Blessed are the souls who fail to admit to their own shortcomings. For they truly make analysis easier for the rest of us. Over our lifetimes, we have seen characters, fictional and real, fall victim to self-loathing, inferiority, lessened self-respect and Napoleonisms that makes you wonder if you should get your tubes tied or a vasectomy. For example, Samuel Peralta Sosa has recently reminded us what it looks like to be extremely dissatisfied with one’s appearance. Either that or he was inspired by his latest viewing of Scarface and wanted to bring Manny Ribera back.
In honor of Sammy, Vivica Fox, Lil Kim, Joan Rivers and any other of the surgically enhanced/defaced, I present my top categories of people who loved themselves so much, they altered their look to fit in. Each category is headlined by a pop culture figure, in which a frightening amount is revealed about me:
1) I think Mara Brock Akil does not suck.
2) I think Sammy Sosa is a stand-up guy.
3) I can’t go three days, let alone, three articles without referencing The Wire.
4) I am compassionate towards the star of This Is It.
Although the categories are not entirely mutually exclusive, the groups remain distinct by the dominant expression of self-hatred, which is expounded upon in the following text.
The Celie Johnson/Kelly Pitts Category
Or who I like to call, the proverbial doormats. The doormat literally lets everybody walk all over them. They may feel they have no value in the world. They may also place their value in how much they’re getting walked on – as if that’s some type of virtue – and how well they can take it. This is directly a result of an abusive or traumatic childhood, which causes people to feel inferior to many they come across. They allow people to treat them a certain way because they don’t even know how to fight back.
But there is hope for them. It usually comes at the hands of a third party who has seen enough. Through this third party the doormat sees value in themselves and begins to really question why they hold so much dirt from other people’s shoes. A point of emancipation comes, and when that moment comes, it comes with a vengeance (see Anna Mae Bullock and characters in the category title). Maybe that only happens in Hollywood.
The Jimmy McNulty/Jenny Curran Category
Both deliberately and unconsciously, we often develop a social exterior designed specifically to disguise our weaknesses and lacks. The people who dwell in this group go the other way and buck social conventions to carve their own niche. Bart Simpson is a great example of this. His rebellion, a series of pranks and general underachievement was fueled by a deep-seeded desire to bring attention to his inferiority (no, I didn’t look at Simpson DVD extras to unearth that information). However, in the process of engraving a “different” reputation, they damage themselves. Relationships fall apart, families crumble, grades fall, bad addictions form, and for what? Because the people in this category donn’t have the self-respect to see that they are essentially kamikaze pilots. These people really do care how the world sees them, but worst, they never feel as if they will ever belong or be accepted.
A tragic moment normally brings this realization to light for people in this group. Even a downward spiral has to land.
The Tyler Durden Category
I’m violating all kinds of rules here, but here we go: In David Fincher’s cult classic film, Fight Club, the main character and protagonist, Tyler Durden, was a hapless, soulless wreck who sought validation in therapy and kissing his boss’ gluteus until he came across a personification of a figment of his imagination, breaks through the barriers in his life through embracing pain, and doesn’t realize that the figment is himself until the very end of the movie.
That was a mouthful.
Fight Club is classic symbolism of how the self-hating person battles this emptiness through sado-masochism. For the members in this category, they absorb and seek pain. This is a different membership than the previous one because this category actually knows it is seeking pain in lieu of pleasure (which, in a perverted sense, actually makes them sane).
You know the friend who is in a abusive relationship (mental, spiritual, physical) and continues to stay? Well, chances are, they like the treatment they are getting. They don’t try to justify their mate’s behavior either. To them, masochism is bliss. Ladies and gentlemen, it takes a sick mind to relish pain. And only sick minds can occupy this list.
And if I spoiled the movie Fight Club for you, then too bad. It’s been out for 10 years.
The Sammy Sosa/Elizabeth Taylor Group
Yes Sammy, you have earned it. You’ve urinated away any chance of a Hall-of-Fame enshrinement with your steroids-induced career, or any goodwill with your sudden need of a translator at a federal hearing after years of speaking translator free. So feel honored. This might be your last positive nomenclature in a while.
(Editor’s note: Michael Jackson’s name is omitted because of obvious reasons. I try not to pick on people who can’t defend themselves.)
But Sammy’s not alone. Self-mutilators come in hordes. Superficial reasons vary, but at the heart of all of them is a deep-seeded aversion to what is seen in the mirror. This aversion can come from jealousy, porous self-esteem or as the elders say, a lack of cement in the soul (along the same lines of “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”).
Actions don’t have to be as drastic as a nose job to be placed in this country club. Constant change of hairstyles, incessant gripes about wardrobe and nitpicking about your appearance (i.e. the innocuous pimple on your cheek) are signs of the burgeoning Sammy Sosa. This is different from switching up your appearance because you want a new look. If the old look gave you pleasure, then nothing wrong with going on to the next one.
Rule of thumb: Imagine winning $1 million tax-free tomorrow. If you can picture yourself with the same appearance a million dollars richer, then you’re in good shape.
The Joan Clayton Group
Nobody likes a critic. Well, the protagonist in Girlfriends is the quintessential self-analyzer, to the point where it acts as a repellent to those close to her. This doesn’t show up in obvious ways as much as it remains in the background. As someone who shared part-time membership here, allow me to explain the criteria.
We may not hear this nagging voice during the day when we are active and busy. It may only come to our awareness at quiet times, like when we’re preparing for sleep, or trying to meditate.
It may replay old scenes and conversations when we’ve said something stupid or caused someone pain. It may simply list the dumb things we did that day. If we start to feel too good about ourselves, it will drag something really big out of the closet, something it has been saving up for just this occasion. Getting this voice to shut up is very hard. We can use any number of techniques – biblical affirmations, sex, getting drunk – but the only thing that stops it is embracing the shame that is triggered by the voice.
Eminem uses this tactic well: Beating other people to the punch. This works well when you’re say, engaged in a battle rap contest against a guy named Clarence and dissing Mariah, but in actual life, the critical voice is derived from self-hate. Nothing wrong with being critical; just as long as you make room for praise too.
The Napoleon/Malik Wright Group
This is reserved for the unnecessary barking crowd. I’d venture to say we all know a member of this club, and perhaps even enjoy their presence. Their leavening personality masks how totally impotent they feel. They push their self-hate away, stuff it into a corner of the closet, and walk through life in a “everything is heaven” illusion. Everything is great! They’ve overcome it all, have no problems, and in fact, are doing better than most other people.
We all know how this story goes, yet, it remains as common as a Sarah Palin media sighting. That’s because these types are generally so magnetic and fun to be around that people don’t care to alter anything about them. Or maybe because members of this tribe block anybody’s attempt to curb their bombastic nature with a Hanzo sword. Because of this, many yes-men surround these types and serve as their Kevlar, thus making them almost impossible to penetrate.
Often this pattern is so successful at creating the illusion of grandiosity and omnipotence, that everybody in the person’s life is fooled. The crash, when it comes, is usually heavy and deeply devastating. This is most prevalent among entertainers, who often fall into the trap of letting their talent take them where their character can’t keep them.
If there are any categories I omitted, place them in the comments or email me. The first step in eradicating this phenomena is to recognize them.