"Tell Me About Yourself"
"Tell me about yourself."
This, to some people, is one of the most terrifying and intimidating questions someone can ask. It's one of those job interview questions that people actually have to prepare for, and maybe even script out. It's vague, it's open ended, and it's about YOU. You divulging some sort of personal narrative for, presumably, a stranger to digest. Not only will they digest this story, they will have an opinion about it - and now, a standpoint on you. Tell me your story. This question is not meant for you to proclaim your love for dogs or country music or social justice work. This question is not meant for you to tell me about what college you went to or what your major was, or even what your current job is. Tell me about yourself is an invitation, no - a socially acceptable command - to tell your story.
When you're a kid that grew up like I did, you get very good at telling stories. Not the lying, made-up kind either - although things could have gone that way if my temperament leaned towards it. No, I stick to the facts. I can generally tell the major interesting, noteworthy milestones and incidents from birth to the end of college within 2 to 3 minutes. Depending on the listener's interest, I can share particular heart-wrenching anecdotes from the most vital turning points of my story, conveying not only a specific experience that I had, but also the affect that it had on my character and maybe even led to the circumstances I am in today. These tales share my interests, my values, who I care for, and enough unique details that you will remember me.
These stories have been told dozens of times to dozens of strangers, acquaintances, co-workers, colleagues, and even family members. There is a pleasing consistency of these narratives that spans across all audiences. I also do not lie, and try not to exaggerate or mislead- so if two strangers happened to be speaking of me and mentioned some of the same stories, the facts would check out on both ends.
I personally believe that I am a culmination of all the experiences that I have gathered through my life. These stories, or the re-telling of these experiences, all connect to each other and demonstrate who I am in a fuller sense. The re-telling of each story is a confirmation of that part of myself and who I am.
Now... why does it matter that other people understand who I am? To know who I am?
I think it comes back to the idea that when we share a story, we expect to be judged - whether that be positively or negatively. I ultimately want people to like and respect me, while also feeling comfortable enough to be open and honest to me. So I want to tell a story that is enjoyable, interesting, disarming, flattering, frank, and memorable. I want to tell a story that also leaves plenty of space for my audience to respond in an open and honest way. Others communicate their ideas, fears, values, hopes and dreams through art, music, writing, or sport... and I tell a story.