I have a secret I want to tell you. It’s something I don’t share very often or with many people, but today, it feels appropriate.
See, I know you think of me as just this random author guy who sometimes writes cool blog articles, but sadly, there’s a little bit more going on behind the scenes than that.
What you didn’t know about me is that I’m actually an omnipresent, hyper-intelligent inter-dimensional being. My knowledge and understanding is so total and complete that it’s not even limited by your four-dimensional space/time. That means not only do I have complete knowledge of all existence, but I also have complete knowledge of all potential existences, the ones that didn’t or even couldn’t happen. So while you sit around and agonize about what life would have been like had you stayed with your ex-boyfriend instead of dumping him, I already know — you fucked up, girl; he was like, a super nice guy.
I don’t like to go around bragging about this. As you can imagine, it becomes taxing, especially at parties. People always want you to tell them some inane thing like what their dog’s name was when they were a kid. And then when you get it right, they freak out and buy you way too many drinks, or worse, try to start a religious cult centered around you. It gets stressful, so I just avoid the whole situation by talking incessantly about new video games and basketball scores.
The reason I bring this up is because you humans seem to be confused about something.
Most people assume that they suffer because of the negative aspects of themselves. But the real reason they suffer is because they avoid those negative aspects of themselves, not the fact they have them.
And this is where I come in, in all my omniscient, puppy-sacrificing glory. All these people email me all the time saying things like, “OMG, Mark, it’s like your article totally read my mind!” and I’m like, “Well, yeah, I am reading your mind, fucknut. And refill the fucking coffee when you’re done using it.”
I see all of those dirty little things you do and don’t admit, not just to others, but also to yourself.
But don’t worry, unlike some other deities I know (*cough*, you know who I’m talking about), I’m not here to judge you or shame you. I honestly don’t give a shit. I just want to drop by and set the record straight.
It’s time to get honest. To admit some of the fucked up stuff we do that gets us into trouble. Not necessarily to fix everything — because who even says everything needs to be fixed? — but just to be more realistic with ourselves and our problems.
So in no particular order, here’s yet another clickbait list with some of the awful shit you do and don’t admit to anyone… but most importantly, to yourself.
1. You embellish stories to make yourself sound cool
I’m onto you.
Did you and Tom really score courtside seats at the game? Or were you like four rows back? Don’t make me dig up the video online, you fucker.
Did you really work until 9PM last night? Or did you get home at like 8:30 and by the time you changed clothes and jerked off, it was 9?
Did you really have a coke-fueled orgy with 12 hookers? Or was it more like seven? Yeah, I figured… it was seven hookers.
One fascinating thing about human nature is that lying has much less to do with virtue and more to do with our sense that we can get away with the lie. Humans lie when they feel as though the advantages of it outweigh the potential risk of being caught.1
This is why few of us tell big whopping lies, but pretty much all of us fib here and there by nudging the details a little bit on our stories. Two cops tackling our drunk buddy last Friday becomes four cops. Texting our ex, “Leave me alone,” magically morphs into an epic, “Go fuck yourself,” when we recount it to our friends.
Why do we do this? Because we all have this undying need to be loved and respected and admired. And if smudging the lines on our cool story can up our bad-ass-ity by 2-3% and there’s no way anyone could find out, then we just kind of automatically do it.
The problem arises when this becomes a chronic habit, and those “little smudges” become big smears. All of the classic issues with lying apply here: social embarrassment, reinforcing one’s shame and feeling that one is not good enough, a desperate desire to please and impress those around us, and just being an annoying try-hard.
Cut it out. Chances are you won’t ever be able to completely stop lying (for no other reason than our memories are awful, as well), but do your best to reign it in.
2. You try to look at somebody while pretending you’re not looking
I see you two, doing that whole, “I’m going to glance and then pretend I’m not glancing so that you won’t think I’m staring even though I really want to stare, but wait, what if you think I’m a total creep or a weirdo and you call the police and tell them I was raping you with my eyes?” thing at each other from across the room.
Stop bullshitting yourself. That person is some combination of hot/interesting/cool/has-something-stuck-to-their-face. Stop being weird about it and look at them. If they look back, then smile. If they smile back, say hi.
This is what people did back before texting was invented. That wasn’t hard, now, was it?
3. You fart and then blame it on someone else
I’m going to be honest, I’m not going to tell you to stop doing this. Mainly because it’s so funny. But also because I fart a lot, and if I couldn’t do this, I’m not sure if I’d have friends anymore.
Just make sure the person you’re blaming isn’t either a) your girlfriend or b) your mother, and you’re fine.2
4. You assume that everybody else knows what they’re doing while you have no clue
When we feel insecure, we tend to develop this irrational belief that we must somehow be the only person who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing with themselves. This could be feeling like the odd person out at a party, the new person at work, the black sheep of the family.
This simply isn’t true. Chances are, if you feel as though you’re awkward and clueless, the other people around you are feeling the same way — they’re just faking their way through it the same way you are.
5. You assume that you know what you’re doing and everybody else has no clue
But then sometimes, instead of facing our feelings of inadequacy and feeling them head-on, we avoid them with an opposite-but-equal irrational belief: that we have it all figured out and it’s everybody else who is screwed up.
Not only is this also rarely true, but it kind of makes you a dick.
6. You often forget that nobody has a clue, really
The fact is that these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be clueless as to what you’re doing with your life AND all of the people around you can be clueless as well.
In fact, this is pretty likely, most of the time.
What these feelings of “I’m such a loser, everyone else is so cool,” and “I’m the badass, everyone else here is a dweeb,” really are, are compulsive comparisons of ourselves to others.3 Both of which are irrational and unhealthy. Both of which are unnecessary and likely harmful to ourselves. And both of which are actually impossible to ever know with any certainty.
Truth is: you’ve got your insecurities, other people have theirs, and those insecurities truthfully aren’t all that different. What differs is how we tend to cope with them. We all pick these little things in our lives to obsess over or compulsively use to cover up these inner sources of pain that we think are unique to us but are actually present in everybody.
And this stuff we use to cover it up, we trick ourselves into believing they’re sooooo important, that they matter more than anything else in life. You know, buying a Ferrari, being ripped and having a six-pack, having an idyllic home with those fancy little orchids out front.
7. You wonder “Is this all life is?”
And the reason we all avoid letting go of these insecurities, the reason we avoid solving our own issues and our own pain, is that if we do, then all of this really, really important stuff — see this money, and this house, and these fucking orchids? — all of this stuff that feels like it matters like life or death, will probably go away, leaving us simply with ourselves.
And this is a terrifying thought.
Because if it’s just us, we’ll be forced to face the incomprehensibility of our own existence, and confront life’s inherent futility. We will wonder what it was all for and what if there’s no point to doing anything at all? And we’ll think that maybe we did it all wrong, what if this isn’t how my life was supposed to go? And we’ll wonder at how time accelerates unceasingly, and how what once felt like months now feels like days, and how we seem to grow old in ways we never knew possible. And we’ll lay silent at night, with just the sheets and the stars, and try to grasp the emptiness, try to give shape in our mind to what is both infinite yet formless, to tame the very fears that are, as far as we can tell, the only reason we carry on living.
Then we might cry. We may roll over in bed and flip the pillow over and pull the blanket over us as if to protect us against our own thoughts.
But they’re always there, lurking in the shadows, the real monsters under our bed: the monsters hidden in our own minds.
And the next day, when our co-worker asks how we’re doing, we’ll say, “Fan-fucking-tastic! You see the game last night?”
8. You feel like you should have done more
Then you’ll get your coffee and go to your desk and stare bleakly at the computer screen and open a new tab to check Facebook even though you already have Facebook open and just looked at it on your phone four seconds ago, and you’ll think, “I was supposed to be more than this.”
Well, aren’t you just a bright and shiny fucking snowflake?
Look, how do I have to put this? You’re going to die not having done everything you wanted to do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try. And that doesn’t mean your life doesn’t still have meaning.
For fuck sake, get over yourself.
OK, next listicle item…
9. You check yourself out in inappropriate places and inappropriate times
I had a friend in high school that played trombone. We played in Jazz band together. And unfortunately, the rehearsal space had a bunch of mirrors on one wall. Said friend, who was athletic, would spend the majority of said jazz band rehearsal, staring into said mirror, flexing subtly, winking at himself, futzing with his hair. It was creepy and weird. Especially because I, the guitar player, was forced to sit directly between him and the mirror.4
At the time, I was horrified at being forced to witness such vanity. As I got older and wiser, I realized that I’m just as vain.
We all are.
Who here doesn’t walk past a big reflective window and not instinctively take a quick glance? And by quickly glance, I mean stare at yourself and make selfie-faces?
I once found myself at a funeral pre-occupied with how symmetrical my tie was. The reflection in the wall kept me occupied for more seconds than I’d like to admit.
Humans are vain creatures. All of us. And not just people who obsess about their appearance, but people who neglect their appearance and avoid seeing themselves at all costs — that’s another form of vanity. Vanity is when you let your physical dimensions control your relationship with yourself. And unfortunately, we live in a culture that promotes this obsession the same way it promotes sliced bread. That is: everybody needs to have some.
Speaking of vanity…
10. You masturbate in the shower
I mean, where else are you going to get guaranteed privacy for at least five minutes? Am I right?
Some advice: Gentleman, always use the conditioner. Ladies, sidle up under that bathtub spigot and say hello to a whole new world.
11. You overestimate yourself
Here’s another funny quirk about human nature. Did you know that 90% of people believe they’re better than the average driver? That 80% of people believe they are of above-average intelligence? Or 70% of people see themselves as leaders of their peer group?6
Do a little math and you’ll quickly see that there are a lot of delusional people in the world.
But I know what you’re saying, “Wait, Mark, aren’t we supposed to believe in ourselves — you know, just visualize who we want to be and believe it and then it will become true?”
Umm… let’s put it this way, who do you think is more likely to get into a life-threatening car accident: a) someone who thinks they’re an awesome driver but is not, or b) someone who is pretty realistic about their own lack of coordination?
That’s right. The only thing above-average about positive thinking is the likelihood of getting yourself killed in a sixteen car pileup.
The best thing to do here is to simply reserve judgment. Remember my whole spiel before about that compulsive comparison to others? Yeah, this is probably part of it. Who cares how good of a driver you are? Are you in the Indy 500? No. Me neither. So, who cares? Just try not to die the next time you’re on your way to pick up milk.
Because remember, the milk really is all there is.
- Ariely, D. (2013). The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves. Harper Perennial.↵
- Yes, blaming it on boyfriends and fathers is fair game. When it comes to farts, sexism totally applies.↵
- Comparison to others is totally normal and healthy. It’s when our comparison becomes compulsive — i.e., we need to do it to feel better about ourselves — that comparison becomes unhealthy and damaging. By the way, I’m telling you this because I’m better than you.↵
- This guy would eventually be the best man at my wedding. Coincidence? I think not.↵
- I mean that literally.↵
- In psychology, this is known as the Lake Wobegon Effect.↵