I work with lots of people from many different backgrounds, in different settings, and they want to be the best, the prettiest, the smartest, the most popular, the most sane one, the most succesful -whatever that means-, the one with the most luxurious toys and the most active sex life.

They rarely strife to be the kindest, most caring, most giving, most modest person in the room. I do meet those people as well, but they are easily overlooked because the vain ones are so loud. They try so hard to stand out, to be noticed, to fetch some proof that they are better than others. What I dislike most about them is that they take attention away from the modest people.

It gets even worse if you are masochist enough to start a discussion with a stranger on internet. If you’ve ever tried this, you know what kind of shit you get smeared with. The other person will always disagree, and for lack of arguments, the discussion will quickly turn to insulting each other in the most childish way possible.

If I wasn’t vain myself, I could have had a much easier life, almost stressfree, and oddly, I would have made more money. When I was 19 I was offered a job at a chocolate factory. It paid well, as a student I had 1800 euro a month, but as a regular employee I would still have had 1500 euro. But no, I needed to proof to the world how smart I was and I went off to study Slavic languages. The only benefit to this, in hindsight, it’s that it helped me to sleep with a few stunning Slavic beauties (which was not my motivation at the time, I just wanted to serve my vanity and show how ‘smart’ I am). It works as to letting people think you’re smart. Much harder would be to convince people that the truly smart decision would have been to take the job at the chocolate factory. My body was never in a better shape, I made a lot of money, there was no real competition on the work floor, I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, I just needed to scoop my 1800 kg of cacao butter a day, pe ople left you alone, you didn’t have friends who competed with you over scraps, there were no pretty women to be tormented by, the work was repetitive, so I could easily daydream, and at the end of the day I knew for sure that I had accomplished something. Chocolate makes people happy, I think we can agree on that. If we ignore the slavery that is still in practice to get the cacao to Europe.

I didn’t hurt anyone back that, I was a mellow zombie with the body of gym rat, and didn’t have to worry about money.

The only reasons I put myself through massive trouble are: my brain that’s addicted to information, women, and my desastrous vanity.

How much happier we would all be if we could be modest, not vain, not strive to be noticed, to feel special. But that’s not who we are. We are very vain. It keeps the economy going, who would buy all the clothing, the big cars, the fancy perfumes, the expensive flowers, the jewelry if nobody was vain? Who would buy all the little things we need to prop up our egos?

Who would ever write an other book, play the violin, paint a painting, build an organisation if he or she was not looking for a big fat, juicy ego orgasm?

It’s a pity our drive to be productive and creative seems to come from two sources:

  • Our need to be marinated in empty praise
  • Our fear of being shamed by a society that accepts only a limited number of actions as praiseworthy and sees the rest as shameful

PS

Stop wishing me a ‘productive’ day or a ‘succesful day’. What does that even mean?

Try wishing me a day during which my own vanity doesn’t trip me up, and I can sort of manage to feel love for my greedy, needy, petty, money loving, success whoring, fellow human beings who never feel they are enough and always seek to gather more credit points to try and prove they matter…