License Plates, Labels, and Self

While driving the other day, I saw a license plate frame that said, “German, Woman, and a Taurus, don’t mess with me!” and it struck me because I’m always fascinated by how people choose to describe themselves. Since this doesn’t read like a standard “Go Team!” or stock car dealership frame, I am guessing* this woman went out of her way to get this made so she could stick it on her car. In the process of that, she chose to first identify herself by her nationality, then her gender, and lastly her horoscope sign. If I were to meet with her, would she be trying to find out what my sign is, and then say (even if we were getting along splendidly) “Oh no, you’re a whatever star sign and we’re incompatible!” because based on conventional horoscope lore, our signs supposedly clash?

How we elect to self-identify does speak volumes about ourselves and our frame of mind, because who we are and who we believe we are affect how we interact with the world. As a species, we tend to be fairly selfish, and it is often the case that what matters to us are issues that directly affect us. Thus custom license plates and license plate frames are an interesting case study, because their owners have taken the effort to give the world one more way to know something about them. See the two images below:

1. The plate frame shows the driver’s likely a NY Mets fan. The plate itself reads “VOICGUY” making me think the male driver has a career that is somehow tied with voice. Maybe he patented some fancy voice-recognition technology. Maybe he does cutting edge research on how vocal cords affect one’s ability to sing and speak. Maybe he’s just trying to be a clever musician. Or maybe he’s somehow connected with Google Voice?

2. The license plate frame reads “God’s credit is in Jesus’ name” and the license plate itself reads “GUD4EVR” so we are clearly dealing with someone whose faith is an integral aspect of who they are as a person. I doubt I’d make many waves if I made the assertion that they were likely of the Christian faith, and they either want to be good forever, or feel that God and Jesus are good, forever. Regardless, God and good would go hand in hand for them.

Which brings me to the inspiring tale of Chris Waddell, who despite being paralyzed from the waist down, managed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Most healthy and able-bodied people don’t decide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and it’s amazing to me that he decided to just go ahead and do it, and defy any expectations that he would not be able to accomplish it. He chose to do it because:

Making it to the top meant more than just defining himself as superhuman. It meant changing the perceptions of disabled people, a message he shares through his One Revolution Foundation and Nametags programs. “One Revolution is the idea that something small, that one turn of the crank, can lead to something big,” he said. “Hopefully, it can lead to something else, to this idea of change in how we see ourselves.

All too often, we tend to get caught up in how others see us that we forget that what really matters is how we see ourselves. If we are caught up in self-doubt, worries, and anxieties, it manifests itself in how we interact with others. Think about the people you truly enjoy being around: why do you enjoy being around them? Usually because they somehow make us feel better about ourselves, but likely also because we know on some level that they are being themselves around us, and this makes us comfortable being ourselves around them, too.

*This is a guess because given that without stopping and consulting the drivers themselves, it would be impossible to know with certainty why they have the custom plates on their cars, and without that information, it is just a guess, albeit what seems like an educated and logical guess.

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