I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
- Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson has been my favorite poet since the 7th grade. My teacher described her as a recluse. Despite living in an age where women were wed off and expected to be the center of the household by cooking, cleaning, and nurturing, Dickinson never married. Emily Dickinson used her heart and brain in her poems, only 10 of which were published during her lifetime. Despite this, Dickinson had written nearly 1,800 poems. Dickinson has always inspired me, and while she claims to be a “nobody” in this poem and even so in her life, I have always seen her as the most important “somebody.”
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Dickinson is proud to proclaim that she is nobody. Of course, this line is an oxymoron of sorts, as by living and breathing, you are “somebody.” While “nobody” refers to an absence of no person, here it is announcing this “nobody”. Dickinson questions the admiration of being “somebody” and being put in public view. The essence of Dickinson’s poem is that it is okay to be private or withdrawn. In fact, she is happy to be so.
In today’s world, it is growingly important to be “somebody.” With constantly growing social media platforms and “quick side hustles” to make you rich, everyone is looking for a way to “make it” in life. But it didn’t really start there. We're encouraged to be successful in careers that are valuable, like doctors or actresses, to make our parents proud. Of course, it doesn’t help that television is always showcasing what it means to be somebody.
But it isn’t really all it’s made out to be, is it? Just as Emily Dickinson ponders, being somebody may not actually be better than being nobody. There are many celebrities who hate being famous, hate the pressure of the spotlight, and hate not being able to be a normal human being who makes mistakes or enjoy their lives without someone always having something to say about it.
Of course, we all want to be somebody. We all want to be the person that changes the world someday. We want to be seen and appreciated and admired and loved. And that’s okay. It is okay to want all of that and more. Emily Dickinson doesn’t argue against that. However, she sees a special value in being “Nobody.”
“Nobody” is really everything. When you are “somebody.” you must then be this or that, while being “nobody” is limitless. You do not have to rely on whether others acknowledge you or whether society puts value in who you are. “Nobody” is freedom. Rather than depending on others for admiration and appreciation, we should strive to cultivate those feelings within ourselves, allowing us to achieve our dreams without being held back by the need to be somebody.
Are you – Nobody – too?
Yes, I think I will be. I am on a journey to love and appreciate myself the way I have always sought in others. Rather than anxiously awaiting someone to love my writing or looking for approval on every little decision of mine from my loved ones, I would like to one day get to a point where I no longer care for those things. This takes time, of course. It takes motivation and self-love to get to a point where you know you are of value and worthy of everything you dream of without looking at those around you to hear it.
Here are a few steps I’m taking to do so, in case it may help you out on your journey of self-validation and love as well:
Journaling - I’ve been journaling since I was 8 years old, b. But I noticed as I got older that my sweet messages about all the things I loved about my day often turned into all the things I did wrong and why my day was bad (which usually I believed myself to be the cause of). I’ve been working on re-shifting my journaling to help my mindset be more positive. I started with writing 3 things I was grateful for everyday. And then I shifted to ensure at least one of those three were always about one thing I did well that day. For example, I’ll share today’s: I am grateful for my younger cousins, who are always sunshine on any cloudy day. I am grateful to LYF, for giving me the opportunity to help others while also helping myself in a journey of self-love. I am grateful for my strength in being able to share such sensitive things with the world in hopes of others not feeling alone in their own paths.
Making decisions on my own - This can be a tough one, but to stop searching for validation from others, you need to start with the little things. I used to be one of those girls who anytime I wanted a treat or to go out, I needed to ask other’s first to go with me. And if they didn’t want to go or eat that treat, I wouldn’t either. I believed that if they didn’t want to, I shouldn’t want to. So now, when I ask my partner if they want to eat ice cream with me, and they say no, I work on reminding myself that I don’t need them to do it with me for me to be happy with my decision. Then I worked my way up to bigger decisions. At the LYF blog, our pieces go through three editors' eyes before they get published. When I started here, I was nervous about my co-volunteers reading my work, so I had my mom, partner, or friends check it before the first editor saw it. My confidence grew as I wrote more pieces and gained a larger role within LYF, and I don’t seek external advice about my piece anymore. I trust my editors to help fine-tune my pieces before being published and I’m not even anxious about them reading it anymore! (Thanks guys!) I’m still working on making bigger decisions by myself, but I’m doing great at working up to it!
Stop comparing myself to others - Like I said, the media is a big factor in everyone wanting to be somebody. When I see myself comparing myself to people on the internet, I step back and remind myself that we all have our own journeys, and we take our own time for them. It’s hard to stop those immediate thoughts of “I wish I had that life” or “If only I were more dedicated/pretty/talented,” but it’s much easier to rewrite those thoughts after the fact. When I read a beautiful piece of writing, my brain will quickly tell myself, “I wish I was good enough to write like this,” to which I reply “I am. If that is what I want, I can do it.” Know that you hold value in whatever it is you want and stop watching to see if others are doing better at it. It holds no difference to your value.
Introspection - This is kind of meta to the title of this piece, but knowing what you want in life and what you care about changes a whole deal in whether you will let other’s opinions stop you from achieving your goals. Knowing yourself also means acknowledging your achievements and accomplishments. It is important to hold value in not only what you want to do but what you have already done. I believe that a person’s goals, beliefs, and actions make up who they are. Growing confidence in yourself is growing confidence in what you want out of life. I know that I want to help people. I also know that I have already had experience doing so. That gives me confidence that I can do more. I also know that my goals are so important to me that I will not let my anxiety and need for validation get in the way of them, even if they try.
Then there’s a pair of us!
We can both be nobodies, which is contradictory, but if you’ve been following along, you understand that we are far from nobodies, just like anybody else. Look at yourself and know that you do not need to be “somebody” to be important or of value. The only person who can tell you that you are worthy is yourself. I know from experience that it isn’t always that easy. I also cannot just tell myself that yet. But I will, one day. I will follow in Emily Dickinson’s footsteps and not seek out external admiration and instead find it within.
I’ll leave you off with that first line of the poem again, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”
About The Author
Sierra is a recent English graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). She enjoys writing and reading with a passion. She is especially passionate about sustainability and human rights and she hopes to use her writing to inspire others in these movements. As the Editor-in-Chief at LYF, Sierra is happy for the opportunity to contribute to these topics. When not reading or writing, she can be found playing video games or binge-watching TV. The things she loves most include strawberries, new stationery, and her bed.