Let’s talk about self actualization. We’re all on this vast journey of self discovery, but somewhere along the way we hopefully realize we actually know quite a bit about ourselves, and who we are, and what we stand for, and that’s a good and comforting feeling.
There’s a lot to be said for being comfortable in your own skin. I recently went to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. The DMV is not a great place for self actualization because about the time you think you know who you are, they take your picture, and you see yourself in an entirely new light that you’re stuck with for the next six years! My trip to the DMV, however, was self actualizing because as I filled out my application, I realized something about myself that I’ve known to be true for at least the last 10 years. My height and weight are not actually what my driver’s license claims them to be! I’m thirty years old; I’m comfortable in my own skin, and that skin is a little shorter and a little heavier than I have been claiming. It’s not really that big of a deal, but I don’t really have a good reason to hide behind the numbers. I am who I am. Even when my picture is bad, it’s still me…I guess…so in the time it takes to make a quick stroke of the pen, I lost two inches and gained ten pounds. And when my new card came this week, I felt somehow better about it.
I’ve thought a lot about self actualization in preparation for my students to return to school next week. Every year, I do some kind of song and dance in the first days to set the tone in my classroom. After eight years of teaching, I like to try new things in my classroom and learn how to improve my practice, but I also fundamentally know who I am as a teacher, and it’s important for students to know that as well. I don’t get a lot of time to set this up. I don’t want to be stuck with a “bad picture” for the school year. Whatever I do has to make a good impression, make an impact, and be authentically me. No pressure at all.
This year I decided I would Google myself in front of my classes. I figured there was a population of my students that was going to do it on their own anyway after they met me at orientation, and I might as well beat them to the punchline and put it up on the screen for everyone to have a good laugh over together. Have you ever Googled yourself? If you haven’t, I can almost guarantee you’re thinking about doing it right now. It’s ok, go ahead and open another window. You should check yourself out. I’ll wait.
Legitimate reasons I have Googled people in my routine life…
- Because I was internet dating and I wanted to make sure he was not a creep before I met him face to face.
- Because my husband is a landlord and I want to make sure a prospective tenant is not a creep before they move into one of our apartments.
- Because I’m taking a graduate school class and have an “interesting” professor.
- Because a name is somehow related to a bit of trivia that I couldn’t quite recollect and the internet is there to solve such problems.
- Because a name is somehow related to some crazy thing I saw on social media that I needed to know something more about
I may have also Googled you if I was ever going to work for you, work with you, or if I just had to plain stalk you for something like figuring out how old you are, when your birthday is, or whether or not you were that famous person in the picture with that other person I know.
Besides stalking other people, however, I haven’t always had a lot of good occasions to Google myself, though it’s probably not a bad idea to know what other people are going to find when they stalk you for the aforementioned purposes! I was pretty confident in what I’d find in my Google search, but for this activity I figured it was best to know exactly what my 15-year-old students were going to see before we all saw it together on the screen. So I searched, and…
…it turns out I didn’t know what was going to come up at all! I have an IMDb profile, and no I did not create it for myself, and yes it’s actually me, and yes it’s a real writer’s credit. This puts me in the ranks of Tina Fey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meghan Markle as they too have IMDb profiles (and that’s about all that would otherwise connect us!). But what I was really fascinated by was where it came from.
I recently told this story about the quest for validation and my aspirations to be published. In that story, I wrote a comedy piece that was published by McSweeney’s, which got picked up in a collection of comedy stories for a book, which was turned into an audio collection from Audible, which was turned into a live comedy sketch. That live comedy sketch was filmed for a show on Seeso called “The Comedy Comedy Show,” and that show has its own IMDb page under which it lists the eight writers who had pieces from the audio collection adapted for the filmed set, and I was one of those pieces. So IMDb created a writer’s page for me.
You should know that on the IMDb “star meter” I am #2,757,289. But there are over 7 billion people in the world, so that puts me in the top .003% of people…right up there with fellow comedy writer Tina Fey! 😂🤣
I love that this profile exists. I think it’s kind of funny, and quirky, and you better believe I’ll tell my students about it. But what this actually taught me about self actualization is something else entirely. In the quest to self actualize and know ourselves fully, it may not always be best to tell someone who we are. Sometimes, we may need to ask someone who we are. I may believe that I am honest and fair in my classroom, but if you ask my students, and they don’t feel that way about how I treat them in the classroom, it means very little that it’s how I feel about myself. Instead of telling my students a bunch about myself at orientation, it would be far more interesting and revealing to ask students what they had heard about me and the class. If their answers matched my own perception of self, great! Self actualize…check! If not, perhaps it is time for a little reflection, and a little self discovery on where the dots aren’t connecting.
I wrote about my quest for validation as a writer that I didn’t need someone else to tell me it was true to know that I was a writer, and I stand by that. But at the same time, in considering who we are in the world, it may not be a bad place to start to ask the world who it thinks we are. We don’t have to own everything we find. There are hundreds of images that come up when you search my name that are not me. There’s also another Katherine Laack that’s a terrorist. It’s important to reject the things that don’t represent us or who we want to be. But in seeking ourselves outside ourselves we may also find a niche we didn’t know about, a perspective we hadn’t considered, or a dose of validation that we didn’t necessarily need, but feels pretty good to find anyway!