Why Praising Someone For Their Brain Is Just As “Shallow” As Praising Them For Their Beauty
While it was generally well-received, yesterday’s guest post from Chris E. garnered some pretty pointed criticism. Some I anticipated (a young and attractive newlywed making any complaint whatsoever about married life is going to feel some pushback). And, some caught me by surprise. I had no idea that some people think that wanting some form of validation from the opposite sex—and feeling weirded out when it’s not there—made a person (at best) insecure or even (at worst) mentally ill.
This left me with two conclusions:
1. VSB has somehow managed to collect some of the most grounded, unflappable, and self-assured men and women who have ever existed.
2. Some of you are full of shit.
While I (obviously) can’t speak for everyone, I think we all seek validation in some way or another. And, sometimes this validation is from strangers. Perhaps we don’t all desire to continue to be hit on after we’re already married or told we’re sexy, but really how is that any different from tweeting something especially insightful and anxiously waiting to see how many retweets you get or telling a small joke at the end of a staff meeting and smiling to yourself after making a few people laugh? In each case, you did something to garner an insignificant response that made you feel a little better about your day. Why is one “better” than the other?
Oh yeah. Because seeking and receiving brain-based validation is “better” than seeking and receiving beauty-based validation. Beauty-based validation—basically, validation based on something completely superficial and completely out of your control—is shallow, while brain based validation means you did something that anyone could have potentially done, but you just did it better.
Makes perfect sense until you realize this is bullshit as well.
Just as some people were born with more beauty-related gifts that others—natural curves, defined cheekbones, symmetric faces, clear skin, perfect teeth, etc—some of us were born with more brain-based gifts. Maybe you were born with an above average IQ. Maybe you learned to read at two. Maybe you’re able to do complex equations in your head while others need calculators. Maybe you’ve always had an advanced verbal intelligence, and you’ve always been the funniest and wittiest person in the room.
Either way, these are positive traits you really had absolutely nothing to do with. Sure, you went to school and read books and shit to enhance what you were already given, but all you did was enhance what you were already given. Your hard work didn’t give you those talents. Your mommy and daddy did. In this context, taking an architecture class to maintain and build on an already advanced spatial intelligence is no different than staying fit and using a skin regiment to maintain and build on your natural looks.
Obviously, there are people who managed to make themselves smarter through hard work, persistence, and will. But even they started somewhere and were more equipped to grow intellectually than someone born with even less intellectual gifts. Everyone has a range. Some ranges are just more expansive than others. (For instance, I was born with a decent amount of smarts and natural athletic ability, but regardless of how many books I read, games of 24 I played, or weights I lifted, I had no chance of being Stephen Hawking or Lebron James.)
I’m not saying we should stop praising people for their brains. Just that praising a person who was already born smart for their wit is really just as “shallow” as heaping blessings on their booty.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)