Cafe Witness

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Stop Telling Me I'm Amazing. I Know.

When was the last time someone came up to you and launched into a glowing report on how smart / talented / wonderful you are, and you preemptively cut them off with two words:

"I know."

I'm pretty sure your answer is "never," because doing so is considered rude, ungrateful, egotistical or any other personality trait we apply to celebrities who've lost touch with "who they are" and "where they come from." (Evidently, remembering "where you come from" implies that you should never admit that you aren't there anymore.)

Instead, conventional wisdom mandates that such exchanges must always proceed as follows:

Fan: "You're amazing!"

Hero: "Shucks. No I'm not..."

Fan: "Yes you SO are! And here's why!" [produces voluminous list of rationales]

Hero: "Well, if you say so..." [smiles sheepishly and stares at his own $4,000 shoes]

Such interactions imply that having enough confidence in your own work that you don't need to pretend to be validated by the words of others is somehow a character flaw.

But why?

Because the fan must also feel validated by the hero.

The Inverse Value Proposition of Being a Fan

In the eyes of the fan, the hero already appears to have everything. The hero is getting paid to do something that the fan considers to be a dream job, and by definition, having a dream job means that the possessor of said job would naturally be forever thankful. (After all, if the fan were in his hero's shoes, he'd be thankful.)

Conversely, if the hero no longer appears to be thankful for external validation, that means the hero has "changed," and it now becomes the job of the "fan" to instead tell the hero that he sucks. This is because the fan must feel as though his outreach to the hero is justified by imparting information on him that the hero would never otherwise know (or at least admit to).

All of which means that the rules of modern interaction were obviously written by fans who made the mistake of approaching too many heroes who were confident enough in their own abilities to not realize they needed "others" to validate them. (This makes sense, because their heroes were too busy doing heroic things to bother deciding how they should feel about them; that job fell to the fans, who had a lot of free time on their hands.)

I'd Like to Forget All the Little People

The bizarre lesson being taught here is that being confident enough in our own abilities to not constantly require external validation is somehow wrong. It's not. Not that you'd know that from the hyper-self-fascinated world of social media, where every view / follower / comment is analyzed to ensure maximum validation for the recipient, but it's true:

It's okay to be confident in yourself.

You don't have to be a douche about it, but you're certainly welcome to admit to yourself -- and, yes, to others -- that you are good at what you do, that you do stand out from the crowd and that you really did expect to succeed all along.

And if you're so good that you can be a douche about it and still remain at the top of your game, let's be honest: there's only so much time in the day, and sometimes douchebaggery is the finer part of brevity. So accept the obligatory applause, walk away, and get back to being a hero.

Because if you're good enough at being a hero, the fans will write your legend for you... whether you want them to or not.

Image by Our Hero.

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