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Self-Definition: What Are You For?

“But different is simple. Like the easiest way to explain black is to call it the opposite of white, often the first thing we know about ourselves is not what we are—it’s what we aren’t. We mark ourselves as not-this or not-that, the way Ian was quick to say he didn’t want to sit at the same desk all day. But self-definition cannot end there. An identity or a career cannot be built around what you don’t want. We have to shift from a negative identity, or a sense of what I’m not, to a positive one, or a sense of what I am. This takes courage.

“A braver form of self-definition dares to be affirmative. Ian needed to move from talking about what he wasn’t going to do to talking about what he was going to do. ‘Being against something is easy,’ I said. ‘What are you for?'”

—Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

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