People who insert themselves into other people’s moments.
I thought long and hard about an appropriate title for this post and all I could come up with was this one which reminds me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest novel, Americanah. Ifemelu, the protagonist, maintains a blog called, “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black” and her post titles are equally as long. Ifemelu’s blog became so popular, it earned her a decent sum of money and invitations to speak at events. Perhaps this is the way forward, long titles. Perhaps I should change the name of my blog to something much longer. What do you think of ‘The thoughts, words, love and life of a vacansopapurosophobic logophile’? Nah! I think I’ll stick with ‘The Wordsmythe’s Weblog’.
So what does this post have to do with Ifemelu? Not much besides the length of its title. It’s more to do with something I’ve observed over and over again.
You’ve had a really bad day. You call a friend to tell them all about it in the hope that they’ll say something to cheer you up. The words are hardly out of your mouth before, they butt in and start to tell you about the time they had an even worse day than yours.
You’re at a social gathering, making small talk with a group of strangers. To break the ice, you share an anecdote about something that happened to you. As the others laugh politely, someone else picks up the story and recounts a similar experience, their telling of it rendering yours inconsequential compared to theirs.
Someone is congratulating you about some great achievement you’ve accomplished but you can’t get a word in edgeways. They want to tell you all about their own achievement which makes yours appear much smaller in comparison.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? Have you been at the receiving end? Or are you guilty of doing this?
Some people seem to have this compulsive need to rewrite you out of your story and insert themselves as the protagonist. They are adept at photobombing your photos. There is nothing that you have experienced that they haven’t, and to a greater degree too. There is no sorrow, no joy, no tragedy, no triumph that can be yours alone without them somehow being in the picture. It can be frustrating to have your moment taken over by someone else particularly when they aren’t currently experiencing the emotions you are at the time.
People who do this just won’t let you have your moment of whatever it may be at the time – sorrow, pain, exasperation, success, failure etc. It’s like a competition for them. I couldn’t say for sure if the culprits are aware they do it but that doesn’t excuse them. If they are, it makes them conniving and manipulative. If they aren’t, it still makes them self-centred and a bit narcissistic. I also think it is selfish and inconsiderate to always make everything about oneself.
Everyone needs space and time for expression. It fuels esteem which is a basic human need. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. We each need to feel that we are worth being listened to and heard, that what we have to say is important, if not to the whole world, definitely to a couple of people. And we are each entitled to have a moment or two all to ourselves without being forced to share it with someone else irrespective of whether they have or have had a similar moment. Sometimes just having someone listen to us is all that is required to feel better, to get a better perspective and/or to find the strength to carry on.
So the next time someone calls you to talk about their rotten or great day, restrain yourself from shoving them off the stage and jumping on with your own monologue. It’s their moment, don’t try to make it yours.The next time someone’s recounting of an anecdote reminds you of a similar experience, rein yourself in from butting in. Let them have their moment. Don’t steal their thunder. It’s rather annoying.
Tara for now.
Images Courtesy of Google