Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: defense mechanism

People always tell on themselves

In the last post, I was talking about how people have a hard time looking at their own flaws.  I said that I was comfortable with mine, but that’s not completely true. There are flaws I have that make me uncomfortable, but I at least know I have them. I know I can work on them if I want.

It boggles my mind how other people don’t see themselves as they are. I mean, I know the brain is inclined to see the best in itself because that’s how humans are made. But the extent to which some people deny their own flaws or project them on other people is endlessly fascinating to me.

It’s one reason I read advice columns. The letter writers often tell on themselves without realizing it. The thing they’re writing in about is not the thing that is actually the problem. A good columnist will see that and answer the real quesstion, not the one being asked. Captain Awkward is pretty good at this as is Ask a Manager. The two of them collaborating was the best thing ever. I also love that Alison (AAM) will answer a question just because it interests her, even if it doesn’t really fall in the category of work-related. She’ll be honest about it, too. That she picked it because it tickeld her fancy.

Captain Awkward tends to write reams in her response, which is one tihng I like about her. I am verbose, and I appreciate a thorough reply. Plus, I read quickly and she writes very readable text. Alison’s replies are longer than average, too, but also highly scannable. They both have an engaged style of writing–like we’re having a conversation. It’s a skill that not everyone has, unfortunately.

The thing I really appreciate about Alison is that she will admit when she is wrong and take other people’s points into consideration. I have read her for several years and have delved into her archives. She has expanded and grown, and she’s wiser and more mature now than she was when she first started (obviously). I like that she has a sense of humor and seems eminently human. She’s warm, even in her writing. She’s compassionate and no-nonsense. She’s a nice blend of pragmatic and caring. Her one flaw is that she’s pro-pranks, but we all have our shadow sides. (To be clear, not harmful pranks, but the ones that those of us who don’t like pranks would consider annoying. And she’s made it clear that she thinks pranks are opt-in and not opt-out).

Both of them will get to the root prablem, rather than get caught up in the face of the issue. To me, part of my enjoyment from reading AAM is because of the commentariat. What people bring into the questions is the most interesting part by far. There are some questions that have a pretty much universal answer (such as the repost today about a woman who was wilding out at the medical office in which she worked. The letter writer was her boss. The employee was taking naked pics of herself at work, including in front of her boss’s (the letter writer) desk. That’s not the whole story, but that’s the main gist. Consensus: fire her), which are usually highly-entertaining, but there isn’t much room for discussion.

The best ones are the ones in which you can look at them from several points of view. Maybe the LW (letter writer) is correct to be upset with her coworker. Maybe the coworker has a reason for being the way she is. There was a letter (and several updates) from a woman who was the boss of someone she (the LW) was jealous of. The LW clearly stated this in her letter. She didn’t hire her employee and never would have if it had been her choice because of the way the employee looked. She openly admitted she was jealous and probably made her other employees think the attractive employee is bad aat her job because of the way she (LW) treated her (employee). The LW was in therapy for anxiety and an eating disorder. She was doing better until this employee was hired.

She stated in this letter that she lied to her boss when her boss (the one who hired the attractive woman) asked if she was jealous of the employee. She said she wasn’t, and the boss believed her. In other words, according to the writer herself, she was jealous of this employee. And yet, in the comments, there was a sizable minority of women who were skeptical about the employee saying that her boss was jealous of her. “Who would say that?” “She thinks too highly of herself.” These were the comments, paraphrased, and when it was pointed out that the LETTER WRITER HERSELF had said that she was jealous of the employee, these commenters doubled down. Well, yeah, but the employee sounded full of herself for saying it out loud!

Here’s the thing. I knew when women were jealous of me. They were not subtle about it. At all. It wasn’t because I was full of myself; I hated the way I looked, but I knew that some people found me very pleasing to the eye. I couldn’t help but see it. I also couldn’t help but see that some women were snide about me because I didn’t fit what they thought a woman should be, but the guys liked me, anyway. These were hetero women who believed the  attention of men was the pinnacle of success.

In addition, the LW was paraphrasing what her boss had said to her, so that migth not have been the way her report had phrased it. The employee could have said, “I feel like I can’t do anything right with the LW.” The big boss could have prodded a bit and the employee could have realized at some point that, yes, the LW seemed jealous of her. It was fascinating and frustrating to see the women who insisted that the employee was full of herself when the whole letter was that the LW was jealous of her report and never would have hired her. I don’t think I was reading at the time because I did not comment on this, and I probable would have if I had been.

There were several updates, gathered here. It became clear that she had been minimizing what happened, even though she was always clear that she was responsible for what happened. Still. There were people who insisted her report overreacted, despite not knowing the details or any of the people involved. It was fascinating how she revealed a bit more each time, and it ended with her settling with her report on the advice of her (the LW’s) lawyer. And even then, theer were people in the comments who insisted the LW was somehow the one being wronged somehow. One person even said she thought the report was a jerk for suing the LW. As noted in the comments of that update, we all bring our own shit into these letters.

Personally, I could not get behind cheering on this OP because she did harm to another human being. Deep harm. In addition, she was such an unreliable narrator, I felt that I could not trust what she was saying. I understood why Alison and most of the commentariat wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but while I was glad she was improving, I couldn’t help but notice that the harm she did her report was revealed to be worse with every update.

That’s human nature, though. We don’t want to look at the nasty stuff inside our head until we’re forced to do so. Even then, most of us would find a way to ignore it or pretend it wasn’t happening. This LW was fired for her denial, which was the catalyst for her drastically changing her life. At least she found the strength to deal with her flaws. That’s more than most people can say.