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Defining who we are

By Sunny Lockwood
Cover photograph courtesy of Al Lockwood
See more of Al Lockwood’s stunning work at

Copyright 2009 Merikay Mcleod

All rights reserved
First electronic publication, October 2009
All rights reserved
Not long ago, I read a book on Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of
the United States.

One of the interesting facts in the book was how Lincoln, as a

political candidate, wanted to be viewed while campaigning. He had a
definite image he wanted to plant in voters’ minds. It was the image of him
as a young rail-splitter. He wanted to be known or seen or understood as a
rail-splitter, work he had done as a youth, long before he became a lawyer or

It made me think about how each of us wants to project a certain

image of ourselves. We want others to see us in a particular way. While we
may not be campaigning for political office, we are always trying to plant in
others’ minds the image of our self that we most cherish.

The biographies we write and post on our various websites show

clearly how we define ourselves and how we want others to define us.

From a common pool of defining characteristics, we choose one or

two or three that we most want others to notice about us.

As I thought about it, I was able to list more than twenty defining
characteristics in a matter of moments. See which of these you use regularly
to tell others who you are.

One’s work, sexuality, marital status, family, interests, education,

religion (or lack of it), home state or hometown, weight, money or lack of it,
parents, one’s parents’ accomplishments, one’s own accomplishments,
failures, loves, resentments, talents, what one has accumulated (cars, clothes,
homes), one’s appearance, heroes, dietary habits, health or lack of it, travels,
gender, race, nationality, friends, what one has survived, what one shares,
what one hoards (keeps private).
I’m sure many more characteristics could be added to this list. Yet
from these many things, we each choose a few to say, “This is who I am.”

I wonder if, periodically, we could change our life experience by

consciously choosing a different set of characteristics to define ourselves. If
we define, and thus describe, ourselves differently, would we actually
become different people? Would a new self-definition usher in a newer,
fresher experience of life and living? I wonder.


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