I’m a male with a huge ego that I can’t destroy. I put people down—even those who are nice to me, like my friends and family. I don’t like it when I act like I’m a big shot, but it’s difficult to control. Sometimes I don’t realize I’m putting others down until I’ve done it. Then I feel bad, and I’m hard on myself. I think it’s all related to this: When I was growing up (I’m 24 now), I was teased a lot for having big ears (which I don’t have any more), being skinny (which I’m not any more) and so on. Lots of people teased me, including friends and family. How can I handle my hurtful putdowns? I read your column every week and respect your opinion. I would appreciate some advice.
Redirect your life and relationships using this quote from management consultant and author Kenneth Blanchard: “The opposite of success is generosity. The opposite of recognition is service. The opposite of power and status is loving relationships.” If you’re acting like a big shot, you’re desperately trying to be seen as important and successful. But the reality is that when you ridicule someone, you do it because you fear you’re unimportant and unsuccessful. By putting others down, you hope they will feel the same lack of self-esteem you do. In those moments, you are far more connected to the past (your history of hurt) than the present or the future.
Your healing is dependent on your ability to forgive. Forgive yourself for continuing to fear that you are still that skinny little boy with big ears. Forgive those who teased you. They displayed poor judgment (and haven’t we all done that at some time or another?). Understanding this about yourself can inspire compassion for others, which makes the process of forgiveness and reconciliation much easier. So, give up trying to appear successful and let yourself be generous of heart. Then, surrender your need to be recognized and dedicate yourself to serving others. Your ego will rant and roil, but eventually, when it subsides, you will have become the man you want to be: one whose life is filled with loving relationships.
I have a co-worker who is persistently rude but does not recognize it. She constantly criticizes others, and, on the rare occasion that a staff member calls her on it, she defends her comments as “constructive insights.” I’ve tried to talk to my boss, but he’s either in denial or he’s afraid of confrontation like everybody else. Any suggestions?
Don’t confuse confrontation with challenge. We are all called to challenge each other to be hospitable, open-minded and appreciative of one another. But, without your boss’ support, it’s possible that nothing can be done about your co-worker, which leaves this question: How can you change? Cartoonist Linda Barry writes about the similarities between vampires and people. “How many of us can honestly see our own reflection? In the exposing light of day, how many of our dark truths would cause us to feel an agony we could not endure?” she writes. “Even the most inexperienced vampires know they must avoid the sun at all costs.” Now, don’t imagine that your co-worker is a vampire and that you’re the sun or any other such drama. Instead, ask yourself if you can be gentle, kind and loving despite the presence of a cruel co-worker.