If I were an alien visiting from a far-off planet, I would report back to the mothership that human beings survive off of defining each other.
Not defining themselves, but each other.
I’m a high school teacher, and you might suspect that my judgment’s compromised: after all, I live, work, and breathe teenage drama.
But I’ve learned my lessons well inside and outside high school walls, and I wouldn’t teach them to my students but I’ll teach them here: It doesn’t stop after high school—it simply assumes different, and oftentimes far more serious, forms.
I know it too well, and you should know that I’m a rebel soul and I’ll rebel against definitions, against lies.
Because Near-Thirty Woman still suffers from preteen defining: “Fat. Fat. Fat,” and they resound hard because she bore that transition from girlhood to womanhood with an identity co-opted by thoughtless words.
Because millions of them, adults, struggle to love and to accept love because Father or Mother or both didn’t love, and didn’t love right into “You’re worthless.”
Because they brand the lies into the millions: “He or she, or they, criticize you out of love for you,” and millions of them, adults, associate love with waterfall tears that shake the body and wear you out like a battle you’ve barely won. And millions of them believe that their being must be rejected and then reconstructed so as to be redefined, if they even begin to dream of deserving love.
Because billions weren’t branded but zero aren’t defined, and the softer form of it burns, too.
It’s difficult enough to tolerate that person: The one who imposes their opinions about topics impersonal to you—the one who politicizes everything according to their particular ideology, or any other ultimately inconsequential topic. But that person—the one who imposes their definition of you, on you—I call intolerable.
And please listen: Their definition isn’t law, and it’ll never be law.
It’s a fragment of the whole story at best.
Their narrow-is-an-understatement perceptions should be rejected, and rejected instantly.
Don’t misunderstand me: We ought to respect the thoughts and feelings of those who love us even if their words challenge our ego. Their recommendations for self-improvement should be thoroughly considered, because we trust them to do no harm. They’ve proven that they speak with love AND here’s the defining factor: They would never imply that our flaws and our failings define us.
They correct us because they know we’re better than that, and that it’s near-impossible for us, on our own, to be conscious of all of the ways that we struggle to love.
We use negative “defining” language—“He’s inconsiderate,” for example—for a multitude of purposes. In its most insidious form, it’s used as justification to reject a person who we somehow perceive as a threat.
Those who love you would note that you were acting, or appeared, inconsiderate in a specific scenario. They would approach you about it, not drink it down in company at coffee shops and around dinner tables. Their words should prompt you to serious self-examination.
They’ll continue to define you day in and day out, and their definitions won’t ever be the truth.
Please know that.