In Defense of “Me”

dreamstime_7591762There’s probably some psychological term for it in some obscure medical journal somewhere.  I’m talking about the abhorrence of the word me. I feel sorry for me.  It’s a perfectly fine word, but somehow it’s become a pariah to be avoided at all costs for fear of sounding…I don’t know…unlearned maybe.

To avoid me, many people use myself instead. Here’s an example of a recent email I saw.

“If you have questions, please contact customer service or myself.”

I’m sure the writer thought myself sounded smarter than the sad, little pronoun me.  However, me is the correct usage there and myself is well…wrong.

The basic rule for using myself can be summed up in one word – don’t.  I say don’t use it because 95 percent of the time, we get it wrong.  OK, so I made that statistic up, but I’m sure if I actually did a content analysis, 95 percent would be a low estimate.

If you want to use myself, here’s how.  Myself is a reflective pronoun, as in “I see myself in them mirror.” A reflective pronoun is the object so it can never be the subject. In other words, the subject of the sentence is the one doing something, and the object is the one having something done to it.  If you don’t want to dissect your sentences, generally, when you use the word myself the word I will also be in the sentence.  For example:

  • I’m going to treat myself to a spa day.
  • I see myself going to Hawaii one day.
  • I did the shopping by myself.

Myself can also be used to add emphasis to a sentence.  You might say, “I myself saw the bridge collapse.”

Now let’s take a look at the much maligned meMe is an object pronoun, which means it refers to the person the action of the verb is being done to or it is the person to whom a preposition refers.  Because of that, me isn’t likely to be at the beginning sentence, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.  Here are some examples:

  • They warned me it was time to go.
  • Please call customer service or me with any questions.
  • The committee wants to hear from you and me tomorrow.

Will you join me in my campaign to elevate the status of me, and return it to its rightful place? I can’t do it by myself.  I will take you and me.

The Power of the Right Word

Not long ago, I was running through the neighborhood when a boxer came barking and charging across a lawn right at me. I knew I couldn’t outrun the dog and figured running wouldn’t help me so I turned to face him and backed away.

I had heard once that “no” is a universal work that all dogs are familiar with, so I mustarded up my deepest, strongest, alpha-dog voice and said, “NO!”  The dog stopped in his tracks and turned his head, clearly confused that I knew the magic word.  He then glanced around him, like he thought his owner was nearby and he was being punked.

He turned back to me and turned his head to the other side.  I repeated “NO!” I don’t think dogs can shrug their shoulders, but if they could he would have just before he turned around and walked back to take up sentry duty on his porch.

It’s not only our canine friends who respond to the right word, so do we. Words are powerful.  The right word unleashes a tsunami of power. The right word has the power to persuade us, make us cry and make us laugh.

Concrete, specific words transmit so much more information than general words.  For example, there is a big difference between eating “food” and eating “three scoops of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip ice cream.”

Don’t settle for just any word.  Use the right word.  The results will be powerful.