Your labels don’t define you, but sometimes you need a few.
What do you call yourself, professionally?
I was talking to my friend and editor Antonella, who’s also reworking my website. She sent me some of the sections to review and update, including the descriptions of “who I am.”
“It now says ‘co-founder HGTV, media executive, speaker, author.’ Are you OK with that?” she asks. “No. Get rid of media ‘executive.’ In fact get rid of ‘executive’ everywhere. It doesn’t describe me now.”
“Ooookay,” Antonella says patiently. She knows when I’m like this she needs patience. “We should add ‘consultant’,” shouldn’t we? You do that.”
“What does that word mean?” I push back. “It’s an empty suit job. ”
“Should we use ‘coach’?” Antonella ask. “You do, after all, coach women.”
“I hate that word! I think I should show up in sweats with a whistle!”
“You do realize this book you just wrote, Fully Human, is all about self-awareness?” she says, in her snarky way.
I have to laugh at this point. I know what I don’t want to be, but as this brain of mine gets rewired through completely new work, writing, and teaching meditation, I don’t have a simple label for what I’m doing now. All I know is I don’t want to be put in a box. Don’t fence me in! I’ve used a made-up word—intrapreneur—to describe my career as someone who starts businesses and new divisions within existing companies. I wonder now if I should make up another word.
It isn’t easy, defining who you are in one or two words, not to mention who you are becoming. There are certain things I’m now doing not because I love doing them, but because they’re a part of what I love to do. I love to speak, but all the handshakes and social time around it not so much. I love writing, but the mental bench press of crystalizing ideas into something simple and clear—that can be grinding.
And the coaching might be hardest of all because it requires focused listening to an nth degree. I do it because everyone needs to be reminded they’re of value. Too many of us are convinced we’re not worthy, so we act out in fear or envy or anger. Then the HR bosses are called in to hire people like me.
Maybe it’s harder for women to narrow down the labels that best define them because everyday we’re a lot of things. I see this as an advantage. Many men rise vertically in organizations in a singular way, then they abruptly retire, and drive their loved ones nuts. Or they have heart attacks and die, according to research. We women grow horizontally throughout our lives, partly in response to all the roles we’re asked to play, but also because we have an intuitive sense of our many dimensions. One label could never begin to describe all we do, or all we want to become.
But Antonella wants a word, so give her “entrepreneur.”
It says new beginnings.