What Makes you…YOU? How Do You Define Yourself?

aaaaaaaaaaI hadn’t intended to broach this topic just yet.  But then I watched the TED Lecture below about Lizzie Velasquez and it so utterly blew me away, that I find myself sitting down before the computer to share it with you.

If you click the link below or type her name into You Tube, you’ll see what I just saw…and it’s not what you’re expecting.  Do NOT feel sorry for this gal.  It’s her bravery, humor and humanity, in the face of profound adversity that just blows you away.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzPbY9ufnQY

Lizzie has an extremely rare congenital disease which prevents her from accumulating any adipose tissue (fat).  Currently, there are two others on the planet with it.  She cannot gain weight.  Lizzie weighs just 64 pounds, and to some people, she looks grotesque, like some sort of monster.  She can’t see out of her right eye, and she has medical issues that will follow her to her grave.

aaaaaAnd yet, I betcha anything Lizzie has a better self image than you or I do.  I know for sure she’s got me beat, and my face is wet now, not from pity, but from being deeply and profoundly moved. Lizzie says it beautifully and boy does she have the creds.  When the thirteen minutes were over, I found myself standing up in front of my i-Pad and clapping, something I’m not prone to doing.  This, my friends, is humanity at its very best……facing the very worst that life can throw at you.  

Lately, I look at the news, watch the insanity washing over us, politically, socially, economically, and I find myself cringing in embarrassment at some of what we call humanity.

And then…someone like Lizzie comes along and it forces us to go and look in the mirror, both literally and figuratively.   Stop and think for a moment:  Ask yourself:  Who am I?  How do I define myself?  Am I on the right track?

Over the years, have you come up with a pat answer?  Both men and women have come up with pat answers which seem to serve us well.  I have a handful of female friends who go right to this “pat answer”: “I am the proud mom of three and the proud grandmother of seven,” or some such numbers.  Yeah, okay.  Sure.  Except, though it  sounds  great and it sounds noble, but it really doesn’t actually convey anything personal about you.  It declares  that you had children and that your kids had children.  That’s it.  Virtually every creature that walks, slithers, flies or swims upon this planet can say the same.  It just doesn’t narrow it down very much.

Men aren’t any better at all:  We go right to our job description:  “Oh, that’s easy!  I’m a copy-editor.  I’m a pharmacist, actor, writer.  I drive a school bus.  I sell insurance.  I’m a programmer with Bell Tele.”  When pressed by someone who really wants to know about you, we’ll throw in, Okay, I like to ski, or play golf or any one of 500 sub-categories.  But, now stop for a moment right now and ask yourself.  “Who the hell am I?  What makes me……..ME?”

For Lizzie, her defining moment could have been the label put on her by cyber-bullies:  They “cleverly” posted a You Tube Video labeling her The Ugliest Woman on the Planet.  And then a host of copycat bullies e-mailed her. They suggested that she buy a gun and just put a bullet in her head.   Can you imagine someone e-mailing your son or daughter with that advice???  The very thought of it makes my fists clench.

When you see someone who was born with a deformity, the first time can create a knee-jerk reaction.  It can be a shock to the system.  Even with Lizzie, candidly for about a minute, I kept thinking…wow…  How can she stand it?  I am truly embarrassed and ashamed to admit it but it’s there.

But then, something magical happens, because of who Lizzie is, not what she looks like.  She opens her mouth and you begin hearing not cynicism or bitterness, not hatred or disgust with mankind, though it would be understandable.  You see a beautiful, make that gorgeous inner person.  A gal who is funny as hell, self-deprecating, smart and resilient.  Strangest thing of all, Lizzie discovered that she’s a motivational speaker and a writer.  Swallow hard and think about this one:  Her job on this planet, her definition is to make you and me feel better about who we are.


Kim Kardasian taking a selfie, while she’s waiting to be photographed…..

If you have empathy, it forces you to take a look in that mirror and ask, “How would I handle this?”  What’s even weirder, and I’ve found this to be the case many times, the more you get to know (and like and respect) a person, the more beautiful or handsome they become.  Conversely,  I have also seen some of the beautiful people who upon opening their mouths become more and more repugnant and unattractive with each word from their mouths.  Strangely, and fairly, it works both ways.

The next few paragraphs are just a first toe-in-the-water attempt to examine more closely who and what we are.  It’s not the be-all, end-all, just a first step and I’m hoping you will write in and help shape and create a better list.  Let’s try on a handful of different, new ways we might define ourselves.  And once again, because you aren’t sitting here next to me, I’m forced to disclose my own answers.  Yours will vary a whole lot.  At least I hope so!

Temperament:  On a scale of one-to-ten, I’ll give myself a 7.  I have a bit of that manic-depressive thing constantly working against me though ironically it’s also the engine that spurs the creativity.  The cost?  Four or five times a year, things dim in my mind and life seems dark and pointless.  During those periods I am absolutely certain that I am only then seeing the true reality.  It’s painful and also a pain in the ass for those around me…(Pamela).  If you don’t suffer this, realize one thing.  No one chooses to have this happen. When it arrives I attempt to crawl into bed and wait it out…

Types of Luck:  On a continuum from one to ten, I put myself at an 8*, with an asterisk.  Like a certain section of the population, I have a large healthy ego, coupled to a surprisingly lousy self image.  I’ve had a successful life in sculpting and in writing.  But here’s where that ego-thing comes in.  As Pamela refers to it, I was never handed the “lucky stick,” the one where you write down you memoirs on a yellow pad, someone finds it on the subway in Manhattan, and Random House calls you to offer you the “rich & famous” contract.  I’ve never had that happen.  Yet, in other more important ways, I’ve been lucky with my choice of a mate.   To boil it down, very high aspirations and expectations…not so high in the manifestation.  Bottom line:  I’m not complaining.  I’ve been lucky, but I confess to being a bit of an ingrate.  I always thought, and was pretty sure I’d go higher…  Still swingin’ though and I intend to win.  I’ll be 82, win the Pulitzer Prize, and yell in the phone,  “Screw You! You’re too damned late!!!”

69c7f2f9-b6b0-4efd-baf9-88208985b4bfEmotional Intelligence:  Your EQ as opposed to your IQ:   Here’s where it gets interesting:  If right now you’re thinking,  Huh???? you’re in the majority, though there’s a whole subculture of people who have quietly plugged-in to the concept, polished it, exercised it and use it for a variety of purposes.




The germ or seed that’s at the bottom of the whole thing is a seemingly esoteric term: EMPATHY.   As a sidebar, I have a manuscript in the bottom drawer of my desk, entitled  E-Factor, a guide to using empathy as a powerful proactive tool.  It’s a tool for survival and it’s a tool with which to do good.  But, pragmatically speaking….it’s a whole lot more.  When I sent it out to test readers, I received truly strange and unexpected reactions. For the most part, it scared and upset them.  Some even became angry and defensive.  It took a while to figure out why. Think of an old, old book published nearly 80 years ago:  How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Breckenridge Carnegey.  Even in its early rudimentary form, he touched on aspects of empathy as a tool to accomplish things.  But the thought of deliberately influencing people even in a good way, bothered people back then.  It still does.

In short, the more empathy you have, the more you can exercise it, the better you’ll be able to handle life and interact with people.  The very best salesmen in the world use it hourly.  Even General Patton attempted to use it in a rudimentary form against Rommel,  “Rommel, you SOB, I read your book!!!”

6a00d8341c500653ef0120a72e5265970bPragmatically assessing your empathic abilities, or lack thereof, may be the biggest thing you can do to actually improve your life.  To be able to accurately put yourself in the mindset of your spouse, a friend, an associate, a potential buyer of your product, and most of all, an enemy, gives you an incredibly powerful leg up.  Rate yourself now.  And then try building that muscle.  How do I rate myself?  High.  I use it every day, and still I have a long way to go.  There was a TV series that addressed just part of this potential and it demonstrates quite well some of the aspects of this ability.  The series is called: Lie To Me.  It’s…enlightening.  If you want to dig a little deeper into this topic, here’s an interesting link:  8 Mindsets You Need To Have If You Want To Be Emotionally Intelligent

Intelligence:  I’m certain I’m not the only one whose come to the conclusion that there are at least a half dozen kinds of intelligence as well as knowledgeability.  Many people get these terms mixed up.  Some people can retain information like a vacuum cleaner…great test takers.  Some are knowledgeable in certain areas.  (By the way, the opposite of knowledgeable isn’t stupid, it’s ignorant.)

When it comes to spewing out baseball stats, I am utterly and embarrassingly ignorant.  I just am.  Doesn’t mean I’m stupid.  It means I don’t care about and hence never memorized baseball statistics.  And there are math people who just seem like ducks heading for a pond.  English lit…maybe not so much.  And there are money-savvy people and  people who seem to pick up languages the way I like physics riddles.  Overall, I give myself an 8… something or other.

macgyverThe one and possibly the only place I shine, and it’s just a small quirk, is that my brain cross-references solutions to problems over a very wide and unusual span.  Short-hand for this is thinking outside the box.  My brain lives outside the box and it’s created inventions and US patents.  And it has its own serious drawbacks.  Not a very good team player at all.  Not good at following doggedly from point A, to B, to C, to D, to E, to F to….  My mind jumps in very odd ways.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  I use chess notation in strange traffic situations.  I use flying notation for accomplishing tasks.  I use Zen when logic makes no sense….surprisingly often, and I love to solve complicated things with “farm-boy common sense.”   This will make perfect sense to some of you.  It will make no sense at all to others.

Marriage:   One-to-ten, and averaged between the two of us, I’d say 9.6.  I don’t think it’s possible to have a perfect 10 relationship with anybody.  Someone would have to be subjugating or just plain lying to themselves.  Having said that, I’ll put Pam’s and my relationship up against any takers.

Happiness:  Honestly?  7 to 8.5 depending on what day it is.  As I get older, I think the number is settling a bit lower.  Disappointment, low self-image, reality of a very finite amount of time left.

Looks?  Honestly?  I have no freakin’ idea whatsoever.  Not all that groovy…   Because of this fact, when we go out, I really, really, really attempt to be witty and charming, just in case I’m a 3.1.  As I grow older, I resemble my dad more and more, and that’s not a compliment.  Yet, when I look back at earlier years, 20s, 30s 40s, I look better than I figured I did at the time. Go figure. Who doesn’t?

If I’ve come across as a bit arrogant and overly proud, that’s partially true.  And if I’ve come across as hugely insecure, that’s partially true, too.  In my opinion, all of us are sometime geniuses…and often idiots in the next moment.  The goal here was actually to show that Mom-of-three, or insurance agent, doesn’t really define you.  You…and I are a helluva lot more interesting than that.


cute-little-boy-covering-his-head-baseball-glove-adorable-small-male-child-playing-catch-lost-sight-ball-43585444P.S.  Some more defining parameters:  Catching a high-fly ball in left field?  .07

Walking on a board between two skyscrapers? 0.00000

Doing anything repetitively?  1.5

Having at least some opinion on just about everything?  9.9

Most improved:  Public speaking:  high school: 1.2 to today: 8.4  Yes!!!










7 Responses to "What Makes you…YOU? How Do You Define Yourself?"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    I have had multiple sclerosis since 1989. With no warning my body said, start running, this was before Forest Gump. Within 6 months I trimmed from 220 to 175, pushing through the running pain I forgot about my MS pain. My first 26.2mile marathon was uneventful at 4hrs.45min., but, I finished.
    Saturday, Heritage Square Waco, I will participate in the MSWalk Waco Huff’s Magic Dragons team in my mobility scooter. Last year, our first, we were able to secure team members from 5 continents through travels.
    The definition of me: don’t stop being an example. I work pt at the Salvation Army Men’s Shelter where I shake every hand I see. I volunteer at several local organizations to help setting an example of positive energy. I don’t tell folks what to do-I just keep on keeping on.
    It’s not easy. I’m in pain every waking moment. Sometimes my own energy tells me to slow down, so I take a nap, recharge.
    My story to you Henry, helps remind me that there is still work to do. In my scooter folks brush a gaze toward my disability with a “what the …” kind of look. That’s ok. I have a boat horn that says, COMING THROUGH!
    Bruce. H.

  2. Henry Harvey says:


    I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the info. you just sent and the amazing way you’ve adapted. It just blows me away. When you begin to get to know people on a deeper level, things get a lot more interesting and, in your case, inspiring.

    With your permission, I’m copying your message verbatim into the comments section.

    Humanity never ceases to amaze me….on both sides of it.


  3. Henry Harvey says:

    Great write-up, Henry!

    Chris M.

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Chris!
    Good to hear from you, buddy! Hope all is well and your life is unfolding in an exciting manner.

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Once again, just the push I needed.

    I had pretty simple aspirations. At age 10 when my dad died, it was just to survive and help my mom.
    Fast forward to breast cancer….hmmm
    I just realized, it was the same aspiration- to
    I thought I realized my dreams. Graduated Cum Laude while working 40 hrs a week, Pres and other officer titles in volunteer and Phcy assoc.
    Owned my own pharmacy, rode at Devon, along the beach and rode the battlefields of Gettysburg. I casually said to my friend…I guess I can die now.
    Her reply, “we need to get you some new goals.”
    Here to present, I find I need to push myself. I am getting the proverbial “older” and feel I need to work smarter and harder to prove I am damn good at what I love to do…pharmacy and helping people. An article in Wade’s aarp mag ( I’m not old enough for that yet) was about the importance of older workers in the workplace. That gave me a little energy. You have recharged me even more.
    People thank me for helping them, now I just need to not feel sorry for myself, but kick ass and prove to so many that they were so wrong.
    Please call me when you are on the stage saying “screw you”. I hope we can do a duo.
    I’ve hit the jackpot with a mate and horses. No complaints there.
    Keep making everyone’s day as you did mine.

  6. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Pam!
    If you have a good mate, good friends, your horses, and you can help people on the planet…..you can’t ask for much more. And it sounds like you do, indeed, have some good friends.

  7. Sam Anderson says:


    In this post I am in agreement with you except for the part about you not being handed the lucky stick. You are one of the luckiest men I know. You were blessed with intellect, heart and creativity. With those (and the help of your looks) you snagged Pam and are living an enviable life.

    As always, I greatly appreciate your thought provoking posts.


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