Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bragging

No, this is not a blog about my kids, I want to discuss pride and why people do what they do. On my survey there was a respondent who commuted by bike. To be specific it was a recumbent. In some of the open ended questions he mentioned that he commutes by bike because it is different, it isn't the norm. He takes it to another level and specifies that he commutes by recumbent because most people who commute by bike don't ride recumbents. He has a desire to stick out, to be different.

Why? Probably because it draws attention to himself. I watch my kids fighting for attention all the time and I think that we as humans really like attention. Do I want people to know that I woke up early and rode my bike 12.3 miles instead of driving? Well, I like it when people ask... errrr when I get (make) the opportunity to tell people that I commute by bike. It puts attention on me and I don't think that I'm the only one that likes that attention.

Do I want you to know that I'm better than you because I had the strength and courage to battle the bad weather and mean drivers on my way to work while you were lazy and sloth like (I think you're ugly too, but that's a different point) and drove? Suddenly I'm not feeling so good about myself and my bike ride to work. I do not believe that I'm better than motorists. I know that there are many reasons to drive. I know that many people would like to ride but can't for whatever reason. There are many people that just don't think of it. That's OK. Do I hope that some drivers will see me and think, "gee, I think I could do that"? Sure, I hope that I can motivate someone to start riding. That is not, however the reason that I ride.

I have heard of people who will not do something because they feel it will make it look like they are bragging. Wouldn't that philosophy, taken to extremes, lead to a world where everyone does exactly the same thing in order to not stick out? I don't think that's healthy. But some people will do something for the sole purpose of being different, not necessarily because they like or agree with the thing they are doing. I don't want to mistaken for someone like that, that's not who I want to be.

I know it's easy, all you have to do what you believe regardless of what people think. Except making impressions with others is a HUGE part of this world. Other peoples' judgements of me will decide my job and my friends and define my reputation. If you get a reputation as 'that creepy guy who never really does any work', that sticks with you, it doesn't suddenly vanish. It takes a lot of work to demonstrate otherwise. And what work are you doing to convince people that you do something? You are taking good care of what people think of you to build a reputation. In the end, it does matter and we have to take a little care of what people think of us. I know there are moments when I say something and can tell that it was taken wrong and I think, "oops, that came across far more egotistical than I intended".

So here's a challenge for you (and me). Pretend for a day that the word 'I' is the most profane word that you know. Using that word is the greatest insult imaginable to the person that you happen to be talking to at the time and it should be avoided. The point of this is not to absolutely avoid using the word 'I', the point is to make a mental note of when you use it and how often you talk about yourself. How egotistical are we? I've done this before and look forward to doing it again. It's insightful. How long can you go without talking about yourself? How does it make you feel? How does it make the person you are talking to feel? Let me know how it goes.

2 comments:

RoadRage said...

I'm going to start off breaking your "I" rule just to get it out of the way, because I can't think of a way to express my point of view without "I". Compromise is...i'll not capitalize :-)

Now this post i like....neither political nor green, just philosphical musings on humans. i'm sure i'm just being naive, but i like to think people use different ways to draw attention to themselves because they want others to like them. Whether it's your kids, your colleagues, or your surveyees, i truly believe that humans need to connect with each other and one of the most basic ways we express that need for connection is by gaining another human's approval. i guess i would compare it to a wolf approaching the alpha in the pack and exposing it's belly...the wolf is looking for approval in order to connect just as humans look for approval in order to connect and feel a part of the pack.

Note - non-gratuitous props - even though i usually don't agree with your politics i applaud your pursuit of simplicity and the honest, straight-forward way you present your ideas. Also, a standing ovation for the way you and your wife devote yourselves to your kids.

i will now start attempting to get through the day without using "I"

Heather said...

Okay, I tried it. I forgot half of the day, but I tried to be conscious of when I said "I". The first half of the day it wasn't too hard, because it was just William and me. We mostly talk about him. Later on when I was around other people, I did said "I" a lot. More than I thought I would. Nice exercise. I was listening to other people, or I thought I was, but then I realized I kept saying "I" and was interjecting my thoughts instead of looking more into theirs and listening to what they had to say. Thanks, that gave me a lot to think about!