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Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
September 13, 2011 1:19 AM   Subscribe

How do I learn to take myself less seriously and be less earnest and self-absorbed? I've been slowly trying to improve my personality, and I've mostly focused on dialing down my general air of creepiness and intensity through the usual methods of therapy and meds. However, I haven't really tried to change my general air of self-seriousness. I still write/perform poetry and mope around listening to Bright Eyes (which is apparently unattractive). It seems, reading through various sites, that this is the next thing I should change. I'm just wondering if there are any general tips? I go out, I drink, I have fun, and I'll laugh at Peep Show and Misfits and old Simpsons episodes. But I'm wondering how I can start to laugh at myself, or if its even desirable.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn to Human Relations (127 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a friend who sounds a bit like you, who I love dearly but he comes across as very intense and can be self-absorbed (sometimes just extremely self-conscious).

This doesn't bother me apart from when we hang out for a whole evening together and he fails to ask me a single question about my life and what I'm doing. He is so determined to get me to understand his life and where he is right now, he forgets to allow the conversation to flow both ways.

Maybe I'm missing the boat and this is nothing like how you conduct a conversation. But I think you can be earnest and serious without being self-absorbed and intense. Simply make sure that you are ready to ask and learn as much about another person as you want to share with them of yourself.
posted by greenish at 2:07 AM on September 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Go to a karaoke bar. Pick songs that you think are bad, and sing them as if you reallyreallyreally like them. Like, earnestly, not sarcastically.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:09 AM on September 13, 2011


Go to a karaoke bar. Pick songs that you think are bad, and sing them as if you reallyreallyreally like them. Like, earnestly, not sarcastically.

That's part of what I'm trying to stop! I sing Living On A Prayer in crowded bars and try to get people to feel redemption. I get emotional at Bat Out Of Hell. I've sung Achy Breachy Heart as a touching tale of lost love...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:16 AM on September 13, 2011


Are you open to good-faith suggestions from those of us who have met you in person?
posted by embrangled at 2:25 AM on September 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Almost any behaviour or stylistic choice is unattractive to someone. You can't try and make everyone happy and still have consistent behaviour.

The only thing that reading "various sites" will tell you is what kinds of things the person writing that site likes, or doesn't like. Unless you're trying to have a relationship with them, why worry about it?
posted by dubold at 2:32 AM on September 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


An ability to laugh at oneself early and often is always desirable. It mitigates a whole host of sins.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:03 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Learn from a master, watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:04 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll laugh at Peep Show and Misfits and old Simpsons episodes

You do laugh at stuff, then. Well that's a good start. . . because it means you have a sense of humour, at the very least.

What sort of things in these shows make you laugh? Is it the absurdity? Irony? or something else? Perhaps, for starters, have a read of the Wikipedia article on Humour if you need some help describing, in words, what makes you laugh.

Then, (this is the tough bit,) when you have a rough idea about what it is you find funny, try to become aware of these types of situations when they arise in your everyday life. When that happens, when you find yourself doing something that you find funny in other people, then. . . well, if you don't laugh then, then you probably should speak to a professional.

We all do ironic and absurd things (to take my examples of sources of laughter) from time to time, and we're surrounded by irony and absurdity constantly if you look hard enough. These shows (that you laugh at) are funny because they reflect real things that happen to real people, everyday. I promise, you do funny stuff more often than you think, and without trying. . . you're just not letting yourself see it.
posted by I_read_somewhere_that_. . . at 3:06 AM on September 13, 2011


Are you open to good-faith suggestions from those of us who have met you in person?

Sure, though perhaps MeMail me if it's very harsh.
I like Peep Show because Mark (Mitchell) is even more awkward than I am. I like Misfits because... I don't know? Nathan's funny, even though IRL I'd be really offended by him and be the butt of all his jokes (like Simon)?
So maybe I can laugh at myself by proxy?


I sometimes get worried when I watch something like Arrested Development and not laugh.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:22 AM on September 13, 2011


It is very often desirable to laugh at one's self because it's a sign of humility, which we all need. No matter how intelligent you are, or how important your job is, you're still an idiot in some ways and as human as anyone else. Thinking too much about how important you are means you're not really thinking enough about reality. I mean, of course you are important to yourself and to your loved ones or the people whose head you have a gun to. I just mean you've got to have some perspective on yourself in relative terms sometimes, and maybe that's what's missing? I don't know, but good luck.
posted by Red Loop at 3:23 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's more that I know that life is an absorb, pointless joke and I'm a Butt Monkey at worst and Comic Relief at best. If I don't take myself seriously nobody will.

I mean it's getting better but there are times where I'd have to listen to melodramatic music just so I could get out of bed.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:26 AM on September 13, 2011


Came back to see what other answers you got and noticed your reply:

"If I don't take myself seriously nobody will"

Perhaps think about why it is important to you that people/someone takes you seriously? One of the only ways I get by is by not taking anyone too seriously. Particularly newsreaders, politicians, journalists/opinion writers. Funnily enough, I suspect they're the ones who want most badly to be taken seriously :)
posted by greenish at 4:01 AM on September 13, 2011


You can still generally take yourself seriously while occasionally poking a little fun at yourself. We're all varying shades of ridiculous. I was going to write that I wouldn't force myself to change my character completely to please some people on the internet, but honestly Red Loop and CunningLinguist have it right. Don't bend over backwards, though; Bright Eyes fans get laid, too.

Maybe spend some time in the head of someone with a sense of humor about themself and others. I'm sure there are tons of authors that fit the bill, but the only one I can think of right now is David Sedaris.
posted by pishposh at 4:07 AM on September 13, 2011


Think about other people, rather than yourself.
posted by joannemullen at 4:15 AM on September 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's ok for people to take you seriously if you're doing serious things (says my partner, who is not creepy but does listen to bright eyes)
posted by puckish at 4:20 AM on September 13, 2011


Maybe spend some time in the head of someone with a sense of humor about themself and others.

Like everyone else in Australia?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:24 AM on September 13, 2011


Read "Bird by Bird," by Anne LaMott. It's technically a book about creative writing, but it's also about life and, in man ways, lightening up. (Its subtitle is "Some instructions on writing and life.")
posted by Buffaload at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Perhaps think about why it is important to you that people/someone takes you seriously?

Because I didn't realize I was supposed to be otherwise until maybe this year? Because I know on some level I'm a joke, so in my head at least I like to be serious? Because earnestness is a way to stand out in a world of irony? Because these singalong songs are my scriptures? I dunno.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2011


Get off the Internet and go volunteer. Focus on something else besides anything to do with you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:36 AM on September 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


ADHD medication worked for me! No really, social skills are much easier to learn when you're not also struggling with attention issues. It also helped with my self-esteem.

Also, sometimes it's tempting to take a shortcut and try to feel like a good person by making other people think you are a good person. NO! This does not work, it leads to perpetual self-consciousness.

If you want to feel like a good person, be a good person.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:47 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can still be taken completely seriously, as a whole person, and take yourself mostly seriously while laughing at yourself and letting the world laugh along. Believe me I couldn't cope with life without laughing at myself, we all have moments that desperately need it.

I'll add that many people with issues with depression have trouble getting out of their own heads. I'll strongly second Brandon Blatcher in his advice in this.
posted by deadwax at 4:56 AM on September 13, 2011


Move to DC! We are very earnest and self serious here. This is in part because people are in fact often doing important, ambitious things with their lives - at least, trying to do something important. A change of culture might be what you need - and you may need to invest your seriousness in a job that needs that kind of personal quality.
posted by yarly at 5:11 AM on September 13, 2011


This is my experience as an overly earnest type person:
I often feel awkward and uncomfortable in social situations. Mechanisms to help with that, which work for lots of other people, like using humour or laughing at myself don't really work for me, because they still focus on me and how I should or shouldn't be behaving, which is stressful. I find it very hard not to be overly serious if I feel uncomfortable.

For me, the solution is not to try and be less serious and earnest but to build on things I care about and am enthusiastic about and share them with others. I don't seem overly earnest or serious because I'm enthusiastic about something, and I don't particularly care, at the point, how I'm coming across because it's not about me, it's about sharing my interests with others. (Obviously this only works if other people share those interests so I try and seek out those kinds of settings). This makes me feel more comfortable and positive about myself and then the joking around and not being serious just seems to come naturally.
posted by ninjablob at 5:15 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


When you say you know on some level you are a joke that sounds like low self confidence to me. You are not a joke. People are not JOKES. They do stuff that is humorous and it is fun to laugh at ones self and find the humor in the actions of others. I don't know. . .I grew up with sarcastic silly people who teased me and I learned to roll with it. I probably laugh a little too much! But, you know what? I take my self pretty seriously too. I am not messing around at work or with my art. I make art about serious shit (loss and personal memory). My work makes people cry. It's ok to take the important things you do seriously but there is a difference between my art work and hanging out with my friends. My life is not 100% about taking myself seriously and embracing my silliness and joy does not detract from anything important I might do.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that acting classes might help get you out of your head. They will probably scare the shit out of you but if you embrace the experience you might gain some ability to look silly in front of others which goes a long way to developing this social trait of "taking your self less seriously." I have always been an earnest person (I still remember being admonished in 7th grade by a teacher to "lighten up." I told him no!) but the 2 acting classes I took in college took me WAY out of my comfort zone in a good way.
posted by rachums at 5:26 AM on September 13, 2011


Seeing as how you used them interchangeably in your last post, I'd like to draw a distinction between seriousness and earnestnss (caveat: I am not sure if this distinction corresponds to general linguistic usage or is just a meme which circulates in my circles).

Seriousness refers to resting with some assuredness in your own being, believing in the value and validity of your existence and experiences, treating yourself with respect, attending to yourself as a many-faceted being interacting within and without in miriad of ways, cultivating all your facets in ways which allow you to rest assured most of the time that your reaction to stimuli are going to be adequate and responsive to the whole of the situation, and allow for uninterrupted flow for all participants etc. Since all of this happens at a fundamental level, inevitably you extend the same attitudes towards others. In this sense, seriousness is a visceral, I almost want to say a metaphysical take on the rightness of your own being in the world and that of others, and I suspect we all have it most of the time, excepting the darkest of depressions or the most tearing moments of doubt. If we didn't, suicide, or maybe violence towards others, would be the next step.

This take on seriousness does not exclude irony and self-irony, playfulness, levity, on the contrary, it allows, neigh, requires them to coexist harmoniously with what we usually term seriousness, or melancholy, even self-doubt, or more neutral feelings. It contains the whole pallette of emotions, attitudes etc which emanate from you, including "not taking yourself too seriously" in the sense that that expression is generally used (to add to the terminological confusion).

Earnestness, on the other hand, is to seriousness what style is to form, if you buy into that dichotomy. It splinters off one part of that multi-varied thing that you are and inflates it to the detriment of all others, frequently with the aid of some sort of ideological cliche or the other (such as: if you want to take yourself seriously, you must cultivate an air of gravitas, listen to a particular kind of music, only ever converse with a particular kind of person on particular topics, profess utter disdain to matters of appearances whilst expending great amounts of time and pedantic care on the appearance of carelessness etc - this is actually a portrait of someone I knew, not an attempt at characterising you, by the way. There are many many ways in which to amputate much of your being). This distortion of self is then held high as "the true self", and frequently projected into that space between you ( as in one, but this is contorted enough as it is) and others, for either self-aggrandisment (I am more caring, more intelligent, deeper etc), or self-abasement (I wish I was so out-going, well-spoken, sociable), but generally a mix of both. Projecting sometimes also means that you become blind to the situation, the signals sent by others.

This is all very abstract, so I'll try to illustrate using one of your examples. You say: I sing Living On A Prayer in crowded bars and try to get people to feel redemption. If this wasn't entirely well received, it is probably because you ignored a few elements of the situation: you were in a place where people go to chill rather than to have their souls saved, so your environment and the prevalent atmosphere were actually obstacles to your aim, you paid no attention to the mood as you went up to sing, then you probably didn't pay attention to how that mood developed whilst you were singing. But then you did it anyhow, trying to break the flow of people around you and force your own vibe on them. This, to me, is earnest: insensitive to what goes on around you, or dismissive of it, self-righteous about imposing your own values/rhythms/attitudes etc on others, and, most importantly, not allowing that part of Lovecraft to surface which would have responded to things as they were.

Serious would have been to check with yourself if you chimed with the prevalent mood of (possibly) just going up to sing for a lark, perfectly OK with the fact that some people's conversations were just gonna continue and that you would be ignored by half of the bar. If you were feeling too trigger-happy with the redemption, so if you were at odds with people around you, maybe it would have been wise to give the singing a miss on this occasion (maybe even making a remark to your companions about it about how you'd like to sing, but you are too intense about it all right now, so you'll pass this time, since you don't want to stand up there feeling like you're sing-song preaching - thus possibly building a bridge between yourself in your seriousness and the others in their levity). Or else, you may have realised that, despite feeling
grave overall, you could actually connect yourself to the general jollity, go up and sing lightheartedly, and then, if you notice that people are beginning to pay attention, slide into increasingly redemptive mood (note - this kind of Hollywoodesque development depends a LOT on your ability to sing and to read the mood of a crowd. A rare combination). Or you could just allow the playfull Lovecraft to surface, and join the general fun. etc.

So yes, based on what you have told us, I'd guess you are not serious enough, and that you don't honour yourself enough, but rather play the earnest card, both in your own intimacy and with others. This doesn't do you justice in your own life, in relation to others, and does not do justice to the life of others either. It's like wilfully blinding yourself and viewing life through a tiny slit.

I;d like to end by apologizing if some of the above sounds too harsh - I am telling myself the same things when I am in danger of being too earnest. It;s just that I think that we are doing ourselves a big disservice when indulging in pomposity and earnestness - there is this permanent nagging feeling of being farcical which attends earnestness, a stressful tension in our body and in our whole being, and a tremendous loss in the joys of life.
posted by miorita at 5:57 AM on September 13, 2011 [37 favorites]


If you laugh at Peep Show then you must understand the hilarity that is in absurd and awkwardness. I'm awkward as hell and honestly? I love it since it gives me so many jokes to tell. I think one of the reasons my friends like me is that they know I don't take myself too seriously and I always have a strange story to tell about what has happened to me.

At least like, if not love, yourself. It will make your life so much more pleasant. Don't be afraid of being awkward, everything is. And don't beat yourself up over not laughing "at the right stuff". I sometimes don't laugh once during an episode of Parks & Recreation but still think it's the best thing on TV. But I also don't mind if it I'm the only person laughing in the theatre because I found someone's facial expression funny. Let your freak flag fly.
posted by marais at 5:58 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I want to know is why you aren't celebrating yourself.

What's wrong with a Bright Eyes listening, poetry writing person? Why not celebrate that aspect of who you are. So what if you sometimes have moments of seriousness? If you are telling me that you are never, ever lighthearted and funny, I do not believe you. Of course you are! But you focus only on what you have decided you don't like about yourself and built some great parts of yourself into a boogey monster. I think the quickest way to getting to where you want to be (happy, not necessarily different), is to start liking all of yourself.

Also, just get a guitar already.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:58 AM on September 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Cultivate a passion that you can direct your seriousness into. When you start creating something you're proud of, it will speak earnestly for itself and you'll be free to laugh.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:10 AM on September 13, 2011


I think trying to change yourself for other people in order to be less self serious will only defeat the purpose. Don't try to change what you like and don't like. That's stupid and self loathing. If you want to be less self absorbed that's fine but do it because you want to get more out of life, not to impress others. I would *add* things to your life that take the focus off yourself, like volunteering. But I wouldn't abstain from listening to music you like or doing things you enjoy (writing poetry) simply to appear cooler.
posted by timsneezed at 6:10 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a fan of the Bright Eyes, karaoke stuff, but hell, I'm with Ironmouth on this - work it baby! Whatever! This is who you are and it's nothing to be ashamed of, or worth fretting over. You sound sweet as you are.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:15 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lovecraft, listen to rachums. rachums comes across as serious, and yet, I have a feeling that if we were hanging out in a bar, she wouldn't corner me and tell me just how darn important and wrenching her work is and darn it, deanc, why can't you just realize how important this all is instead of just having a drink joking about what's on the radio right now? My point is that she strikes me that she wouldn't do that because her own work speaks for itself, and she can look outside of herself, size up the environment she's in, respect me as a serious person with serious concerns, and acknowledge that rather than trying so hard to convince me of her own seriousness/inspire me/redeem me/etc.

My point, Lovecraft, a good place to start is to view everyone as just people trying to get by. We know how serious life is, and a good place for you to start is perhaps trying to offer us something else. When you're trying to sell your serious and earnestness to everyone else, it comes across as poseur-ish and insecure, as if your own life doesn't really reflect that, so you have to convince everyone else of it, or use the outside world and your social life as your "canvas" to show how serious you are. I think if you're not careful, you'll take this advice and then try to embrace How. Silly. You. Are! And try to get us to Embrace. Our. Inner. Silliness! When in fact that's just symptomatic of the same problem you're having: not channeling your personality and desires into an appropriate outlet and instead foisting it on everyone else.

The other alternative: make friends with more earnest, less talented versions of rachums. You want earnest, "intense," overly serious people? That's your crowd.
posted by deanc at 6:25 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Part of what helped me is learning that my super special snowflake emotions were neither unique nor important. I thank Morrissey for this. He sings about having that feeling that no one else understands this (feeling, observation, whatever) the way you do, and realizing that he literally has hordes of fans who think they are the only ones who have ever felt this way really helped me recognize that what I thought were serious, important feelings were just commonplace.

I think it also has to do with prioritizing your perspective to a deleterious degree. Your moods aren't worthy of extra attention just because they're happening to you. And I don't mean you specifically, I just mean that a lot of earnestness comes across as "my feelings are specialer than yours."

Also, I would add that the ability to detach a little from yourself is a valuable skill but one that takes time to cultivate. I still consider myself a fairly serious person, but I wouldn't say I'm earnest.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:07 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to pick at your every word, but this phrase popped out at me:

"I sing Living On A Prayer in crowded bars and try to get people to feel redemption."

It reminded me of some people I know, and of some writers and entertainers. I can't speak for anyone else, but it always creeps me out when I start to get the impression someone is trying to make me feel something. I don't like the idea that people are going around wanting to make me *feel*. When someone writes a piece, or makes a piece of art or sings a song, it seems to me that the goal should be to tell a story well, and *let* people feel what they will.

It feels manipulative to me. It is a very subtle thing. I guess it feels a little bit like a disrespect of the audience- the artist doesn't care so much about what is going on in the moment or in the heads of the audience, they just care about their ego and what they want to happen.

It's on the "cargo cult" spectrum, I think. Another example of this mindset is like when someone is on a date and they want the other person to like them (or sleep with them). Instead of just being themselves in the moment, they get wrapped up in saying the right things and not screwing up.

Which meshes with that nice-guys site. To totally generalize and stereotype, women like assholes because they are genuine. They don't like nice-guys because they intuit that nice-guys are somehow faking it. They are putting on a performance to ingratiate themselves. (As opposed to guys who are just nice. The difference is that guys who are nice aren't faking it and aren't looking for anything in return.)

So consider how much of your seriousness is just your nature, and how much of it is an attempt to be seen as serious and worthy. How much of the personality you expose to the world is YOU, and how much is a manifestation of your concept of what other people would like to see?
posted by gjc at 7:47 AM on September 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


What I want to know is why you aren't celebrating yourself.

What's wrong with a Bright Eyes listening, poetry writing person?


Seriously! I am baffled that you can let these flamboyantly superficial Internet rants make you want to do away with a cool (and real!) part of your personality. Developing scorn for things you care about is not going to make you much more attractive -- and you should consider that it might not be worthwhile, even if it worked.

A lot of people in this thread are not reading your question literally, and maybe they're right. You shouldn't be a jerk about your poetry. You should understand that everyone you meet has an internal life that might be as vivid as your own. Etc. The most interesting comment here, to me, is Miorita's, which unpacks "seriousness" and "earnestness" in this (to-me completely strange) idiolectic way. I don't think those are the commonly accepted meanings of the words, but per Miorita's disclaimer, that doesn't really matter. If you're "earnest" in this way, then perhaps you should think about changing it. But simply writing poetry, liking emotional music, etc., are not examples of the bad behavior, and it pains me that you should try to cast them off.
posted by grobstein at 7:50 AM on September 13, 2011


It is anyway not attractive for a man to use Attractiveness as his standard of value for himself. It reveals dependance and fearfulness. Many do anyway; some successfully lie to themselves and others about it.

Still. Is this the thing you care about most?

If not, you may find better guides to your character than self-justifying screeds about "nice guys."
posted by grobstein at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2011


Is it poor form to comment after the post has been marked "answered"? I've been thinking about this post since before it was checked off, does that count?

To me, there's nothing wrong with being sincerely serious or earnest (as it were). I have friends who are both and who have plenty of friends, go on dates, are reasonably happy, etc. In fact, if you end up being a serious/earnest person, don't change - why should you change your character to fit in with what are, frankly, extremely silly and other-directed, mostly middle class American notions of how we should all act? I find this obsession with not-rocking-the-boat, not being "too serious", remembering that you too are faintly risible....well, I think it's the way that middle class people maintain a social consensus and paper over unpleasant truths.

The issue isn't incorrect, uncomfortable sincerity versus correct cool/distance/laugh-at-self-ness. The issue is more about figuring out who you actually are and feeling confidence in that.

IME what puts people off about the Bright Eyes/emo/"sincerity" thing is the feeling that it's a posture - that someone is trying to cover up what they really think (funnily enough) or pretend to be something they're not, or attract attention by showing off their "sensitivity". It's not Bright Eyes; it's making a big production about Bright Eyes. Or at least, anyone who really, truly doesn't like you because you're sincere or even earnest is kind of immature - but you'll make people uncomfortable they get the sense that you're working to seem sincere.

This is something I've struggled with (but have mostly moved past). I used to feel that my natural, automatic feelings and reactions weren't good enough, so I'd semi-consciously amp them up. Or I'd do things because I thought it would look neat or show that I was clever enough, or very original, or very feeling, or very right-on. If someone got up and sang Living On A Prayer with very great sincerity, in fact, I'd assume that they wanted to seem all profound and quirky because they didn't have confidence in themselves - that they were posturing.

It was like there was a layer between my actual responses and the responses I showed the world.

Curiously, this happened precisely because when I was small I was a really weird kid - smart, oddball parents in a very provincial suburb, lots of time with books and not much with kids, lots of affected language that seemed perfectly natural to me. People thought I was faking when I wasn't, so I started to fake a lot in order to try to seem normal. And then I really was faking, and it showed!

In order to seem less "sincere", I had to become more sincere - to act like myself without overthinking. Which is much easier said than done, and not always something I'm perfect at even now.

Several things:

1. I assume that everyone I'm around is as smart as I am and as emotionally engaged as I am - until proven otherwise. I've managed to separate my generalized misanthropy ("Humanity is selfish and stupid!") from how I feel about the people in front of me, so I don't feel the need to lead/show off.

2. I recognize that there are fucked-up social situations and terrible people and I am willing to leave. I refuse to get pulled into competitive/show-offy dynamics or to want to triumph over people. If a social group strikes me as toxic, I leave. If a group is boring to me, I stop hanging around with them; I don't try to make them into something else.

3. Getting older has helped me stop desperately wanting to be liked. I like to be liked, but I'm no longer willing to do backflips - so to speak - to get there.

4. I have internalized the fact that it takes two to make a social dynamic - I can't make anyone like me, but also if someone doesn't like me it's not a sign of some deep personal failure on my part and I don't have to ret con my personality to fit in with them. Thus, I find it easier to be myself rather than showing off.

5. I've accepted myself, mostly - on the one hand, I am not a special snowflake who deserves special treatment for my special feelings; on the other, I'm kind of a weirdo, have unusual interests, grew up differently from most people, etc. I am not better than other people, but I don't have to change what I care about to fit in with them, either.

Also, I've gotten smarter about choosing friends. I have serious friends and silly friends, but they all like me for who I actually am. Also, we share core ethical values. I used to want primarily intellectual friends (and I still like having intellectual friends) but I'm no longer willing to put up with/participate in bullshit and cruel, competitive behavior to get over with them.

To return to Living On A Prayer - let's say that you're out at karaoke with a group of friends, and you have a particular reason to sing Living On A Prayer very sincerely with that particular group - you really believe that it's a meaningful song and you want to show this to your friends, or maybe you've all been through something intense together and it's a touchstone. Some folks outside your group are going to look at you and think "what a posturing dork! that's a terrible song! what a cheesy cliche!" But that won't matter - your earnestness and sincerity with your group of friends is what's important.

Some of this "remember to laugh at yourself", "don't be too serious" stuff strikes me as putting too much on you - it's not your job to keep the tone light so that no one is ever uncomfortable. If folks are being thoughtless, or racists, or assholes, it's perfectly okay to bring that up with sincerity and directness.
posted by Frowner at 8:12 AM on September 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


You can still laugh at yourself without giving up Conor Oberst.

Try listening to more Elliott Smith, though. He was passionate and intense, but also had a wicked sense of sarcasm and edgy anger.

You could also add The Mountain Goats to your playlist too. John Darnielle is less earnest than Oberst and a bit darker.

And then there's Leonard Cohen, who manages to be emotionally expressive without coming across as whiny.

Overall, though, I find guys who listen to twee/emo music, and who write and/or read poetry, very appealing. So will some girl you meet one day.
posted by xenophile at 8:13 AM on September 13, 2011


But I'm wondering how I can start to laugh at myself, or if its even desirable.

Yes, being able to laugh at yourself is desirable, if your self-esteem is healthy. Maybe you have some more work to do to get to that point. It's hard to put other people at ease if you don't have a sense of yourself as a worthwhile person.

The phrase that leapt out to me in your question was "self-absorbed." That's going to turn people (at least, people who aren't absurdly shallow) off more than listening to Bright Eyes or writing poetry. Maybe you need to be a little self-absorbed right now to work on yourself, but you can always cultivate good listening skills.

Because I know on some level I'm a joke, so in my head at least I like to be serious?

On some level, we're all jokes. On some level, we all deserve to be taken seriously. I think Frowner has some good points, particularly around self-acceptance, not internalizing not being liked, and starting out with people from a baseline assumption that they're decent until proven otherwise. Those are good solid bases for developing the perspective that Kitty Stardust mentions - that things that happen to us, that emotions we're feeling are important, but that they're not more special or important than other people's feelings and experiences.

This is maybe not the most helpful advice, but based on my own observation, some of this comes with getting older. Mindfulness about the frame of mind you want to cultivate in yourself absolutely helps along the way, but genuinely feeling competent, secure in yourself, and okay with your own difference may not start to feel authentic until someone is in their late 20s or 30s.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:30 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


i used to take myself pretty seriously - not necessarily in the way you do, but seriously nonetheless. then my life fell apart in pretty significant ways and the shrink i was seeing really challenged my perception of myself.

specifically, when i said i didn't want to do something he would ask me why not. so i got into the habit of asking myself that question and sort of forcing myself to do things i wouldn't ordinarily do if there wasn't any answer beyond "because i might not be good at it" or "i don't know."

so i started taking all kinds of classes that sounded fun but i wouldn't ordinarily go near because i would likely bad at whatever it was. some of the classes i liked, some i didn't.

but the lesson i learned was that i could enjoy doing things that i'm really awful at. (also, sometimes i don't really enjoy things i am good at.) maybe that would work for you. but i've made friends i wouldn't have otherwise made and learned to really push outside my comfort zone. the last decade of my life has been extremely humbling ... but also a whole lot of fun.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 9:07 AM on September 13, 2011


I'm still a pretty serious person, all things considered, but I used to take myself a lot more seriously. That seriousness was always leavened somewhat by a goofy side, but still...I am not, and never will be, laid-back.

Still, sometime around 23 or 24 I went from being intense, and eager to show everyone how intelligent and/or cool I was, to being a pretty agreeable guy who more or less gets along with everyone. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but people who have known me for a long time have remarked on the change.

I think it was mostly getting older. I had a pretty dark period - almost a breakdown, but not quite - when I was 23 and I came out the other side with a different perspective (though I don't think I fully realized that at the time). I also just plain started doing stuff and getting out of my own head more. When you do things and interact with people, just for the sake of, well, doing things and interacting with people, a lot of that insecurity and self-consciousness that plagues your teens and early 20s starts to melt away. It happens at different times for different people, but this is really just about growing up.

That said, don't stop listening to Bright Eyes and writing poetry if that's who you are. I'm not about to start breaking out, say, New York magazine, or Interview, or some such trendy thing, on the subway rather than my staid and dorky subscription to The Economist, just so that people will look at me and think I'm cool. Most people, honestly, are not going to judge you negatively for your interests so long as you are a reasonably nice person with a sense of humor - which, despite your earnestness, you seem to be. And the few people who actually will judge you negatively for your interests...well, they're assholes.

Case in point: I haven't read a line of poetry since college, and I think Bright Eyes is mostly overwrought dreck, but if we were to have a beer I would happily ask you about your thoughts on both. Maybe I'll learn something. Just be yourself and take and active interest in others and things will, usually, fall into place.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:46 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I don't take myself seriously nobody will.

I think you're fatally confusing the notion of being taken seriously with acting serious.

To be taken seriously is really to be respected, to be appreciated, to be seen as someone whose ideas or skills or qualities are worthwhile. None of that requires -- indeed, for some people it may even be undermined -- by lacking a sense of humor (which is really the lack of a sense of perspective) about one's self.

In fact, consider this: having a sense of humor about yourself may even prompt some people to respect you more -- that is, to take you more seriously, precisely because the ability to laugh at one's self demonstrates a healthy sense of self (rather than a fragile, ego-based sense of self). So taking yourself too seriously, paradoxically enough, can send the message to others that they shouldn't bother to take you too seriously.

Speaking of the sense of self more generally, make sure that your energy lies in cultivating your relationship to yourself, and your relationships to others, at the level of qualities. Take time to consider what the qualities you value most. Not what elements of pop culture you partake in, not what activities you enjoy, not what professional goals you might have... but what qualities? Kindness, compassion, curiosity, resilience? Cultivate those in yourself, and honor them in others.
posted by scody at 9:52 AM on September 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


So, here's the thing. Go ahead and listen to Bright Eyes if you want (but make sure that songs like A Bowl of Oranges are heavy in the rotation, just so you don't get too depressed). It's not that it's a problem that you're listening to it. But it is true that the music that you use to soundtrack your life is going to affect the way you react to things and interact with the world. I remember the summer after college, when I was living with my parents and commuting every day to a job I hated. I had just discovered Eliot Smith's XO, and I listened to it every day on the way to work. It's an amazing album, but holy shit was that a bad idea. It took what should have been just a simple shitty situation and transformed it, in my mind, into a wrenching pit of despair.

So, you and I like some of the same music (I'm basing that on your username, which indicates that you're a MG fan, and also I'm assuming you're the same LiB who comments at the AVC). Do you like Los Campesinos!? Very different from the other bands mentioned so far, but they have a good, positive energy - even serious, sad things are fun in a LC! song. Also, do you listen to any hip hop? Wu-Tang, especially GZA and Ghostface, should still appeal to an indy rock fan like you (seriously, I'd put Ghost up there with John Darnielle in terms of lyric-writing). But they have a different way of approaching the world, a swagger, that I find really refreshing to have in my head every once in a while.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:53 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I was writing this it occurred to me that acting classes might help get you out of your head. They will probably scare the shit out of you but if you embrace the experience you might gain some ability to look silly in front of others which goes a long way to developing this social trait of "taking your self less seriously." I have always been an earnest person (I still remember being admonished in 7th grade by a teacher to "lighten up." I told him no!) but the 2 acting classes I took in college took me WAY out of my comfort zone in a good way.

This occurred to me too. I took a few many years ago, and they helped immensely. Improv classes, at the beginning levels, can help too by forcing you to focus on playing with others.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:21 AM on September 13, 2011


Lovecraft, it looks like you posted this around midnight your time. I think that's when everyone is most prone to posting these cries of the soul. I've posted a bunch myself.

All I wanted to say is that you're an awesome person. I was going to make a pun based on your user name, but now I don't want to.
posted by Nomyte at 10:31 AM on September 13, 2011


I'd say just don't turn everything into a performance. People who are a little introverted or withdrawn often overcompensate wildly and mash all kinds of social interaction buttons because they are TRYING. TO. PARTICIPATE. MEANINGFULLY. and it just comes off as stilted and induces anxiety and/or embarrassment in their intended audience. Dump some alcohol on that, and it's just more fuel for the fire.

I think it's possible to be yourself and also spend most of your time deferring to prevailing tone/mood/attitude in the room around you. Instead of performing yourself, attempt to put others at ease. Since you already have a nice outlet (poetry, performance) in which you have total control over others, you can afford to relax your grip at all other times.
posted by hermitosis at 10:46 AM on September 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you like Bright Eyes, listen to Bright Eyes. Don't be the guy who hides what he loves because some person somewhere might judge him as being "too earnest" for listening to it. Seriously, fuck that person. People who think they know the total of another person through what music they listen to are boring prisses.
posted by Windigo at 11:26 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whenever I do something spectacularly embarssing, in the witness of other people, I say something that breaks the ice.

"I make it a point to look like an idiot twice a day, just to keep in practice."

Sometimes, if the thing I tripped over was particularly obvious, or the current event that I am ignorant of important enough, I'll add on:

"But I think I'm set for the week now with that one."

But it's really true. If you're not ever getting into awkward situations, if you're not ever forgetting what you know, or daydreaming such that you walk into a pole, you might not really be living your life.

Enjoy the things you enjoy. Enjoy them fully. Lustily. But, expand the list of things you enjoy. Widen your experiences. Meet more and more people. You will, with time, find other folks who listen to Bright Eyes and sing the crazy karaoke choices.

While your at it, relish some of the discomfort you bring to others. You are helping them grow! You are showing them that things they scorn can be fun. But don't mock them for not enjoying what you enjoy. That would be rude. (As they say, what others do to you is their Karma. How you react is yours.)
posted by bilabial at 11:58 AM on September 13, 2011


Since you linked to the site, it's worth reading up more on that Nice Guy Syndrome and how different it is from what you're contemplating changing about yourself. I don't think anyone's saying that you shouldn't listen to emotional music or work on intense art, or have genuine feelings or whatever. The "Nice Guy" thing is really a reaction to a specific sort of guy - one who is "nice" in quotation marks, not genuine and kind. He's always obliging, never wanting to offend or disagree, and in so doing he is not being his genuine three-dimensional self. He bends over backwards for women, and this is a turn-off because it's obvious there's no sincerity there, there's no substance. Then when he gets treated like a friend or acquaintance instead of a romantic prospect, he lashes out: "I'm a nice guy and you only date assholes! Women suck!" when really he's not getting rejected for being a nice person, he's getting rejected for being "nice" (read: too eager to please, one-dimensional, not genuine.)

And with the so-called serious stuff: if that's who you are, then own it, by all means. On the other hand, if you're stating to feel like that might be more of a posture, something that you do to signal (to yourself or to others) that you're a high-minded, thoughtful person - and if that's making the silly, laid-back, fun-loving side of you go into hiding - then you might want to reexamine that narrative about yourself. We're all pretty complex people with a multitude of seemingly contradictory things knocking around our brains. You can be thoughtful/intellectual/artistic without going out of your way to advertise it every second, and you can let yourself be totally ridiculous sometimes without sacrificing all of that other good stuff.
posted by naju at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Liking Bright Eyes (or writing poetry) has nothing to do with taking yourself seriously. If you think changes to how you act will make your life better, than persue them, but don't change what you like. You like Bright Eyes for a reason, because it's good. It's not for everyone (clearly!) but giving up things you like for some imaginary gain in the esteem of a person you probably wouldn't even like is not a good idea!

I love Bright Eyes and I take myself (and most everything) as unseriously as anyone. They are in no way mutually exclusive.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2011


I think to an extent everyone starts out like this, and every teenage cultural clash has come from diametrically oppositional tastes: Are you Rock or Disco? Mod or Rocker? These things we like - the bands, the styles, the tastes, the tattoos - they are approximations of what we are; our obsessions with them signify our intensity and depth of soul, and we cling to them as expressions of self. We are desperately seeking to define ourselves - most often in contrast to what we see are multitudes of mediocrity and mainstream blandness.

The thing is, though, as we get older - we start actually DOING stuff. Not just liking stuff. Not just positioning ourselves as "against" stuff - against irony, against earnestness, what have you. We start making buildings, changing laws, teaching younger minds, voting with our feet our dollars our time and effort, whatever it is that we do or want to do with ourselves. And slowly, defining ourselves by the things we like seems sort of silly. Or if not silly, at least - tangential to the whole incredible amazing weight of what you are.

The way to be taken more seriously is to *do* things instead of *like* things as an expression of self. By all means, be a fan of Bright Eyes and announce yourself a poet, or find some things to your sense of humor but not others. But to make those your signifiers of self seems to be leaning on a facade of taste. The perception isn't that you're self-serious - it's that you're incredibly self-conscious. Like what you like for what it is - not because you think it telegraphs something deep about you.

You are more - waayyy more - than the sum of what you like. You are not just a walking bag of impeccable earnest taste or comic sensibilities. No one is looking and judging you on your likes and dislikes as much as you think they are.
posted by sestaaak at 12:57 PM on September 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


You could also add The Mountain Goats to your playlist too. John Darnielle is less earnest than Oberst and a bit darker.

Google my username. Join's written a heart-wrenching song about Toad's feelings as he waits for Mario to beat Bowser. He's pulled passion out of horror movie actors and teenage metalheads.

I've done acting classes (including one at NIDA) and listened to Leonard Cohen, both at the urging of my dad. Acting class was fun, and I was pretty good at it. Never stuck with it, but I might go back. Dad's a real serious Method type. As for Cohen, I love the heavy stuff and kinda cringe at all the sex stuff.

I'm still reading through all the advice. Part of the 'earnestness' thing is a pose, but part of it was just being fed up with hipster irony and Aussie jokiness and wanting to sorta live in a Mountain Goats song all the time. I realize it's not sustainable though. I never realized it was a bad thing until recently.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:46 PM on September 13, 2011


Location matters. I tend to be a bit too earnest for a lot of new yorkers and a bit too snarky for a lot of midwesterners.

If all else fails, you can be so earnest that you're the straight man. You have to be persistently unoffended for it to work, but people will certainly enjoy spending time with you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:48 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


(In the interests of accuracy, and if it matters, 80% of the time I just listen to Gaslight Anthem and Hold Steady. Who do mock themselves)
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:04 PM on September 13, 2011


Location matters. I tend to be a bit too earnest for a lot of new yorkers and a bit too snarky for a lot of midwesterners.

Did I mention I moved to Australia 8 years ago? Australians have about 20 ways to say "Don't take anything seriously", half of which I can't say on MeFi. And they mean ANYTHING. Racism, yourself , 9/11...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:07 PM on September 13, 2011


I got that impression. And frankly, just like all immigrants, you'll never fit in 100%, and that can be hard. Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:15 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holding back a little, not talking about yourself, really listening, observing, reserving comments and opinions until you can drop 'em at the perfect moment -- makes you a little bit mysterious and cool-seeming. Reveal yourself more slowly.

Also, you don't have to have an answer for everything, as my sainted pop used to say (to me of course).
posted by thinkpiece at 4:26 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to be less self-absorbed, turn yourself outwards. Find something really big and fun and just go for it. You like singing Living on a Prayer? Awesome. Get some vocal training; see what else you can pull off and how you can add your own touches to the song. You like clever music that's about feelings and writing poetry? Sounds like you can write songs. Get a guitar--"This Year" is probably one of the simplest songs you can learn to play. My guitar teacher taught it to me in six chords, and I just whale away at it whenever I feel like pretending I'm John Darnielle.

I don't know if you feel any interest in sports or the outdoors, but I find it much easier to laugh at myself after spending some time outside, just using my body. I don't mean exercising for the sake of Improving Yourself. I mean, if your whole goal is to become less serious about yourself, doing the self-improvement thing is pretty counterproductive. Go out and play. Go hike! Go swim! Get sore and scraped up! Go look at weird bugs and animals! You live in Australia, for crying out loud. It's got some of the most beautiful and interesting places on the planet. Go out, get tired, get your mind off yourself. I know it's pretty annoying to hear that, but--as an awkward, self-conscious, former Nice Girl--getting out there and letting nature dump me on my ass has left me happier and more at ease with myself than I've ever been. It works, so I recommend it.

Also, I think it can't hurt for you to make an earnest (ha) effort to understand and like your fellow Australians. What do they love to do? Why? Can you learn to enjoy those things with them? If you hold yourself away from them "look at those weird people, never taking anything seriously, they're NOTHING like me and they'll NEVER get me", how will you ever connect? If you're really going to stay in Australia, it's important that you like the people around you. It's just as important as whether or not they like you.
posted by millions of peaches at 5:33 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read HIGH FIDELITY stat. What you like isn't who you are. And it isn't who anybody else is either. I was mulling over your question at various points today and sestaaak's answer is what I would have said to you if I could write that well. There are so many great things about growing out of the idea that you are your tastes, and one of them is that you wouldn't take a jokey column about "types of guys" personally because they namechecked a band you're into. Another great thing is that you'll realize that there's a world of people out there who you might really connect with who never heard of John Darnielle. Actually, it's funny that you mentioned David Mitchell, who famously doesn't care for music at all.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:49 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


How do you feel about volunteering your time to a worthy cause?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:01 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure whether this applies to you, but the reason I avoid getting into conversations with earnest people is that they have a habit of "blocking the exits" of the conversation, and that makes me feel trapped. (Too many long conversations with smart, socially awkward guys about One Topic That Wouldn't End in high school/uni of have scarred me a bit) Most people will allow the conversation to flow from topic to topic with relative ease, but earnest people will not understand that the quip I made about the Axl Rose's head scarf was an attempt to shift the conversation off "Living on a Prayer - it's redemptive potential" to say, bad 90's fashion. Non-earnest types will realise when they start to lose their audience, and ask the other person something, or make a joke, or make a self deprecating joke about their obsession with bad 90's rock. Earnest types will keep bringing the conversation back to 'topic du jour', or even worse, never let it leave. And then I have to be rude - and I don't like being rude.

One quick thing, if you feel a bit disproportionately put upon by australians, it's probably not all in your head. We're not necessarily very nice to Americans (see here), mostly because they're seen as over confident, self-absorbed and a bit too earnest. If you're self-absorbed and earnest without being over confident, Australians probably seem quite mean.
posted by kjs4 at 7:01 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]




I'm not sure whether this applies to you, but the reason I avoid getting into conversations with earnest people is that they have a habit of "blocking the exits" of the conversation, and that makes me feel trapped. (Too many long conversations with smart, socially awkward guys about One Topic That Wouldn't End in high school/uni of have scarred me a bit) Most people will allow the conversation to flow from topic to topic with relative ease, but earnest people will not understand that the quip I made about the Axl Rose's head scarf was an attempt to shift the conversation off "Living on a Prayer - it's redemptive potential" to say, bad 90's fashion. Non-earnest types will realise when they start to lose their audience, and ask the other person something, or make a joke, or make a self deprecating joke about their obsession with bad 90's rock. Earnest types will keep bringing the conversation back to 'topic du jour', or even worse, never let it leave. And then I have to be rude - and I don't like being rude.


This reminds me of a Hold Steady song...
But thanks for calling that out. I do do that.


One quick thing, if you feel a bit disproportionately put upon by australians, it's probably not all in your head. We're not necessarily very nice to Americans (see here yt ), mostly because they're seen as over confident, self-absorbed and a bit too earnest. If you're self-absorbed and earnest without being over confident, Australians probably seem quite mean.


Could you go a bit more into why Aussies in general have a problem with earnestness? It makes me feel really self-conscious every time I see some movie reviewer complain that an action movie doesn't have enough of a sense of humor about itself or something like that. I never really heard the term as a bad thing until II moved here.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:07 PM on September 13, 2011


Hmmm - I'm sure someone's written a thesis about this. I've been thinking about it, and this is what I've got.

Earnestness in an of itself isn't generally seen as a character flaw. It's considered slightly irritating, as earnestness can ruin the flow of conversation, but it is also endearing, particularly when accompanied by gullibleness, which Aussie's delight in having fun with.

The 'taking oneself too seriously' is a slightly different issue and is definitely seen as a flaw. There is an assumption of equality in Australia that leads to some slightly odd manifestations. Most people err on humble/self depricating, as talking yourself up is seen as an attempt to raise yourself above the herd. You are allowed to excel, but only if you don't then act as if they are more worthy. If you do, Australian society will try to cut you down to size - the 'tall poppy syndrome' in action. 'Taking oneself too seriously' is worse, it means you believe you are more worthy, without actually being so. And that means that you must be mocked and ridiculed until you cower with shame - or learn to be self deprecating.

As you say, Aussies will make a joke about anything, particularly themselves. If you laugh at yourself, you are pulling yourself down to the masses, who are also laughing at themselves (we are all sometimes ridiculous but fundamentally decent people together, huzzah!) It can be harsh, but mocking earnestness is generally done in good faith (teaching someone not to be so gullible/self absorbed), mocking seriousness however, is punishment for sticking your head up too high.

Does that make sense? I shake my head in bewilderment at my own society fairly often, so other Aussies may have different theories/experiences.
posted by kjs4 at 8:57 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and what's the song?
posted by kjs4 at 8:58 PM on September 13, 2011


And now I've realised that I've totally mixed up both my decades and my bands - oh the shame!
posted by kjs4 at 9:06 PM on September 13, 2011


One thing I've always found good to do is to ask other people what they think on things. Don't trumpet your own views all the time, but sincerely listen to what they have to say, and let it settle a bit in your own head before attempting to respond. It's overwhelming/annoying when someone is always trying to convince you of their own view or how important it is - in general, bring more of the other person's input into the conversation and impose less on them. Try to be open to having your mind changed on stuff - you'll be surprised at what you learn!
posted by monocot at 9:07 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and what's the song?

I was poking fun at myself and my tendency to shoehorn them into every conversation. 'Most People Are DJs', I guess?


The 'taking oneself too seriously' is a slightly different issue and is definitely seen as a flaw. There is an assumption of equality in Australia that leads to some slightly odd manifestations. Most people err on humble/self depricating, as talking yourself up is seen as an attempt to raise yourself above the herd. You are allowed to excel, but only if you don't then act as if they are more worthy. If you do, Australian society will try to cut you down to size - the 'tall poppy syndrome' in action. 'Taking oneself too seriously' is worse, it means you believe you are more worthy, without actually being so. And that means that you must be mocked and ridiculed until you cower with shame - or learn to be self deprecating.

As you say, Aussies will make a joke about anything, particularly themselves. If you laugh at yourself, you are pulling yourself down to the masses, who are also laughing at themselves (we are all sometimes ridiculous but fundamentally decent people together, huzzah!) It can be harsh, but mocking earnestness is generally done in good faith (teaching someone not to be so gullible/self absorbed), mocking seriousness however, is punishment for sticking your head up too high.


Screw that. I'll take into account most of the other suggestions. I'll be less rude, less self-absorbed, and less of an uptight, flannel wearing, Hot Water Music aping beardo. But the 'tall poppy syndrome' and cutting down people's accomplishments things are bullshit, and I'll keep being a proud, irritating American with something to offer the world (even if its very little).
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:07 PM on September 13, 2011


Speaking as a fellow proud, irritating American who also lives in Australia right now -- there is a way to be proud of yourself and undermine the 'tall poppy' bullshit while not irritating Aussies too much (unless I hang around really non-irritable Aussies, that is).

There are two tricks.

1. Intermix being earnest / proud / achieving with making fun of one's earnestness / pride / sense of achievement. So I do things like exclaiming enthusiastically and completely earnestly "This is awesome!" and at other times laugh and say I tend to be a bit of an earnest person, ha ha aren't I kind of funny. I'm a lecturer and this works great in classrooms - I am totally over-the-top enthusiastic about my content, but at the same time I sort of laugh at myself for being so genuinely enthusiastic. The students really seem to enjoy the combination.

2. Regarding the tall poppy crap... it's taken me a lot of self-work to get to this point, but I will not shy away when talking about things I've accomplished. But the trick THERE is to talk about the things, not me. "Oh, once I wrote a paper about blahblah - the idea was that X, which I thought was fun because of Y" - I'm not hiding that I wrote the paper, but the focus was on the content of the paper. (And if all you have to say is that you wrote the paper, don't say it). Or "When I was traveling in Africa I noticed X" - where again the focus is on X, not the fact that I've travelled all around Africa. This lets you be proud of who you are and implicitly celebrate being accomplished and doing awesome stuff, and thus it subtly undermine the 'tall poppy' thing (which I agree with you is one of the hardest Aussie culture things to get used to, and I feel is kind of bullshit). But it also doesn't come off badly or rub people the wrong way - at least, I've never gotten jibing or mocking from Aussies for that kind of thing.

Now I'm sure my Aussie friends will see this and chime in that actually I'm really freaking annoying.
posted by forza at 10:02 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a fellow proud, irritating American who also lives in Australia right now -- there is a way to be proud of yourself and undermine the 'tall poppy' bullshit while not irritating Aussies too much (unless I hang around really non-irritable Aussies, that is).


What's to be gained by not irritating Aussies?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:04 PM on September 13, 2011


Screw that.

Hmm. kjs4 gave you good advice w/r/t tall poppy syndrome and you would do well to think about it and challenge your immediate reaction of "Screw that".

Rather than get defensive and, you know, American about it, consider you may just have to fine-tune some things.

I am an American with Irish citizenship and family in Ireland and I will just add that in my experience the Irish (like Aussies from what I am reading in this thread) do not like self-promotion. They are much, much more reserved on this score than Americans are. So even if you are someone who is not a big self-promoter by US standards, you may be coming in well above the Australian baseline.

In Ireland it would be frowned on to talk about how hard you worked on a project, or what special thing it was you did. You would do well to emphasise the team effort and talk about other people -- but even that, don't do it with a lot of color, "Joe is a hard worker and Sally sure knows databases" or something like that.

Also, the American sense of entitlement. The things I see on a everyday basis in NYC and its suburbs would not go over well in Ireland and I am getting from this thread in Australia, either.

So consider all that, and remember, the reaction "Screw it" might be part of the problem you are having.
posted by mlis at 10:06 PM on September 13, 2011


I want to be more attractive to inner-city hipsters, artists, and music fans. On the off-chance I find myself in a pub with a bunch of typical Aussies, I assume I'll keep my mouth shut. Besides, doesn't all the above just mean that I get an automatic +20 boost on appearing confident, even though I was a shy nerd on my home planet?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:09 PM on September 13, 2011


What's to be gained by not irritating Aussies?

you live in Austrailia! all of your potential friends and lovers are Aussies! emo music is not your problem, this is your problem.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:10 PM on September 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I want to be more attractive to inner-city hipsters, artists, and music fans. On the off-chance I find myself in a pub with a bunch of typical Aussies, I assume I'll keep my mouth shut.

I've never been anywhere near Australia and it seems like you have a more stereotypical view of Australians than I do! Here's the thing: there's nothing at all wrong with inner city hipsters, and I'm sure a lot of cool people are among them. BUT. Relying on those kinds of external signifiers to determine whether folks are worthwhile is why you're so anxious about yourself. Someone cracks a joke about dudes who listen to bright eyes and you freak out because wait isn't that the right thing for me to like? It's great that you like what you like, no one cares, and the sooner you stop judging other people on the basis of where they live / how they dress / what bands they like... the sooner you'll be vastly more accepting of others (and open to what they have to offer) and vastly more relaxed about your self. Music, fashion, whatever - those things are great and I'm not knocking them but they don't tell you anything about someone's character.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:25 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Inner city types (of which I am one) are just as bothered by stereotypical American self-promotion. I think you may misapprehend what it is to appear "confident" - you're right that self-assurance is an attractive trait, but what you seem to be exhibiting, insecurity papered over with bluster, is perhaps its polar opposite. Try to cultivate a less vampiric attitude towards your social interactions: be reserved, attentive, and develop a feel for the ebb and flow of conversation. Hang out with different strata: even if you keep to the inner city ring, you can meet artists, students, and working professionals. Don't try to adapt to what they seem to expect of you, but work out a mode of interaction that works for them all.

Basically, you need to learn some social skills. I'd also recommend getting a haircut.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:26 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]



Inner city types (of which I am one) are just as bothered by stereotypical American self-promotion.


Again, I'm not changing that. I'll take in every other suggestion in this thread. I'll try to be less rude, less 'vampiric', more socially inept, less self-absorbed, and all of that. But I am not giving in to tall poppy syndrome when I've barely poked my head above the weeds.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:31 PM on September 13, 2011


Yeah, just to reinforce what everyone is saying here -- you shouldn't be SELF-promoting. Never say things with the implicit goal of "I need to make clear how awesome I am" (which I gather is what rubs people the wrong way about a lot of Americans). But at the same time you don't need to totally buy into "accomplishment is bad" in order to avoid that; simply have a good sense of your own ridiculousness, talk about things you find interesting, and listen to other people, and that will let you get away with a lot.
posted by forza at 10:37 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry if this isn't for me to say, but I'm not sure how productive it is to turn every thread involving LiB into a referendum on either (a) LiB himself or (b) Australian culture. He says he's lived there for eight years, and he's not exactly old, so it's quite a chunk of his life so far. In his place I would be sick to my stomach of still being called "the American" in sentences that start with "you Americans." This far into his Australian residence, I think it's safe to assume that his issues, whatever they might be, do not stem from some kind of grave cultural faux pas. Most people would certainly look askance at being told that their own problems are driven by vast cultural dynamics they can't hope to understand.
posted by Nomyte at 11:02 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Australians generally don't like big-headed people. Big heads think they are 'better' than other people because of what they have done, what they own, who their friends are etc. They make themselves into a tall poppy. "Look at me, look at me! I am above you all!!"

Tall poppy syndrome is not about cutting down people who are successful. It's about lancing the big-head syndrome that infects some people when they become successful. There are HEAPS of successful Australians who will never be cut down because they have not let their success go to their heads.

Australians admire humility... as long as you are not too serious about it.

You were quick to become defensive before researching what 'Tall poppy' actually meant. If you are that quick in a social setting to have negative opinions about something you don't understand, I can see where you could rub people up the wrong way.
posted by the fish at 12:01 AM on September 14, 2011


Lovecraft, forgive me for being so blunt. Please take this in the spirit in which it is meant:

You are not a victim of tall poppy syndrome and this is not a cultural problem..

Nobody enjoys spending time with people who behave in a self-absorbed way. Nobody. Not even Americans. You feel ignored and not taken seriously by Australians because they are doing what polite people anywhere do when faced with anti-social behaviour: ignoring it and not taking it seriously. You can change their responses by changing your own behaviour.
posted by embrangled at 12:05 AM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I want to be more attractive to inner-city hipsters, artists, and music fans.

Why not think of it as wanting to find a way to be more attractive to people who are creative or smart or generous or adventurous or kind? Because, jesus, there are some inner-city hipsters and artists and music fans who are fucking assholes. There are some who are mean, shallow, unpleasant, fatuous dicks. Why on earth would you want to be more attractive to them? (A certain musical idol of my own once referred to these sorts as Butterfly Collectors.) By the same token, there are plenty of (oh, the horror) suburban non-hipsters and non-artists and non-music fans out there who are plenty warm, amusing, thoughtful, original, and smart -- people who could potentially challenge you and appreciate you and care about you as a person, not as some agglomeration of hipster signifiers.

As long as you insist on defining people by outer trappings, you're going to be defined just as narrowly in return -- by yourself and by others. You'll only wind up making yourself attractive to people who are similarly self-conscious, who care more about outer signifiers rather than essential qualities... and while you might find this satisfying on one level (e.g, if you make friends with the coolest hipster on the block), it won't ultimately translate into any deeper sense of happiness or ease in the world.

Listen: your music collection or your position on the hipster hierarchy is not the most important thing about you as a human being. It's not even in the top 10, the top 20... it's fucking nothing, and I say this as someone who has loved music deeply my whole life and who would cross the ocean for certain bands and musicians. Music is profoundly meaningful to me personally, but my being a music fan is not what has given my life meaning in relation to the world at large. Who are you as a son, as a brother, as a friend, as a partner? Who will you be as a father? Who are you as a citizen of the world? That question is never meaningfully or satisfyingly answered by talking about our tastes and preferences, by what we consume or wear, whether your idol is Conor Oberst or Kim Kardashian.

Trying to be more attractive to inner-city hipsters... honestly, fuck that shit. Life is too short to waste on that. And it's too damn long, too.

Focus on being a good person, a decent person, a compassionate person... you may be surprised to find yourself surrounded by a lot of good people, decent people, compassionate people in return. Guess what? Some of them will like the same music you do. Some of them won't. It will mean you'll sometimes have different types of conversations with them, but you'll be grown up and secure enough that you'll know it's not actually the thing that matters.
posted by scody at 12:10 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just got into an argument with a co-worker because he casually tossed off 'try hard' as a grievous insult (not at me). I don't think I'm ever going to understand this shit.


Why not think of it as wanting to find a way to be more attractive to people who are creative or smart or generous or adventurous or kind? Because, jesus, there are some inner-city hipsters and artists and music fans who are fucking assholes. There are some who are mean, shallow, unpleasant, fatuous dicks. Why on earth would you want to be more attractive to them?


'Cause I assume if I go to rural or suburban areas I'll get the shit beaten out of me?

I pile on the hipster hate as much as anyone, and I'd rather hang out with folk-punks and non-political poets. But my point is I'm not hanging out in RSLs or sheep stations.

Who are you as a son, as a brother, as a friend, as a partner? Who will you be as a father? Who are you as a citizen of the world? That question is never meaningfully or satisfyingly answered by talking about our tastes and preferences, by what we consume or wear, whether your idol is Conor Oberst or Kim Kardashian.

I'm going to be whatever Brian Fallon says I'm going to be. And he's going to tell me to be whoever Bruce Springsteen tells me to be, so I think I'm set for good role models.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:18 AM on September 14, 2011



Tall poppy syndrome is not about cutting down people who are successful. It's about lancing the big-head syndrome that infects some people when they become successful. There are HEAPS of successful Australians who will never be cut down because they have not let their success go to their heads.


Or because they think they have to act like that or they will be made fun of. Bernard Zuel identifed this as a factor in Australia having few 'true' rock stars.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:23 AM on September 14, 2011


LiB, seriously, one sexy dead rock star does not a culture make.


he casually tossed off 'try hard' as a grievous insult (not at me). I don't think I'm ever going to understand this shit.
Try Hard: a person who acts very similarly to a douche. For example like constantly posing to be a rebel against the system or attempting jokes at every opportunity that no one else is going to think are funny.
posted by the fish at 1:01 AM on September 14, 2011


Just got into an argument with a co-worker because he casually tossed off 'try hard' as a grievous insult (not at me). I don't think I'm ever going to understand this shit.

It's not that difficult. Let's break this down, starting from the top: why did you argue with him? I mean, was it that you find "try hard" to be a positive, rather than a negative? Or is it because you don't like people with annoying affectations being outed as "trying to hard"? What was the nature of the argument? Did you just shrug it off with a reply of, "that person you're talking about is really a good guy" or was it about the nature of "try-hard" in general?

And at the end, did you end up feeling better that you defended your try-hard friend/acquaintance, or did you just end up feeling like you had another bad interaction with Australians?
posted by deanc at 6:13 AM on September 14, 2011


[few comments removed - please do not turn this into a discussion about Australian culture and/or things that the question was not about. OP, please do not treat this AskMe like your own informal set of therapists. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 AM on September 14, 2011


It seems to me that the problem is mostly that you're just not very nice. That, of course, doesn't sound very nice coming from me, but your interactions [that I have witnessed, albeit, only on the internet] generally assume that you are right and everyone else is wrong, whether that be about WHAT things matter or about the specifics of an issue. Your commentary doesn't appear to be willing to "agree to disagree", much less think that someone else has the capacity to be "right" and you might be "wrong".

I also agree with others above that some of this is likely about maturity and/or age and will get better with time. That's why we talk about the notion of being twenty-years old and the smartest person on earth. We pass through this space where we think we have some handle on the way the world works, our own habits, values, etc-so how could ANYONE do/think/live any differently! We're not wrong, so they must be.

But life ain't a zero-sum game. Well, you can make it one, but then you'll probably be the one who loses.
[pretty sure this came off as way more unfriendly than intended. So, sorry about that!]
posted by atomicstone at 7:29 AM on September 14, 2011


Eh, working too hard to cultivate the right set of interests is a turn off to most people. It makes the person seem calculating and inauthentic. My friends and I have overlapping areas of mutual interest, but I wouldn't describe any of them as belonging to some cultural group that closely aligns with all my preferences, and that's okay. I value them for who there are, not for having the right interests.

Also, the focus on the specific music you're into seems weird. Maybe it's just because I don't have any familiarity with this type of music and it holds no interest for me. If you want to bond over music, make friends with people at shows, I guess, but so much focus on whether people will or won't like you based on what music you're into comes off as very High School.

I might add that none of my friends share my musical interests and I'm sure 90% of Mefites don't either.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:43 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


On review of this thread, I think part of your problem is that you base a lot of your identity on ideas and expressions in music. These are performances. Carefully crafted stage personas, that got a little "living legend" fairy dust sprinkled on them and began to loom far larger than the persons whom actually invented them.

You don't have anything in common with these figures. They don't care about you, and if you met them under the most ideal circumstances, they wouldn't really care anything about who you are or what you do, or how you live your life. They ultimately have had little control over how they or their music has been interpreted. Their songs are not meant as instructions for living. Not even Springsteen's.

Life is not like a Mountain Goats song. Trying to live as if you are in one means a life devoted to voluntary eccentricity and non-conformity, which not even the Mountain Goats themselves truly aspire to, and which is only occasionally rewarded with the kind of validation and attention you seem to be seeking. If you are intent on perpetuating a fiction, that's fine -- it's your life. But stop pretending that the problem is with other people who choose not to do so.

When people talk about "growing up," or tell someone else snidely to "grow up," they are usually talking about sacrificing some of one's more fanciful and selfish ideals in order to participate meaningfully in society. Obviously no one ever tells Bruce Springsteen to "grow up," but ye are not he.
posted by hermitosis at 8:34 AM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


This might seem like a nonanswer, and I've given it before for other issues people in their 20s have (bad dating, etc.) but I'm saying it in good faith and hope it might be some consolation at least: in my experience, a LOT of people simply are this way in their young adulthood and simply grow out of it by their 30s. It's not quite the same as fedora guy, or evo psych guy, or "your favorite band sucks I listen to band that don't even exist yet"/Scharpling and Wuster music critic guy, or "why do people treat me like a criminal, ice queen, or outsider slut" AskMe gal, but to me they're all similar in that these are things people still getting used to being independent and forging their own adult identities deal with. I look at my old profiles online from 5+ years ago and cringe at how "earnest" and self-absorbed and determined I was to flesh out every awesome thing I knew for all to see, etc., the importance and weight and narcissism in that. So it's cool you see it and want to work on it--that self-awareness indicates you're transitioning. It just kind of comes with more experience and a few years under your belt wallowing in that self-absorption til you get sick of it and realize there's tons in the world that isn't you and doesn't care about you or what you like (and realize how that's a great thing). It's similar to what makes people who are vehemently anti-kids and rude/dismissive about it in their 20s change their mind in their 30s, or what makes an ambitious career ladder-climber eventually switch to a non-profit or volunteer a lot or do work that doesn't have the prestige or pay but affirms their values later. Making the world bigger than yourself is an organic, natural social and emotional process that experience guides along for the majority of people who are thoughtful or open enough to pay attention to their experiences. So. That's all. It will probable come on its own; it already is.

And I agree with those upthread saying it's not about throwing away your Bright Eyes CDs or whatever, nor doing all this to impress upon people you're good person. It's about keeping those CDs as long as you like them but not going on about them to people who don't care (and recognizing they have stuff they love too but the grace not to foist it on uninterested strangers or whatever) because you're comfortable in your private love for things and your interior identity, don't need to show it off for reassurance/validation. And knowing you're a good person, not needing to prove it in facile heuristic step by step paint by numbers ways.
posted by ifjuly at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been casually following this question for a while, primarily because I was interested in the responses to this question to use for my own purposes, and not because I was interested in answering the OP's original question. But after all of the following 'updates'. I will say (and I don't mean this trivially either) that you, OP, are really, really boring person.

What I mean by boring: Your responses have all shown characteristics of someone who is completely self-absorbed and unable to understand anyone outside of your small little world. This is exactly why everyone else thinks you are creepy and too intense. NOT because you like Mountain Goats or Bright Eyes or poetry or whatever, but because you think you're a special snowflake and no one understands you, yada yada yada. Well, guess what, there are 6-7 billion people on this earth and all of them have an insane amount of experiences that YOU, one small limited person, can't even contemplate of experiencing. So, live a little. Get out of your head. Try to understand other people. Try not to group all Aussies into one small stereotype. Try not to get hang ups about defining yourself as a serious emo person.

I am probably about the same age as you are, and I have lived for more than 3 years each in several different countries in three different continents. And I will say that yes, there are general country stereotypes, but if you meet someone and immediately group them into these types, you are limiting yourself and your reactions/ friendships with this person. The "Australian" thingy is just an excuse. If you were in the States, you would complain about people from the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, South, New York, New Jersey, White Plains, prep schools, rednecks, Christian Evangelists, PhD students, i-bankers, older people, younger people, your friends, your own family not understanding you. You will complain that no one understands you no matter what the circumstances. It's all about the environment you're in, never about you and how you relate to other people.

Life is a fucking farce. It is. We all will die, so why even bother living if there's one inevitable conclusion? Hence it is all a farce and the only way we can go about coping with this fact (well, other than to believe in an afterlife) is to live life well in all its complexity and laugh at oneself and to not take it seriously.
posted by moiraine at 10:18 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


edit: replace "special snowflake" with "tall poppy among the weeds" (more appropriate for this thread).
posted by moiraine at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2011


Answer: Tall poppy syndrome is not about cutting down people who are successful. It's about lancing the big-head syndrome that infects some people when they become successful. There are HEAPS of successful Australians who will never be cut down because they have not let their success go to their heads.

OP: Or because they think they have to act like that or they will be made fun of.


Genuinely kind, successful, intelligent people are just acting like themselves - they're not worried about being made fun of, because they are confident and secure in themselves and their achievements.

As others have said, there's nothing wrong with being awesome at A or enthusiastic about B... just don't rub other people's faces in it. Australian or not, I think people like to see a little humility and normality mixed in with enthusiastic raving.

For example: My brother is excellent at math and absolutely loves it; he's studying for his PhD and fully intends to study it forever, as far as I know. Is it generally considered super "cool" to be a math nerd? No, not at all. Does he get made fun of? Yes probably, but he is so smart and accomplished to begin with that he doesn't feel or act "cut down" by other people's joking comments. He's confident and he'll join right into the fray of jokes about his work; half the time, he even intiates the jokes! But he never undermines his own enthusiasm about his work; he obviously loves the work but he shows that he's aware it's pretty unusual.

Any niche topic has the potential to be a boring conversation killer; AND any topic has the potential to be the subject of group interest and light-hearted joking. It's kind of up to you, the narrator of the story, to give a topic the appropriate treatment (if you want to get along with your peers).

I think forza's advice (which you marked as a "best") is perfect.

You don't need to cut yourself down ("Yeah I like Mountain Goats but I'm really dumb and I have bad taste.") because that's just depressing. However, you could say something light-hearted and self-deprecating like ("Yeah I like Mountain Goats, I'm one of those wild devotees! Next thing you know, I'll be cashing in my retirement plan to follow them around on tour.") You're not insulting yourself, you are sticking to your guns about liking MG, but you're not putting people off by being boring or having a one-topic conversational capability.
posted by cranberrymonger at 10:45 AM on September 14, 2011


I think you need to ask yourself a question: Why do I want inner-city hipsters/folk-post-punk rock crooners/artists to like me? Does their coolness rub off on you? If John Darnielle said "Hey LiB, I like you", would that validate you as being worthy? Or do you make idols out of those who have public approval?

Next, I think you have to do something. The impression I get from this thread and a 5 minute stroll through your profile is that you spend most of the day listening to music, posting comments on MeFi and the AV Club, and telling the world that Australia is awful. You have opinions, which is great! But opinions do not an interesting man make. A person full of opinion and devoid of experience is a talking head whose opinions do not reflect reality. That's enervating.

But there is nothing more admirable that someone who does something, anything, passionately and humbly. People love that! You'll love that! So go write a song, plant a garden, write some poems, help at an animal shelter, do whatever it is that helps you get out of your head and into the world. Then: shut up about it. Sure, tell people what you do/have been doing ("I spent all weekend writing a story"), but don't carry on about it. That's where you lose people. Let them ask you for details; if they aren't that interested, maybe they aren't worth your time.

A caveat of creativity: No matter how good your thing is, no matter how big it gets, no matter how much universal acclaim it has, someone is going to make fun of it simply because it exists. I have a friend who doesn't like Nirvana and The Beatles because they are "overrated". The hipster archetype loves that because it distinguishes him from the masses without putting part of himself out there, lest he be mocked.

Also, watch it with the self-deprecating humor. It's hard to tell which of your comments are jokes, and even those seem tired, like you read a book on how to play the character of Lovecraft in Brooklyn. I used to maintain a Livejournal, and reading it now is so cringe-inducing because I could see just how painfully self-aware I was: I'd write about my day even when I had nothing to say, then I'd apologize for being boring. I was afraid to be anything other than a jokey entertainment machine, which prevented me from being earnest, honest, and vulnerable. I get the same impression from you.

So, seriously. Do something, don't apologize for it, and don't tell everyone how important your thing is. Take each individual at face value instead of a pre-determined locational stereotype (i.e. "I better not tell this Hipster I like Stone Temple Pilots!" or "Ennh this guy's from the suburbs he's probably racist so I better ignore him.") You'll be okay. But seriously, do something!

Also, stop making fun of Australians at every turn. It's tired, schticky, and makes you sound like a dick even when it's a joke.
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:20 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow... I realized I had work to do, but I thought I was getting better. But thanks for letting me know. I'm slowly becoming aware of how self-absorbed I am - I had some pretty ugly thoughts yesterday and today that I won't share, but I do realize its hard for me to care about people unlike myself. This might also why I have so much trouble remembering names.
My friend yesterday called me out on not making eye contact when I noticed how she was.

OTOH, I took the 'fedora guy' thread so literally I almost got heatstroke, so yeah.

I'm not sure what to do, though. I cut down on my blogging this year, but I was actually pretty good at writing it (even if everything was really self-absorbed). So I'm not sure if that's 100% positive. I've cut my Facebook statuses to one or two a day, and I've tried to shut up more in social situations. But the pattern is usually 'Realize how fucked I am' -> 'retreat socially' -> 'realize this just makes me more depressed and antisocial' -> 'go out and make some of the same mistakes, but hopefully fewer.

I might just print out this thread and show it to my therapist, though since we're mostly working on my self-confidence I'm not sure it'll help. But its a start.


Also, watch it with the self-deprecating humor. It's hard to tell which of your comments are jokes, and even those seem tired, like you read a book on how to play the character of Lovecraft in Brooklyn. I used to maintain a Livejournal, and reading it now is so cringe-inducing because I could see just how painfully self-aware I was: I'd write about my day even when I had nothing to say, then I'd apologize for being boring. I was afraid to be anything other than a jokey entertainment machine, which prevented me from being earnest, honest, and vulnerable. I get the same impression from you.


It's the Internet - everyone's got a persona. I doubt The Whelk spends all his time drinking martinis and being witty. I'm trying to be self-deprecating because people seemed to find the non self-deprecating stuff annoying, but I can't help myself when I post the same stuff.

Also, stop making fun of Australians at every turn. It's tired, schticky, and makes you sound like a dick even when it's a joke.

How many other expats are there here? Someone's gotta point out the differences. The healthcare thread was closed, so there goes the balance.

But seriously, thanks for all the candid responses. I was long overdue for a good Reason You Suck Speech.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2011


My friend yesterday called me out on not making eye contact when I noticed how she was.

er, asked how she was.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2011



Life is a fucking farce. It is. We all will die, so why even bother living if there's one inevitable conclusion? Hence it is all a farce and the only way we can go about coping with this fact (well, other than to believe in an afterlife) is to live life well in all its complexity and laugh at oneself and to not take it seriously.


that's how you cope with it. I tried to do that and I went really, really, really crazy. The only way I found to deal with it was to pretend that Craig Finn and Brian Fallon and Meat Loaf and even Gerald fucking Way had the answers. they don't, but if I pretend they do I can usually make it through.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2011


I don't think cutting down on diary writing/blogging is necessarily the answer--even when I wince reading entries of mine from 10 years ago I'm grateful to have that record--it's just a matter of being open to the idea of growth. I remember when I thought growth of any kind meant change in my inner most self meant selling out, being less special. Then I got older, matured, grew up, saw how it depends on circumstance and sometimes change is good for me and the world at large. I'm glad I have a record of that personal evolution; looking back and rereading, I can appreciate it clearly.
posted by ifjuly at 7:37 PM on September 14, 2011


I don't think cutting down on diary writing/blogging is necessarily the answer--even when I wince reading entries of mine from 10 years ago I'm grateful to have that record--it's just a matter of being open to the idea of growth. I remember when I thought growth of any kind meant change in my inner most self meant selling out, being less special. Then I got older, matured, grew up, saw how it depends on circumstance and sometimes change is good for me and the world at large. I'm glad I have a record of that personal evolution; looking back and rereading, I can appreciate it clearly.

I'm TRYING. Every day, every year, I TRY. This month, for some utterly bizarre reason, its a fitness kick. Before that it was being less creepy, and trying to lighten up. I did stop blogginb because I realized I had nothing to say to people who weren't reading.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2011


Seriously, you remind me so much of myself and friends with ADHD that really affects our social skills. It makes it really really hard to concentrate on other people unless they're being "interesting", makes it hard to learn names, makes you constantly figure out what you're doing wrong but you're unable to consistently implement any permanent behavioral changes. Think about it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:48 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


How many other expats are there here? Someone's gotta point out the differences.

There are quite a few and let me assure you this is not something that needs to be always stated or you risk becoming "that guy" on this topic.
posted by jessamyn at 7:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm slowly becoming aware of how self-absorbed I am - I had some pretty ugly thoughts yesterday and today that I won't share, but I do realize its hard for me to care about people unlike myself.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
posted by scody at 9:17 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't try to change anything about yourself. Change may happen, but you cannot make it happen, whatever the guru's tell you. If you want to be unhappy, keep on fighting yourself; if you want to be happy, accept who you are with compassion. Once you love yourself, as you are now, you'll have plenty of room in your life for other people, and self-absorbtion won't be an issue. Just accept.
posted by nickji at 12:43 AM on September 15, 2011


Don't try to change anything about yourself. Change may happen, but you cannot make it happen, whatever the guru's tell you. If you want to be unhappy, keep on fighting yourself; if you want to be happy, accept who you are with compassion. Once you love yourself, as you are now, you'll have plenty of room in your life for other people, and self-absorbtion won't be an issue. Just accept.

So in order to be less self-absorbed and selfish, I must above all things love myself? And then I'll... somehow be able to relate and love other people? Is this some zen thing?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:49 AM on September 15, 2011


Keep trying. Take that earnestness and sensitivity you've got and use it to find beauty and feel joy. When you find it, revel in it. Those feelings make up the core of who you are. They are good things. Being able to feel the lowest of lows generally means you feel the highest of highs, too. I looked over your past questions and saw that you've really been seeking help from many sources; it takes a while for those things to take hold and strengthen you. In the meantime, keep pushing yourself. You'll get there.

Life is a fucking farce. It is. We all will die, so why even bother living if there's one inevitable conclusion? Hence it is all a farce and the only way we can go about coping with this fact (well, other than to believe in an afterlife) is to live life well in all its complexity and laugh at oneself and to not take it seriously.

that's how you cope with it. I tried to do that and I went really, really, really crazy.


This is twisted (and I apologize if I upset anyone with real experiences with suicide and depression), but the realization that I can give up the struggle and kill myself anytime has been empowering. If I'm so upset about being alive that I'm willing to off myself--that basically means that I get to choose when I die. The fact that I have not yet killed myself means that I am here because I want to be here.

Life is a farce, why bother living? Well, I can't think of a big grand reason to live, but...I'd like to surf just one more time. I want to hear Ocean by Sebadoh just one more time. I'd like to eat another bowl of pho. I want to play Karma Police on the piano. I want to make my own book scanner. I want to hear my friend's awesome laugh one more time. I want to buy something from a local craftsman. I want to hear about my mom's day. I want to see what the world looks like from the top of Cowles Mountain. I think these things...and then I go out and try to make them happen. If they don't, well, it's not like I'm going to regret not doing them on my deathbed. And if they really were, I could just quit living. Somehow when I live my life from one moment to the next, I forget to be overwhelmed by the bigger picture. As long as there's just one more thing I want to do, I'm going to be okay. It's funny--the more I do, the more I think of to do. And that's...how I cope. It seems to be working well so far. I smile a lot more these days.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:07 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Life is a farce, why bother living? Well, I can't think of a big grand reason to live, but...I'd like to surf just one more time. I want to hear Ocean by Sebadoh just one more time. I'd like to eat another bowl of pho. I want to play Karma Police on the piano. I want to make my own book scanner. I want to hear my friend's awesome laugh one more time. I want to buy something from a local craftsman. I want to hear about my mom's day. I want to see what the world looks like from the top of Cowles Mountain. I think these things...and then I go out and try to make them happen. If they don't, well, it's not like I'm going to regret not doing them on my deathbed. And if they really were, I could just quit living. Somehow when I live my life from one moment to the next, I forget to be overwhelmed by the bigger picture. As long as there's just one more thing I want to do, I'm going to be okay. It's funny--the more I do, the more I think of to do. And that's...how I cope. It seems to be working well so far. I smile a lot more these days.

Seconding this, if anyone needs it. "I can't kill myself because I need to go to this party and play Gears of War 3" works pretty well. I was talking about the 'not taking anything seriously' line. I figured that if everything was meaningless, I'd force everything to be meaningful.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:34 AM on September 15, 2011


So in order to be less self-absorbed and selfish, I must above all things love myself.

You can treat yourself with kindness and compassion while also accepting that you need to change some of your behaviours in order to form meaningful connections with other people. You might find that difficult right now, but that's what therapy is for.

And since you've mentioned dark thoughts and suicide, I feel obligated to add this:

The Lifeline number in Australia is 13 11 14. Please call them if you need to talk.
posted by embrangled at 1:53 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I figured that if everything was meaningless, I'd force everything to be meaningful.
This is practically the job description for a person in their mid-twenties.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:01 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Life is a fucking farce. It is. We all will die, so why even bother living if there's one inevitable conclusion? Hence it is all a farce and the only way we can go about coping with this fact (well, other than to believe in an afterlife) is to live life well in all its complexity and laugh at oneself and to not take it seriously.

When I wrote this, I *didn't* mean that everything is meaningless. Rather, the opposite. Everything is meaningful precisely because we will all die one day and yet we choose every day to live. Not just you, or me, but the six - seven billion people out there who (mostly) choose life and building meaningful relationships and to love and laugh in the face of death. Everything is beautiful and amazing precisely because it is transient. And it seems to me you are trying to force meaning (or place a greater importance) on certain concepts/ emotions more than others, when everything ... is everything, do you know what I mean?

Yes, you can love certain genres of musical styles/ songs/ lyrics/ singers/ films/ artistes/ whatever floats your boat, but you must realize that all these things are merely small pale shadows of the large grand world of millions and millions of emotions and people and scenarios and possibilities. You are hanging onto these few concepts to try to define your identity and make order of the world and give meaning to your life, but why stop at these few concepts? Why keep going around in the same circles? I'm guessing you are unable to break out of your own world, but the truth is, no one breaks out of their little world by themselves. We all need other people to expand our world and so do you, reach out and stop building barriers between yourself and others. The more you impose your judgments and opinions on the world (i.e. Aussies are fundamentally different from me), the more isolated you become, the more your world will shrink, until one day you find yourself in a world vanishing into a pinprick of nothingness. And then there will be nothing left.
posted by moiraine at 6:13 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, meaningfulness does not equate to seriousness. Which I think is the fundamental misconception throughout this entire question, and which I think you have to recalibrate/ redefine. One can be completely not serious about life, but yet care about the world and find meaning and joy everywhere,.
posted by moiraine at 6:26 AM on September 15, 2011


So in order to be less self-absorbed and selfish, I must above all things love myself? And then I'll... somehow be able to relate and love other people? Is this some zen thing?

Yes, and yes. Though I don't think of it as exclusively zen.

Once you begin to love yourself -- love yourself not with the desperate chest-puffing of the narcissist, but rather with true tenderness and friendliness, with tolerance and forgiveness for your mistakes and gratefulness and honor for your strengths -- then yes, you will find that have developed a greater capacity for tenderness and friendliness and tolerance and forgiveness and gratefulness and honor for others. Because in humbly but lovingly embracing your own true self, you'll start to discover that your existence, your experiences, your joys and sorrows are no better or worse than those of the rest of the world. You discover your shared humanity, which is about 1000 times more important and enriching than shared tastes.
posted by scody at 9:43 AM on September 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's like scody walked into my computer and read the comment I wrote (twice, and deleted twice), and then found a way to say what I actually wanted to say. Scary.

One thing I'll add is that having compassion and kindness for the parts of you you don't like, or that are acting as obstacles to living your life the way you'd like to, doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't change them. My inner five-year-old throws tantrums sometimes, but as with a real five-year-old, treating the tantrum-throwing with contempt and disdain doesn't do any good in changing the behavior. Behaving with kindness and understanding towards oneself is a door to being able to do so towards other people. It's also, in my experience, easier to change destructive habits or behaviors when one engages in trying to understand what motivates them and how they actually interfere with getting what you want, rather than saying to yourself "You're such a weak jerk; how could you be so stupid as to [do thing]?" Contempt and disdain do not generally lead to understanding and change; on the flip side, compassion and kindness do not mean you must tolerate or embrace counter-productive or destructive patterns or qualities.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on September 15, 2011


I am an anxious person and not a depressed person. I have a lot of depressed people as friends. I often have conversations with them about why they may or may not be leading the sort of life that they want to be leading. I'm not sure if this is helpful to you, but it's covering a topic that seems to be coming up over and over here, so my perspectve might be helpful.

Often when I am talking to my depressed friends and I'm offering various forms of advice [and these are longtime good friends, this is not me being the chirpy lady at the water cooler] there is often this sort of "Well you should try this" "Well I did that and someone told me it made me more annoying" "Well how about this other thing?" "This person says they hate people like that" "This thing that I do sometimes works for me" "I did that for a week and nothing changed"

The two takeways from this, for me, other than the fact that depression is a pervasive and terrible thing to be stuck inside of, is that my friends were often somehow externalizing their lack of ability with various things and focusing on the blame for the problem and not what might be done to mitigate it. Now this isn't a "how to cure your depression" pep talk because I'm aware that road is complicated and involves a lot of things that are more intensive than just talking to goobers on the internet, but I'd often find that my friends would take other people's opinions on things very very seriously while diminishing their own. And they considered the problem solved when they decided who was to blame for their terrible mood, not when they found a strategy to help them deal with whatever-that-was. I found this counterproductive and it was very difficult for me to be a friend t someone whose conversation skills were a littany of the terrible things that had happened to them. EVEN IF TRUE, there needs to be balance, give and take, for that friendship to have balance.

So when you say even in your opening question "mope around listening to Bright Eyes (which is apparently unattractive)" I see that thing again. You're not trying to be attractive to everyone, so it shouldn't matter to you if random people aren't attracted to a thing. There is literally no way to be attractive to everyone, and you should be focusing on the opinions of the people whose company you would enjoy and who you'd like to enjoy your company, and the things you truly like even if maybe they're not popular. My friends would get bent out of shape when someone at work made some snarky comment--people whose opinions they didn't even respect--and get bent out of shape about it [and talk on and on about it, it was clearly something very impactful for them] while not having the self-centered perspective to realize that that other person is an asshole, or whatever, and that focusing on that as a thing to talk about, when there are so many hours in the day, was keeping themselves in a dark cloud. Again, this is an outsider perspective and I do not think these things are simple, but just in a "minute by minute" sense of how things are doing, I find it helpful to sort of look at the things you choose to think and talk about as part of a data point of how you are doing.

Really, most people in the world are doing okay at some level and desperately failing at some other level, it's not just you. You may be in some social scene with a bunch of other people who take people apart and there may be some benefit to having less of that in your life if you find those comments ["you're not making eye contact"] to be tough to deal with and take. I became a more happy less anxious person when I left the big city and quit hanging around with people whose values were not the same as my own so I didn't feel like I was in a culture shock situation in my own community.

From a more personal perspective, if you don't like it in Australia: leave. Otherwise it would be good to try to make your peace with the "people here are different and it's weird and it makes me uncomfortable" mindset because as an adult person you have choices in who to surround yourself with and what you choose to do with your time and what you choose to talk about. You are a person with, what I can tell here, a lot of varied interests and things you are curious and thoughtful about and shifting your own talk-o-meter more towards things you think are neat and less things you think are awful can go a long way towards tipping outside observers' impressions about what you are really about. I often have an exercise with myself where I think about the conversations I've had in a day and think "What sort of impression does that give of me?" and if I've had an annoying day of bills and phone calls and confusion and whatever, but I also ate a great lunch, saw a friend I liked and solved a tricky problem at work, I can look back and think which of those things did I focus on, and which did I feel were important and am I sending the right message. People have a LOT less data about you than you do, so part of your human job is making sure you're giving people an accurate impression of you and part of growing up is realizing that's a lot more under your control than you may have previously thought. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


tl;dr if I learned anything from AA it was that you can't change other people so you should presume they are immovable objects, not rely on any "rules" to keep you safe and muddle along the best you can. Hugs.
posted by jessamyn at 11:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I discussed this thread with my therapist, and she came to many of the same conclusions the majority of people here did. Thanks for all the advice.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:59 PM on September 19, 2011


Alright, I'm REALLY trying on this front, but it still bugs me when I earnestly talk about great musicians and my peers make fun of me.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:03 PM on October 5, 2011


Then you need new friends. Or stop talking to those friends about music and find other friends to talk to about music who are more into what you're into. Or you need to step up and tell those friends that the teasing makes you feel bad and you'd like them to stop. And then if they don't stop it's pretty clear that they're either unwilling or unable to do what you require in a friendship. Some of this is just the terribleness of being a young person when everyone's sort of jockeying around for status and trying to find themselves, but part of it is finding people who you feel comfortable and happy around. Not everyone is going to make fun of your musical tastes. Not everyone is going to share your musical tastes or know how to carry on a conversation with people who don't share their tastes. What you are doing now isn't working so you'll need to find a trajectory to adjust what you are doing and see if you get different results. I know it sucks and is annoying when it seems like it's not so HARD for everyone else, but that's the job for right now.
posted by jessamyn at 11:10 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm talking about coworkers. And MeFites.

Or stop talking to those friends about music

I work for a music site... its kinda impossible to not.

My friends are cool with me, but it really bugs me when I get teased for loving Brian Wilson (and that isn't just a MeFi callout - it happened to me IRL at work a few years ago).

I mean its cool that the sorta smaller bands I like get made fun of, but when people are attacking icons with total irreverence it just feels... itchy and wrong.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:12 PM on October 5, 2011


I earnestly talk about great musicians and my peers make fun of me.

and

I mean its cool that the sorta smaller bands I like get made fun of, but when people are attacking icons with total irreverence it just feels... itchy and wrong.

I don't think they are making fun of "great" musicians per se, I think they are making fun of your insistence on making idols out of these musicians/ worshiping. I known people whose lives revolved around a particular hobby (stand-up comedy, music, films, wine, art, sculpture, etc) and idol-worship everything the founders have done and and oh god, it's annoying, it's funny, it's also really weird and creepy. And especially so if they get all defensive and prickly about it. Hobbies do not make identities.

I think number9dream is one of the greatest books ever written (I did a Lit major at an Ivy) and I fan-girl over David Mitchell because it's fun to fan-girl and be all gushy, but I know that at the end of the day, it's really just a book. He's an excellent writer, but he's still an ordinary person. Just like all of us. It's fun and cool to be passionate about something, but at the end of the day, these are just things.
posted by moiraine at 4:28 AM on October 6, 2011


Nobody owes any musician 'reverence'. If your friends/Mefites genuinely don't like the music of Brian Wilson (or some similarly iconic equivalent), or even if they kinda like him but don't think the music is gape-jawed astounding, why is there any more reason to withhold their negative or semi-negative opinions about Bwilson than their negative or semi-negative opinions about these 'sorta smaller bands' you mention?

Perhaps you're saying that some musicians or some pieces of music (presumably including those you consider iconic) exist, by virtue of their quality, on a plane where they ought to be subject to no criticism. But folk's response to music is by no means universal. For instance, if I mind correctly, you've had some fairly (let us say) unkind things to say about house in the past - there are folk, though, for whom it offers precisely the type of personal redemption you talk about above. This isn't a reason for you to like it; it's not even a reason to take it seriously. But it's partially because you don't have this kind of connection to the music that you are able to dismiss it as you do. It may be worth considering, then, that people who do not share your attachment to particular musicians and pieces of music have absolutely no reason (and nor should they!) to take them any more seriously than they want to; and that, furthermore, the seriousness, or lack thereof, with which they regard the music that you experience as redemptive/numinous/etc. cannot diminish the seriousness that you regard it with.
posted by Dim Siawns at 5:08 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dim Siawns said it better than I can ever could.

Dude you do not need to take your hobbies and your interests and your opinions so seriously because you should realize this for what they are: these are just your hobbies and your interests and your opinions. They are as important as everyone else's. And if someone thinks that a certain musician is not "great", then their opinion is as valid as yours is.
posted by moiraine at 7:04 AM on October 6, 2011


I mean its cool that the sorta smaller bands I like get made fun of, but when people are attacking icons with total irreverence it just feels... itchy and wrong

Aw man, try being a country music fan! Until you fall in love with George Jones, you won't know what it means to have your idols treated with total irreverence, nay, actively disparaged, by a large segment of the populace. I cope by seeking out other country fans and gushing with them (although sometimes we have arguments about ranking -- I maintain it's George, Merle, Willie; others may put George 5th or 6th, the shame!! ...)
posted by yarly at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think they are making fun of "great" musicians per se, I think they are making fun of your insistence on making idols out of these musicians/ worshiping.

This is a modern view, one born of snark and irreverance. Homer invoked the Muses before starting his epic; Dante placed his poetic forbearers in a lineage with him. We SHOULD worship George Jones or Linus Torvalds or Gary Gygax or whoever.

And by merely expressing my enthusiasm for Nick Lowe's upcoming tour, my co workers - who had not heard of him - mocked me and called him 'my best friend' when I suggested featuring him on our site. When I told of his association with Elvis Costello, he too was mocked for doing too many encores.

It's okay, I suppose, to know of somebody and not revere them. But to mock somebody for knowing of artists you do not is another thing.

I want to shout 'get off my lawn!'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:20 PM on October 6, 2011


Your co-workers are jerks. You can decide, honestly you can decide, how you want to respond to them. You are not Dante, you are a guy who works for a music website and your co-workers are letting you know that the way you are approaching the content is not their way. At this juncture, you have choices to make. You are too young to be getting into Get Off My Lawn Mode.

Every time you make a proclamation about how people SHOULD do anything, you are sort of creating a me-centered view of the universe and finding others wanting within it. I sympathize with the fact that it hurts when people are taunting or snarky about things, but I also feel that life is what you make it once you're an adult and are safe from harm and in "work on yourself" mode. And, as someone who helps run a site that you have become somewhat of a personality on... you're someone who stands out. There is nothing wrong with this, per se, unless that is not what you are trying to do. And listening to you talk, I think that you may be very unaware of the way you come across. And I think the reason that this is true is because you have a fairly rigid way of viewing the way things should work and your response when things are not working as you think they should, is to get mad at folks who are impeding the "natural order" of things and not, maybe, yourself for having an unrealistic view of how to get along with other people. And you stay frustrated, and the system never changes.

I roll this out from time to time, but one of the things that we try very very hard to do here on the site is set expectations accurately. We don't expect you or anyone to love it here, our role isn't to make this place fun for everyone, but within the guidelines we want it to be a certain way and we want people to interact in a certain way and be able to count on us-as-mods for certain things. However one of the things we come up against fairly often [and this has nothing to do with you really, but maybe this view is helpful] is people who have a view of the site that is at variance with how the site really is, and when confronted with the reality of the site, choose to get mad at the users and the mods because it's not the MetaFilter they want, instead of getting realistic about the MetaFilter that is and seeing it how it really is. People want, for example, to make a front page post and have no one snark. Well, that's not MetaFilter. We try to keep the snark down but it won't be absent. However, one person snarking at a post does not mean, at all, that MeFi is, on balance, snarky. People can overgeneralize the things they don't like and sort of forget the things they do like. A thread with two snarks and thirty supportive comments can have someone running to MetaTalk saying "This place sucks and is full of snarky assholes!" because their perspective is skewed by their cognitive distortions.

Sometimes, in the sort of situation you seem to be in at work, it's helpful just to have someone tell you that your co-workers are behaving immaturely. That said, that's the reality of your situation and you may not be able to change them. You can, however, change yourself. Things you can change include your outward reactions to them, the things you choose to say to them, whether or not you work with them at all.
posted by jessamyn at 2:45 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


And, as someone who helps run a site that you have become somewhat of a personality on... you're someone who stands out. There is nothing wrong with this, per se, unless that is not what you are trying to do. And listening to you talk, I think that you may be very unaware of the way you come across. And I think the reason that this is true is because you have a fairly rigid way of viewing the way things should work and your response when things are not working as you think they should, is to get mad at folks who are impeding the "natural order" of things and not, maybe, yourself for having an unrealistic view of how to get along with other people. And you stay frustrated, and the system never changes.

I sometimes wish that I DIDN'T stand out. On the site I run, I try to efface my personality as much as possible (I don't post on the forums, etc), and I try and only feature my favorite artists when they're on the broad popularity level of someone like Dylan, who you could reasonable expect to generate some traffic.

I'm sorry if I've caused you any trouble, and I thank you for your patience in responding to me.


Every time you make a proclamation about how people SHOULD do anything, you are sort of creating a me-centered view of the universe and finding others wanting within it.


I expect EVERYONE to do that, though, and to bump against other people who do the same. It's why I don't have a problem with people like Harlan Ellison or Christopher Hitchens, since I understand why they do what they do.


That said, that's the reality of your situation and you may not be able to change them. You can, however, change yourself. Things you can change include your outward reactions to them, the things you choose to say to them, whether or not you work with them at all.

Yeah I've tried to avoid discussing music at work, but it's sorta unavoidable.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:27 PM on October 6, 2011


Your co-workers don't like Brian Wilson or Elvis Costello? Your co-workers are dead inside. If you want to win snarky arguments with them, you can use that as a comeback - tell them that they're dead inside. But if you don't care about winning arguments at work, then you should just examine why you care that they don't like the things you like. They're missing out, not you. I mean, it would be nice if they could just quietly miss out without doing the whole "your favorite band sucks" routine. But you're not going to change their minds, so your options seem to work on not caring or to seek friends elsewhere.

Ok, your update popped up while I was writing this, so I'll address this:
I expect EVERYONE to do that, though, and to bump against other people who do the same. It's why I don't have a problem with people like Harlan Ellison or Christopher Hitchens, since I understand why they do what they do.

They don't, though. Some people are like that, and most people aren't. So when you encounter people who aren't like that, the considerate thing to do is to respect the fact that they don't want to have those kinds of interactions. One of the things I've learned while becoming an adult (or trying to) is that it's actually ok to soften parts of your personality in certain social situations. When I was in high school or even in college I would have been horrified by that idea, and would have seen it as a betrayal of my true self. But, really, people do this all the time. Here's an example you may have some familiarity with: I behave very differently at a Hold Steady show than I do at a Mountain Goats show. People at the MG show don't want me throwing my sweat-covered self at them. People at a HS show, at least the people in the front, expect it. But there's always one asshole at a MG show who acts like he's at a HS show, and nobody likes him, because he can't read the room and act in way that makes everyone comfortable.

That's the key - sometimes it's good to alter your behavior a little bit to make everyone comfortable, to have your interactions go smoothly and without awkwardness. It's not conformism - it's kindness.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:36 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's an example you may have some familiarity with: I behave very differently at a Hold Steady show than I do at a Mountain Goats show. People at the MG show don't want me throwing my sweat-covered self at them. People at a HS show, at least the people in the front, expect it. But there's always one asshole at a MG show who acts like he's at a HS show, and nobody likes him, because he can't read the room and act in way that makes everyone comfortable.

John and Craig really need to turn this into a PSA (says the guy who once - ONCE - ONCE - yelled out 'and it almost killed me!' during 'This Year').

But um... raise a toast to St Joe Strummer?

That said, I was at a very boring THS show where I tried to act like I was at a normal THS show, and it did get pretty awkward. I'll keep this in mind when The Mountain Goats ANNOUNCE THEIR AUSTRALIAN TOUR THIS YEAR. DID YOU HEAR ME JOHN? IT'S BEEN MORE THAN A YEAR. WE LOVE YOU.

OTOH, my, er, 'passionate' defense of the Hold Steady (including death threats) has gone beyond a running gag in the local music scene. I pretty much try and shut up about them.

But yeah I know what you mean. I've been in this job for ages, and I do tend to laugh it off. And ironically, I think part of the reason I've been in this job for ages is because my boss sorta wants a prickly music nerd handling his music site.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:41 PM on October 6, 2011


I maintain it's George, Merle, Willie; others may put George 5th or 6th, the shame!!

This can't be true. George doesn't even write his own songs.
posted by zipadee at 12:18 PM on October 7, 2011


I know this is late but I was reading this article, and I thought of you.

Loosen Up To Be More Socially Successful

Uptight people often see themselves as important, refined, intelligent adults who are above the silliness normal people get into. They'll often think they're more mature than their peers, and look down on their antics. They think they have to come across as contained and in control at all times. Actually, it's okay to be a normal dopey human. You can watch dumb movies with your friends while gossiping and and making crude jokes. You won't lose anything. No one will care, in fact they'll probably like it. No one's keeping track of whether you're always acting sophisticated.
posted by moiraine at 2:21 PM on April 17, 2012


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