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No dummying down

August 26, 2004
“I was thought to be ‘stuck up.’ I wasn’t. I was just sure of myself. This is and always has been an unforgivable quality to the unsure.”

Bette Davis

Several years ago I wrote this quote down in my journal after reading Bette Davis’ autobiography. It’s taken me a few years of living in America, however, to really comprehend it.

In all the other countries I’ve lived, you see single women out and about. You hear people being direct with their words and you see them being OK with achieving and having things. In America, I don’t find that to be as true as often. Women tend to be more insecure in the US, going out in clumps and staring at girls who are out alone (she must be a freak to be in a theatre by herself!). People have to talk around issues and watch people’s feelings and sensitivities because in the US, more things are taken personally (was she saying that to get at me?). In the US, if one has money or success they’re gossiped about by those who don’t (oh, he can’t be president. He has money – he doesn’t understand life!).

Despite everyone in the US wanting to achieve success (personally, financially and job-wise), it seems that those who achieve anything (who are happy, have money, have a career, are pretty, are not obese or are just simply OK with where they are are hated. They’re immediately thought of as stuck up, plastic, snotty, mean, pretender, spoiled, unrealistic, cheaters, swindlers or asses.

This, I do not understand. Why is it so horrible for one to be content? America buys the most self-help books in the world, it’s pounded into American brains that you must go to University and make something of yourself and people play lotto like mad to become millionaires. Yet, there’s this negative energy towards people who might have any of those things.

I don’t understand what it matters what someone else does or has – good or bad. Why hate someone because they have something or like who they are – especially if they’re just being and not being a twat. There’s a weird sense of competition in the US which is odd because I’ve never heard the saying, “no one is looking at you” more than I’ve heard here. Yet, everyone seems to be checking everyone out. Finding what they have, if they’re better, if they’re succeeding more, who is doing lousy, where on some imaginary scale do they fit. Who cares? What does it matter if someone likes themselves or, for that matter, hates themselves? How does if affect you?

With my writing site, when I wrote about being unsure of something the email would pour in by the thousands. Whenever I wrote about an accomplishment or feeling OK, I would instantly start to receive a tonne of hate mail. And this site, it receives a lot of attention yes, but a lot of it is negative. Interestingly, when I put a photo of myself on the front page the hate mail/gossip tripled. People in droves were screaming how huge my ego must be, how stuck up I am and how much of a know-it-all I seem to be. I often wondered if I had put up a picture of a very large woman with greasy hair and a frown, if people would have said the same thing.

Oh, I am by far not the most interesting, most unique, prettiest, coolest, smartest, funniest, talented, best at anything girl. I’ve always said that people can do what I do, see what I see and do it all better. But that doesn’t seem to matter because people dislike the fact that I’m OK with where I am and that I’ve never cared for what others can do, only what I can do and how I feel about that. Personal satisfaction seems to bother those who don’t have it. And it makes them feel like those who do are egotistical nightmares instead of just people being people.

I’ve talked with some of my American friends who have told me they’ve held back from rocking out in the world because they were afraid people wouldn’t like them anymore. That people like to see others struggle because it’s comforting and helps people to connect. I found this really sad; to hold back on being great because you fear people thinking you’ve got an ego and are therefore an ass. Success, though encouraged in America, still isn’t really accepted. And that should really change because after all, what are we all trying to do? Suck? Hate ourselves? Think we’re crap? How much use is that to anyone? How does that make things good? America talks so much about “accepting ourselves” yet it tends to persecute those who do. Self-deprecating humour seems to rank here, as does spilling our guts out in weblogs about how much we suck and suffer and aren’t anythings.

Sorry, but I’d rather not. I’ve only this one life and despite some things being less than stellar through my thirty years, I like it. I like the core of me, even on the days when I’m unsure about some things and flailing limbs around I still think I’m OK. And that’s not ego talking, that’s just feeling sure of who I am because I haven’t spent years competing against others, trying to be something or over analysing every detail. I know my strengths, my weaknesses. I know when I’m rocking out and when I’m not. I know what matters to me and what doesn’t. I know I’m so not better than anyone but I also don’t think I’m worse than anyone because I don’t compete. I don’t have to prove anything which means if someone does or doesn’t like me, ah well. It doesn’t matter so much as long as I’m OK with where I am – and I am.

And I understand that this train of thought in the US makes me sound like I’ve an ego bigger than Texas but I don’t. I’m just sure of myself and everywhere else, that seems to be OK. In fact, it seems to be quite normal.

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