“I hate how I don’t feel real enough unless people are watching.” Chuck Palahniuk
I am a poser. A Scottish poser. It was with some distress, then, that I realized some time ago that my humble little red-headed wife was related to the lesser kings of Scotland, the clan Douglas, the Black Douglas, the flower of chivalry, the Earl of Montrose, several prominent Jacobites, the earls of the Isles and Moray, and Archibald the Grim. My relatives were probably crouching with their mangy faces in the mud as her snooty relatives rode by on the way to the Battle of Bannockburn. One of her forbearers invented logarithms. My relatives probably didn’t go to school. William Douglas (Jamie’s lesser known brother) was the only earl to harass the English and the first to recognize William Wallace‘s worth. He was the driving force behind the early days of the Scottish Revolution and the Douglas boys were considered two of the greatest knights in Christendom, recognized thus by the papacy itself.. My relatives ate alot of beets.
It’s interesting how we so desire to ‘be someone’. Annette seems to take it all in stride. I would be ordering kilts, writing articles and booking vacations. Many of us are often tempted to name drop, to associate with people of influence, to trace our lineages back to find out if we are illegitimate heirs to the throne. One of the things I find amusing when I talk to my friends who believe in reincarnation is that nearly every one of them was once an indian princess or cupbearer to Genghis Khan. Nobody ever admits that in a past life they were accountants or a parsnip. There is something romantic, something proud and wonderful, in believing that we are significant in a culture that has come to nearly worship fame, regardless if it is for any good reason. If you don’t believe me watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or any show with gypsies on TLC. Or anything on TLC. But seriously, don’t watch TLC.
We line up to catch a glimpse of Paris Hilton or Princess Whatever Her Name Is; we pose with our friends about who and what we know. We posture in order to gain face or credibility. It’s a vicious cycle. Annette hasn’t done that at all. It’s sorely tempting to want to be somebody, even by association. It’s too bad that we have this drive to impress, this childish need to be recognized and adored. I know I do.
Once a long time ago I enjoyed a certain level of notoriety. I miss that. Perhaps this is because we have difficulty being complete in ourselves. Perhaps we feel that if others notice us than that makes us special. We have been led to believe that we need something outside of ourself to validate us. We know we are important if other people tell us we are.
It’s a trap, a hamster cage that never stops, can never be complete. Living your life to impress other people is a sure-fire way to end up insecure and ultimately neurotic. Even living your life to please others is a lose/lose proposition. Some of you know who you are. You call yourself a “people-pleaser”. As I ask my patients, “How is that working out for you so far?” Unfortunately there are people in our lives who are emotional and relational vampires. You can never do enough, or give enough, or love enough to fill that hole in their heart. Finding your self-esteem by pleasing and impressing others, no matter who they are, is dysfunctional. It certainly feels right – you are giving, kind, gracious, self-sacrificing. The problem is, you are also unrealistic and undoubtedly very unhealthy.
There is nothing wrong with seeking to help and care and love and give. There is something very wrong with deriving my sense of identity that way.
“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.”
― Betty Friedan
4 thoughts on “Poser”
I like this article. I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately, why we have the desire to exalt ourselves and the fear of rejection.
I recently came to a complex theological conclusion that it started with the knowledge of good and evil-that that was the beginning of being self-aware and wanting to cover your “nakedness” (in a psychological as well as physical manner), and insecurity is just the flipside of arrogance-both the result of ego… but I’ll spare you all that.
Anyway, it’s almost like we’re worshiping ourselves as “like gods” (as the serpent said) when we are this desperate for praise and attention… it’s like a power struggle between different “gods” (people) and we’ve set up our own standards of “good” and “bad” according to what is made in our image, rather than what was made in the image of God. So we reject people that are different and are drawn to what is like us, (studies show we even pick friends based on how much they look like us) what makes us look better, without giving much thought to what is actually the right thing to do or trying to build other people up instead of ourselves (unless we benefit from it).
The more I thought of this the more I think this is the source of everything bad about our world. We’re too self-centered to care about the people around us very much because we’re too busy trying to build ourselves up. And when we don’t care about them, we hurt them. We’re offended when others don’t pay us the attention and respect we think we deserve. So we get hurt. If everybody just stopped thinking about themselves for a moment, and did things because they were genuinely concerned and loved other people, we could solve most of the world’s problems-because when you think of it, nearly everything bad stems from pride-it causes selfishness, and selfishness is the culprit of everything bad and the cause of all the major world problems-poverty, war, bullying, depression, suicide, oppression, etc.
If we didn’t have such high regard for ourselves or think so much about our own “images”, instead we just loved everybody unconditionally and non-judgmentally regardless of whether we personally liked them or not or whether they liked us or if we could get something out of it, these things wouldn’t really exist. There wouldn’t be all this fighting and misunderstandings and hurt egos. We’d just care about one another, love your neighbor as yourself.
I don’t think it’s at all bad to be loving and giving. But it’s your intentions that are what make the difference. If you’re only doing it to get noticed, to be praised or approved by other people… you’re bound to be disappointed. If you do something good it must be because it’s the right thing to do, not because it makes you look good. To be that self-conscious is a destructive attitude in my opinion. Whether it’s expressed through trying to please others, trying to put other people down, self-righteousness, or getting really rich or successful or popular-whatever. It’s all a little too self-centered to end well and I don’t think that’s the right attitude to have.
So the conclusion I really came to, is if we all stopped thinking about ourselves for a little while and were less concerned with what people thought about us, and were more concerned about them, a lot more could be accomplished in this world. And so that is what I’ve decided to do-not even give a thought to it anymore. It’s a lot easier.
In essence, what I am saying is that what caused the fall of man is that we discovered the ability to judge others. (Knowledge of good and evil) In summary, it’s bad to replace love with egocentricism. There. Much shorter haha =D
(Of course, along with the ability to judge others came a fear of being judged and a desire to gain approval.)
A powerful piece. Thanks, Scott.