Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Pitfalls of Trying to Avoid One's Own Shadow

Yes, you have had all the Walter Mitty fantasies about triumphing at just the moment you’re spurned. It’s hard to be a war hero in the middle of an Upper West Side literary soiree, or particularly in the middle of one of those competitive situations from your post-adolescence where you end up finding yourself at the bottom of the food chain when it came to work or love—i.e. the professor in the course on Kafka who was impressed by the very unKafkaesque student filled with an intellectual self-confidence that you couldn’t muster. But whoever said life was supposed to be fair? Try this the next time you feel slighted or disrespected.  Simply don’t do anything. Don’t open your mouth. Don’t try to defend yourself, don’t vie for scraps of attention that derive from dropping names or citations or trying to impress people with little French expressions like “faux de mieux.” Stop trying so hard and just take a deep breath. Validation is a black hole that can never be satisfied. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t give it to you and the power of the negative attention will by definition wipe out anything in its path. That which doesn’t exist always trumps that which is there for the asking—simply by virtue of its inherent mystique.  Of course, one solution is simply not to attend one of those events where there are big shots sucking the air out of the room, but eluding feelings of inferiority is a little like trying to avoid your own shadow. No way to engineer that .

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