“None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.”
The butter battle
Imagine that you go to the grocery store. On the shelf, you see two packages of butter. The package on the left is in pristine condition, shiny and bright. $4.99. The package on the right has been through the wringer. The box is torn and the butter was clearly smooshed at some point. Misshapen butter is trying to bulge out of its wrapper. It’s a mess. $4.99.
But wait! Why? It should be discounted! You don’t even know if it’s safe to eat! You complain to the manager and she lets you have it for $3. Hopefully it won’t kill you.
When it comes time to replace the butter in your butter dish at. home, you grab one of the sticks and try to pull it from the box. It’s stuck. Oh brother. You yank. It tears its paper house even further. You yank harder….
Something glinty catches your eye. You have flashbacks to Charlie Bucket finally finding the Golden Ticket that will get him into the Chocolate Factory. As you extract the beleaguered butter, you find out why it was in such a state. Somehow, four rare gold coins mysteriously made their way all the way through the factory, the QI people, the store stocking clerk. This butter is worth some bbbuuuttttaaahhhh!
Fortunately for you, a whole lot of people judged that butter’s worth very wrong!
We judge one another’s wrappers all the time. As bad as that sounds, it comes from a survival skill. Human brains seek out patterns so that it can make quick decisions about risks and rewards. If we couldn’t do that we’d be… teenagers. But I digress. We need to know fairly quickly if the person in front of us is just a benign someone walking their dog, or a crazed maniac running around the neighborhood intent on stabbing people with a shiv.
The problem is that we take it way too far. Our hyper-processing brains are taking in and analyzing gajillions of pieces of data and making decisions about them in every second. The slow version of that data run might sound like: “He smells like nasty old man cologne like my uncle used to wear and I want to run away but he has blue eyes like that cute guy I sat next to in 3rd grade and wow! A Labradoodle! If a Labradoodle likes him he must be ok, and OMG he has a huge scar on his forehead. Maybe he’s a thug or a murderer out on bail awaiting trial! I should rrruuuuu… Oh. Hi! Good morning! Cute dog.”
Sometimes it’s much worse
We put people in boxes so that we can make sense out of who we think we’re dealing with. When we can’t let people out of our boxes, this gets ugly. At best, it’s stereotyping. At worst, it’s one of the “isms,” (racism, culturism, sexism, ageism, ableism, genderism, etc.) Now we are refusing to see the actual person in front of us. We respond to that person as if they are who we imagine them to be. It’s just not good people care.
And sometimes, it’s even worse.
Some people, for a variety of reasons, never fully develop their ego. It’s like being stuck at three years old emotionally, while gaining all kinds of sophisticated practice with being three. At three years old, we humans work hard at proving to ourselves that we have value. Because our three-year-old brains are so limited, we think in terms of either-or, all or none, good or bad. If I’m important, that means you are not important, in three-year-old think.
As adults, these people spend pretty much every conversation still trying to prove to themselves that they are better than everyone else. If they aren’t on their imaginary “top,” they are on the “bottom,” meaning, worthless. There is no middle. They try to make others feel worthless so that they will not feel worthless.
You do not exist as a person in their minds; You are simply an object that exists like a Lego, available for the ego-wounded person’s pleasure or displeasure. In their minds, they will make you into anything that’s convenient for them at that time.
The Movie Projector from Hades
While hyper-assessing people’s wrappers, we pretty much all tend to project our assumptions onto others. If we are thoughtful, respectful and emotionally generous, we “write” those assumptions in pencil, available for revision as new information comes. When we are stereotyping, we create a very rough, inadequate sketch in pen. We stubbornly cling to it, imagining that we know what that person is all about. If we are ego-wounded, people are just blank projector screens for the images that we wish to create, regardless of the unique person who is actually in front of us. Stellar.
Turn the Cube
Think about what that means when you are the object of the other person’s wrapper-writing.
Have you ever found yourself frustrated and angry that someone does not see you for who you are and does not value what you bring to the table? Have you let them determine for you how valuable you are? Are they seeing you as a torn and battered box of butter, even though you are really a collection of rare coins?
You can waste a whole lot of energy and emotion trying to prove your worth to people who are refusing to even notice the judgment they made on your wrapper. Or… you can trust your knowledge of both the value of coins within, and the state of your box, (which is sometimes nothing like they have imagined.)
It’s a common human challenge: When we don’t have enough people holding up trustworthy mirrors to who we are, or if life batters our once-intact self-perception around, we can sometimes give everyone’s opinion of us equal value. We give nearly anybody an equal vote on our value. Trust me: Some of these people you are giving a vote will never see that your box is tastefully decorated and filled with gold pieces. Not because it isn’t; but rather, because they are not looking past the sketch or projection they used to make sense out your wrapper in their minds.
They are invested in keeping you in the wrapper of their imaginings for reasons they do not pay you enough to understand.
Beloveds! I don’t care who they are! They are disqualified from having a vote because they are not seeing you.
Feel free to pass them my card. That’s their work to do, not yours.
Thank you, narcissist.
Sometimes having a narcissist in your sphere is temporarily useful. Not at all pleasant, mind you, but short-term helpful. Think about it: If there is no way you could ever prove your worth to this person who has a vested interest in finding you defective? You are now free. The person isn’t going to approve of you no matter what, so now is the perfect time to trust your own assessments.
They are using you to temporarily prop up their sagging egos. If you use them to practice standing firm in who you are and come out of it healthier, more self-possessed and more able to just be the gift you are? It’s a twisted sort of win-win. Go for it!
It’s up to you, and no one but you, to determine what your butter is worth.
If you’d like help using your “disqualified” stamp, contact Tiffany here today!