I’ve always been shy. After being reminded recently of how much shyness can affect one’s life, I’ve been revisiting the topic. I’ve run into a type of “chicken and egg” type of scenario, where I’m not sure which came first. I’m also very cynical. I believe that there is good in people, but I also think that people are mostly out for themselves first and foremost. That got me to wondering if my shyness has caused this attitude, or if the cynicalness of society has caused my shyness.
It’s possible there’s no direct link at all, first of all. But I have to wonder why I became convinced that people are just out for themselves. Perhaps because I’ve seen that mostly, people are not what they claim to be? Or maybe it’s just my defense against being naive. If I just assume everyone has suspect motives, then it will difficult to dupe me into something. I can see how this would lead to me not wanting to meet new people. If I truly believe that people are no good, then why would I want to meet them? After spending some time looking through definitions of cynical behavior, I have to say, I think they have “cynical” confused with depression. I may be cynical, but I’m not negative.
There are plenty of great things about the world, and we humans are to credit for most of them. All I’m saying is I don’t trust Elon Musk at face value. I never have. There’s something off there, that’s all. But it’s possible that my cynicism is nothing more than jealousy. I can’t think of too many CEOs that I think favorably of, actually. That really doesn’t make sense, does it? They’ve done the work to get where they are, and one would think I would at least like one or two of them. But as I type this, I can only think of one who comes to mind. I like Aaron Levie, CEO of Box. He seems to be straightforward and honest. I also happen to know his Chief of Products, and think very highly of him, as we got started in our careers at the same times and our paths crossed over the years.
So maybe I’m not cynical at all, maybe I’m just an asshole. My jealousy of others has created a facade of cynicism that allows me to hide and pick at their weaknesses, or at least their perceived weaknesses. I’m never surprised when a famous person is caught doing something shocking. Power corrupts… Does everyone forget this? Maybe I’m not an asshole, I just don’t expect famous people to be above the issues that face the rest of us. They will be petty. And because they’re filthy rich, they will be targets for people looking to make a dime off of them. They will attract unsavory characters. I can’t say I envy that portion of fame. I don’t know that I would be able to trust anyone if I suddenly became filthy rich. That would suck. Not that I really trust anyone now, back to my original thesis here, I think I’ve developed this cynicism to protect my naive nature.
So where, then, does my shyness come from? What drives someone to not be able to reach out and talk to strangers? I can do it, with some effort, but I don’t enjoy it. That is until the initial ice is broken and we’re off and talking, then I find it quite nice. I like people. They fascinate me. But I hate to strike up conversations with people I don’t know. It’s odd and pretty frustrating.
I think it’s one of the reasons I love to write so much. I can have a conversation with myself, and no one else, and not feel bad about it. I feel like I’m progressing, not regressing. I can hide behind the keyboard and try to figure things out. Not that I get very far on most days. Like today, I’m not sure this has brought me any revelations, beyond I am probably just jealous of successful people. I think that’s natural, and not necessarily a bad thing, as long as I’m aware of it, and I don’t cross over the threshold into being petty and nasty about others just because they are more successful than I am. I may be jealous, but I don’t think most successful people got there without work or help. Quite the opposite, I think anyone in those types of positions had to work their asses off. But then, I remember being incensed by Obama’s “You didn’t build that” rant. Quite possibly he was just projecting his own experience. A junior senator from Chicago certainly didn’t ascend to the presidency without help.
I think it’s also why I love my cats so much. You have to earn the affection of a cat. They are always suspect of your intentions. Unlike dogs, who don’t care about your intentions, they are just after results. Pet me, throw the ball, etc. My cats are much more complicated than that, although their motives are always suspect as well. But then, I guess that’s my defense of cynicism. I’m not saying “cynical” as a negative standpoint, I’m saying that humans are just fancy animals, and our motives are always questionable. Even when someone does something that’s good, I have to wonder why they are compelled to do such a thing. If they do it because “it makes them feel good,” that’s not an altruistic motive. It’s basically the same thing that drives an addict, the pursuit of dopamine. Clearly one is better than the other, but the intrinsic motivation is the same.
And then there’s that problem. It’s possible I just over-analyze things. To compare a person doing charity work to a drug addict is probably not a great idea. It’s tough to get people, especially this day and age, to see the logic in something if the premise is unpopular. But I just want the logic to be recognized as sound. These two things fundamentally are the same, that is clear to me. Why it’s not clear to other people is what makes my experience so different, I suppose. It’s also probably the source of most of my arguments with my wife.
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