Self-Definition vs. Self-Limitation

With so many things happening at once this month, I’ve been doing more introspection than usual. It seems the more asked of me externally, the more I retreat internally. Considering I am the ultimate navel-gazer, if even I am noticing a trend toward personal reflection, it says a lot.

I don’t want to mislead you. The things that are going on are all exciting, wonderful things. They involve family, friends, personal and professional growth. As it is easy for me to get overwhelmed, my natural survival instincts kick in during times like these, forcing me to lay low when I get the chance. For instance, instead of writing a silly post this morning about Shiva and a duck, I curled up on the couch and watched a silly movie instead.

There has been a lot going around the Internet – or perhaps just in my wee myopic corner – about self-definition. This is not an easy subject for me because I have never known how to define myself. At least, not since I graduated university. When I was a student things were much easier in many senses. For the longest time I even tried to get away with calling myself a former student. However, it’s been eight years now since I donned that cap and gown. Using the s-word feels more than a little ridiculous now. Kind of like talking about baby weight ten years after you are pregnant.

But the thing is, I don’t know what other moniker to use. I’ve never been overly career-oriented. I have a job I enjoy and that pays the bills. Beyond that I don’t look to work to find myself. I am a person. A friend. A sister. A daughter. Practically a wife. Those things are all more important to me than whatever it is I do for money. Yet somehow, they don’t seem enough.

I guess I am a blogger. Though I have never been comfortable with that term and have never dared use it outside this space. It seems a word meant for those with bigger things to say. And for those who say them more professionally. Not for someone like myself who rambles about her problems and posts goofy videos of her dog. I don’t feel  like a “blogger”. Just like someone who has a blog. Apparently, there is a difference.

I am definitely not a writer. That is a title for which I have great regard. The highest, probably. There may have been a time I had dreams of publishing books in the fashion of people like Will Ferguson, Bill Bryson, or Mary Roach. But I know my limits. My writerly plans of youth are long behind me.

I am not a dog trainer. I can’t stress that enough. No matter how much advice I’ll sneak in or how often I’ll posit opinions on why a dog acts a certain way. Please. I didn’t even take basic biology in high school. Animal behaviour is so far from my spectrum of education it may as well be astrophysics. There are a lot of things I have learned while working with my own dog and I like to think I am decent at understanding her crazy ways. But I am in no way certified to give knowledgable, scientific opinions of other people’s animals.

Shiva is a dog. That is enough for her. She doesn’t seek any other definition, doesn’t need to be called an athlete or a companion, even though she is those things too. As long as she can be who she is and do what she wants to do when she wants to do it, she is content. Shiva doesn’t require a title or a special name. Dogs don’t judge each other based on status of career path.

What a different world it would be if we humans felt the same.

So what am I?  A person. A friend. A sister. A daughter. Practically a wife. I guess those things are enough. Questioning it all may be where I first went wrong.

36 thoughts on “Self-Definition vs. Self-Limitation

  1. Does it seem to you that we are always seeking better, more definitive ways to define ourselves? I am a mother, grandmother, wife, dog mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and yes I am going out on a limb here and saying it. I am a blogger, a writer even. But when you throw those all into a box, wrap it up pretty and put a bow on it, you still just get me. 🙂

    You are a great blogger as well as a great writer. How you choose to define yourself is totally yours. Embrace who you are.

    And by the way, can we agree that post pregnancy fat can exist for 33 years? LOL


    • I am so with Jodi on this one. You ARE a great blogger and writer. If you choose not to use those titles that is totally okay with me, but one only has to look at how many people love you to know that you are special, no matter what you call yourself.

      Like Jodi, I choose to call myself a blogger and a writer. I like those titles. Perhaps they don’t totally define me, but they are a part of me nonetheless.

      As far as career goes, I used to feel inferior because I didn’t have a Master’s degree or some great job with some cool title, but you know what? None of that stuff matters to me anymore. Doing what I love is more important – whether that be in my job or outside of it.

      You are special either way Kristine. Define yourself as you choose. Not as you feel someone else chooses to define you.


      • Thanks, Mel. I appreciate all of your thoughtful words. I definitely think of you as a writer, perhaps because of all the people you have reached with your words. A Master’s degree (as much as I still kind of covet one) is nothing compared to all of the changes you have helped effect with your blog.

        I guess that’s part of it. My job isn’t cool or glamorous and I don’t make very much money. It’s not a way I feel I can define who I am or what I do, even though it is very important to me. Perhaps I am just getting caught up in worrying about what other’s think – which is always a downward spiral. I need to learn to be proud of what I do, even if others don’t think so.


    • Hahaha. Sure. There will be no judgment from this corner! Anyone brave enough to endure pregnancy gets all the respect in the world from me.

      Thanks for all of your kindness. I didn’t mean that blogging doesn’t count as writing, more that my reasons for blogging don’t jive with what I think are other people’s reasons for writing. I have no ambition to write for money and no desire to really take this any further than it’s already gone. Sure, I’d like to meet more people and maybe get some free stuff thrown my way, but I’ve decided that I don’t need to make this into any more than what it is right now: a blog about me and my dog. Does that make me a writer? Maybe. But that idea is more than a little intimidating. Perhaps I should stick with “blogger”, or perhaps “reluctant blogger.” 😛


  2. 12 years ago, I took a long break that evolved into early retirement. ( I was able to do this thanks to the kindness of The Other Half). It was quite revealing to go to parties and see people’s reactions when they asked what I did and I replied …”Nothing. I’m a housewife.” I never saw people who lost interest and walked away so fast. Despite reactions and expectations like that, I’ve learnt to be happy with who and where I am.

    Your life sounds full, happy and snug. What more can we ask for really? Sorry, I’m feeling introspective too. Hugs x


    • You are very right. I guess I am just not in the midst of the kind of career I had in mind for myself when I was younger. I thought I’d be doing something bigger, more important. I was an academic and thought that things would just fall into place. That’s why I worry my younger self would be disappointed in me now, for not achieving any of the things I thought would come easy.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s wonderful you were able to retire early, if that’s what you wanted to do. You probably work harder in a day than I do. Those people who dismissed you were probably just jealous.


      • No, they were just clueless and judgemental 😉 Younger selves are almost always disappointed in older selves. If I’d done what I’d dreamed of, I’d be a rock star vet today. See?


  3. Do not do that to yourself, deciding you’re not a writer. I held myself up to a ridiculously high standard for years — which kept me from writing anything. And it was before the days of blogging, so I couldn’t even tell myself I was putting my words out in public, as you can.

    I don’t write like Mary Roach, though I admit to Mary Roach envy. I write like me.

    Here is a wonderful, very apropos post by a writer friend of mine:


    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for passing on the link. It’s actually really funny as just last week I was talking to somebody else about how I am not a “real” runner. In fact, before the 5K last week I worried if I showed up in “running clothes” people would mock me for being a phoney. It’s crazy, the way we define what is real and what isn’t. It rarely has anything to do with the action itself.


  4. I have found that self-examination and self-definition are sort of like peeling away the layers of an onion. You start with something and eventually end with nothing.


  5. You are all those things and more and those are the best things that you can be, so many people can’t even claim to be those, even though they want to be.

    But, I know exactly what you are saying. I was going through something similar a few months go for almost the last year. Trying to figure it out made me a miserable person, really, it did.
    Come on over for a swim and we’ll talk:)


    • I’ll take that point about misery and learn from your mistakes. No more self-examination for me. Time to just go swimming! 🙂


    • It’s always reassuring to know I am not completely crazy and I am not alone. I guess we have to just keep on keeping on and stop worrying how others see us. That’s probably good advice for anyone.


  6. You are lucky enough to belong to the club of ‘so crazy about my awesome dog that I try to tell the world all about it with my funny blog’. Don’t feel the need to put any labels on, you are awesome and I always look forward to new posts as they always make me smile. And plus I love reading about other crazy dog people!


    • Thank you so much! It was very sweet of you to comment. The reason I started blogging was to create a record of my dog’s life. It may have become a lot more than that but that initial purpose hasn’t changed. I hope it never will.


  7. Your post title says alot. It’s always a question of whether we’re defining ourselves or limiting ourselves.

    I’m not sure what I am. But I’m trying to craft a good life. Which I guess would make me one who lives a good life. What components go into that good life is a work in progress. I guess it won’t end until I do.

    BTW, a writer is someone who writes. You are a writer.

    I’ve spent a lot of time working with people who are frightened to put words onto a page–even in their own diaries. Committing words to paper (or computer) is a brave act.

    So it sounds like at least part of what you’re looking for is a way to sum yourself up for people you meet at cocktail parties. Maybe you need to create a title for yourself. So the next time you’re introduced to a stranger, you can tell him you’re a Majestic Grand Maven before walking off leaving them absolutely perplexed. 🙂


    • Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve never felt particularly brave. It’s much easier for me to write than it is for me to say things out loud, in person. Writing can be away of communicating with others while still hiding. It feels safe.

      Hahaha! I am not sure I could say those words with a straight face, though the reactions would be worth it.

      I think being someone who is trying to craft a good life is the best thing anyone could be. Who could ask for more?


  8. Hey, did you watch the movie Eat, Pray, Love over the weekend, too? Great movie – and got me thinking along these lines as well. Hearing the question, “What do you do?” has been giving me small panic attacks for more than two years. After so long in a professional career, what a do now it a bit of a challenge to explain.

    In the movie they were using one word to describe a city … New York’s word was “ambition.” London’s word was “stuffy. ” I started wondering what my word would be … can’t tell you what it is, because I haven’t figured it out yet. =D


  9. I agree with everyone . .you are a great, entertaining, and thoughtful writer 🙂 It’s unfortunate that we have define ourselves with labels and none of mine are very impressive – especially if you consider the things that I really care about – dog lover, yoga teacher, graphic designer – my parents still don’t know what to tell people when they ask what I do . .my mom calls me a gypsy 🙂 I love Pamela’s suggestion and I totally think you could pull it off!!


  10. although i think you are awesome, i will pull the “misery loves company” card here and say that i feel you 100%. i am very confused as to who i am and where i belong and my thoughts on it change almost daily. am i an adult? am i still a kid? do i want to have more fun in life? or more structure? how can i be calling myself a future-trainer when my dog is a mess? do i want to have kids or not? am i a city girl or a suburbia girl? am i going to be stuck at this crappy job forever? how much do i even care? is it so terrible to know a little bit about a lot of things be not be a master at one thing? who am i kidding with this set of golf clubs? etc. etc.


  11. I think I’ve managed to nail down the “what do you do” question, at least at this point in time… but even though I think I’ve come up with some sort of description, I’m still totally at a loss when it comes to what I want to do and, most importantly, who I want to be. So know that you’re not alone – I’m still struggling with self-definition and self-limitation (by telling myself that maybe I can’t actually be who I think I would like to be or do what I would really like to do… if I ever figure those things out).

    That being said, I think you’re awesome, an amazing writer, a caring person, a good Shiva-guardian, absolutely freaking hilarious, and so much more.


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