Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Fragile

I used to think I was an insecure person.  I (secretly) adopted this errant self-description because I often questioned myself, and when I made mistakes, I dwelt on them at length in a self-abusing way.  Now I have realized that I am merely self-critical and probably too focused on myself in general.

Insecurity is so much worse.  I've been able to study it at length in my working career, and unfortunately have a close vantage on a particularly active specimen at work.  Their behaviors are all the same, and are so quickly recognizable: breathless, child-like bragging about regular shit, or untrue shit; constantly feeling threatened by trifling or non-existent "conflict," assuming everyone is after something they have, and generally being fearful, uncharitable bastards who never take accountability because they don't have the confidence to navigate potentially difficult situations.  I mean...right?

I went to a professional development session at a local foundation recently and ended up sitting next to an exec from another nonprofit.  She was acting just like our resident jerk does such that I felt helplessly bookended by these batshit assholes who can't keep their mouths shut because they have to bleat constantly about their extensive knowledge of everything.  What they don't realize is that their bragging sounds like a distress signal: No one respects me!  I am unsure of my abilities!  I don't feel important enough!  No one held me as a baby!  Save it for your husband, lady; it's grotesque in public.

I've got plenty of sympathy or patience for flawed people, but it dissipates completely when they couch their problems in a pantomime of superiority.  This act tends to go on forever because they have no idea how obvious they are, and no one around them wants to engage in a confrontation that feels cruel when you realize how pitiful and emotionally fragmented someone must be to act so consistently foolish.

It's disturbing when people take their routine problems and turn them into some sort of pathology.  I say pathology because the behavior is so deeply ingrained that it's sometimes impossible to see past it or see that it is a behavior at all.  Perhaps these people are so un-introspective that they can't see an outside perspective of themselves, and so unintuitive that they don't see the way other people react to them.  If people leave the room as soon as you enter, take heed.  If people immediately disengage when you start talking, there is a reason.

The most ironic part of this is that these people are so obsessed with their ranking in life and so fixated on bossing other people around that they don't realize how incompetent and wrong they often are, because they don't see themselves at all.  If you're going to behave in an imperious way, you had better be right ALL THE TIME.  Instead, at least with my work example, she's always wrong because she would rather have an answer every time than answer only when she knows she's right.  Probably fanning the flames of her crazy, I'm forced to question her and follow up like she is my child: Did you do the thing I asked you to do?  Why didn't you do it?  When do you plan to?  How about you do it right now while I watch you, because you can't be trusted.  I don't want to have to do this with someone twice my age. 

The woman at the session the other day displayed other typical actions that I find to be obnoxious, such as agreeing with everything a superior or speaker says, even when they contradict themselves mid-sentence, or before they've had a chance to make their point.  Or trying to finish the sentences of a speaker to show the people around her that she has a preternatural awareness of whatever is being discussed.  When she inevitably finished sentences incorrectly, even when wildly inaccurate about statistics, she didn't let it get her down.  She just kept on hysterically nodding her head and mumbling underneath the conversation.  Naturally this distracted me, as I had to start thinking about all of the snarky things I'd like to say to her.

What these self-obsessed idiots never realize is that life is so much easier when you admit that you probably have no goddamned idea what is going to happen, and when you admit your mistakes.  I have no respect for or trust in any person who will not admit fault when they have made a mistake.  I find it to be disturbing and unnerving when people lie and build ridiculous barricades, anything to not be wrong in the open.  Not only do I write them off immediately, but I become inordinately offended that they actually think they may be tricking me with their dog-ate-homework excuses.  Admitting mistakes is so freeing and preserves your credibility with your peers.  How have these grown ass people gotten this far in life without realizing that?

So anyway, I have plenty of opinions and observations, but as yet I still have absolutely no idea how to deal with these people, because they are both aggressive and incredibly fragile at the same time.  In most cases, I see this blustering, sometimes cocksure behavior as a flimsy covering for a deeply flawed, confused, emotionally stunted person who has probably suffered some emotional trauma and will probably never improve.  You know, not to infer too much or anything.  But I assume that they are so poorly constructed psychologically that an open, plainly spoken confrontation of their behavior might cause a scene not worth dealing with.  Unfortunately, it's really hard for me to ignore annoying things.

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