Beat me! Beat me!" cried the masochist. "No," replied the sadist.
The concepts of sadism or physical masochism are utterly beyond my comprehension. To take pleasure from inflicting or seeking out physical pain is inconceivable to me. However, when it comes to mental masochist—to the constant and merciless berating of one's self—I have been a lifelong practitioner, and I simply cannot break myself of it.
The origins of my mental masochism, I'm convinced, lie in my compulsion to be so very much more than I am or could ever possibly be. I began pointing out my flaws at an early age, as a rather warped means of beating other people to the punch. Rather than wait for someone else to say, as they inevitably would: "Jeezus, Margason, you suck!" I step right in and say it before they get the chance. I won't give them the satisfaction of thinking I am not already aware of my shortcomings.
And over time this self-deprecation became a way of life. Unfortunately, running myself down as a form of preemptive strike has, not surprisingly, been counterproductive. I've often told the story (and why wouldn't I? It's self-deprecatory) of seeing a letter one of my best friends in college had written another. In it, in mentioning me, he said, "You know, Roger keeps on telling everyone how worthless he is until eventually you begin to believe him." That should have been a wake-up call. It wasn't. More than 50 years later, I'm still doing it. How I have managed to get this far in life without an ulcer is a miracle.
I'm not sure whether it could be called ironic, or perverse, or perversely ironic, but I see my self-loathing, as indicated above, as a form of reverse narcissism. I demand far, far more of myself than I expect of anyone else because...well, because I'm me! I am fascinated by—and take what, despite all my vehement protests to the contrary, has to be a...well, masochistic...delight in—my own flaws and failings. I am not fishing for denials whenever I say that I am incompetent; I truly and completely believe it, and past experience offers solid proof. Given 10,000 opportunities to do something right or to do it wrong—especially if the task involves anything with moving parts, electricity, or the internet—the odds are that I will do it wrong 9,955 times out of the 10,000. And that is a conservative figure. It is also irrefutable fact. I don't like it, but that's the way it is.
We live in an increasingly technological world. Yet when, after countless failed attempts to do something technological, someone (usually a long-suffering friend) takes me by the hand and baby-steps me to the point where I finally do it right, the chances are 9,999 to 1 that the next time I need to do exactly the same thing, I will have forgotten how to do it or, doing it exactly the way I did it before, it will not work. In fact, it is quite common for me to do even a simple task I have done without problem innumerable times before—press key A and then key B to get result C, for example. Suddenly, with absolutely no change in the way I have always done it, I will press key A and then key B and get result Z, H, R, or K...sometimes in combination. Despite the kindness of people who assure me I exaggerate my inability to comprehend the simplest of instructions, the fact is that they know not whereof they speak simply because they are not me.
While it is sometimes difficult for most people to separate hyperbole from fact, I like to believe that I have raised incompetence to a new level...a statement perfectly demonstrating what I mean by reverse narcissism. "Nonsense," my friends will tell me. "Everyone makes mistakes." Yes, but the entire point of this blog is that other people are allowed—even expected—to make mistakes. I am not. What I readily accept in them, I refuse to allow in myself. They are mere mortals, whereas I, while not sufficiently narcissistic to deny being mortal, am somehow....more. And if one's value can be measured by the number of one's flaws, I am "more," indeed.
So go ahead, take a look at your own flaws and failings, but don't even try to compare them to mine: you haven't the chance of a snowball in hell of winning.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).