We all have things we like about ourselves. Special traits and abilities. Things that set us apart. Things that make us proud.
Probably the thing I like most about myself is that I rarely need approval. Peer groups and expectations have little power over me. Criticism is criticism and I milk it for information, but don't think it is about me. I like being the watcher in the corner of the room. I'm happy to walk the perimeter while the big wheels make their big deals and network.
It is almost a superpower. It allows me to blend in and make friends in many cultures. Things get done because it doesn't matter to me who gets the credit. We do the job, lieutenant gets the praise, Captain does the press release... everyone is happy.
It is almost the direct opposite of the personalities that Charles pointed out, the ones who can't distinguish between good and bad attention. Almost the direct opposite and almost exactly the same. Because in a deep level, I don't distinguish either. Neither is very powerful, but praise makes me almost as uncomfortable as criticism.
Talked a few weeks ago with a friend who shares some of these traits. What do we have in common? A childhood where any attention could be actively dangerous. We both learned very early that it was better to be invisible than to be good. With time and work and skill, we turned that into something to be proud of. Handled a little differently we may both have been one short step away from a groomed victim profile.
Same with the ones who don't distinguish between positive and negative attention. A very particular type of ass in normal life, but with time and work and skill thriving on both kinds may be what it takes to be a celebrity.
Nothing special. The personality trait I am most proud of may have been nothing more than a random result of early conditioning. This ability that makes me so special (in my own mind) might be just luck. I deserve credit no more than a turtle plodding through a maze. Some take the right turn, some don't. Some are in mazes with different rewards than others. All the ones who don't die adjust. Just turtles, just living.
Then the human tacks on an elaborate story of struggle and triumph, heartbreak and glory. An elaborate, fragile, wholly imaginary story.
I think this is why there was so much backlash against the Behaviorists long ago. It explained everything, was open to rigorous experimentation and study... but left no room for the story. No place to feel special.
It is a pretty deep abyss to look into: The possibility that everything you have done and been is...
What? Luck? Nothing at all? Random? Protoplasm responding to pain and pleasure?
This is what I think about when I snap awake at three AM, like I do most nights.
Bonus points: Did you notice all the weasel words in this? The 'may' and 'mights' and 'possiblies.' Not sure I like looking into this abyss much either.