Let Your Words Do the Talking
I recently had an epiphany. For the past 28 years, I’ve coasted through life telling the world what I am. I am adventurous. I am bold. I am independent. I am introverted. I am nerdy. These are all adjectives–they are adjectives that we use to guard ourselves and set other people’s expectations of how we behave. If I tell someone I am “introverted,” they maintain an expectation that I will keep to myself and may actually take it as a hint that I want to be left alone. Contrarily, sometimes people talk themselves into being something by repeating it enough times and that too is self-destructive. They bellow out, “I am ‘nice'”, and then they turn into someone disingenuously nice, motivated only by a superficial label. If you know me, you already know who I am–why do you need me to tell you?
I’ve stopped describing myself. I am no longer introverted. I am no longer adventurous. I am no longer open-minded. I am Aimee. And that’s the only description the world needs of me for now.
Why do this? Isn’t that just lacking in self-confidence? I don’t think so. If anything, I think it means I have more self-confidence than ever, enough that I don’t need to tell you who I am. I’m Aimee. I’ll let my words do the talking if I want to sell myself. And I encourage others to do the same. It’s not a fix-all. My personality still has its quirks. I still have moments where I just want to be alone to breathe. But the extreme of that has dwindled significantly in letting go of the adjectives. I am more likely to act on internal feeling rather than what I have always known of myself.
I recently started digitally cataloging diagrams published by Gallaudet University (the U.S.’s most famous deaf school) of ASL signs so that I could study while I travel abroad starting next week. I started recording videos of some of the signs and I saw in my face an emotional breadth I had never noticed before. One of the words that stood out the most to me was “brave.” This sign involves making two fists with the palms facing yourself and thrusting them outward. It looks like you’re about to engage in some rather comical fisticuffs. The sign itself can actually mean a few different words, its meaning changing depending on the face made. It can mean “courageous,” but it can also mean “strong” if the expression is more determined and the speed of the movement is increased. In a way, the gesture, enacted by a real perosn, looks like someone fearlessly diving into a challenge without a second thought.
One of my friends is profoundly deaf and commented to me that one of the most aggravating things he experiences with hearing students learning ASL is that they are rather expressionless. If you sign, “I feel sad,” it means absolutely nothing if you aren’t making a sad face. Watching other people’s ASL journals on YouTube, I see exactly what he means. They have very smooth signing skills, better than me often enough, but they look like robots. And if your words can’t paint a picture of who you are, how is the world ever going to know what you represent?