Reflecting on Lauren Weiss’s Why I Write post on the Writer to Writer blog led me to consider my self characterization in my past pieces. I ultimately found in my most common work, academic argumentative essay and memos, that using first person was typically easy, which is weird because prior to college I was taught that using first person in formal writing is unprofessional and therefore a vulnerability. However, after my minor in writing gateway course and a few public policy project submissions, I found that first person—most notably the use of “I”—can help the concision and clarity of my work, even if it’s for a formal setting.
What I didn’t expect my reflection to illuminate is my similarity to Lauren’s cautious use of first person in personal narratives. Although ego plays a role in most works, my fear is less about ego and more about self-preservation. I found that when I tell revealing stories about myself and my past experiences that I usually think it through—and often times write—in third person. For me, third person self-characterization in personal narratives acts like a shield from perceived vulnerabilities and potential embarrassment. Although it’s a simple change of a few letters, the difference lets my guard down enough to jump deeper into raw emotions—and be more revealing in my story telling.
Like Lauren, I find comfort in using “he” instead of I. But, I also have a part of myself that feels required (for a lack of a better term) to be honest and clearly state: I. Why would I accredit by experiences to someone else? Perhaps Lauren is right. My ego falsely obligates to take clear ownership over my experience and ideas. Maybe not? Regardless, that internal voice in my head reminding me to be honest usually wins, and I fear it undermines the potential of my writing.
In actuality, I wish I used “he” more because I think I too often re-construct a sentence or reconsider revelations merely because I feel the use of I in submitted writing forever ties me to the content. It’s like taking a harsh look into the mirror fearing the potential consequences of others knowing what’s beneath the surface. Is that unique to me? Is that just simple insecurity? For example, my minor in writing gateway project was a space for me to explore myself and some of the struggles I was going through my sophomore year. In those pieces, my mere use of first person served as a constant reminder of the fear of going public and being honest with the world about what I’ve experienced and how I feel. I am thankful Lauren’s piece made me more cognizant about the implications of speaks about myself in first versus third person, but I’m disappointed that it matters. I am all about raw, honest truth and emotion, but even I have a double standard to myself. It’s time to break through that fear. Does it start by using 3rd person for myself as a stepping stone? I guess he’ll see.