Do you think I’m funny?
No matter how you answer that question, I do. There’s probably a portion of people who read that sentence and had an automatic response of disappointment or even disgust. The reason why is I’ve just qualified myself; I have asserted an objective stance about something relative. I can think I’m funny, but that’s only true if someone else thinks I’m funny.
Relative qualities are tricky. We all have them to degrees; creativity, intelligence, beauty, sense of humour, everyone believes they have some, at some level. Not all of us believe we’re Chopin or Carlin, but we all have our secret belief of how good (or bad) we are at things. Not only do we believe that, but other people believe that about us as well.
We judge everything, despite our resentment of jury duty. We all have our taste in movies, books, friends, clothes, opinions, you name it, there’s a niche for everyone. We judge ourselves too, of course, we gauge our own strengths and weaknesses. But should our self assessments be brought to the attention of another person, who undoubtedly has their own ideas of our strengths and weaknesses, we’re brought to some bizarre psychological quagmire, uncertain of who’s correct.
We can’t qualify ourselves in the eyes of other people. Even as someone who plays music professionally, there’s still some expectation that you express humility; that you don’t consider yourself among the best at what you do. The second you transpose a judgment of quality on yourself, people around you aren’t totally sure what to make of it. Either you’re conceited, or not giving yourself enough credit, and it seems like there’s not a great deal of middle ground.
What is a relative quality, and moreover, why is our opinion on it for ourselves so poisonous to some? Is that a reflection on them or us? What is this knee jerk reaction we have to recoil at someone’s confidence, at the very least until it’s proven to whatever our degree of judgment calls for? Seems like if you tell someone that you’re funny, the next joke out of your mouth better have them in stitches or they’ll remain remarkably unimpressed and secretly annoyed with you.
I wonder if there’s some level of projection here. This is all personal, relative experience, but it’s hard for me to believe, having been in both positions, that this isn’t some intrinsic, human behavior. I don’t know folks, I don’t have a degree, just a search engine.
I guess any assertion you make about yourself seems inherently biased in your favor, even the negative ones. Some of us appeal to shrinking violets, or maybe we perceive that the person we’re talking to wants to encourage someone, because that’s a familiar form of support. To encourage someone who seems confident comes off as some kind of rank fandom, and a lot of us don’t want to feel reduced to idolizing someone that we’ve seen miss the straw when they try to take a sip. Maybe that’s why we’re loathe to someone’s judgments of self; they’re a beacon of manipulation, because invariably you have to challenge your internal bias, or view of that person, in order to accommodate this new and entirely subjective information.
After you figure that out, the next question becomes, so what do we do about it? Here’s where my knowledge falters a little. In my own life, I’ve learned to question any judgment I have about anyone, given my overwhelming tendency to be wrong in how I perceive people at first. Maybe a better question would be, is there anything to be done about it? Most of us can acknowledge when we’re wrong. Is it possible to simply concede that maybe someone can have a pretty accurate self perception, to simply bite our tongue and move on? Do you gain anything from pointing out the discrepancy between your opinion of someone and their own? Do they?
Our brains are constricted to biases; it’s not unnatural and it doesn’t make you stupid. Being aware that these traps exist allows you to examine them, and this example isn’t any different. Maybe someone thinks they’re a brilliant artist, because in terms of what they like, they’re doing it quite well. Sure, naked women with a face like a puzzle aren’t your thing, and you find the whole style rather unappealing and puerile. Could you do better than that person at it, and if you could, what would the point of being good at something you don’t enjoy, simply to spite someone?
Shit, there’s another relative quality; style. Style is tricky because it’s a fascinating look into how we create and attach ourselves to in groups. Style speaks volumes by simplifying us; those who try to be edgy because it’s our ‘style’ are letting the world know many things about our perceived sense of self, sense of others, and views on the world. Anyone who’s edgy has an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality, a feeling of being outside of some larger spectrum and therefore having a different (and correct, if you’re a narcissist) view about it. Considering something done well for it’s style is another way we can soften the blow of our idea of quality. You can’t compare a Jackson Pollock to a Botticelli, even though most people will agree the skill set to create the Birth of Venus would, at a glance, appear vastly more refined than that of Blue Poles (Google it).
I don’t know if there’s any conclusions to be drawn here, it’s just an observation. We have to project a sense of self that is clueless about our own self-worth in order to let people preserve their perceptions about us; assuming that’s what we want. How much we’re defined by other people’s perception is in direct proportion to how much we’re defined by shaping other people’s perception of ourselves. Put that in your pipe in smoke it.
Consider this a starting point for dialogue; I got nowhere with this article. I frequently end up nowhere with my articles, because it’s half of a conversation. It’s my perception, and as I just stated, that perception is genuinely influenced by that of others. Without other people to work things to, it’s hard to believe one’s sense of self boils down to anything but a hall of mirrors, courtesy of your gray, lumpy head puppy.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.