The Great I Am

Have you noticed how often people contradict themselves. I’m not talking about those who say one thing one minute and the exact opposite the next, they are very easy to spot if you are listening to what they are saying and have said. I mean those who make a statement about themselves, but then contradict it with their behaviour. They are slightly harder to spot simply because we often accept people at face value, if they say they are something, we don’t question its veracity, why would they lie to us about themselves, what would be the point.

It’s not really about lying. These people often don’t know that they are contradicting their words with their actions.

Social life demands that we make ‘I am’ statements. Sometimes that is all the social interaction consists of. It is our identity card. We use them to decide upon meeting a stranger, if they are one of us or not, if they belong to the same tribe. Not all tribes have secret handshakes. But they do have a dress code. A lifestyle. A series of ‘I am’ statements which identifies them to others like them, and to those who are not like them.

Some people will adopt the guise of a group to which they want to belong. Make deliberate false ‘I am’ statements, wear the uniform, and live the lifestyle. Sometimes people do that as a way to find out if that is who they are or not. It is a very interactive form of self-discovery. Sometimes they do it as part of a con, the means by which they achieve their desired end.

Politicians, and other people in positions of social power, often make very big ‘I AM’ statements to win votes, create a bond with their followers, and make themselves larger than life. This is their public persona, that persona is genuine and real, but only when they are in public, behind closed doors they are no longer their public persona, and their private self is often very different from their public image. Sometimes the private life very awkwardly sabotages the public persona by exposing itself, leaking out, getting caught in a dubious act, then the disparity between the two creates an almighty scandal, and all the ‘I am’ statements pop, one by one, like bubbles.

Politicians and other public figures are generally aware of the inconsistencies, and contradictions of their ‘I am’ statements versus what they actually do. It’s part of the job, and they hire people to help them with those contradictions, usually to help them confirm the illusion, and hide the reality. With others the line is more blurred.

I met a woman at a party once who introduced herself by saying ‘I am a very good listener!’, she then spent the next fifteen minutes explaining why she was such a good listener, I was allowed to speak a couple of times to say ‘Oh really, how interesting’, and she would have happily continued to regale me with her brilliance at listening, but I made my escape. I am not a good listener.

I’ve heard quite a few people say ‘I am always there for my friends’, what they usually forget to add is ‘to tell them all about the problems I am having which are always so much worse than any they could ever have.’

One of my pet peeves is when a person says ‘I am very sensitive’. It is like a red rag to a bull, and I feel compelled to test the truth of the statement. Usually I find they are telling the truth, as in ‘I am very sensitive about myself, but completely insensitive to others. I am so thoroughly engrossed in my problems, issues, emotional dramas, that everything other people say or do affects me very personally, painfully. I am always being hurt by others because they are not sensitive to my needs. And my needs are all that matter to me, and they should be all that matters to others.’ These people show a remarkable ability to hurt people, by cutting them to the quick with an offhand remark, or a very well-aimed knife into a soft spot. They are insensitive to others, but not oblivious. Emotional blackmail is one of their favourite games.

I’ve noticed that people who are genuinely sensitive, who have empathic tendencies, rarely mention it to other people, mostly because they have learned the hard way that this attracts those who have a black hole of need which they try to fill with the energy they suck from other people, and empathic people are delicious feasts. People who are amazing friends to others, don’t feel the need to advertise the fact that they are, they just get on with it. The proof is in the doing. Good listeners are quite shy, and they don’t like to draw attention to their ability because there are too many really good talkers who love an attentive audience. Being a good listener does not mean you want to listen to everything everyone has to say, it means you actually hear what people are saying, and are therefore more selective of the talkers you want to listen to.

We all make ‘I am’ statements. Sometimes as small talk. Sometimes as a shortcut, to make it easier for others to know us. Sometimes as a celebration of who we are. Sometimes as a confirmation that we exist. Sometimes we are sampling an identity on, to see if it fits. Sometimes we are trying to make a connection with another person, mimicking and reflecting them. Sometimes it is something we have been told we are so often that we have adopted it, come to believe it, even if we are not really sure that it is true. Sometimes we are just lying. Sometimes we do it as a warning.

I like to warn people about myself so they know who they are dealing with. As in ‘Before you decide whether you like me or not, and make the effort to get to know me, you should be aware of the following things which I have noticed other people find disturbing about me’. I see it as a courtesy to do this. It is also a pre-emptive strike. I would rather be rejected immediately, than wait for it to happen further down the line.

When we meet someone new we often only show them and give them the best of us in the hopes that they will like us enough to stick around, and we hide the worst. This creates an imbalance, and our old friends often end up paying the price of our new friendship by only getting the worst of us, as we’ve used up all the good bits on the new person.

I like to show new people the worst of me, if they can deal with it, then I’ll share the good stuff. Twisted logic perhaps, but my old and treasured friends deserve the best of me, because they accept the worst of me.

This is an odd post for me to write. I have a quirk, like an internal mental tick. Every time I make an ‘I am’ statement, my mind whispers ‘Are you really?’ and the answer is often ‘I’m not sure, let me think about it’, then, a few moments later, ‘No, I am not that at all, why did I say I was’. My mind is very fickle, I drive myself and the people who know me to distraction with my changes. But my heart is constant. For the most part. Things, ideas, subjects, which I love, over time may well lose that love. People whom I love never lose my love, I’m taking it to the grave. Selfish perhaps, but worth it.

So, what are your ‘I am’ statements, and are they true?