Occasionally I hear from someone who is unsure if they qualify as a multipotentialite.
Maybe they have been involved in one area for a while now, and their pattern is starting to look more specialist in nature. Other times, it’s someone who is convinced that they are just broken. They seem to think, “Sure, there’s this thing called “multipotentialite,” but I couldn’t possibly be one. Not me. I’m just flighty and immature.”
The latter cases make me sad. I can certainly understand these feelings. I felt them for a long time myself. I try to provide tools and resources to help others develop their confidence, but associating with the identity “multipotentialite” is probably the best way to start. Give yourself the identity, even if you don’t fully believe it yet.
The Pros and Cons of Labels
When you embrace a particular identity, you start behaving in ways that are in line with that identity. This can be both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, labels can make you feel stuck and can limit your options (which is why we should be willing to shed them as necessary).
However, adopting identities from an aspirational perspective can push you to achieve great things. Mastin Kipp whote a piece a while back about how he had begun seeing himself as an Athlete. He gave himself this new identity, and as you can imagine, it made it much easier to go to the gym.
When I began using the term multipotentialite here on Puttylike, it was my way of taking a behavioral pattern that is commonly looked down upon, and turning it into an an empowering identity. It was created for you to use. Not just so you can explain your shape-shifting nature to other people, but to help you embrace it yourself, and grow into the person you’re meant to be.
Clarifying the Definition
Confidence issue aside, some people just want a clarification of my definition of multipotentialite. I do think that there are still some insecurities looming beneath this question though. They want to know if they belong, and whenever I hear this, my all-inclusive nature just wants to scream, “YES. If you are asking this question, then you are almost certainly a multipod! You don’t need to justify yourself to me or anyone else. You belong here.”
But while we’re on the topic, why don’t I just clarify my definition of a multipotentialite a bit. I received this question last week:
I was wondering if you could clarify a bit the definition of multipotentialite. Is this someone who focuses on one thing for a while and then move to another and then another? Is it someone who has multiple projects from various disciplines on the go concurrently? Is any combination of these? Is there are certain bar a person has to satisfy for you to consider them a multipotentialite? Would you, for instance, consider someone who was interested in 3 or 4 related fields a multipotentialite?
The Different Types of Multipotentialites
In her book, Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher delineates a bunch of different types of Scanners. There’s the “Plate Spinner,” “Double Agent,” “Sybil,” and various others. Personally, I find these distinctions a little artificial, as I think there are innumerable types of multipotentialites.
However, as long as a label is empowering and not limiting to you, I don’t see a problem with it. For me however, I don’t find it helpful to identify as a particular type of scanner. I have a tendency to shift between modes depending on where I’m at in my life. I prefer to just trust my instinct and go with what feels right.
My take on the issue is that there’s a spectrum. On one end, you have the sequential multipotentialite: the person who dives deep into one subject for many years and then switches to something entirely new and focuses solely on that. To the outside world, this person might look more like a specialist, but they’re still a multipod, they’re just more sequential in nature.
On the other end of the spectrum is the plate-spinner: the person with twenty different projects on the go at once. Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes and shift around at different times in our lives.
To answer this reader’s other question, pursuing 3-4 interests at once certainly qualifies you as a multipotentialite. I might even have fewer projects than that in my life right now. I tend to be more on the sequential side of the spectrum.
But to anyone who’s wondering, yes, you are a multipotentialite, and yes, you belong here.
Have you ever had “imposter syndrome” about being a multipotentialite?