Recently, Emilie challenged all of us to think about how being a multipotentialite has made us better humans. We featured some of your responses last week on the site.
I was surprised to find that this question was a challenge! I often think about how being a multipod has improved my life—the benefits of my transferable skills across work disciplines, the fun of diving into new learning all the time. But Emilie specifically asked us to go beyond that, and think about how doing and being many things has helped us be in relationship to others.
With some reflection, I discovered that when I opened myself up to multipotentiality, it also opened me up to totally new kinds of connections with others. I think differently about every team I join. Perhaps some of you will find that you share a similar journey.
Here are three things I do differently, now that I’m looking through a multipotentialite lens!
1. I seek a tapestry of skills and interests
Being a multipotentialite has taught me to value and strengthen lots of different skills within myself, rather than pitting my interests against each other in an attempt to home in on my “one true talent” or “one true calling.”
I used to see my interests as means to a specific end: creating something “useful,” or moving forward on a career path. Over time, reading Puttylike and talking with people from the large Putty community has helped me appreciate my skills and passions that don’t seem “productive” or have a lot of “value” (outside of the joy they bring me). Our interests are what makes life interesting. What matters is how I feel, day-to-day, when pursuing them.
That insight has really helped me appreciate the many skills and fields that I’m not that interested in, but that other people love. For example, I’m not very excited about understanding complex mathematics, developing an index-like knowledge of pop culture references, or building the technical know-how to light a movie set. But I’ve discovered that I love hearing about those worlds from the people who are passionate about them. I don’t have to compete to be “more interesting,” or downplay others’ work or passions, in order to feel like mine are important.
And taking an interest in what others are interested in makes me an infinitely better team player, especially when it comes to purposefully trying to build community. In the past, when I began planning a new event or project, my instincts told me to charge in and organize all the logistics myself. I often made an event happen or pushed a project to the finish line, only to feel like the connected community I had dreamt of still waited around another corner: the next project, the next event. I’ve realized that by prioritizing my own skills and strategies, I was robbing myself and the group of an opportunity to learn from one another.
Now, I slow down, engage in a conversation about the kinds of skills and passions the group has to offer, and we build things together. It usually takes longer, but it leads to more memorable and worthwhile projects, much deeper and more supportive relationships, and sustainable change.
Multipotentiality has helped me see that community–like life–is about the process, not an end goal.
2. I foster a culture of creativity
To embrace being a multipotentialite, you have to be willing to live outside the box. You’re going to be continually disrupting people’s expectations of you. This can be difficult, of course, because sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just have one passion, happily follow a more traditional career path, and not have to think about how to “scratch the itch” for a bunch of different interests.
But that thought, for me, tends to be fleeting. If I were only into one thing, I wouldn’t be me. And I relish the freedom of being a little weird, and the joy of offering that freedom to others. I want to encourage people to follow interests and passions that are out of their usual wheelhouse.
Sometimes in conversation, someone will mention a wish to do something a little outside-the-box, but then they laugh and shrink away from what they just said, as if it was scary. In the past I thought this was ridiculous. I remember thinking, If you want to do something, just do it. I wasn’t very sympathetic.
Now, I have more context and understanding, and a lot of that has come from talking to other multipotentialites about the joys and difficulties they experienced when coming to understand their multipod selves. Not all of us were encouraged to be creative growing up, and not all of us are surrounded by others who are courageously following their true dreams.
Now, I get it. It can be scary to do something totally new and different, whether it’s trying a non-stereotypical hobby they think clashes with their social identity, pursuing something despite not having any “talent,” trying a wacky idea that no one in their field really understands, or just following their own whim against others’ expectations. And I recognize that this person might be voicing this “weird” desire to me because they see me thriving in my multipotentiality. Which means I have an opportunity.
I try to ask questions, get curious about this interest they’re backing away from, and offer encouragement to them about really trying it. If it’s an interest I share, I can offer easy ways to get started. And all in all, I can try to help them question and break down whatever limiting beliefs are holding them back.
3. I hold space for complexity and change
Learning more about multipotentiality has helped me pay attention to waxing and waning seasons within myself. My desires and plans today might look different than they did yesterday. They might change again tomorrow. And that’s okay. I’ve learned to hold space for complexity and change within my feelings and interests. That, in turn, has made me much more patient and understanding toward others.
My internal landscape is sometimes a total mess—and not always because there’s something wrong. We humans are just messy: we are made of multiplicities, and it can be hard to hold all those contradictions in a place of grace. Plus, we’re often dealing with a world that wants to erase us, whether it’s our multipotentiality or other marginalized identities we hold, and that has a real effect on our mental health.
So now, when someone I know does something frustrating or problematic, I take a moment to breathe. Perhaps they’ve ghosted a project we were collaborating on, said something over-generalizing and hurtful, or prioritized their needs and wants over the good of the team. The truth is, I can recognize all of those same impulses within myself. I can resist going straight to good-or-bad binary thinking about that person or those behaviors. I can move away from strict “shoulds” about how community members must behave.
Before I take things personally or assume that the project or relationship is doomed, I try to get curious about where those actions could be coming from. And depending on the situation, maybe I can reach out in a meaningful way to touch base, clear the air, or help that person explore more expansive ways of thinking and acting.
And when it’s me who’s been flaky or selfish, or has made a mistake, I reach for a place of patience. Instead of declaring myself hopeless, I try to think about my “big picture” and offer myself understanding in the context of whatever’s going on for me. I think about what I can learn from the mistake—often I need to readjust my boundaries, or recommit to sticking to them. I do my best to take responsibility for the mistake, and try to make amends with the other folks involved. I’ve found that most people are incredibly understanding, and we’re actually closer after an honest and vulnerable conversation.
Changing the way we move through the world is not a simple thing. I’m very much still in transition with all three of the new behaviors I just listed, and I know I’ll continue to learn and transform even more.
But I’m so grateful to be a multipotentialite and to have the Puttylike community to lean on as I try to be a better member of all my communities. Thank you all for you teach me, multipods!
Do you feel like your multipotentiality has changed how you interact with others? Do you have a story about learning to be a better team player? Share with us in the comments below.