How Would You Describe Yourself in Five Words?

The other day, I came across this quote from Nora Ephron:

“We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was [in my twenties], I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy.”

Alex and I often talk about how people’s lives can be divided into distinct chapters— I’m curious, how would you describe yourself in five words at this stage in your life? Today mine might be writer, friend, mother, sleepy, loving.

P.S. Another brilliant quote from Ephron: “I have a theory that children remember two things—when you weren’t there and when they threw up.”

  1. Madeleine Poulin says...

    Femme / Forte / libre / joyeuse / maman
    Simple. This is who I am and who I wish to be.
    I guess this is not fully true all the times. But at least most of the times, yes those 5 words are it.

  2. Linda with an 'i' says...

    72, seeker, storyteller, strong, better

  3. Martini says...

    Surviving. Friendly. Snow and Christmas fanatic. Sentimental. Night owl.

  4. Louise says...

    unkempt, mother, curious, designer, listener

  5. Annette says...

    itchy (poison ivy!), content, mother, wife, introvert

  6. That’s so funny. I have a product where you pick 5 words to describe yourself or someone you love. ;-). Been checking the comments above, gotta update my list!

  7. Laura says...

    Adventurous. Kind. Multi-faceted. Genuine. Squirrel.

  8. Jane says...

    Mama. Runner. Director. Friend. Partner
    Happy. Tired. Loyal. Caffeinated. Curious.

    • Caffeinated is definitely on of my five!

    • Linda with an 'i' says...

      You must be Gemini :))

  9. Over-analyzer, lonely, organized, liberal, dreamer.

  10. Charlotte says...

    mother, friend, partner, trier, over-thinker

  11. Jess says...

    Wow, ten years ago I would have had said – no-nonsense, reader, runner, traveler, independent. I’m now in such a different season of life: Mother, runner, developer, listener, learner. I’ve mellowed so much in my thirties. I also prize different attributes than I did in my twenties. It’s funny how values and character and attributes can almost become a currency in our lives, and thankfully wisdom and experience can graciously lead us to release some for others.

  12. Nathalie says...

    Hi, I have been following your blog for many years, enjoying your honesty, journey, and wide range of topics. I’m a happy entrepreneur, wife, & mother of 3 stars. Believing in these 5 words:
    Partner, joyful, present, kind, nurturing

  13. Deborah says...

    This day my descriptors would be-artist, explorer, mother/friend, rider and preserver of memory.
    What a good way to open conversations with friends and family when you get together after time apart. I’m going to try this on an up-coming trip with a good friend of 28 years-can you tell how old our children are?

  14. Susie says...


  15. Elizabeth says...

    Mother, Woman, Student, Friend, Thinker

  16. Yvonne says...

    Mother, wife, friend, quilter, reader. Others might substitute baker for reader because that’s what I’m famous for, but reading is something I do every single day.

  17. Wife. Mom. Friend. Maker. Creator.
    I stumbled onto your blog when you where pregnant with your first baby! Wow, seems like a lifetime ago….. At that point, I was living in Johannesburg, South Africa, after which I moved to the Bush (yes, think Joy Adamson, with lions roaming, the lot!) Your blog inspired me to start my own. So, thanks for that! I’ve been living in the States for the last two years, and we are slowly finding our way. Would be great if we could do a reverse on your ‘Motherhood around the World’ series – my kids could not get over the postman doing his rounds every day or that schools have a full-on lunch room – unheard of, in Africa! Congrats on starting this blog, it clearly paid itself forward. Adél x

  18. Vanessa says...

    Engineer. Bride. Friend. Reader. Healthy.

    This list is already wildly different from what I would’ve written a couple years ago. Very interesting… MUST check back in 20 years!

  19. Blythe says...

    totally cheating here :)
    titles: mother, wife, Christian, daughter, reader
    adjectives: hopeful, open, sarcastic, loyal, intelligent

  20. Elise says...

    Wife, Mama, Feminist, Loyal, Reader

  21. Faith, family, food, fun fanatic.

  22. Fun! I’m gonna make a note in my “one line a day” journal and do this on the same day each year for 5 years.

  23. I unknowingly did this exercise the other day while creating a landing page for my soon-to-be-new website and listed “mama, wifey, soldier, CrossFitter, creator”.

    A few of those seem contradictory at first, but they fit.

    This was fun. I’m totally borrowing it!

  24. I did this the other day for my ex- boss, he asked me if I how described myself had changed & I said no, I’m still awkward, sarcastic, blunt & introverted but I’m also incredibly loyal.

  25. Interesting little assignment! Love seeing everyone’s words. Right now mine are: Entrepreneur, wife, homebody, curious, hopeful

  26. I love this idea! I am 27 and my five would be: driven, focused, happy hungry, friend, and single. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Love Nora! This is such a good way to see where you are and also your growth.

  28. Happy, loved, free, stretched, protective.

  29. This is a fun challenge.

    By the age of 25 I would describe myself as: Ambitious – politican (I’m the vicemayor and a member of Aarhus City Council) – student (I have just started my Master) – adventureous – girlfriend (I have currently been together with my boyfriend for more than 2,5 years).

    Great post Joanna!

  30. Wife. Dog lover. Honest. Sensitive. Seeker.

  31. Right now: mother, writer, adventurer, loved, strength.

    Mindful is my word for the year, no, decade!

    I love how what others wrote makes me consider where I’d like to be down the line, or where I’ve come from.

    And I’m already reconsidering…maybe lover not loved. Or devoted. And that’s interesting too – why the edits?!!

  32. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that last quote. There is nothing kids can tell you more about than the last time they threw up. Or when their sister did. Or their dad. Or their dog. They can’t get enough.

  33. Girlfiend, vegan, student, introvert, happy.

  34. I love this. Right now: reader, writer, girlfriend, uncertain, wanderlusty

  35. Hmm this is kinda tough!! It’s hard to not over-think this… being brutally honest is hard. And it depends on one’s mood too, I think. And only 5 words.. aaah!! Introverted, frustrated, worrier, determined, impatient. Those words describe my current state of mind… I am on the brink of a huge life change (moving countries). I’m impatient because it’s not happening yet… certain things need to be in place first. I could add so many not so positive words into that mix right now… I’d say those five capture me fairly well right now, though. And I totally agree with her quote on the kids remembering those two things. Spot on!

  36. Fabulous article, it’s amazing looking back over the years how we change and grow. Mine would be writer, reader, dreamer, adventure, shopaholic! 😀

  37. Totally did this today on my blog linking to yours. Thanks for the idea! Am 32 weeks pregnant. Plan on revisiting my Five Words in five years.

  38. Such a great post. I plan on linking it from my post for an inspirational monday series. Thanks so much!

  39. Beautiful article! I would describe myself as: happy, funny, supportive, open-minded and friendly.

  40. Word at the moment: patience

    My 5 changed drastically 2 yrs ago when I met my hubby.
    Girlfriend, foodie, anglophile, disciple, adventurous

  41. Let me see… I used to have ‘Happy, healthy, loved and busy’ as my profile description – but that is only 4 words, and that was 8 years ago. Now I think I would go for Wife, Mother, Impractical, Grateful, Creative.

    I have done the OLW (One little word) thing for years too – My favorites were Selfless, Breathe and Imperturbable. But they were more goals and guidelines than descriptions. ;-)

  42. Ten years ago:
    Working. Mother. Creative. Wife. Stressed.
    Sick. Struggling. Caregiver. Grandmother! Dreamer.
    Ten years from now (I hope):
    Alive. Overcomer. Artist. Married (in January we will celebrate our 29th anniversary so in 10 years I hope we will be celebrating our 39th!). Loved.

  43. Love this idea – neat to see how life changes you. We might describe ourselves as sassy, sweet, wife, working women and entrepreneurs. xo – R&R

  44. This is such a beautiful idea. Today mine would be lover, reader, introvert, happy & tired.

    Lauren x

  45. Right now, I’d have to say: Married, daughter, friend, practical, dreamer.

    I do have a guiding word for the year: Mindful.

    It’s helped me with the decisions and thoughts I’ve been making this year.

  46. I love this! So much. I especially love that it lends you to change and evolve and to be conscious and appreciative of that.

    I think mine right now would be.. wife, entrepreneur, seeker, yogi, cocktail enthusiast

  47. Daughter, observer, thoughtful, loyal, homebody.

    Not necessarily in that order :)

  48. How fascinating! Right now I’d choose wife, mama, young, awed, and full.

  49. newlywed, cat mama, dreamer, procrastinator, happy

  50. Today I am mom, empty nester, collector, coffee fiend, wife. This is one of my favorite posts ever.

  51. Love reading all these entries. So hard to come up with something that feels right. Mama, that’s the easiest. intellectual, writer, lover, sensitive. Of course I’ll change my mind about these 4 in a short while. Also, I’m conveniently leaving out my bad traits. Harder than twitter. I thought it was interesting how Ephron first described herself in political terms and then moved away from that.

  52. I really love this idea! I would describe myself as nice, wife, loving, researcher, and creative. I asked my husband to describe me and he said “smart, naive (!!), lovely, cute, and caring”…

  53. This is so intriguing.

    I think my five would be: reader. writer. daughter. eternally exhausted. lost.

  54. This is great! I am a high school teacher and we are exploring identity right now and I am going to use this in a lesson tomorrow! Thanks for the idea! Love it.

  55. So great….love this idea so much.
    mine would be: mama, best friend, artist, reader, happy

  56. I love this! Something we did with a group of friends was to have everyone write one word that they thought of every other person. Then, we read the words to each other- it was incredible and I still have mine. The words for myself would be loving, bubbly, adventurer, entrepreneur, philanthropist.

  57. Omg am I the worst mother ever that I didn’t think mother as one of mine? Sigh…I’ve had a long irritated day. Mine that came to mind immediately were: funny, smart, driven, loving, sensitive. As a side note I do the word a year – mine this year is CELEBRATE and its cool because the post office had celebrate stamps for new year’s (saw them after I picked the word) and I’m reminded everytime I use them! :) I think I’ll ask my son what his five are for himself.

  58. Oh, that is so simple brilliant! The first five descriptions that jump me in my head: mother, creative, optimist, restless, cosmopolitan. I’m going to try that with my seven year old girl, too! I love the last quote! Have a lovely day!

  59. Great idea! Me in 5 words: traveller, optimist, Londoner, friend, independent.

    Emma @

  60. Sister, daughter, writer, reader, cook. I love this.

  61. Loyal, excited, tired, intelligent, open

  62. Actress, dreamer, highly sensitive, positive, twenty-something.

  63. Great idea!! So many words through my mind, but I consider myself as a sensible, enthusiastic, smiling, marketing adventurer and creative.

    I’ve asked that question millions of times through job interviews and it was always a difficult one. Today, I take some time to think, so, thanks so much for that reflexive moment Joanna!

  64. dc says...

    Loved, Happy, Contented, Fit = Grateful :)

  65. What a coincidence, I just wrote about where I see myself in 5 years on my blog today. It’s important to take stock of things every once and awhile.

    My five words: Blogger, daydreamer, happy, nosy (the good kind…) and grounded! :)

  66. Haha! I love that people are switching their words already. It just shows how complex each person can be. But I also really love this exercise because it forces you to spend some time thinking about the things that make up who you are. I’m sure I’ll want to change my choices in five minutes, but I think mine are: lover, mama, writer, graceful, and learner. Thanks so much for your wonderful content, Joanna and Caroline!

  67. Curious, driven, nature/cat lover, independent, social

  68. This is brilliant – you always come up with such great posts that are all at once so random and so relevant!

    Five words I’d use would probably be – young, ambitious, lost, adventurous and loving.

    I’m writing a blog that would help fresh grads who are just starting their careers navigate the “life” aspect of work/life and you have been such an inspiration :)

  69. To @anniematics point, not only is this a fascinating exercise, but take it one step further and ask what your partner or friend would say about you. We see ourselves so differently sometimes.

  70. hahaha megan me too. now i want:

    entrepreneur, curious, mama, reader, oenophile :)

  71. It’s been ten minutes since I posted and I’ve already amended mine! Whoops. I can’t imagine ten years from now…

    in love, Washingtonian, twenty-something, compassionate, grateful.

  72. annie, you are so sweet! sleepy was kind of a joke because i am DYING OF TIREDNESS TODAY. but yes, entrepreneur is a good one for sure….i was going to put curious but then sleepy overwhelmed it :)

  73. I have to admit, I felt underwhelmed by your word choices! Sleepy?!?! How about entrepreneur, New Yorker, traveler, creative, fashionable, blogger? I admire a lot about you that did not make the list.

  74. J. says...

    Typically I feel confined by these type of activities, but this one is more flexible and I like the way it changes over time. It’s something I would want to keep in a journal with my new year’s resolutions as an annual exercise. Would be nice to look back on. Thank you for the idea!

  75. I love this! I’m going to get my husband to write down 5 things too and we’ll revisit in a few years :)

    Mine would be: creative, content, partner, loved, inquisitive

  76. I love this! I think I would say: in love, Washingtonian, twenty-something, fundraiser, happy.

    Sort of along the same lines (ish??), I recently had a birthday and a coworker told me that her family has a tradition of asking “What is your birthday wisdom?” to the birthday boy/girl at his/her celebration. And the birthday boy/girl can share whatever they wish with everyone — advice, their triumphs or defeats, their big takeaway for the last year, etc. Then, the family keeps a record of it in a birthday wisdom journal! I LOVE that idea and definitely want to start that when I have a family someday.

  77. I’d say college, friend, loving, young, and learning. I like to think about what my family and friends would choose too :)

  78. So many words floating through my head based on the past and present. Top picks would be:
    1) Explorer
    2) Loyal
    3) Softie
    4) Creative
    5) Friendly

    I remember doing this exercise in grade school. Wish I could find that art project and see how things have changed or stayed the same!

  79. I’d say college, friend, loving, young, and learning. I like to think about what my family and friends would choose too :)

  80. What great posts today! Much appreciated. Thank you!

  81. Wife. Friend. Over-achiever. Introvert. Foodie.

  82. That last quote kills me. So true. My dad always says, “You called out ‘Mom!’ for everything except when you had to throw up. Then it was ‘DAD. I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD!'”

  83. What a great idea, I will try this and in 10 years look back and see if they are the same.

  84. right now I would say homeowner, bride-to-be, stressed, broke and lucky …. it’s quite the chapter!

  85. one distinct thing i remember from middle school was throwing up and calling for my mom only to hear “why do you think i’d want to watch you throw up?” That said, I’m 26 and my mom mails homemade chocolate chip cookies almost once a month to my office halfway across the country.

  86. Adventurous. Loyal. Sensitive. Impatient. Hopeful.

  87. Mine would be photographer, wife, nanny, friend, free. And I love that last quote about children. I remember puking as a child! But I’m pretty sure my mom was always there.

  88. Love this!

    I think mine would be: mother, wife, walker, introvert, joyful

  89. Designer, mama, wife, friendly and busy.

    Nora Ephron is awesome! Love her writing.

  90. It used to be :Friend, sister, mother, reader, lover of tea.
    Now instead of reader, it’s watcher of too much TV.

  91. I think this is great, but hard. Mine would be dreamer, creative, financial analyst, dog mom, silly.

    Ask me again in 10 years… or even 10 minutes!

  92. my sister and I speak in movie quotes nonstop unless something really serious has happened in the family. It keeps the mood light and the conversation usually ends in laughter. This is one quote that needs to be put in the vault, I love it!

    My five words at the moment would include: Curious,Librarian,Adventurer,Passionate and Girlfriend

  93. this is my favorite post of yours in awhile.

    mine are:
    introverted. self effacing. hungry. full. in transit.

  94. Mother, photographer, friendly, creative, curious

  95. I love Nora Ephron. My words would be strong, curious, thinker, lover, friend.

  96. Mama. Wife. Researcher. Joyful. Tired.

    I love pretty much any quote from Nora Ephron. Amazing lady.

  97. Love Nora! What a great lady. I love that this is something that will revolve with time, as well.

    Today, I would say that I am: creative, happy, Californian, married, and reflective.

  98. Mommy, neurotic (I have a four week old and a four year old – I worry about EVERYTHING!!) exhausted, stressed…you know what? I’m opting out of this right now. I’ll come back to it on a month when not smack in the middle of newborn haze and my adjectives are little more positive. Lol!

  99. The world is a better place for having had Nora Ephron in it…

  100. Interesting how it changes! Let’s see
    thinker, mama, loving, writer, sensitive

  101. What does it say about me that while I wouldn’t worry about describing myself as a wife or mother if I was that, describing myself as “single” sounds kinda sad? Is this the product of being in a society that tends to celebrate family-related occasions over solo ones (where is my “you graduated from grad school shower” with registry, gosh darn it?!), or is this just my own issue? Deep thoughts. ;)

    To be more breezy, the five words that would describe me now are: independent, loving, adventurous, easy-going, career-minded.

  102. What a great game! Mine would be: Freelancer, wife, pregnant, designer, ambitious

  103. Unemployed, free, confused, in transition, married

  104. I did (for the first time) the word-for-the-year thing, and I chose “brave.” Though I’m actually thinking that could be my word for life :)

    Right now, I’d pick lover, remarker, joyful, learner, and…clumsy :)

  105. loving, mama, insecure, confident, hungry

  106. “content.” i love that, alexandra.

  107. love this! i want to pick my 5 very carefully…i think they’d be: happy, motivated, wife, baby-grower, adventurer.
    and looking back at those 5, i am pretttty satisfied :)

  108. I definitely believe people have distinct chapters or seasons of life. Right now I am feminist, student, girlfriend, wanderluster, and happy.

  109. This is a great idea :) I think I would write explorer, writer, creative, single, content.

  110. Introvert, adventurer, museum lover, auntie, beloved. :)

  111. I love this! What a great quote from Nora. The five words I’d use to describe myself might be content, creative, girlfriend, dog mama, social media marketer.

  112. Oh man! I think I’m going to do this, just to see how I end up in a few years. Another sweet idea I’ve heard is to come up with a word of the year for yourself to keep you grounded and centered when the going gets tough over the course of that year. I like that better than New Year’s resolutions.