Monday, March 12, 2012


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
 - Albert Einstein

I have a pet peeve. Ok, so I have several. But since complaining happens to be one of them, I try not to dwell too much on them. Ok, so this blog is one of the few places I allow myself to dwell a bit...but on to the point:

I have one really big pet peeve. Big to the point where there have been times I have wanted to cause physical harm to those that display this behavior....for the record I have never done that. But I have wanted too. This peeve is big to the point where I very much want to walk out of the room every time it happens. I hate it when this is done in jest, since there is all too often a little too much truth to this jest. I really hate it when this is done in earnest. When this happens over and over again in one conversation, that is the very worst, and I have no idea how to handle it.

I hate it, with a passion, when people put themselves down.

I hate it when people put themselves down physically. I hate it when they cut themselves up emotionally or list their self thought-out short-comings to the point of self abuse. I hate it when they laugh at themselves in a nasty way, or when they can't hear a compliment or take admiration because they are so far into the pit of self-hate they have created that they cannot recognize the truth when it hits them like a shoe in the face. I hate it even more then when people are boastful or self indulged, though I will argue that self-depreciation is a form of self-indulgence. But when hateful self-damaging comments spout from someone so casually that you know their brain is working at it constantly and you are hearing only what spills out? Then I want to take them by the shoulders and shake them while yelling, "You are more then this!"

I was at a social gathering recently, one in which I knew exactly 1 person. That 1 person I knew well, but there were many others around of whom I knew exactly zero. One of the members of said social gathering had a tendency to put themselves down. Now, it happened once and I smiled, not really sure if this was a joke I was expected to laugh at or whether I was expected to come back with an encouraging "don't say that, I am sure you have many talents" or something to that effect. 

A word of warning? I will never flatter just for the sake of flattery. Ever. I think it is insulting and cheap and I refuse to play that game. This means that when I give you a compliment, you can know that it is always something I truly believe. I hope it holds more weight that way. I really do.

Back to the subject at hand - I had known this person for approx. 11.3 minutes when I first noticed this behavior and felt immediately trapped and deeply saddened by it. If I am to find these comments funny then that means that this person has made an assumption about my character that I don't like. I would like them to know I am generally a kind person that does not judge or criticize or find humor in other people's folly. This means my first inclination might be to compliment them, claim the self-statement they just made to be false. Whatever form of "I'm sure you have many talents" comes to me fastest.

But no, you see - I also hate to be manipulated. And whether this person meant it or not, was aware of it or not...this was a form of manipulation. So I smiled just a little and changed the subject, praying it would not come up again.

My prayer was not answered that night.

It came up again, and again, and again. I never once offered empty encouraging words, claiming a relationship there is no way I could have had - knowledge about the person's life, habits, hobbies and/or abilities be hanged. "I will make them take back every self inflicted wound and force them to love themselves again!" Never crossed my mind.
Perhaps it was rude of me?

But honestly I am sometimes certain I am missing some crucial social cues. I think it comes from being home schooled honestly. There are things you are "supposed" to say to certain comments here in America. A dance of sorts, somewhat like the "oh I will get the check this time" dance you play at the end of a dinner out with friends. It is cultural, social, etc. The norm that everyone knows. 'A' happens and you respond with 'B'.  I remember studying people in social settings very closely while in High school. I was a student of people. I had only a few hours a week to make sure that I "got it all" as far as how a normal high-schooler was supposed to act. I can remember piecing together the personality that I wanted to emulate, based on what I admired of other people. That is probably why my mother worried she would lose me if I had been given the opportunity to be a normal kid in high school. She recognized parts of what I would present as my own, as parts of those I had recently been around. And perhaps she is right. I was experimenting with personality, "finding myself" if you will. Watching how others reacted to different quirks, comments, gestures. Watching the body language of those that presented themselves as confidant and mimicking that, regardless of how I felt. And watching those that displayed self loathing or simple naivety and working to avoid that. I also watched the people I did not want to be like. The mean kids, the ones that seemed to be going no where, the ones that could be counted as the "wrong crowd". I was a very practical person and I was usually aware of my future, unaware as I was of where I would be in the years to come. I wanted to be prepared emotionally, physically and socially. I wanted to know what and who to avoid. What behaviors indicated what habits. I also watched how others reacted socially to me and how it was different and why, and I worked to change myself until I got the reactions I wanted. It worked.

I still watch people. Public speakers, authority figures, people whom everyone just loves - seeing what they do, say; how they dress, act. It is why I love doing monologues, one of the reasons I love theatre so much. The world is your textbook. And there are endless opportunities for practice.

Perhaps my past practice is why I see this sort of thing in people. And why it bothers me so much. Why would someone present themselves as someone who dislikes themselves, especially since there is a very good chance that is not true. Was this person aware of what they were doing, who they were presenting? Was I getting the real them or a picture, either purposefully or not.  I"m not sure, and perhaps that is what bugs me. I still have no idea who they are, regardless of how much time we spent together.

I realize - I do not care what people think of the real me, the true me. So long as I am being the person I feel I was created to be. However, it bothers me when I am perceived incorrectly. And on the flip-side of things, it bothers me greatly when I feel I am perceiving someone else incorrectly. I know this "put myself down" all the time is a subset of one of America's standard created personalities. One of the "in the box" ones that people adopt either because they believe it, they are in the habit of it or because of issues they have with their childhood - and please don't think I am judging. If there is another category I have missed please let me know. I do not mean to offend, I do offend on accident sometimes I have discovered. And know you have my deepest apologies, as I said I do not always say what I am supposed to say. Perhaps I need more study-time?

I also do not count in this category the ability to see ones own limits. I am a terrible dancer. This is a fact. Ask anyone who has seen me that has any knowledge in this field. It is truth. Now, if I said this 12 times a day, whining about it. Wishing I was a better dancer but never ever going out and doing the work to become one? Then you may take me by my shoulders and give me a good shake. And if I ever do fall into that habit please do! On the other side of this I will claim I am a good cook. I have been told this, most people especially like the bread I bake. I love baking bread. But if I were to bake a loaf and immediately say "I really suck at baking bread" to a chorus of "No, this is really good!" every time? Would that not be manipulation?  Now, sometimes my bread comes out crappy because I am terrible at following a recipe. I feel it limits me. But that is my own thing to work on...

Am I making any sense? Is this all just me being overly sensitive?

Einstein said that to expect different results while doing the same thing over and over is insanity. I disagree. I call it blind hope. And I call bluff to those of you that do it in the form of insulting yourself. We all do it every so often - but I mean if it is a part of your normal conversation. And listen the next time you meet someone new as that first impression we present can be so important. I have started listening. Ah yes, listening. Perhaps that is the lesson in all this. And once again I must cut my post short because the restaurant is closing. So I leave you with the wisdom of the ages:

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

 - Author Unknown

1 comment:

  1. You make total sense and upon reading this I realize that I this is also a pet peeve of mine. My mom is one of those people that you know when she gives you a compliment she really means it. They are like gold to me. I do respect the heck out of that. Well written post.


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