Glass Half Full
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008
One-downmanship: The art or practice of being or appearing to be at a disadvantage (Oxford Dictionary)
I thought I had coined this phrase so I was surprised to see it in the Oxford Dictionary. Once again, proof that I have a limited capacity for original thought. That aside, one-downmanship is the subject of today's article.
Why do we do it, people, why?
Here are some of the reasons I think may be the cause:
1. We don't want people to think we are doing well because they will stop paying attention to us and stop offering us kindness and comfort because, sadly, we don't tend to do that for one another when things are going well.
2. We don't want people to think we are doing well because they will try to take away that which we possess, be it joy or good fortune.
4. Any form of shame and guilt built in culture and religion.
5. A result of the "Busy as a Badge of Honour" malarkey we feed one another as a rich society where we believe the busier we say we are, the more valuable and important we must be.
6. Additionally, if we do not appear to be busy or wrung out, we could be let go from our jobs because we do not appear to be driving ourselves into a furor in competition for the almighty dollar.
7. A desire to appear as disadvantaged or more disadvantaged than another as a rationalization to take up inordinate space, time and energy of others.
8. All of the above = FEAR.
One-downmanship stems from a place of fear and a lack of acceptance of wealth of spirit, health and overall fortune. In some ways,It seems to have become unacceptable to be doing well; yet, often the reaction of others is positive if we say we are fine and disadvantageous or negative if we say we are not. Again, the person asking was likely hoping for a simple, "Fine thanks" or nothing at all as the question of well-being was merely a platitude. No-one has time or energy to hear another sad story.
Are we so inundated with the ruinous lives of strangers that we have no time to listen to those of us in our actual day to day lives? Have we lost our compassion as a result of over-stimulus courtesy of the world wide web? Do the trials and tribulations of those closest to us feel meaningless in the face of Syria, Afghanistan, or any other place of desperate need brought to us as the most horrific story from media?
If each of us is screaming, are any of us heard?
Sometimes it appears to me that those with the most advantage in life (from an economic have and have-not perspective) are competing with those who are truly disadvantaged on multiple levels in order to keep the wealth that they have. You know, "I'm not really doing as well as it appears I am doing, because..."
Sometimes, we are just not seen in our difficulty. We do not feel heard or acknowledged for old hurts that have left us physically, emotionally or intellectually disabled in some way. The only means by which we can continue to seek remediation for the wrong done is to ensure that no one sees us having a good day.
How do we find our way out of this state?
Practice, that's how. Look for wee joys in life and stand in the peace of those moments. Accept that you are worthy of well-being.
If you feel guilty for having an easier life than another, use that energy to quietly do something for that person - perhaps without even letting them know. I find that giving to another when I am in hardship is one surefire way to lighten my footprint on this earth and brighten my path.
You needn't flip to the far side by becoming the reigning champion of one-upmanship, but allow yourself to feel good, rested and content when you do feel so. Restore and give of yourself as you are able to do so with good heart.
Someone once said that we owe our greatest debt to joy. ...We certainly do not owe it to misery.
-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 30, 2016
This week's post is dedicated to one of the best people
I have the good fortune of knowing
- who makes me a better, kinder, more honest me: Tams.
You lift me up and I am grateful.
Fernwood, bench wisdom
G. Cornwall, February 2012