Have you ever done one of those activities where you try to narrow down everything about a person into three descriptive words?
I’ve participated in it, and been the recipient of it, several times. When I was trying to find my “voice” for this blog, I asked five people close to me to describe me in three words. Then, a few years ago at our staff retreat we did a version of this where each person chose a single word to describe the selected staff member, and then all of those words were shared anonymously with that person. Not long ago I helped put together a birthday gift for our children’s pastor after asking parents, volunteers, and staff to describe him in three words, which were used to create a word cloud picture that we printed and framed.
Whatever the context, witnessing the singular words used to describe you can be incredible. Are you bold enough to see yourself for a moment the way that others already do? If you are, it can change you as a person, and as a leader.
Those are all words that others have chosen to use in expressing who I am. It took courage to accept those words about myself. I have the habit of being self-deprecating to a fault – I am far more comfortable telling you everything that I am not, rather than everything that I am. I had to make a conscious effort to receive these words.
Confession time – even in the midst of an exercise meant to bolster confidence and worth, I have the tendency to see what is missing, and not what is there. As I look through the words that portray who I am to others, I see what I am not. I don’t see terms such as joyful, nice, or delightful. At first I dismissed my own thoughts – because, after all, how many female leaders do you know who are described as joyful? It’s much easier to be known for being fierce and assertive.
Then I realized that I don’t want to make excuses. If I identified something that I am not, what is stopping me from changing that path? What is stopping me from learning how to become nice and joyful and delightful?
Nothing is stopping me from identifying the gaps in my own character and personality and attacking those gaps. So for the past several months, I have deliberately had coffee or lunch or a long phone chat with someone who I would attribute those words to. I am hanging out with joyful people, spending time with nice people, learning from delightful people.
I don’t want to change the words that represent me, I want to add to them. Hopefully, next time you see me, I may be a little more of who I want to become.
What are your three words?