different people.

I'm guilty of that too. I will introduce myself differently to different people.

So in office, when I'm meeting a co-worker, I'll automatically go like: "Hi, I'm Raphael! From Legal. Sitting on the 36th floor."

But why so serious? If we are going to work together for a while, shouldn't we be getting to know each other closer on a personal level? Must I turn on Raphael the Lawyer, and switch off every other character mode? Am I nothing more than a program, to be turned on and off, when people require my function?

Same thing when it comes to our family and friends. We feel reluctant - almost embarrassed, sometimes - to discuss about work.

But why so trivial? Are we not proud and passionate about our work? Is there nothing interesting to share about? Is family all about the leaky pipes and picking the kids from school? Is friends all about happy hours and shopping?

Why the need to divide our lives into personal and professional? If we can bring our work back to home, why can't we bring our kids to office?

Why the need to wear masks?

Batman needs a mask. You don't.

No Mask, No Shell

I find that the best relationships are forged when I drop all masks - even at the workplace.

For instance, I got a great job at Shell, after a few rounds of gruelling interviews. But it was the first interview which I thought made all the difference - a phone call with my then future (and now former) boss. He was new to the country, being an expat. And most of our conversation was about the differences between America and Malaysia (like whether he had a hard time adjusting to the gear being on the left and driving on the right side of the road).

It was a connection that carried on into our working relationship, as we frequently chatted about politics, culture and entertainment (and less about law). And it was one the happiest period of my life (and not just at work).

Even back when I was in Shell, I rarely introduced myself as working there (until directly asked). I even failed to mention it once at a student forum years ago, to which one of the other speakers (who happen to be a good friend) gently scolded me for not disclosing.

Was I shy? Not really. At that moment, I just didn't think it was relevant. My stories and advices should speak for themselves. Does my word carry less weight if I worked in some unknown company instead of Shell? Perhaps, in the eyes of some, but I certainly hope not. As long as my words make sense, that should be enough. And the last thing I want is people to listen to me only because I worked for Shell.

Moral of the story? Take off your masks, come out of your shell. Just be yourself to everyone and anyone, and you will be appreciated for who you are.

Define And Reveal

Today, I am no longer with Shell. But a lot of people still introduce me to others as having previously worked there. They have good intentions, of course. The name does add weight to my credibility - no denying that.

But it's strange, is it not? That we let the past define us so much. Shouldn't what we are doing now and about to do in the near future define us even more? And shouldn't we be doing the things that we want to do, instead of the things that others expect of us?

When Bruce Wayne says "It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me", it's because Bruce the billionaire playboy is (ironically) his mask, whilst Batman is his true self. Of course, he can't reveal that to people, as Batman needs to work in the shadows.

But we are different. There's nothing stopping us from revealing our true self - except the fear of embarrassment. There's nothing wrong introducing ourselves as a proud father of five or flashing a business card that says "I'm CEO, bitch!", if that's what we strongly feel about ourselves.

First, define yourself. Then, reveal yourself.

Honesty, not modesty, is the best policy

What I Do Is Who I Am

Not too long ago, I bumped into an old colleague, who said "Heard you left Shell. Found a better job?". And I instantly replied "I found a better life."

Now, I no longer have to switch between masks - professional and personal. I'm working on what I love, so work doesn't feel like a job at all. My work is my life, my life is my work. What I do is who I am.

Who I am? What defines me? What makes me me?

If I were to introduce myself now, it would sound something like:
"Hi, I'm Raphael. An explorer. A creator. A mentor. What I do - which is what I'm deeply passionate about - is educating, entertaining and empowering people."

What about you?


  1. I've always thought your first introductions really define who you are. So I totally agree with you. How I introduce myself differs from people to people - to impress someone (eg. An interviewer) and etc.

    But coach, you know me already �� but if I had to, I'd introduce myself to you as 'hey, I'm Tasha, your average 22 year old Asian girl.

    1. Nice to meet you, Tasha.

      I see that you emphasised your age, race and gender - do those things define you then?

      Average? Don't be modest. There's nothing average about you! ;)

  2. Very interesting article. I agree with all statements you've mentioned. I remember I had tassk to write a paper on similar topic. My key point was that every person is a unique combination of millions of different factors and that is wrong to call people average or to write about average person. That's what I write my essay about.

  3. Interesting article, which makes you think and it makes it really useful for many people. I advise you to try yourself as a writer. Help students to write an essay This helps to expand the boundaries of consciousness and the sama brings you additional income and satisfaction.

  4. Nice essay! May you give me some advices how to improve my writings skills cuz I still use the help of the writing services loke this one Thanks a lot!

  5. First of all, it can cost a pretty penny, so it's important to shop around before you settle on anything. Essay Writing Service Online

  6. People are who they are, if they don't wanna change themselves, nothing in the world can force them to do that. No one can judge him/her by itself, let the people decide about this. Coursework Writing Services