Burned At The Stake You Built

“The man who discovered fire was probably burned at the stake he built.”

-Paraphrased from ‘The Fountainhead,’ by Ayn Rand

Someone recently pointed out, here on my blog, that I am all at once: attractive, talented and intelligent– in that it is rare to have all three in one person at the same time.

This happens once in a while and it brings me out from the trenches again, a refreshing recurrence of:

“Oh yeah…I guess you’re RIGHT,” I AM aren’t I?

Dammit!

And in the moment, I then think, ‘yeah, that IS true,’ and begin wondering why my normal friends don’t tend to point this out, and why I do with them. I nearly always point out the good traits in other people, and have wondered often why the same frequency of complements are not directed back at me.

Contrary to what virtually all people would say of me, I am not always so confident, and don’t even really care about being seen that way.

I am finally coming fully to terms with this as a reality: all my life I have been picked on in a way that at first made me feel better, but simultaneously had a hidden message I always knew the nature of on some level, but hadn’t really decoded until recent years.

It consists of a jealousy, nothing more really, but operates by co-opting, increased criticality and rewards as well as punishes. My entire life I have struggled with this jealousy from friends, my family, peers, even strangers in public places.

Strangely enough, this never comes from a girlfriend, but from every single x-girlfriend in some way. Not so bizarre I guess. Hell, and people wonder why I’m paranoid–people are in a way–out to get me, only because they are afraid I’d ‘get there’s’ first.

‘Steal’ their girlfriend, who throws herself at me once they break up, ‘steal’ their point, when it was obviously my own, ‘steal’ their job, when they were the ones who got me hired, ‘share’ their knowledge or expertise, then turn around and attach strings to it…

The bullying has run from mild things like constant sucker punching when I was in middle school, to being overly critical of my art, to things like ganging up on me in discussion to embarrass me in front of whatever audience, usually and most pertinently, when there was a girl present.

And yet my friends have always insisted how worshipped I’ve always been.

So, why don’t I feel worshipped?

When I got to art school, just about everyone was far worse (to my surprise) an artist than I was, to be perfectly honest, and yet, my art was the most criticized, in a way that acknowledged it was good, yes, but held it up to scrutiny that became more than counterproductive. All friends at art school I might add, were very quick to embrace non-objective and postmodern standards for art, so much so, that I wonder how much this has to do with evading criticism.

The same thing has happened on a broader level with the friends I have these days: they are vehemently against objectivism, objective standards for life i.e. politics, parenting, work etc., and not coincidentally, enjoy the cushion of not having to back up their claims or take responsibility for a fully self-developed philosophy.

People continue in their underlying jealousy for me today, in many ways.

Today I think it consists mainly of hoarding whatever talent, skill, what have you–over me, in light of and in spite of all the other things I do well, those things, remaining pretty overlooked. Aside from this, what seems most glaring is the hypocrisy of anything that I do, held up to a different standard than I relay to others.

If I need to lose weight, even a little bit, I’ll be reminded of it constantly, by friends who are twice if not three times as overweight as I am.

This works in other instances where I can never be allowed to be the expert…

Like, if I have a friend who’s suddenly on a health kick, and starts walking instead of driving their car, I’ll be reminded of the supreme advantages of walking constantly, as if this were knowledge they had in their endless generosity, bestowed upon me. Never mind the fact, which they know very well, that I don’t own a car, and walk everywhere I need to go, and have for the last ten years.

When I AM complemented on something it comes mainly in the form of a stated fact, if not, then from an underlying motive related to necessity. This is what has made them appear genuine to me, but that I have learned is more often than not, really an ulterior motive to get me to do things.

Many times, I just feel it’s cause someone wants to gain my favor. This has been pressingly apparent in moments where I would never have received credit where credit was due, without an audience present, which basically guarantees I’ll be used to make the other individual look good.

This happens most often in arguments where it’s obvious I know more about a given subject, and get credit for it, but in the form of my friend being able to gang up on the other person, whereas in person, they would have simply opposed me, or not cared about said point.

It gets worse: quite often, unless I make a point of it, (which is why I tend to, and then accused of being conceited) my own original ideas on a given subject will be treated as if they were knowledge or information that they (my friends) picked up from somewhere else. This is yet another personally practical reason to keep a blog.

This whole double standard used to be invisible to me. When my friends would pick on me, I just thought that that was what I dished out as well, and ought to just take it. Then, more recently I started asking myself whether or not I actually would do to them, what they do to me.

Would I sucker punch my friend? Would I put a friend down, or even be overly critical about something I know he’s sensitive about? Would I point out how overweight she or he is all the time? Would I constantly harp at other people’s flaws?

So, in recent years, I have begun to be critical of others. It wasn’t until I read Ayn Rand however, that I felt fully vindicated at the notion that people of ability are persecuted in a way that enslaves them to people less able, and hence, didn’t hold as much back. Today, I still hold back the degree others would just pour on, but far less.

And what has been the result?

Horrific. The general effect has led me to conclude that my being critical of others just doesn’t fly. It never did, but dishing out the exact same degree of critical scrutiny I receive on a avid basis from others–NEVER reaps the same, most often, calm demeanor I grant to other people.

Sometimes this has come in the form of even tantrums on the part of other friends.

Now don’t get me wrong, my friends have always helped me, quite a bit, and I have had my fair share of tantrums, and contradictions, but help is something that has never come all that cheap in the currency of friendship for me.

This consists of taking me ‘under their wing’ as the price of their help. Even this has been super-ceded to some great extent on the part of how good natured my friends have been and are I think most basically.

At the same time, this doesn’t change the fact that I am the one who constantly has to make exceptions for others’ ‘sensitivity’ always perceived as ten times more intense than I really mean things and even appear. When I question things, I’m being stubborn or arrogant, when I criticize, I’m being insensitive, even cruel, and when I argue, its an attack. Keep in mind, its usually a precarious mixture of all of the above.

This is my hypothesis as to the overall pattern concerning the steps of friendship for me. Please consider that I have MUCH that I have gained from my friends as well, but that aspect is not what I am referring to, and in any case, this is the pattern that undercurrents everything else:

1. Friends come easy to me, no matter where I am, and latch on to me quickly, usually because of the fact that I really listen to what people say and grant them so much personal counsel and ‘psychological visibility’*

(Psychological visibility is a Nathaniel Branden concept, who is a psychologist. It means how revealed, understood, and ‘visible’ someone feels in the face of another person.)

2. I am upheld to be something great, sometimes bordering on larger than life, and a bit even worshipped by said friend. In any case, I am after the initial stages of courting, put up on a rather high pedestal.

3. My friend sees that I am not perfect, and that I have flaws, many flaws, and feels a bit betrayed on some level.

4. This comes in the form of what begins to be hyper-scrutiny of me, coupled with the double standard when I criticize others on their part.

5. Once I am their friend, I am then used for counsel, flattery (which I tend to give generously) and a listening ear.

6. My own abilities are then understated, sometimes suddenly so. The co-opting of my own talents then begins to take place.

7. The friend, undercuts things I say, and takes for granted what they know from me, now considering to be collective, general knowledge.

8. I am ganged up on and scapegoated under the guise of messing around which always has a double meaning.

9. I am generally taken for granted until times when I am really needed, if I begin to show disinterest, fight back, or threaten to end the friendship by means of action, in said friend– suddenly the hyper-scrutiny and double standard recedes and often disappears (momentarily) altogether, but once ‘won-back’ the normal pattern reappears pretty quickly.

10. This pattern continues throughout our friendship.

So, who’s the user, really?

The fact that friends come easy to me, is something all friends I’ve ever had know very well is the case–in almost every instance, I need them far less than they need me in terms of friendship. Yet this is never discussed or even acknowledged remaining as an undercurrent, ‘unmentionable’ fact.

In the restaurant business, we know the double standards automatically generated by appearances very well. Women managers or bartenders for example, can’t be firm with a customer without appearing bitchy, whereas a guy, will simply be perceived as firm and just in the same exact instances where a girl is a ‘bitch.’

This is the exact same kind of thing: I am punished for being what I am.

I am very attractive, so naturally any girl I ‘get’ who happens to know one of my friends, is a girl I stole, or a girl I’m using, I am a very talented artist, so naturally I can take any form of criticism no matter how debasing it sounds, and when I turn around and do the same thing? Forget it, I’m suddenly a brute stomping on corpses again.

And I am intelligent, and into ideas, so what are actually thoughtful concepts and theories are regarded as crack-pot, my propositions are asinine, and a general air of disinterest is shown in the face of new things I introduce.

Whereas the most outlandish actually crack-pot and even sometimes mystical views of others are somehow sound and worth listening to.

There are several things that have given me enough of a contrast to see that this in fact, IS what’s going on.

The first was my mom, who was very critical of me, but always cued me in on the attacks I suffered from friends who were jealous, or x-girlfriends who were vengeful. The second came from any current girlfriend who was on my side until we’d inevitably break up. They performed very much the same function as my mom did but WHILE we were together, break up with her and she’s an enemy.

Of all the girls I’ve broken up with, very few I have done in a callous way, nearly all of them have been to their face, the ‘right’ way, the just way, the fair way. And am I rewarded for it? Does one get any credit for it? Naw, each and every time I have been upfront and fair to girls in giving them the bad news, in thinking they would prefer it, as they had said they would, I have suffered the consequences of being fair.

That has ranged in reaction from absolute indignance, yelling, screaming at me, calling me a user, and finding ways of making me the devil to hitting me in the face and threatening me with sharp objects, and stalking me afterwards.

Great.

So, am I ‘fair’ any longer? Nop. No, I have learned the high price of being FAIR. So, now in turn, I appear even further as a ‘user.’

Funny enough, all the people I know who remain ‘fair’ are without a respective ability, somehow coincidentally.

They are either unattractive, untalented, unintelligent, or unsuited for whatever realm of things is relevant.

Its like how our country gives very little to the gifted and talented and exorbitant amounts of money to the retarded. Its like how our country is hailed as an oppressor, even though it is, certainly, but criticized far above all the other countries where things like beheading sometimes takes place!

Conversely, there are friends I’ve had who don’t tend to do these types of things, and where the double standard doesn’t really exist.

These few friends, are generally more attractive, slender, not overweight, tall if they male, shorter if they are female, intelligent, and above all–confident. Whereas, most other friends I’ve had tend possess intelligence often in spite of everything else–as their most tradable characteristic.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is far from a coincidence.

The advice I give to the able, in whatever capacity and whatever degree or extent you possess the trait that you possess, I would tell you that several general rules should always apply to your success:

1. Never let others convince you that your talents, no matter what they are, inherited, physical, or mental–are superfluous, common, not your own, or somehow don’t even exist.

2. Other people who are on a whole–not as talented, able, good-looking etc., no matter who they are, whether your closest friends or a stranger, are all in competition against you, and most often will use you and your abilities entirely without regret and without consciousness to it on this level. This means when they are using you–they don’t consider it to be using you, but IT IS.

Never be convinced otherwise.

I’ve had friends do all sorts of things to keep me at bay or to put me down without a second thought.

I’ve had friends withhold information from me, while ‘helping’ me so long as they could still co-opt me and keep me ‘under their wing.’ I’ve had friends, not invite me to get-togethers or parties for fear of girls I might ‘steal.’ I’ve had friends back stab and bite in the most subtle ways, revise things, and turn them around to make it look like my fault. This behavior is not limited to acquaintances, but almost exclusive to my closest friends.

This is not to say that people, in other ways, aren’t simultaneously good, caring friends, most of the time they are, or they wouldn’t even BE your friends. The thing to remember is that people are non-integrated, contradicted and compartmentalized. This means that they are able to get away with it, and continue those contradictions.

Nonetheless, we live in a competitive world and society, and favorable traits are favorable traits–never underestimate the power and subtle pervasiveness of jealousy, or you will in some way, be made a slave to it.

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