Damage control, saving face, and the little egomaniac.

Who’s the opposite of the inner critic? The inner egomaniac. Locked in an eternal tug-of-war with you in the middle, the critic tries to tear you apart, while the egomaniac tries to shamelessly patch itself up.

I can barely look in the mirror when I think of all the times in my life when I have employed craven, ugly means to save face. Lying. Rationalizing. Justifying. Twisting. Is there anything more shameful than this sort of behavior?

I just hate looking stupid or bad in front of other people, like saying something ignorant in a group setting, or getting in trouble at work. When this happens, if you’re anything like me, you’ll try and justify yourself. You’ll come up with reasons why they’re wrong. “Oh, well, they’re missing X point that I didn’t get a chance to say,” or “Someone else told me the wrong thing so it’s their fault.” Maybe you’ll wear out your computer trying to cherry-pick Google for confirmation of your point, or try and convince yourself that well, it could have been true, and sort of was, when you consider…

The little egomaniac will just not accept being wrong and demands that you repair his image immediately. But unfortunately for him (and mainly us because we’re caught in the middle of this), he is soon confronted with more ignorance or wickedness. He refuses to believe it so he cracks the whip, and together we enter a vicious circle—the realization of these bad qualities leads to shame; shame leads to the desire to fix the image; in attempting to fix this image, one discovers more bad qualities and the beat goes on, because the egomaniac simply won’t stand for it.

Alternatively, I could just keep quiet, I suppose, and avoid any potential trouble. But that’s a blow to the ego as well and he will not take it lying down. Humility is simply not an option.

Let me give you a benign little example. I’m a lowly administrative assistant, the lowliest of the lowly because I work in retail, and if I run into someone I know, I magically become an office manager. Or if someone catches me working on the register, I’m just making a few bucks while I’m working on my master’s degree (the one I completed five years ago). And, somehow, these “someones” are always people I looked down upon in college (because I was soo much smarter than they were) who now make at least 4x what I make.

Here’s a much darker and uglier example: I bullied a kid in middle school and they told the teacher, who asked me if it were true. I denied it of course, and the teacher sided with me. Afterwards, the individual apologized to me, and I accepted it graciously and said it was okay.

But I had done it. And to this day I feel sick remembering how I was too cowardly to tell the truth and be the one to apologize, how abominable I was to accept the apology like they were wrong, virtually gaslighting them, and how the innocent one was truly the better person.

(As a side note, maybe this will make the victims of bullies feel a little better—while you have suffered the pain and damage that was done to you, still the bully has to live with the fact that they did it and nothing can change that. I’ve been on both sides of the equation and I know which one is worse.)

I have lots of examples that I could have confessed to you in detail, but I have to save face in case my mom somehow reads this. It’s disgusting. But even minor examples matter. They show that this ugly tendency is deep-rooted. It doesn’t just show its face when the level of potential embarrassment reaches a certain temperature, as though you’re honest up until you reach that point and then you’re cowardly and pathetic after. No, it’s an evil trait that shows itself in even the most pointless things.

Could this all just be a product of fear? In either case, whether we be tortured by the critic or the egomaniac, is fear at the bottom of it? Are our true souls–who we really are and would be without all the garbage piled on top–caught in the middle of a battle between low self-esteem and the desire to look better in other people’s eyes? Or, God forbid, are we really just bad after all? I’ve found in my own life that a lot of my bad behavior stems from low self-esteem, and I feel myself constantly caught between feeling like crap, acting like crap, feeling guilty for acting like crap, and fearing that people know I am crap. Maybe that’s just it and there’s nothing more to it. When we have a bad opinion of ourselves, we’re scared other people do, too, and for good or bad, we act out what we’re feeling. I, of course, am one of the lovely people who choose to act bad.

I don’t know if even religion can help me. I’ve tried to change. And as a Christian, theoretically I should only worry about what God thinks and behave accordingly. But even then, my sneaky little egomaniac is secretly at work behind my back, because when I decide to finally act like a Christian, I suddenly feel very pleased with myself. So the little egomaniac sits back and pats himself on the back for having tricked God into thinking he’s humble. Then he sits up and spits out his drink, realizing that God probably overheard what just came out of his mouth. So now he has to send me back into damage-control mode right away. I guess I better head to the nearest soup kitchen and start ladling.  


Please tell me I’m not the only one who has caught themselves behaving this way. Have you? And can you share why?

17 thoughts on “Damage control, saving face, and the little egomaniac.

  1. Heartfelt and compelling. Cogent and poignant. I see much skill of which to be jealous of here. (smile)

    Owning an error can be one of the hardest yet most self-satisfying experiences I know. Coming clean with being the source of a problem, even massively expensive ones, is liberating.

    I’ll admit that reading Seneca and Marcus Aurelius has helped. Stoics do it with calm certitude — that’s a bumper sticker.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t let him sell you on his dearth of emotion nonsense. Philosophy is merely Mole’s wordy kevlar vest justification for leaving his emotions in a box on the top shelf of the linen closet and claiming they don’t exist. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Life is tricky, isn’t it. But self awareness and a willingness and passion to change can remove the ugliness of our character.

    Your post are beautiful written and expressed with much passion.

    Great post as always.

    Like

  3. Oh, thank you for sharing such a personal post. I would say you are on the right track, as creating awareness about these behaviors is the first step to changing them. It is understandable how we try to protect ourselves but it is important to ask why are we doing this or if there is really a need for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Markus + Micah. Yes, it can be difficult to become aware because we’re trying to protect ourselves from awareness because we don’t like what we see in the mirror!But I believe life should be about getting better, wiser, and more humane. Well, wish me luck. Thank you for stopping by.

      Like

      1. Wishing you luck. I agree, looking away is easier when we are not ready to accept or change anything. It is not easy to look at our true, flawed selves and not judge or feel guilty to begin with.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There is no truism truer than “young and stupid”. So don’t sweat it. Turn your inner egotist into an anti Bullshit alarm, give it a purpose besides saving face. The older you get the more you realize you’re gonna eff up forever, so burn that energy being you and the hell with what everybody else thinks.

    Like

      1. Keep the bullshit under the “vocational theater” umbrella. That way you don’t have to fight it in stride with your reality. The trick is not letting your bullshit become your reality. There is difference. Like Bob Dylan said, riffing on Leonard Cohen, Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.
        I offer this as example of them as do and them as don’t believe the smoke they’re blowing, not advertising. https://philh52.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/nvdt-43-dont-trip/

        Liked by 1 person

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