Adjectives You Want to Hear About Yourself
Consider how people see you and why.
Maybe you don’t care what everyone thinks about you. But we all care what someone thinks about us. We’re social. Even us rogue spirits eventually depend on someone.
You’re actually nothing by yourself. Just a mouth that goes around eating things, and a hole where it exits later.
Beautiful imagery, I know.
But that’s my point. A life where you really didn’t care about any opinions would be ugly and futile. So maybe it’s time to think about what kind of adjectives you want floating around you. Are you curious how you’re perceived? What others say when you’re not around?
Some of the biggest moments in your life involve someone describing what they see in you. Sometimes it reveals a hidden strength, or a weakness, and sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. But even if someone’s dead wrong about you, the adjectives they use always reveal something — either about them, or you, and usually both.
A well-timed adjective can change the way you see yourself out there in spider webs of human behavior.
The mistake we make is caring too much about what the wrong people think. We try to impress a boss. Show off on a first date. Make all of our Facebook friends think we’re happy on the beach. We also confuse some personality traits. Not every quiet person is shy. Not ever decisive person actually knows what they’re doing.
It pays to spend a few minutes thinking about what adjectives you want to procure for yourself. How you want to be known. How people perceive you, and how those perceptions measure up. Maybe draw up a list. Here’s mine — not exhaustive, but a good start.
Pleasant and Easygoing
Related: balanced; calm; steady; confident; positive; nice.
You’re casual Friday personified. Not lazy. Not aloof. You just don’t get worked up about most things. Or at least, you don’t show it. Easygoing people solve problems, but they have a calming effect on everyone around them. You want to be a source of peace and harmony.
Easygoing people still lose their tempers. They just handle their anger better, and they point it at the right place. We always run the risk of deflecting and displacing our emotions where they don’t belong.
But we do it less often, and we apologize for it later. When I find it difficult to be pleasant and easygoing, that means something in my life is causing too much anxiety and anger. It means I have a problem to deal with. It means I need to try and center myself.
Note: This doesn’t mean you have go around smiling all the time, or spouting aphorisms. It’s more about how you carry yourself. How you go about your day. How you respond to bad news and hiccups.
Kind and Considerate
Commonly confused with: weak; naive; gullible.
Telling others how to live, that’s not your thing. Neither is explaining to them why they’re broke, single, or unsuccessful. You get that life kicks certain people down and then keeps a boot on their throat.
You give money to strangers when you can. Otherwise you’ll give your time. Your attention. Your support. And you don’t expect anything in return. Not praise from your friends. Not a tax write-off.
Not approval from some random deity.
You give a second chance, sometimes even a fifth one. But you also protect yourself. That fifth chance might be small.
A kind person doesn’t worry about being taken advantage of when they buy someone a sandwich, or do some small favor that won’t be repaid. You understand, kindness isn’t an investment in a specific person, but the kind of world you want to live in.
Slow and Deliberate
Related: thorough; careful; precise; detailed.
You take your time, and do things right. When someone asks you what you did today, your only answer might be “I finished a book,” or “I wrote part of an article and went to the gym.” Some people might “accomplish” more than you on a given day. They make lots of “important” decisions.
You “accomplish” less. But you do it on purpose. A deliberate person maximizes their impact.
They’re probably also less likely to die of a heart attack.
You consult a lot of people. It takes time to unpack everything they say. When you move, it makes waves — not ripples.
Quiet and Cunning
Commonly confused with: shy; withdrawn; nervous; scared.
You don’t always need to say what you’re thinking. You’re not shy. You’re sly. When you hear something weird, you pause. Think. Check your facts. You wait a minute (or a day) before dismissing someone.
You weigh the consequences of openly disagreeing with someone on a whim. You listen. And boy, do some people love to talk. They’ll run their mouths all day. Even that person is giving you vital information. They’ll telling you whether you can trust them or not.
Your ideas, values, and beliefs really mean something when you don’t feel the need to broadcast them.
Low Key and Low Maintenance
Commonly confused with: boring; predictable; tedious.
You know the ones who describe themselves as drama free? Half the time, they’re just saying that. They really mean something else — whatever suits them. Meanwhile, they cause plenty of trouble.
You’re someone who actually doesn’t like drama. So if something doesn’t directly effect you, then you leave it alone.
You don’t poke your fingers into other people’s cakes— at least not without a good reason. Even then, you try to solve a problem with the least amount of shouting and hurt feelings.
If someone walks away thinking they’re hot shit, but they’re not, it doesn’t matter. You can generally ignore idiots. You resist the need to say, “I told you so,” even when you did.
Modest and Humble
Commonly confused with: meek; submissive; poor.
You don’t “let someone have the spotlight.” The spotlight never belonged to you. You’re not the one who decides to share it. A humble person doesn’t exactly think highly of themselves. They’re not exactly proud, just satisfied with themselves for now.
Down to earth. It’s a good feeling.
A modest person knows how to accept a compliment, and they give them — maybe indirectly.
A humble person doesn’t hide from attention — they just see it as a means, not an end. Gotham shines the bat signal because they need someone to beat up bad guys. Not to glorify a hero’s ego.
Patient and Persistent
Related: tolerant; committed; hard-working; stoic.
Prime delivery and streaming services have spoiled the hell out of us. Not to mention toxic work cultures that promote the myth of speed. Managers pressure everyone to get things done in a hurry.
But sometimes, you have to slow down.
That doesn’t mean sitting on your ass, of course. Real patience takes persistent effort over a long stretch.
Maybe none of your projects will go “viral.” But you can build up a large and reliable clientele, audience, or whatever word you want to use. That takes longer, and it’s worth more.
Decisive and Reliable
Commonly confused with: bold; brash; reckless; cavalier.
You have to be patient. But a decisive person also knows when they need to move fast. It’s ironic that some people who pride themselves on “getting things done” are often the same ones who spend all day in meetings. They don’t get anything done. They’re just entitled.
A decisive person is always gathering information on what matters to them. That’s why they can rely on gut decisions. They don’t react; they respond at a key moment. There’s a difference.
They’ll also see their plans through to some kind of conclusion. It’s easy to make a decision when you don’t have to live by it. Happens all the time. But you don’t do that. You live with your actions.
Thoughtful and Gracious
Related: mature; selfless; generous.
You don’t need a gratitude jar to remind you what you’re thankful for. You see it all the time, and you appreciate it with actions. Sitting around thinking about how grateful you are is fine. But it’s better to do something about. If you’re grateful for your job, then don’t screw it up.
If you’re grateful for your family, then do your share of the chores. Spend time with them. Surprise them every now and then.
When you screw up, apologize. We all like to justify our bad behavior. But gratitude means you don’t take your stuff and the people in your life for granted. You treat them like they could leave, because they could. Everything you have now could turn into dust tomorrow. Didn’t you see that movie about the guy with the space stones?
Manage how people see you
Most languages come with hundreds of words to describe a single color. Each one means something a little different. Same goes for people.
One little adjective can trigger some important reflection and change. Or it can help you tweak yourself over time.
If you know how people see you, and it doesn’t reflect your real self, that also matters. Maybe you need to show the world a little more of your true nature. Assuming you’re a decent person…
Or maybe you don’t. Sometimes, just knowing the difference can be enough. There’s a certain kind of power in letting people underestimate you. Letting people be wrong. You get to decide what little shades of yourself to show to who and when.