I was browsing through the first chapter of a new book this morning and I came upon another one of those grand examples of extroverts who don’t understand introverts. In the short span of one page it asks three impossible questions:
1. What is your fondest memory of yourself before the age of 12?
2. Who do you know whose personality you would like to steal and why?
3. Who do you admire?
Now for an extrovert perhaps these questions actually can have answers, but for me they are dead ends. The thing that extroverts never seem to understand about introverts is that we don’t look at the world through other people or compare our experience in it to what other people experience in a direct way.
Let me be more specific on why I have issues with questions like this, in all their many forms in which they have appeared over the years.
First, I don’t have any ‘fond memories of myself’ because I don’t sit around thinking about all the great things I’ve done and how wonderful I am. My most clear memory that I can associate with the word ‘fond’ is one that makes me laugh and involves a time I felt down 4 times in a row on a slippery sidewalk. I made a complete idiot out of myself in front of a ton of people. It was funny. It’s not a ‘fond memory of myself’ it is a ‘fond memory’ in which I happen to have been involved. It would have been funny even if I had watched it instead – maybe even more so.
Second, I don’t know anyone who has a personality I want to steal, borrow, or buy. I don’t know why anyone would. Of all the things in this entire world that you have varying degrees of control over, your personality and at least your reactions to things that come up in your life, are among those you have the most control over. Why would you spend time with a personality you didn’t like? What kind of person is so masochistic that they spend time in a person they dislike on purpose? My personality happens to be exactly perfect for me and if it was not then I would make changes.
Finally, the oh-so-common and painfully moronic question ‘who do you admire?’ The question of admiration goes beyond mere like or dislike. To admire someone is higher than like, to some people it may even be higher than love, it is to hold someone in high regard, to elevate them, to greatly esteem, etc… and there is one aspect all of those definitions have in common: you have to first believe in social hierarchy for them to work. In order to admire people you have to first believe that some people are (or can be) worth more than others.
You have to believe that it is acceptable to elevate your view of someone based on some reasons x,y and z that you feel determine their status to have been raised to a higher regard than you associate with most people. You can have whatever reasons you want to make this determination and yet these reasons, no matter how much you consider them valid, ultimately are the currency in the social hierarchy of your mind. These reasons are what make people ‘worth’ more than others. They are why you trust their opinion more, why you consider one person an expert and another a layman, why you listen carefully when one person speaks and barely pay attention to another person.
It should be no great surprise that I’m not a fan of social elevation. I also can’t answer the similar question about people I greatly respect, or would want to be, or any other similar kind of question. I don’t want to be someone else. The idea that enough people do want to be someone else, such that these questions have become common, should be disturbing to more than just me.
Now I certainly have no problem demoting groups of people in large, sweeping generalizations related to reasons I don’t like them — but that has to do with like, not admiration. I can like or dislike people, groups, communities, or even whole countries but that has nothing to do with how I perceive the individual worthiness of the people inside those groups.
You could put me in a room with an uber-left, tax and spend, social liberal, big government loving, privacy hating G-man type and I’d probably be filled with dislike, irritation, and other generally negative thoughts, but no matter how much I may dislike them, they are not ‘worth’ any less than me. Some people think there should be exceptions, some people can do great things, have great power, so they are more able (they say) to do great things than the average person which makes them worth more than the average person. I don’t believe that either. It could be the nicest person in the world with great amounts of influence, but they are still worth no more than any other single person on this Earth.
When you start to think, contextually, in this extroverted way, this way of perceiving your own worth externally through society instead of aside of it — you start to drift into the land of people who gain worth through society, people who elevate upward in society, people who become worth much esteem, more admiration, and have more worth than just a normal person… and that thought process all leads to the same place. If you look for your worth outside of yourself, you fall prey to a social construct that measures people as worth different amounts.
I find it amusing that the same people who would find it acceptable to say that some people are worth more, more esteemed, more admired, more worthy… those people would never want to think that they are saying the same thing as what some did when they called blacks 3/5 human, or when the disabled are treated as less than a whole person, or the very young and unborn, or the very old and dying. The concept of some people being worth more or less than some other person, instead of as equals, is a societal construct designed to allow some people to matter more than others, to justify using strength over others, to validate taking from others, and to further exploitation of others.
So there you go. When I read through a little fluffy book that starts asking questions like ‘who do you admire most?’ … this is what my introvert mind thinks of that seemingly innocent, yet very dangerous extrovert question.