There’s a question that excites and terrifies me in equal measure and it is:
“Do you want to know what [INSERT ANY PERSON IN THE WORLD’S NAME HERE] said about you?”
This happened to me last week and so of course I started nodding emphatically as I was chomping at the bit for the wonderful/horrible news that was about to be delivered. It’s surely good that my first instinct was that it was something positive; God knows there have been times in my life when I would have assumed the opposite.
My friend continued, “I saw [person who I vaguely knew a decade and a half ago and never liked all that much] and mentioned your name. She said, ‘God, Anna had the biggest (I was certain she was going to say boobs, btw) ego I’ve ever encountered.'”
I was pretty stunned, mostly because I wasn’t really offended.
IF YOU CAME FROM THE NEWSLETTER PICK UP HERE…
It actually made me respect the woman for the first time because it was so on-the-nose and a part of me, I have to admit, was flattered (I usually can’t remember what I wrote yesterday but for some reason I remember that I have a line in Party Girl where the protagonist says, I love to be the most anything, even if it’s something bad; let’s just say that line came from a personal place.)
And see, I knew the woman who said this in an era when I was working at a magazine where I was in way over my head in terms of experience. And I handled that the way I always handled situations when I was insecure back then: I masked my feelings of fear and inferiority with bravado—the proverbial piece of crap in the center of the universe. I acted like I knew everything, far more than the people who were correcting me or offering me constructive criticism. If my boss told me I did something wrong, I tended to inform him that he should stop being so mean to me. I’d never learned to respect authority—my feeling was always “Give me a reason to respect you and I will (maybe)”—and I had so little respect for the main authority figure in my life (my dad) that I felt by behaving this way, I was being true to myself. Turns out all I was actually doing was setting myself up to be fired—which I was from that job and several others that followed.
So, yeah. This woman was right; I did have a massive ego. Of course I didn’t know then that a massive ego can only come from a massive inferiority complex (hey hey you presidential candidate, you). When I feel insecure now, I have the same instinctive response—to behave as if the opposite is true. I just have a lot fewer times I feel that way. And every now and then I am actually able to say the truth, which is that I feel threatened/confused/scared/fill in the blank.
It doesn’t make me the most anything but it’s about time I let that go.
(Photo taken below the Triana Bridge in Sevilla, which happens to be my favorite place on earth.)