Posted by: Jamie Hahn | September 17, 2010

Do I contradict myself?

I’m a conscientious sort. Always have been. I like my words to match my actions, not just today, but in all the days that follow. I don’t prefer to surprise people. Instead, I feel the need for the equation of me to balance at the end of the day. I want to be a coherent story that’s wrapped with a tidy red ribbon. I want to “make sense” above all else.

Why? Probably because I’d rather blend into the wall than dance around in the center of the room. Surprising people with contradictions in my carefully crafted image leads to attention, and I’ve spent years finding ways to minimize attention. It wasn’t until recently that I started to question this approach to life.

While reading Kenji Yoshino’s wonderful book, Covering (might discuss in a future post), I came across a quote by Walt Whitman:

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

The truth of Whitman’s statement left me awestruck, as did the casualness of his delivery. It was a quintessential Oprah “a-ha moment.” The chains of my own perspective fell away in that moment, and I realized that I have the power to give myself permission to contradict myself. I’m not beholden to anyone to create a coherent story out of my life. I am large. I do contain multitudes. Yes!

So, here’s to the freedom to say one thing today and feel or do something completely different tomorrow. It’s our right to fill the space that is our self with whatever multitudes we darn well please. And it’s our right to change them tomorrow, and then change them back the next day. Sure, it may garner some raised eyebrows or some ever-dreaded attention (at least for me), but that seems a small price to pay to experience this life within the vivid color of our own full emotional spectrum.

How about you? Do you contradict yourself…gleefully, joyously, voraciously?

I do hope so.


Image Courtesy of Graur Codrin /



  1. I don’t think the mere act of contradicting oneself makes for a flaky person. And none of us want to be flakes. But some tend to live in a whirlwind of contradictions and we strive to not be one of those people by going in excess toward integrity and routine.

    I allow for mind changing in my life. I allow for parts of my life to lack integrity. I contradict myself casually. Just simply and without reservation. I know that life is unpredictable and I cannot follow through with every whim and fancy. So, I move through my day with minimal intention. Things get done in a very natural way. I just let people know that I cannot commit to something but if I feel like it, it’ll get done. When I started doing that, more got done. Weird how that works.

  2. Hi Lindsey,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I love that you approach each day with “minimal intention.” I don’t do that well, but I’ve been trying. When I do it, I’m always surprised by what serendipity brings into my day. Cool that you get more done that way — double the benefits!


  3. Love this 🙂 !!!!

  4. I am afraid that I just randomly stumbled on your blog whilst looking for that walt whitman quote, so now I can’t help but put some philosophical content on to that quote..

    Strictly speaking if someone says one thing and then changes their mind later they are not contradicting themselves, they are just changing their mind. If someone is continually changing their mind on some topic then it suggests to me that they are not really thinking about the topic in an indepth way so as to form a stable opinion, perhaps because it is too much effort or they lack the resources to do so.

    However if someone is caught contradicting themselves and they simply accept that at this point in time they contain contradictions but fail to see this as a reason to modify their beliefs then they may simply be being unreasonable. At the very least they should adopt a skeptical attitude towards the set of beliefs that are in contradiction since both cannot be true.

    To endorse the attitude of containing contradictions that one is aware of without any reason to change strikes me as rather odd – it seems as if the person is not treating the way they form beliefs or the purpose of belief formation seriously. As such I would be reluctant to listen to what they say.

    The above should be take to apply to the contents of belief where contradictions typically arise but I note with interest that people cite this quote with reference to promises and intentions. Someone promises to meet you at a certain location and then fails to turn up, cites Walt Whitman, to look impressive, but they could equally be giving a two fingers, I don’t give a damn about anyone, and more fool you for being so gullible to listen to them
    in the first place attitude.

    To fail to do what you said or promised or intended to do is not strictly a contradiction but it still reveals a lack of seriousness on behalf of the person. Such is life.


  5. I’ll probably get this quote tatooed as a reminder. for me it highlights the essence of being…well just being i guess. sometimes i think one thing. sometimes another. easy when it’s its a question of apple pie vs chocolate cake. commitments to relationships or struggling with substance ‘abuse’ issues….hmmm. it’s the latter that i think whitman was getting at and beautifully so. ‘eyes wide open’ can be enlightening, but nevertheless painful. how one views such an experience from one day to the next can change…

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