How Do You Define Yourself?

That’s a good question.

A really good question, actually.

I am on the cusp of turning twenty, and this is something I’ve really been thinking about recently. Side note: according to some people, I am making turning twenty a bigger deal than it actually is. It’s the end of one decade and the start of another, and I’ll no longer technically be a teenager; I find that exciting. For me, turning twenty is the start of living my life according to who I am instead of who people think I am or want me to be.

Then I thought: do I even know who I am?

On May 26, 2019, I went to church like I usually do on Sundays when I’m not working. The message/sermon was geared towards the men (something my church does every fourth Sunday), but I personally got a lot from it. It was the sermon I 100% needed, especially at this semi-confusing point in my life.

During the sermon, the reverend/pastor (I think he goes by reverend, but I don’t know exactly; I don’t know if me not knowing is a good thing or a bad thing considering I’ve known him for quite a while) said, “How do you define yourself?” It got me; I literally (and loudly) said, “Oof.” After he said that, I wracked my brain for an answer, but I couldn’t come up with anything that wasn’t basic like, “I’m African-American” or “I’m a woman.”

Honestly, I don’t know how I define myself. If someone looked me up in the Webster Dictionary, I’m not sure what they would see, and I find that very thought-provoking (and kind of scary).

Later in the sermon, he also said, “You can’t fix your ‘do’ until you fix your ‘who.’ You have to know who you are,” which resulted in another “Oof” from me.

Then I had a bit of an epiphany (I guess you would call it). I realized I can’t define myself and improve what I say/do without knowing who I am.
Here’s the thing: I don’t exactly know who I am, and I wonder if my twenties is when I start figuring out who exactly Jamilah is.

I am just now starting to (kind of) figure out who Jamilah (totally referring to myself in the third person– not all the Jamilahs in the world) currently is and who I want Jamilah to be so she can live the life of her dreams, which really doesn’t consist of a lot.

Before hearing the sermon on May 26th, I thought I was experiencing my quarter-life crisis early. As I said in episode one of my knock-off podcast, Simply Special, I didn’t really start freaking out about turning twenty and not knowing who I was until my friend turned twenty, and I realized I was a month away (at this point, less than two weeks away; trying really hard not to freak out about that simple fact right now).

After listening to that sermon (and practicing calm breathing exercises), I realized it’s okay to not know who I am– how I define myself. I think your twenties are all about figuring it out (I could be wrong), and that’s what I intend to do. Hopefully, by the time my roaring twenties end and I enter my thriving thirties, I’ll be able to accurately define myself and confidently express who I am. For now, I’ll just keep figuring it out.

To me, “How do you define yourself?” is such a thought-provoking question. When you really sit and think about it, it’s a question that goes deeper than describing your physical attributes and logistics, such as where you were born. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve heard that sermon, and it’s more than likely going to stay on my mind as I enter my twentieth year of existing and venture through my twenties.

Q: How do you define yourself?

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