Our response to small roadblocks often determines our character and overall mettle. What’s your mini-crisis threshold? Take this short multiple-choice quiz and see how you score:
1. You just got a bad haircut/color. Your reaction was:
a. Disappointment – I guess I’m going to look like a Hobbit for three months. Bummer, but it will grow back.
b. Sadness – I miss my long hair! What was I thinking?
c. Rage – My hair is ruined and it’s all [hair stylist’s] fault! I’m going on Yelp and as soon as I finish writing the most inappropriately vitriolic review I’m calling the salon manager and getting that hack fired. She has no idea who she’s dealing with.
d. Denial – This will never happen to me. I have had the same hairstyle for 22 years and it still looks amazing. I intend to maintain my youthful appearance long after others have caved to an ‘older mom’ look. My style matches my bubbly, perky personality (you can hardly tell I’m 48 – I’m like my daughter’s best friend!) and the long hair disguises the small amount of weight (um, like 25 pounds) I’ve gained since college.
2. Your kid just got snubbed for class representative. You:
a. Give him a high five and tell him you’re proud that he gave it a shot.
b. Absorb his disappointment as though it happened to you. Take him for ice cream and explain how to re-work his essay for next year.
c. Write a nasty email to the teacher full of damaging adjectives obtusely pointed at her (disoranized! unfair! pointless! deficient!).
d. Hold and console your child, while looking him in the eye and reminding him how special he is. Discuss how those elections are usually fixed, and remind him that he should have won (I mean, you spent two hours writing the essay for him!); however, the winner’s mom just happens to be Room Mom this year. Write an email to the district about the practice of elections in the classroom and how they are contributing to a severe decline in student self-esteem and equality. Treat the teacher with barely disguised disdain for the rest of the year. Rally as many moms as you can find to hate the teacher along with you, even if you have to bend the truth a little (she looked my son in the eye and said “you don’t have what it takes to be class rep! He’s devastated!”).
3. Your neighbor just got a new SUV. You heard that her husband was promoted and things were going well financially over there. Your reaction:
a. You’re genuinely happy for their success. Wait a sec before you circle this…I said genuinely.
b. For the first month you time your exits from the garage (in your 5 year-old minivan) so as not to coincide with hers, but eventually that envious feeling normalizes into acceptance.
c. You verbally assault your husband every night when he walks through the door for not providing (Divorced? You call your lawyer – you know the number by heart! – it’s time to go back to court for more money!). You have asked and asked for an Escalade – no dice. It’s not like you’re a spender, after all (the Coach bag came from Nordstrom Rack)!
d. You slowly extract yourself from your neighbor’s life, withdrawing from the friendship little-by-little. You decide she is extremely materialistic, always has been, and relay this to anyone who will listen. You tell your other friends how ‘anti-gas guzzler’ you are and how ‘anyone that drives one of those giant SUVs must not care too much about the environment’. You snicker every time she pulls into the school parking lot. Within a week you have convinced yourself that your own less expensive (and older) vehicle is more appropriate.
Please read below for your results:
Mostly A’s: Congratulations, you are well-rounded and generally comfortable in your own skin. Please be a beacon of hope for the B’s, C’s and D’s.
Mostly B’s: Ultimately you rally to the correct response, but sometimes trip up a little on the ‘it’s-all-about-me-ism’ on your way to figuring it out. Careful that you don’t regress!
Mostly C’s: Temper, temper! You’re a hot mess, aren’t you? Angry, bitter and vengeful. What is going on? Psst…your friends are only agreeing with you to avoid your tirades. They actually think you are a little frightening. At least you’re being yourself.
Mostly D’s: “D” is the perfect letter for you because you are in utter denial. You have completely missed the mark on what you really are – insecure and slightly pathetic. You have no idea of your place in the world and zero self-worth, so you have created an avatar that walks around looking like you while only being about an inch deep emotionally. Your soul is twisted and barren because you have moved so far away from who you really are that it can no longer live harmoniously inside of you. I have news for you: it’s OK to fly your freak flag and let people know you’re not perfect! There are lots of narcissists living among us, and once they figure out how to acknowledge that they’re not better than everyone else (and maybe get a tiny bit of professional help!), they’re much happier and more authentic. Unfortunately you either don’t recognize this in yourself or you do and you are a continuing on your quest to be someone you’re not with even more vigor. This would be fine, except that unfortunately you chose to have kids so they’re absorbing your sociopathic tendencies and will ultimately go through life blaming everyone else for their failures. Yikes.
Keeping in mind that our own psychological fragility bleeds over to the psyche of our children, let’s analyze:
A special message for the denial group, which is my main area of concern (you angry girls are terrifying but you’re honest, so thanks for being YOU, I guess): perhaps we might need to address your ‘friends’ rather than you directly. You all know that something is a little off about Suzy the Sociopath. You’ve always felt that phony vibe when you’re around her. What you’re feeling? She is trying desperately to be something she’s not. Now, you don’t really know this person, because the personality she demonstrates is artificial – but you probably know her kids. They still have a fighting chance, so perhaps now is the time to cease the enabling behavior and guide this person toward a more enlightened and authentic existence. After all, we do not want to see her kids (or ours) hauling around that kind of baggage for the rest of their lives, nor do we want to end up having to clean up the mess she makes of others’ lives – especially if she happens to also be lacking a conscience – in pursuit of her own desperate need to be ‘better than’. Try an intervention…or appeal to her narcissism and tell her it’s cool to have a personality disorder! If that doesn’t work, contain the threat. This can happen when all around her finally figures out what they’re dealing with – and simply humors her. YES, you’re the greatest! YES, we hate everyone that has ever said otherwise!
So, my psychologically broken and potentially breakable friends, it’s time to shine the light on your coping mechanisms. Our kids will be better off when they see us handle life’s little curve balls with some class (and honesty…and humility). Try this: be a gracious loser….admit when you’re jealous….acknowledge a mistake and make it better by starting with an apology…attend some anger management classes…
And denial lady? Get your hair cut and act your age. You look (and behave) like a character from an 80’s movie.