“I” ~ Or the Luxury of Using I

self-esteem, groups and hate

self-esteem, groups and hate (Photo credit: Will Lion)

“I” seemed to be the most banned pronoun in the English language when I went to school. We were never allowed to insert ourselves into our essays or papers—but we were always supposed to show original thought. So many times I was stymied at how to show original thought in a way that did not use “I”.

Except for that first day back at school assignment I received from grade two to grade eight: “Write about what you did on your summer vacation”—we were not given much opportunity to express ourselves using the word “I”. No wonder we had self-esteem issues, though when I was in school self-esteem was not a subject of concern. And today it seems to be a catch-all that is used for a myriad of problems that probably have nothing to do with self-esteem at all.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy writing a weekly newspaper column is that I get to use “I” whenever the heck I want to. In fact, I have noticed that it is the more personal columns and posts on this blog that I write that get the most comments.  I like to read about other people and their experiences and how they handled something—and like everyone else, I like to relate to the writer.

Here are a few famous “I”s:

“I see myself as an intelligent, sensitive human, with the soul of a clown which forces me to blow it at the most important moments.”
Jim Morrison

“I have feelings too. I am still human. All I want is to be loved, for myself and for my talent.”
Marilyn Monroe

“I trust no one, not even myself.”
Joseph Stalin

“I’m OK with myself, with history, my work, who I am and who I was.”
Sidney Poitier

“Without ‘I’, we would neither know ourselves or others.” ~ Me

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41 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You know which quote I did like the most. I think you guessed it right- your quote. ‘I’, I think is one such word which brings about a lively feel to every essay, every poem and every other writing form.

    • “I” more than agree with you — it gives it life — I know because I am also a reporter, and I must never enter into the articles I write – that is why my column is so freeing–You are very astute

  2. Very enjoyable, insightful blog.

  3. It’s interesting that even when ‘I’ think of writing a comment ‘I’ tend to think it is wrong to respond in a way that takes away from the blog that was read…and insert a personal aspect relating to the blog…Not sure ‘I’ said that right?…Diane

    • Diane – you are so sweet, but by sharing we get to know each other — so go ahead and insert a personal aspect – I would be very interested :)- Lou

  4. Thanks…Oh I agree totally with the fact the ‘I’ is shunned in so many areas…and basically I was saying that when responding to someone’s blog I think that it is in my mind not to superimpose my thoughts etc. too much that the blog I’m reading is not overshadowed by them…..Wow is that a mouthful! Diane

  5. I thInk you did a wonderful job wIth thIs post!
    Thanks for sharIng the quotes too!

  6. Lou Ann, I always prefer writing in first person. The book I’m writing is in first-person and I think people love that kind of “personal” thing especially readers of a column. It sounds as if you’re speaking directly to him/her. Great post!

    • Thank you -what is the name of your book? I love your writing so I am sure I would love your book.

      • Oooh, I’ve not finished it yet, my dear. I’m one of those. It’s a work in progress but I am making progress!

      • progress is good– I also do not let the cat out the bag too soon

  7. Yes! The best part of blogging! Able to use that “I” pronoun to our inner delight (and hopefully to the enjoyment of some of our readers, too.) I do think that the third person can be so darn boring sometimes and the “we” pronoun sometimes sounds so presumptuous, as if we all think the same. Great post!

    • so true -” we” sometimes come out as preachy in my writing and I try not to be preachy
      “I” gives us freedom to tell our story and let others decide if they agree

  8. I read once that the more I’s in someone’s writing the more self-centered the person is, and being a Leo (the most self-centered sign in astrology since it’s ruled by the Sun) I’ve always worried about that, so you’ve made me feel much better. Thanks!

    • I think so many of us were sold that bill of goods and we should return it — your blog is a good balance

  9. I like yours the best – humble. You are right, by the way, about the self esteem stuff. It is constantly spoken of.

    • to the point of being tiresome isn’t it ?

      • Yes. The kids become fragile and the need to note self esteem becomes self perpetuating.

      • very astute

  10. You are so right my friend – we get freedom of speech but can’t use ‘I’? Contradictory! 😉

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. I always HATED that we weren’t allowed to use “I” in school essays. And I did it anyways! Although writing was always my favorite part of school, I struggled to follow the rules. They’re there for a reason, yes, and helpful for people who need them, but I think people with a natural instinct/passion for the written word tend to throw them out the window.

    I quite enjoyed this post, and think you make some very good points!

    • thanks Andrea — I so agree with you–sometimes being creative means throwing out the rules — as long as we first of all, know the rules

      • It’s weird how knowing the rules makes a difference when breaking them (creatively, anyways) but it really does!

  12. Funny enough, I was also told in school never to use “I” in any way, shape, or form in writing and the lesson kind of stuck. I still remember a college assignment where the professor asked us to write about a personal story. I cringed when someone asked if we could use first person (how could they dare??) but the professor said yes, and told us he’d prefer if we did! I’m still not comfortable with it (except in blogging or journal writing) but nevertheless, I agree with your quote wholeheartedly. 🙂

  13. Inserting “I” makes interesting reading….you get an insight to the person holding the pen or tapping the keyboard.

  14. Love what you say. I love reading what people think and feel, and it’s not the same without the I.
    I also read – that I more than every seven words is egotistical. I was always so relieved when I counted that I’d gone past the seven mark!
    I think that ‘s one of the joys of blogging, the freedom we have to write how we want and feel, and to hell with the rules.

  15. “I” is a word that needs to be celebrated. It should be proudly shared. When we love ourselves and appreciate our gifts, others will see the confidence and brightness is us. “I” should be used with joy and generosity. Great post.

  16. So how DO you write about your summer vacation without using first person? I prefer first person too. My youngest kid weirded me out by referring to herself in third person for an entire week. Though I think that was the whole point of the excercise.. 🙂

    • -that was the only exercise whereby they would let us use I.
      I just love kids when they try to weird us out

  17. I never thought about this but you’re absolutely right. I think I will create “I” journals for my boys to write down all of their “I”s when they’re young so they can “show original thought”. Thanks for this one.

  18. Interesting how our generation finds I hard. As part of my PSE teaching I used to get my pupils to write an enormous capital I down the side of the page and then to write many sentences using that I as their starting point, making positive statements about themselves about who they were and what they could do and what they aspired to. I tried to do this myself when they were writing snd found it harder to do than most of them! 🙂

    • what a wonderful exercise – you probably don’t know how much you helped these kids – “I” is important and you let them know that

      “I” is harder for us as we were not supposed to use it

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