This cracked.com article is the most insightful I've read to date. The part that struck me most was "if all you can do is list a bunch of faults you don't have..."
... society is full of people who need things.
Either you will go about the task of seeing to those needs by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold.
Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness -- don't those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can't get elsewhere.
... you are nothing more than the sum total of your useful skills.
People have needs and thus assign value to the people who meet them. These are simple mechanisms of the universe and they do not respond to our wishes.
I'm asking what do you offer? Are you smart? Funny? Interesting? Talented? Ambitious? Creative? OK, now what do you do to demonstrate those attributes to the world? Don't say that you're a nice guy -- that's the bare minimum. Pretty girls have guys being nice to them 36 times a day. The patient is bleeding in the street. Do you know how to operate or not?
"Well, I'm not sexist or racist or greedy or shallow or abusive! Not like those other douchebags!"
I'm sorry, I know that this is hard to hear, but if all you can do is list a bunch of faults you don't have, then back the fuck away from the patient. There's a witty, handsome guy with a promising career ready to step in and operate.
Of course it's not a level playing field. Members of oppressed minorities might have talent, creativity and persistence without being hired, or published, or finding opportunities to develop their abilities.
A professor of mine once sneered that people aren't "creative" unless they've actually created. Were that catch-22 true, nobody could ever create anything. Funny how that tends to mean well off white guys are inherently the most creative, while the rest of us settle for novel cupcakes and graffiti.
Name five impressive things about yourself. Write them down or just shout them out loud to the room. But here's the catch -- you're not allowed to list anything you are (i.e., I'm a nice guy, I'm honest), but instead can only list things that you do (i.e., I just won a national chess tournament, I make the best chili in Massachusetts). If you found that difficult, well, this is for you, and you are going to fucking hate hearing it. [emphasis mine]
I can't name 5 things I do that actually impress people. I'm proud of two or three things I've done. Mostly nobody notices. I wonder what percent of people could pass that test?
"Mostly nobody notices". Not only that, mostly nobody cares! Maybe that's why I blog--to get attention. Anyway, the article was interesting--a two by four square on the forehead.
Maybe only entertainers would pass the test of impressing people because they are famous and people take notice of what they do and say, whether they deserve the attention or not.
Otherwise, average people like us just don't get noticed. And it's not getting noticed that I am concerned about, it's about making a difference in people's lives.
Ruth, your note about opportunities to develop abilities highlights another uncomfortable truth. Being born into a privileged class and ethnic group, or not, makes more difference than we'd like to think.
Anyway, and this aligns with Steph's comment, a better test would be naming things you do that make someone else's life better, whether you get a celebrity's attention for it or not.