Gillian Anderson aside, we all have imperfections that define us as much as our positive points. The biggest part of growing up is not only recognizing those flaws, but making an effort to fix them. It's not an achievable goal, mind you (how many old, bitter assholes do you know?), but it's the effort that counts. It's what sets us apart from apes and Donald Trump -- the ability to recognize where personal change is necessary and then setting that change into motion.
But even for the strongest-willed person, there are some personality traits that seem damn near impossible to shed. Traits like ...
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In my 20s, I was extremely outgoing. Barely a day went by where my house didn't have a dozen people hanging out, drinking, joking, polishing our katanas before a local gang fight with rival ninjas. I went to parties, camping, bowling ... there wasn't a social gathering I was uncomfortable with. I could walk into a bar alone and come out with a group of new friends without really intending to. If life was a movie, I would have been the villain who loses the final dance-off to the underdog nerd and then gets kicked in the balls by his angry girlfriend.
But something weird happened in my early 30s, and I'm not sure where it came from or why. I got painfully shy around strangers. It wasn't a gradual transition, as far as I can remember -- one week, I was having the time of my life, opening beer bottles with my butt cheeks and waking up with shitty tattoos. The next, I couldn't bear the thought of being around groups of people anymore.
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"Fuck all of you. Go away."
Flash forward to the present day, and it's a struggle to get me out of the house. I have a trip coming up in December, and the mere thought of walking through the airport sets my nerves on edge like the day before all five of my penis reduction surgeries. I'm not even worried about the idea of flying. I'm nervous about being around all those people.
Shyness is so hard to change because your mind is constantly telling you that it's safe and comfortable at home, far removed from the buzzing mob at the grocery store. You find yourself making decisions like "Do I endure the stress to go restock my toilet paper? Or do I play it safe and just use those T-shirts that I never wear anymore?"
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They are softer, so there's that.
The only way to combat shyness is to do the thing that makes the air raid sirens go off in your brain, and that can sometimes feel impossible to pull off. Logic is telling you that you should go socialize at the office Christmas party, but your mind somehow puts that on par with you deciding to stab your own pancreas with a chainsaw. Eventually, that panic doesn't just drown out the logic ... it becomes logic.
#4. Holding Grudges
If they had a category for it, I would win a Nobel Prize for holding grudges. I grew up in a family that virtually cherished grudges like intricate works of fine art. It was so bad that if a couple of months went by without a conflict, they would manufacture one over the stupidest shit imaginable. One time, my mom and brother got into a small disagreement about chores. It ended with my brother throwing a piece of chicken and my mom sending him to live with my dad. They didn't speak for half a year. You know, normal family stuff. You've all been through the "fuck your chicken" phase.
Although I'm not personally as bad as I was 10 years ago, I still battle with grudges. I could name five of them off the top of my head that I can't fathom letting go of, even though I know that doing so would bring me a significant amount of peace and I could finally get rid of this perpetual hate erection. I think the problem is that holding a grudge is directly tied to ego, and letting go of that anger and resentment feels like you're giving in and surrendering to the enemy. Like you're admitting that you were wrong. Letting go feels like losing.
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"I'm sorry, you had every right to fuck my wife. I was overreacting."
What's hard to understand is that letting go of a grudge doesn't mean that you have to apologize or even have a conversation with the other person about the issue. It just means that you stop devoting thoughts and emotion to it. Given, for many people, doing so does require contacting the person in order to get some closure, but it's certainly not a requirement for everyone. Since my dad's funeral, I haven't been to his grave, but it doesn't mean that I have to go physically shit on it in order to put my resentment to rest.
Letting go, regardless of the method you use to achieve it, means genuinely understanding that there is nothing you can do to change the other person. The only thing you have total control over is the way that you process any given situation -- how you react.
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This is how I react to everything now. I even carry my own trophy.
Being a person who still has trouble with grudges, I openly admit that this is much easier to type than it is to practice. But that's the point. It's a personality flaw that I know I need to change, but it's so goddamn hard. I'll make you a deal: If I figure out an easy way to do it first, I'll write an article about it. If you figure it out before me, let me know. Otherwise, you're fucking dead to me.
I'm going to admit something that is extremely embarrassing. I used to lie like a cheap rug. Not just normal lies that pretty much everyone tells daily. I lied about everything. I told people I was colorblind. I was a black belt in whatever martial art was popular at the time. I knew how to play the piano. Hell, at one point, I claimed I was psychic and kept up the story for over a year.
I'm not baffled as to why I did it. I wasn't happy with who I was, and when I told some outlandish story or bullshitted about some rare talent, people paid attention. As I got older, though, it became harder and harder to stop because lying was just another part of my personality. Of course, who could blame me? At the time, I was a spy, which meant lying was a big part of my job.
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I mostly just took photos of tables and doodle pads.
So how did I stop? The more thought I devoted to it, the more embarrassed I got. I knew people were laughing behind my back, and I knew that they didn't believe half the shit I was spewing. People aren't that stupid. I knew I was "that guy" the second I left the room. I eventually decided that enough was enough, and I came clean to everyone who was close to me. At that point, I had an obligation to remain honest, because once they knew how full of shit I was, I knew they'd be questioning every word that came out of my mouth, even if only in their heads. "He has to use the bathroom? Yeah, I bet he does. He's probably just standing in there, not peeing, trying to trick us into thinking he is."
I don't consider mine a typical case. I had a real problem with lying, and people with similar problems most likely won't be able to give it up on a simple decision to do so. At least not without some actual professional help. Because when you're in that predicament, you know your friendships are based on a personality that isn't real. And if you let people see who you truly are, there's a good chance they're not going to like that person. It's like selling someone a Rembrandt, only to have the paint suddenly fall off to reveal crudely drawn child penises.
"No, it's real. I have a Rembrandt supplier. Keeps it on the down low."
Destroying your front destroys everything that's attached to it, so it's extremely easy to resign yourself to this warped frame of mind that says "This is who I am. And as long as I just maintain my current stories without adding more to them, I'll be fine. They don't have to know that I made it up." Coming clean is hard. It's humiliating. And many people will feel like you betrayed them. Some people can't handle that thought -- after all, lying was originally intended for positive reactions. Coming clean pretty much guarantees the opposite.