Ignorance isn’t Bliss, Lack of Introspection Is

Frankly, this is something that’s been nagging in my head for some time now (due to stuff that’s happening in my personal life, and thus aren’t particularly interesting enough to post about). I’m saying “frankly” because I’m not sure how to phrase the idea I’m talking about in an interesting way, but I’ll give it a try, anyway.
I had a chat with the missus today about how miserable I get because I’m constantly aware of how inferior I am all the time. This is, I told her, not an indication of superior intelligence, but only of a bad habit of over-comparison with everybody else. It’s a dangerous occupation I can’t rid myself of, and it brings me my penchant for horrible, incapacitating moods (that’s okay, I only have them when no one’s watching, which is most of the time 🙂 ).

I’m well aware that there are people out there who are beyond ecstatic on a perpetual basis, and for some reason, the fact that I run faster or have a bigger vocabulary than theirs does not shatter their jubilance in the least. When I was (an even more) arrogant adolescent, I viewed this apparent imperviousness as stupidity or ignorance. This was sadly disproven when I noted that people like that are my vast superiors in many respects, and it further pestered me that even “idiots” can beat me at my own game.

Well, needless to say, I was using the wrong paradigm. It’s not that they were idiots, they just didn’t bother as much as I did (and do) with comparative introspection. The truth of the matter is that I will be a much happier man if I just “lightened up”, but I really can’t do that. It’s my eternal quest for scoring more points than everybody else that seems to propel me to do greater things, and without that, I really don’t know if I’d push as hard as I do.

This doesn’t mean that I’m afraid I won’t be as successful (I’d probably be more) if I stopped sizing myself up all the time, but the fact remains that I can’t stop, even though I want to.


12 Responses to “Ignorance isn’t Bliss, Lack of Introspection Is”

  1. galia Says:

    i live with someone who is similar.. no peace but a constant drive to succeed, high emotionally in frustration and in happiness. its not easy but at least not boring.. i think we all, even people who seem completely content, have inferiority complexes.

  2. freidenker85 Says:

    True, but some have more than others, sometimes, it’s simply exaggerated. When you say “live with someone”, do you mean your husband?

  3. galia Says:

    yes, and my son has inherited this as well..

  4. רגשות מחושבים Says:

    Hi. I visit your blog more than I visit mine and it’s accompanying E-mail , so I’ve only seen your message two days ago.
    I give my personal E-mail in this comment.

  5. calculated emotions Says:

    Hi.You touched a nerve here. I would like to tell you how I am dealing with the similar problem. Even though I agree with Galia about everyone having this problem on some scale, some of us are prone to extremes. I was very competitive when young, and got used to winning everything everytime or being very sour when rarely losing. As I met more and more people that were better than me in stuff this sourness became more and more prominant in my life. It got to the point of me writing a diary full of self-flagellation about my annual averages comparing to others and treat people smarter than me with a mix of awe and loathing usually reserved for cruel tyrants. Of course I loathed myself for treating them this way because I knew it’s stupid. This spiralled on and on for a year and a half and was started getting out of hand. Than, when I was about 16, this fear of losing plus some healthy self preservation instincts made me take a completely different road. I just gave up competing, completely, in every aspect of life. Since I did want to do well for myself I didn’t drop school or stopped doing sports or anything, but my motivation lost the edge that competitiveness gave it, I kind of went to cruise control and relaxed. For about 4 years this choice mostly did me good and was very rewarding. First of all I became much more friendly and my social life took a really good turn in most aspects (I’ll get back to the ‘most’ later), and the huge open plains besides the race tracks helped me find morals, explore different fields of interest and just grow up in general.
    The first big down of that attitude was no girlfriend for the next 6 years (not to mention sex). Turns out that courting a girl means competing and risk losing a very important “contest”.So instead I fantasized about mutual love at first site, stepped aside when it didn’t happen and just moved on frustrated but admiring my noble patience and disdain for “these silly courting games”.
    The second big down was that I did become less successful in some of what I was doing. It got to the point where I was almost kicked out of University. Lack of the motivation to do better than those around me made me lose all motivation as most courses in the first two years were pointless to me so I found no internal motivation to do them. I was guided only by the fear of being kicked out and by the fear of immersing myself in competition again and losing. This was bad, it made me feel horrible and I developed examination anxiety. Nowadays I kind of got used to not competing. I compete only when I absolutely have to (job interviews). I have a good life, but some doors were shut for me and probably some future ones will be because I did not push myself hard enough or just stepped aside back than.

  6. freidenker85 Says:

    Well, here’s what I learnt in my (probably) much shorter life: competition is painful, isolating and withering, but this it’s also the stuff of which progress is made. Evolution is often a very gratifying metaphor for the strife competition brings into our lives: animals burn themselves with competition, and they really don’t enjoy it at all, but the end result is faster, stronger, better “survival machines”.

    I know that as soon as this pain stops because I stopped competing, I will lose my edge and expire. I can’t let that happen. I’m only frustrated that I don’t get to win as much as I do, but if I gave that up, I’d be completely lost.

    I don’t know if there’s a way to hold on except pushing yourself as hard as you can for as long as you can and delay the inevitable, but I think that delaying the inevitable is what life’s all about.

    Maybe there will come a day when I won’t need to compete anymore, where life will finally become calm and, well, meaningless.

    But as long as I feel burning purpose, I will always suffer, I will always be isolated.

  7. calculated emotions Says:

    I think that on many occasions you can set goals to yourself and push yourself very hard to get them without competing with anybody, so I agree with your third paragraph but not with the always competing against others theme. Evolutionary speaking – sometimes a bird will die because it can’t stand the long trip between the continents and sometimes because other birds spot food faster. The first example has nothing to do with the skills of other birds, the second one does.
    I guess that any direction one takes, in order to get the most influential position, the best resources and the best resaults, competing against others becomes necessary at some point. But I also think that until this point one doesn’t have to compete with others, and that too many comparisons, especially if someone seems better at some point, might even hinder the advance towards this goal.

    And how do you incorporate family and love to this set of mind?

  8. crazyasuka Says:

    I’m a bad case. I wish I knew everything, and the more I know, the more ignorant I feel.

    I generally don’t feel threatened by “doers” as I don’t consider myself particularly efficient at acomplishing something and that’s fine with me. I’m all about knowledge and understanding and when I see a “superior intelligence” I go green with envy.

  9. freidenker85 Says:

    calc emot – sorry for not replying, hellish week that’s not over yet.

    You’re right, you can excel without competing, but if you are, what’s the point? When there’s no motivation for something, even if you’re good at it, all it takes is for someone of the same qualities to be that much more competitive than you are.

    Asuka –
    I feel threatened by *everyone*. I’m practically paranoid. I’m constantly obsessed with self- and outer-criticism. In many ways, it’s what makes me push harder and keep my eyes peeled, but it gives me horrible moods quite often.

  10. crazyasuka Says:

    Yeah, when I get corrected or lose an argument or something, I first need to deal with a little bit of self-beating: “you idiot! Why didn’t you know that!” and withdraw for a bit before I can appreciate how much I’ve learned from the experience. Once I get over it, it’s all good. Then I can use what I’ve learned to learn more, etc.

  11. calculated emotions Says:

    Rereading my previos comment – I was (am) jealous about that source of motivation that I seem to have pretty much lost. The last lines came out too aggressive, sorry.

    From this post and comments it seems to me you mix motivation with competitveness. Motivation to do things you excel in can come from urgent need or just from the joy of doing this thing, not necessarily from competition.
    I also think that you do have other sources of motivation, because from other posts here it seems that you have pushed yourself pretty hard about stuff before meeting any competition. For example your translation thing (CODA etc. sorry if I’m using the wrong terms), or your views and knowledge about Atheism. Before you started studying that, who was the competition?

  12. freidenker85 Says:

    Oh, no no, I haven’t mixed anything up. My motivation stems very much from competition, and even if there’s no one personally to compete with, I still compare myself to others, either fictional characters or simply people I don’t know and still am able to observe. It’s always like that, there’s always a “game to play, a challenge to win”. Sometimes it drives me insane. I find myself running incessant scenarios in my head to make sure I cover things from all angles even though the scenarios are ridiculously absurd (for example, what would I do if a burglar came into my house. Stuff like that can bother me for a whole day).

    You’re right about motivation stemming from other things, as well, but I’m afraid it’s not the case for me. I find the idea of winning a game to be the single most powerful motivation to do anything excellently. I feel it’s just “not worth it” unless I’ll be “winning something”. It’s a terrible thing, but that’s just the way my mind works.

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