Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

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 ...


Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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.

Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
"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?"

Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Getty Images
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.

Holding Grudges

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com

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.

Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images
"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.

David Woolley/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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.

Continue Reading Below


Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

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.

Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
"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.

Being a Victim

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com

Before we get into this, I need you to understand that there are people out there who have been so fucked over by life that we couldn't possibly even pretend to understand what they're going through. People lying in hospital beds waiting to see if their chemotherapy worked have every goddamn right to give life the finger and say "I never asked for this bullshit."

Those are not the people I'm talking about here. There's a huge difference between them and what an unhealthy number of us go through when things don't go our way. I have several family members who just exhaust me every time we speak because every little negative thing that happens in their lives becomes a full-blown personal catastrophe. I have to psyche myself up like an MMA fighter before knocking on their door.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Shut up, man. I'm still working out.

My aunt's 25-year-old car had shown signs of breaking down for two solid years before it shit out on her. When it finally did, it was a case of "I give up. Life just keeps screwing me over." Of course, to the outside eye, we can easily say, "Wait, how long did you think that car was going to last? You didn't save anything back in the two years it was giving you warnings? This obviously wasn't an unexpected event -- you had shitloads of time to prepare for it. I'm going to punch you in the neck now. Here I go."

If it was just a one-time situation with a single person, I wouldn't even bother bringing it up. All of us have had fate drop a turd into our bath water, and we have every right to bitch about the smell. But where it gets bad is when people linger on those problems so much that "life is bullshit" becomes their go-to excuse to avoid action and prevention. "Why go to college? I'm just going to get stuck licking balls in the blow job factory anyway."

When you've filed all of your problems in the "Out of My Control" folder, it's very easy to lose motivation to fix them and move on. That is an extremely deep hole to climb your way out of. The only way I've seen it successfully escaped is when a person finally has enough and says, "Wait a minute, this is bullshit! I'm sick of living like this, and I'm taking my life back right motherfucking now -- where's my flamethrower?" Myself included.

Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Nothing to worry about. John's just getting his life in order again. Wait, where's the cat?!"

The downside to fixing this personality flaw is that I've never seen someone take that stance without first hitting rock bottom, and that's one huge reason why it's so hard to change. Before that happens, you sort of view life as a series of events that happen to you, rather than a series of events that you create. Truly understanding the difference between those two perspectives can change your life, but going from one to the other can take years of effort.

Continue Reading Below

Conceit and the Fear of Change

Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

I'm indifferent to reality shows, but there's one thing about pretty much all of them that I can't stand: the token arrogant twat who thinks he or she is a gift unto the world. I know it's a ratings gimmick used to make people tune in to see when that jackoff is finally going to get what's coming to him, but it still bothers me. Those aren't people -- they're cartoon characters, and they often mistake narcissism for confidence.

We've preached a sermon of self-love and self-esteem for so long, I think we've gone overboard. Don't get me wrong -- it's a great message to send, and it's absolutely necessary for a sane, productive person to bloom from your child bush. But it has to be used in tandem with lessons of restraint and humility. I don't think there's anyone under the delusion that Honey Boo Boo is going to grow up to be a tolerable, well-adjusted woman.

Sandia National Laboratories/Photodisc/Getty
I predict some sort of meth/cheese-ball-related explosion by age 14.

Yes, there are massive benefits to being confident and self-assured. But without the ability to humble oneself, you just come off as a piece of shit who nobody wants to be around. Not to mention that, internally, conceited people give themselves virtually no room for growth because the mind has trained itself to think that everything about them is perfect.

And therein lies the problem. You can find a thread of it running through every point in this article. We get so used to thinking of ourselves as complete that we fear changing any part of the formula. I don't think a lot of people view themselves as a constantly evolving organism, always changing until the day they die. I think we hit a certain age and then declare, "This is who I am. What you see is what you get." Everything in your life has led up to the current version of you, and if people don't like it, they can just lick your imperfect asshole.

I'm not even talking about full-on mirror-carrying narcissists. The idea that we shouldn't change anything about ourselves for fear of becoming something else is a form of conceit, and most of us harbor that. And once that fear sets in, it embeds itself into you like a leech.

The only way to get rid of it is to blanket bomb the entire state.

None of this is easy. If it was, we'd all be living in a creepy utopia with identical personalities and matching sweater vests. But even if you don't do it for yourself, it's worth working on if for no other reason than gaining a better understanding of how the human mind operates. Maybe you can use the knowledge to manipulate your boss into giving you a raise or trick some dude into putting a corn cob in his ass. Whatever it is people do for entertainment nowadays. I don't get out much.

John is an editor and columnist right here at Cracked, with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

To turn on reply notifications, click here


Load Comments