Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Leggo My Ego...

Hello Friends.

Forgive the week-long absence but I was away from the Big City for a trip home that was embarrassingly focused on me. Everybody kindly makes time to see me whenever I travel back the prairie way, which I'm so grateful for, but on this particular trip, a group of high-schoolers were doing a performing a play that I wrote, and on Sunday, a book that I wrote for received a Saskatchewan Book Award. All of this in addition to dinners out, drinks at home over long catch-ups, sleeping in every morning, and all kinds of attention from my parents' dog. All of this leads me to one, incredibly important Dream.

Dream: Avoid become an insufferable egomaniac.

Goal: Achievable. For as long as I can remember, the worst trait a person could have, according to my parents, would be an excess of ego. Anyone, from self-important celebrities, to acquaintances and friends, could be assessed and dismissed with a, “Well, he's a little too proud of himself, don't you think?” Consequently, an obvious display of assurance or self-interest has always come off as cocky posturing to me, never suave confidence. It's a trait I deplore in others and hate even moreso in myself. So hopefully it's something I can avoid, by virtue of my own hatred for it. Unless I'm already deeply ensnared. Read the last three sentences and highlight the personal pronouns there. It's happening!

Plan: Become aware of the behaviour that comes off egotistical and knock myself down a few pegs. For instance:

A picture is worth a thousand yous. I love everyone's Facebook, but I'm so tired of everybody's stupid face. Including my own. I admit that I pore excessively over photographs of myself and deem whether or not they are tag-worthy. Worse yet, I take pictures of myself to show people that already know what I look like in a vain attempt to fool them. “I know you saw me the other day shoving slice after slice of pizza into my acne-scarred face, but I actually look like THIS!” Why? To what end do I do this beyond my own narcissism? I mean, nobody looks consistently better than a good picture of themselves, we all look much worse. Really, if Facebook wanted to lose members but maintain honesty, a webcam would snap your pic every time you logged in. Then, instead of posed, perfectly lit pictures in our finest garments, they'd see how we really look, clad in sweatpants and a holey t-shirt, covered in Doritos, leaning on our sides because sitting upright is so harrrrrd. I'd go to greater lengths to talk smack about some of you that have photos of yourselves in the thousands, but it would contradict my next paragraph.

Stop shitting on everything else. Ohhh man, this is really tough for me. I wish I didn't talk shit about everything and everyone, but its just so easy and fun. And, cliched as it sounds, it is always solely to make myself feel better. Decrying something is a lot easier than creating it, which is why we're so adept, I suppose. People have built careers out of being professional detractors. Snark is a precious commodity, it seems, and there's cachet to be had in trashing someone's business, artwork, project. But ultimately, isn't it all just boost our own ego? I don't have a webseries, but I can make up for that by talking massive shit about your webseries, right? Oh, I can't? Drag.

My success has never just been mine. There's nothing I've ever accomplished worth a damn that I can attribute just to me. Nothing is original, and I've shamelessly borrowed, imitated or stolen from everyone I've ever met when it comes to creative endeavours. I've also been given breaks at every turn. Could I take time to write freelance if I didn't have a life that allowed it? A family that kept me fed, watered, sheltered and loved way beyond the time that I deserved it? A boyfriend who does the same? Friends that listen to me whine and deconstruct every little goddamn thing in the hopes of making something interesting out of it later? Why be egotistical about my abilities or accomplishments when they have very little to do with me, and everything to do with the people that helped me get there?

It's not just me out there, he writes on his blog devoted to his Dreams that he plugs every week from his Facebook and his Twitter. As much undue consideration I give to my own victories and challenges, I must remember there are other people I ought to slow down and listen to, even learn from. As involved as I am in my own life, I get pretty sick of James as the narrator. I hope that I take enough time to see the world in prisms other than my own. That the bus driver does not exist on this earth solely to get me to work and pick me up after, that the paranoid lady who lives downstairs must have endured some terrible trauma or have some kind of severe problems to be so continually disturbed by the world around her. I guess that's just being empathic, which we're all capable of, but maybe forget how to do (it's like the opposite of riding a bike).

Finally, I secretly wonder if we're all egomaniacs and some of us are just better at hiding it than others. I know this woman who is lovely and smart and really funny, but comes off so transparently narcissistic, it's unbelievable that she has any friends at all. She has literally thousands of pictures just of herself on the Facebook. Some are posed, some are candids, but all are up there, without a trace of irony. Every encounter with her is just hours and hours of what's going on in her life, at her job, with her family, but as I say, she's sweet and funny about it, and completely un-self aware. I think if she knew the impression she gave off, she'd at least try to curb the impulse to cover her apartment with pictures of herself (seriously). By contrast, I know a really accomplished guy who might as well leave his work unsigned for all the credit he takes. Humble almost to a fault, he genuinely cares about other people's lives perhaps even more than his own, which is probably what makes him such an amazing writer.

In any case, I promise to get back to goofy stuff soon. All of this self-examination can get pretty heady, and only continues this train of self-absorption I need desperately to derail, lest I end up completely alone, writing every week to no one, surrounded by pictures of myself. Can you believe that? But enough about you. Back to me.


  1. Even Woody Allen refuses to admit how brilliant he is, although I suspect the following passage from Midnight in Paris is his own secret opinion of himself that he's cleverly given to not just a character, but a famous writer at that.

    HEMINGWAY: If you're a writer, declare yourself the best writer! But you're not as long as I'm around.

  2. Wow I could not disagree with you more.
    I only look at facebook to see faces of the people I care about and cannot see on a regular basis. I post my photos of times when I do look great to celebrate the great times I have had. To share them with my family and friends so they can see that I am happy and share my joy.
    As for your comments about people giving you breaks and feeding you beyond what is expected, are we all suppose to till our own garden to feed ourselves?? can we not support each other??
    Do we all have to come up with original thoughts and words. If so then only the inventor is worthy and that eliminates 99% of us. When I use someones idea and add to it I am sharing my interpretation and maybe reaching someone who is unable to get the information. I can take a story or joke or receipe and add one ingrediant so my family will enjoy it and i am not allowed to take credit it for it or I am narcissitic? Have you not been watching Oprah?
    We are all worthy! You are worthy!
    When you write something you are contributing to all of us and when someone rewards you for your contribution they are telling you that they like your contribution and want more. When people ask you 'whats new' they are asking you what have you contributed because they like what you give. If you say ' i just copied from someone' then they wont ask you again.
    I love you. Dust off those doritos, get dressed and tell me what you have contributed today, with pride!! Then I can read it and be inspired. Accept attention. It is a way that people show affection and allows all of us to be better. We are not bragging, we are contibuting!
    Snap out of it.
    Aunt Sarah

    1. Thanks for reading, Aunt Sarah! I must counter your points with more of my own here, though. Firstly, we definitely use Facebook differently. I'm on there all the time, which I know I shouldn't be, because of course I get tired of people. And like you, I definitely look at Facebook for pictures of peoples families, their travels, even their food. What I don't care for are posed the self-pics in the bathroom mirror. Those strike me as contrived and vain. I'm not saying we shouldn't post pictures of ourselves for friends and family, but there definitely comes a point where it can be excessive.

      And I totally think we should all support each other! Not till our own garden. But that's what I mean; we should all be grateful and acknowledge the support we have received. We don't go it alone in our lives and it's easy to forget that. What I'm saying is that my accomplishments are an accumulation of yes, my own efforts, but also the people around me. There are things that I am good at, that I, alone, create, improve, add to, make "mine", like a recipe/joke/story as you suggest. I am proud of those things, for sure. But in that case I am part of something bigger than myself. If I share a story with you, it belongs to both of us. If I cook a meal, it's ours. Creating something is about sharing it, I think. Otherwise, what's the point?

      I am proud of my accomplishments and am grateful to be rewarded for them, of course. But that, in and of itself, is only temporarily satisfying. I want to learn more, try harder, do better next time. I think the only thing that would stop me would be my ego. Saying, "I'm too scared because if I do this I'll fail". Or conversely, "Well I really nailed this so now I'm done."

      In any case, I think we're agreeing more than disagreeing here. But I ain't snapping out of nothin'!

  3. Oh my goodness. You can see into my nightmares. If ever I have an automatically uploaded web-cam facebook pic, you can find a Macbook in the compost heap at my house.