Some time ago, a friend asked me what I was doing these days – a question that’s always a joy to answer. I figured “it’s complicated” is a bit of a conversation killer, so I explained that I’m a multipotentialite. I finished by summarizing my current life plan as “make a career out of doing everything.”
After listening for a while, my friend sat back with a thoughtful expression, before saying something that surprised me: “Isn’t that a bit, y’know… arrogant? To assume you can do everything?”
This was an angle I hadn’t considered before. Was it over-ambitious? Perhaps. Foolish, maybe. Unusual, certainly. But it simply hadn’t occurred to me to call the idea arrogant.
I can’t remember how I replied, so it probably wasn’t with anything particularly clever. But this comment has stuck in my mind ever since.
And so, after stewing on the question for many months, in a spirit of definitely-not-arrogant humility, I can reveal that I have the 100% absolutely-correct answer to the question: “is multipotentiality arrogant?”
We’re All Individuals
First, let’s remember there are two levels at play here. It’s possible to be arrogant as an individual, displaying the typical behaviors most of us picture when we think of arrogance. And then there’s also the possibility that the entire idea of multipotentiality is itself arrogant, even if the individual is not themselves arrogant personality-wise.
On the individual level, it seems obvious that anybody can be humble or arrogant whether they’re a multipod or not.
(Going further, and purely anecdotally, it seems to me that most multipods are actually more humble than the average person, possibly because they tend to be aware of a million different disciplines they wish they were better at. I’m interested in further speculation on this…)
Is the Concept of Multipotentiality Itself Arrogant?
This means the remaining question is whether the whole concept of multipotentiality is somehow “arrogant.” Let’s explore this using the most uncharitable view of multipotentiality I can come up with.
Devil’s advocate: Multipotentiality is arrogant because it involves people believing they are better than others because they’re able to do “everything,” while claiming exclusive ownership of “loving variety.” Surely everyone likes variety, so maybe multipods are just being over-dramatic about this. What makes them so special?
Well, putting it like that, it does make the concept sound a little arrogant. But is this a fair assessment of multipotentiality? Let’s investigate.
Nearly Everyone Likes Variety, but Perhaps Only Some NEED it
As Emilie discussed in a recent post, you can divide the reactions to learning about multipotentiality into two main types:
- “What?! Why on earth is that a thing?”
- “OH MY GOD, THAT IS SO ME!”
These two main kinds of reaction suggest there’s a real phenomenon here. While multipods don’t claim to have exclusive ownership of variety, perhaps they’re simply at the extreme end of the variety-desiring spectrum. For these people, it’s a relief to meet others who feel the same way.
Still, just because it’s a real thing, that doesn’t mean it’s not elitist.
Different, Not Better
As far as I know, the only requirement of being a multipod is your own desire to identify as one. Literally anyone can do so, if it would make them happier.
It’s not about being better in any way. Multipods don’t struggle to fit into a world made for specialists because they’re “too good” (or even because they think they’re too good), but because they simply don’t fit.
Similarly, a square peg isn’t too good for a round hole; it’s just a different shape. Puttylike is a place where all square pegs can get together and share their relief that they’ve finally found somewhere to fit in. It’s not about being better than anyone who fits more naturally into a specialist world.
It’s Not Literally Everything
My final thought on this is that nobody can do “everything” (nor would they want to). Of course it might sound arrogant to claim you can, but nobody seriously claims that. If someone says “I do a bit of everything,” they aren’t being literal.
Perhaps the possible perceived arrogance of multipotentiality, and the premise for this whole post, is simply confusion over a poetic “everything” versus a literal “everything.”
It seems we’ve reached a conclusion: we can be arrogant if we want, but if we are, it’s probably not because we’re multipotentialites.
Have you ever struggled to explain multipotentiality to a friend? Have you ever wondered if it comes off as arrogant? Please share, agree, or disagree in the comments!
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety. Along with writing more books, he puts his time into standup comedy, computer programming, public speaking and other things from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you found him at www.walkingoncustard.com and on Twitter as @enhughesiasm.