Don’t flatter yourself.
Recognising your insignificance can be an act of compassion, not only to others, but also to yourself.
What I bring you today is a bit out of my comfort zone as a blogger: it’s a piece of common knowledge, not at all groundbreaking or unpopular. Nonetheless, despite how common it is, we tend to forget it from time to time. I’m here to remind you about it.
Caroline McHugh dwells on this very same topic (while elaborating it in her own special way) during the timeless TED talk below. I think everyone should watch it at least once, so in case you haven’t, feel free.
Honestly, I could quote her entire presentation here because it marked me the first time I saw it, and I keep rewatching it on youtube. Every single word she says is relevant and important to the ultimate point she’s making about individuality. However, there is one thing mentioned in the video that ties in perfectly with the specific lesson I’m bringing you today, so here it goes:
“If you have a superiority or an inferiority complex, you need other people around. […] Interiority [on the other hand] is entirely unrelative. It’s the only place in your life where you’ll find no competition.”
Could competition be at the root of people’s unhealthy self-centeredness?
Something I see a lot, all over the internet and beyond, is self-centered commenters. It’s a ridiculous phenomenon, I find it quite entertaining: even in news articles if you scroll through the comments, you’ll see people taking things personally, as if the journalist wasn’t talking about this piece of news that concerns thousands of people, but John, the commenter, instead. It’s as if a lot of people just assumed the world spins around them, and everything they ever read or see — no matter how impersonal — was actually about them, a personal attack. Then they think “goodness… I must defend myself from this threat”.
Me, me, me.
But if you look beyond this veil of self-centeredness and “superiority complex”, beyond this need to go talk to the manager… It stems from a deep-rooted sense of competitiveness, doesn’t it? Behind every egotistic comment that takes impersonal things personally, there is a desire to “one up” to the author of whatever it is you disliked. Internet commenters hope to gain more likes and follows than the blogger who dared share a fresh new perspective with them — just like teenage troublemakers seek validation from their impressionable peers when they’re interrupting class at school. They start out with no power, and set out to look for loyal followers in order to feel more powerful than whatever authority figure they were feeling threatened by; But it’s without a cause, just for the sake of appeasing the ego.
It tends to be “type A personalities” who make a scene for attention, exactly because they see every wee thing in life like a merciless competition, and are woefully bad at just relaxing.
Aye, there IS a personal element to this article. It wasn’t at random that I decided to write it now. I sometimes get asked why am I such a snob and won’t reply to comments on my articles, even though they aren’t too many (which implies that I definitely have the time to reply to them, I just don’t wanna). The assumption is correct: I just don’t wanna.
Perhaps if one day I receive a comment that is truly constructive and worth my time, sure, I’ll even take a break from work to go there and reply to it. I give my audience due importance (or else I wouldn’t even bother writing), and I wholeheartedly believe there are mature people among my readers who just happen to not feel like commenting — and when/if they do, I’ll totally talk to them. Nobody’s audience is entirely made up of those who engage. (I mean, there are studies that confirm what I just said). I write for those who are interested in my content; The commenters, however, don’t seem very interested in my content. Instead, what they want is to provoke me in hope that I’ll give them attention, even if it’s negative attention. Well, they’re naive. I am well past that phase in life. They should have tried that on 13-year-old Meron, not the 30-something-year-old version of me.
I’m not just talking about “hate” and bad language. Those are trolls, and a topic for another article entirely. Today I’m talking about those who aren’t trolls, but also aren’t emotionally mature enough to realise they’re projecting their own shadows onto me.
So what if I wrote something you consider ridiculous, invalid, or unthinkable? A mature person could still have these opinions, oh yes, absolutely — but you know what a mature person would do with these opinions? Keep them, then maybe tell a friend and laugh at my article with this friend in private, or maybe not even that, maybe just scroll by and go read something else. You don’t write a letter to every author of books you didn’t like, or do you? I bet you just abandon the book and move on, rather than try and find a way to “fix” it or turn it into what would be a good book in your opinion. That’s because books aren’t interactive platforms, don’t have “like” buttons for comments and won’t gather you a following of fellow haters.
Same goes for those who comment “I disagree”, or “I dislike what you said” randomly on what I post. Why do they expect me to react? Elaborate first. I won’t take on your job, I am not a horse to carry you around. Drop the entitled attitude, or feel my coldness.
So, dear hater: don’t flatter yourself. You aren’t the centre of attention. You aren’t doing a charitable thing to the wider Medium readership by pretending to debunk a point I made. Because if you were, you would actually do it, not just pretend. And no, I don’t value this kind of engagement. I couldn’t care less whether you stay or unfollow. Quality over quantity is my motto.
No, I’m not exaggerating or being petty. Just look at the comments I tend to receive if you’re in doubt . I’m for freedom of speech, I don’t delete anything. (Although, let me remind you, freedom of speech is NOT the same as entitlement to a response). They’re sometimes dressed up as “real concern” for a point I made or whatever, but ultimately boil down to “oh, well, Meron, what you said is invalid because I’m guessing you are this and that and [insert ad hominem here]”. That’s miles away from an actually helpful constructive criticism. It’s criticising my [perceived — again see Caroline’s video] character as a person, not just the logic behind my words, and it’s trying to invalidate my personal experiences as if I didn’t have the right to exist unless I fit into a box they are used to. These comments tend to boil down to an assumption, completely unfounded and borne out of guesswork, about which standard societal “box” I might fit into and what stereotypes apply to me, rather than just making space for me to exist in my actual individuality. It’s low-effort… So why exactly should I put time and effort into engaging with them? One-way road? I don’t think so. I’m already being quite generous by writing this article (but I’m only doing it for the convenience of linking to it in the future if I need to).
I’m not saying “I hate invalidation” (whether or not I hate it, I don’t feel like sharing — feel free to guess). What I am saying is “invalidate me to your heart’s content, I just won’t respond to it”. Because seriously, how would I even respond to it? By trying to prove you wrong? What for? I don’t need your approval. There are people who already approve of me, so why the hell would I try to please the entire world? Keep disapproving and keep upholding your opinion, you’re entitled to it — but there’s a difference between having an opinion, VS weaponising an opinion to try and boss me around. You aren’t the boss of me. Who do you think you are?
Ultimately, when you try to get a negative reaction out of someone by provoking or invalidating them out loud, you’re also showing your own need for validation.
It’s inevitable. Projection is a human habit — but so is pooping, aye? There’s a time and a place for that.
By the way: aye, go ahead. Read into the very existence of this article. Point it out to me if you will. I am human just like you, and not afraid of my own humanity. I’ve already noted and embraced it, so if you point it out to me, I won’t be seeing anything new. Will you be seeing something new, though? Am I a mirror to you? — That’s quite possible. Think about it.