Get to know yourself better with these 35 brilliant questions from the legendary and wonderful French writer Proust.
ENGLISH DISCLOSURE: I’m from Switzerland (yes, chocolate!) so English isn’t my first language. Please forgive me for my mistakes 🙂
✓ Should I read this? You should definitely read this if you’re interested in knowing yourself better by answering 35 questions.
✓ How is it going to help me? I always say that we feel more comfortable with things that we are familiar with, that we know, so discovering yourself will make you feel better being the person that you are. And you may discover things about you that you maybe didn’t know until now!
The Proust Questionnaire: Getting to Know You
This is happening!
Looking to know yourself better?
So then, you can feel more comfortable being who you truly are?
So, in this post, we’ll be looking at:
• The origins of the widely read Proust Questionnaire
• The questions themselves
• The insight it has given me after taking it
Getting to know ourselves takes a lifetime since every age brings on more changes in our mindsets with every experience and every bit of wisdom we gain.
We’ll look at a fascinating and thought-provoking tool that’ll help us to get to know ourselves even better.
Who is Marcel Proust and what is the Proust Questionnaire?
Long before he became a renowned French novelist and essayist of the early 20th Century, Marcel Proust, walked into a party one day at the age of 14 to help celebrate the birthday of his good friend Antoinette Faure.
She already had a game or “confession album” going which consisted of several questions inside a large book.
The players had to answer a series of very personal and probing queries such as
• “Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?”
• “What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?”
• “Your favorite virtue?”
To each of these questions respectively, the teenager, Marcel responded:
• “Those … who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real”
• “To be separated from Mama”
• “All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues”
And did I mention that he was only 14?
At the age of 20, he participated in this game again (titled Les Confidences de Salon.); though his answers were somewhat different given the passage of time and the onset of maturity that accompanies the transitive years between youth and adulthood.
This time, the questions included:
• “What do you most value in your friends?”
• “What would you like to be?”
• “How would you like to die?”
To these, he replied with:
• “Tenderness—provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having”
• “Myself—as those whom I admire would like me to be”
• “A better man than I am, and much beloved”
Once again, his wit and tone shine through but most importantly, the extent of his self-awareness at a young age (which made him such a master of various genres of literature).
Nonetheless, Proust wouldn’t have suspected that a popular game would immortalize his memory and associate him with one of the most popular periodical features throughout all of history!!
From Parlor Game to Best American Series in Publication
His insightful responses have prompted some individuals to look at this questionnaire as a window into a person’s innermost loves, dislikes, fears—basically everything that makes a person tick!
Possibly, that’s why so many celebrities have chosen to participate Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire.
The Proust Questionnaire became a regular staple of Vanity Fair in 1993. To be called upon to answer the questionnaire was viewed as an honor—almost like a validation of one’s craft standing out from the rest.
Previous participants include:
• Julia Child
• Norman Mailer
• Arnold Schwarzenegger
• Joan Didion
• Nick Jonas
And many others since have responded to Proust survey and in turn, have captivated readers with its deep discernment and its ability to remind the readers that the participant, though a celebrity, is still…well, a person like you and me who are navigating through life! 🙂
So how would you like to obtain such a wealth of self-awareness? The questions!
Although Marcel Proust did create this questionnaire, he believed that, in answering these questions, a person uncovers his or her true nature.
Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire:
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
- Which living person do you most admire?
- What is your greatest extravagance?
- What is your current state of mind?
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
- On what occasion do you lie?
- What do you most dislike about your appearance?
- Which living person do you most despise?
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
- Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
- When and where were you happiest?
- Which talent would you most like to have?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
- If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
- Where would you most like to live?
- What is your most treasured possession?
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
- What is your favorite occupation?
- What is your most marked characteristic?
- What do you most value in your friends?
- Who are your favorite writers?
- Who is your hero of fiction?
- Which historical figure do you most identify with
- Who are your heroes in real life?
- What are your favorite names?
- What is it that you most dislike?
- What is your greatest regret?
- How would you like to die?
- What is your motto?
Are there any questions that stand out because you haven’t given much thought to those particular ideas or disregarded certain ideas altogether?
For example, look at the question about where you would like to live. Perhaps you might think, “Oh! That’s silly. How can I ever just pack up and move to…?” You fill in the blank.
My question for you is why not? Realistically, living in your ideal location won’t happen tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that won’t happen.
Only you can make that decision and work towards it 🙂
Opening the Gateway to My Own Self-Awareness!
I took the Proust Test and found quite enlightening and reassuring!
Pondering these questions reminded me what’s most important, like my loved ones and the realization that all of these years of living, loving, working, and dreaming have gifted me with a sense of joy, gratitude, and dare I say it? Wisdom!
Of course, I’m talking about the wisdom that comes from learning from what life dishes out.
I’d love to share with you some of my own responses 🙂
“What is your idea of perfect happiness?”
Eating something delicious with the people I love and then, watching a great movie.
“What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?”
I’m not patient. I truly wish that I would be more patient, but I feel like life is too short to wait!! I’m talking in general for example at the supermarkets or on the road, when people are driving slowly but also in another paradigm: I’m expecting results very quick when sometimes, things may take more time than the usual…
“What is your current state of mind?”
We are our own limits; we can do whatever we want with our lives; we just need to know what it is that we want and then to work hard for it. All the rest is in our head.
“What do you most value in your friends?”
I would definitely say that I value reliability (that they will keep their word), a great sense of humor and their open-mindedness about things and life in general.
“What is your greatest regret?”
Comparing myself to others and feeling pressure from society. The moment I realized (it took me time… 2 years I think aha) what I want to look back at my life and say once on my deathbed, I discovered what really mattered to me and I can imagine myself not caring at all about what people think.
Blazing Your Own Trail to Self-awareness
Gradually, as you ponder these same questions about what you hope for, what you love, and even what you deplore, you’ll discover one exciting revelation.
There is nobody else in this world like you, and you are unique with many distinct gifts to offer. Think about that the next time you see your reflection 🙂
And now, how about you go out into your community and spread that wealth of positivity, creativity, and originality in your own way?
Just like Marcel Proust did! And don’t forget to reach out if you’d like some company on this leg of the journey. I’d be very happy to help!
Here’s to learning more about you! 🙂
You may also be interested in…
- Improve Your Relationships Using Nonviolent Communication
- What Are Your Needs In Life And How To Take Care Of Them
- 15 Habits Of Extremely Successful People
- Comparing Yourself To Others: The 10 Things You Will Want To Hear
What do you think about these questions? Is there one that you liked in particular?