Okay, I have to be honest with you about something… I’ve never actually watched Dirty Dancing all the way through. I mean, who doesn’t know the famous line regarding babies and corners whether or not they’ve seen the movie? It’s a classic.
But what I can tell you I have done, through and through, is something I think we all do without even noticing it.
I’ve put myself in a box, plenty of them actually.
And I’m not just talking giant refrigerator boxes borrowed to make forts out of, I’m talking the hypothetical box we oftentimes put ourselves in that may turn out to be boundaries holding us in rather than opportunities to branch out.
Think about it, as children we are asked what we want to be when we get older— I think I said a veterinarian because I loved animals, typical I know.
Next it was a doctor, a professional reader, even a designer at some point. These are the things I held onto, that I shaped myself around and into even when the definition didn’t quite fit.
Welcome to Box #1.
How about, the one that we’ve all seen before whether we want to answer it or not, from job applications to standardized testing. For some people it can be an identity crisis because, what if more than one applies and you’re only allowed to pick one? There it is anyway, the question we all see coming: What’s your race or ethnicity?
And of course, that universal question on personality tests, you know the one that asks you what kind of person you are before only offering two options. That stereotypical difference between those sitting in the back of the bleachers and those leaning far over the front of them: Are you introverted or extroverted?
From the things we love and the passions we hold to the people we chose to be and the paths we pursue, they’re definitions, ideas to fit into. These boxes help people to figure out who they are, but they can also hold us back.
Let’s go to that second box for a minute, humor me. Do you remember the amount of times I’ve told you I’m an introvert, that I’m quiet and generally pretty reserved? It wasn’t a lie, I am and if you asked my friends they would probably agree. But only sometimes.
Give me an option to go out to a party or kick it back with a few good friends, and I’ll probably choose the latter. But throw me in a group where nobody knows each other, and you might catch a little extra sass and comedy from yours truly.
This isn’t because I have a big personality, though I might, but because it can be nice to vibe off the energy from people around me. I’m not saying I’m very funny and in reality a complete extrovert, but in some situations, I can find myself somewhere in the middle of that box.
So why do I hold onto the label of being an introvert so tightly?
Because it makes me feel like I belong to something.
It’s the same way for some people who believe themselves to be more analytical than creative— maybe they were told in grade school that their mind is so strongly geared towards logic that they decided to follow that belief.
Even if creativity was always itching up their arms in the meantime.
In figuring out who we are or what defines us, we can get so attached to the identity we think we already know that we forget to let ourselves back out of that box every once in a while.
Just because you are a talker at heart, it doesn’t hurt to listen.
Or if you are good with computers and have never picked up an instrument in your life, there’s no reason not to try your hand at music if you want to.
There are these middle ground, gray areas, that allow people to be more than one thing or the other. If you feel so inclined in one direction, then go for it. Follow it to your heart’s content.
But if you ever feel a pull coming from your other side, don’t let the person you’ve always been or thought you should be turn those boxes into a cage around your personality.
Nobody should put you in a box you don’t want to be in. Not even you.