July 20, 2022   

My Fear of Introductions

I have a fear of introductions. A room full of strangers introducing themselves is the stuff of nightmares. My heart rate increases as my turn approaches. I don’t think I’m alone in this. In fact, I’d argue that there is something wrong with people who are good at it.

Here is the thing: In my world, I don’t exist. I’m not an object I can perceive. Everyone else can be an object of my attention, but not me. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is right: “the limits of language mean the limits of my world.” “There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas.” And, finally, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

According to Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, we first recognize other people around us and recognize ourselves later in our childhood. So, this idea of self is technically part of the other. We deduce from what we observe that we must be like the others. “Self” proper does not exist. In other words, a subject is not something that exists in contrast to an object.

But in business, you must somehow talk about it. What you say about it is necessarily a piece of fiction at best or a lie at worst. If you are sane, you should feel awkward doing so.

This applies to businesses too. I’ve witnessed branding, marketing, and PR agencies struggling to define who they are, even though that is the service they sell to their clients.

And, it’s even harder if you have to say positive things about yourself. In business, the point of introducing yourself is to impress your audience, but evaluation of anything requires credibility. Ultimately, your audience wants to know, not how great you think you are, but how others judge you. You are the least qualified person to judge yourself, even if it’s negative.

You are comfortable sharing flattering pictures of yourself because the camera’s gaze is a third party. It’s like reading what someone else said about you. However, it is less comfortable when it’s clearly a selfie.

It’s easier to sell your products because there’s a degree of separation between you and your product. Selling yourself as a professional is much more difficult.

So, please, stop asking me to introduce myself.