I believe in nothing less than in "self-esteem." Everything I am, I am through others. So I think I'm a good lover. But what do the ladies say? So I think I'm a good builder. Do people like living in my houses? I live not as myself but as myself in a series of relations. When I come in contact with others I become a new organism -- not me, but me plus; a new hybrid. We mix and mesh and out of this new recipe comes a new flavor. We judge these relationships as an art critic judges a painting. The more tasteful the gist of it, the more frequent the tastefulness, the higher my rating is. I see others not as objects to be gotten over, but almost as expressions of myself -- each and every one of them draws parts of me out into the open. They make my definition possible. The object becomes me as I interact with the object. I like or dislike others as others make me like myself. If they draw nothing good out of me, I want nothing to do with them.
Why pretend, like so many people do, to not care what others think? If they didn't care they wouldn't say it. I believe they do care and that they lack the talent to be enjoyable*. Due to either some defect in character, or looks, or charm, or intelligence. A soul's revolting against others' revulsion -- not a statement of standing tall, but a tiredness of getting leveled down**. Each of these "rebels" is a rejected lover. She says she hates men -- but she loves and has loved and is tired of getting dumped.
I make little attempt to say others can't judge me, define me, in some essence control me. Without them I can't be me. Without someone's praise I can't praise myself. If nobody is happy around me then I can't be happy around me. I live and breathe the words they give, the smiles they give, the love they give. I shower them with gifts and they send more right back. If someone hates my attempts then I try to do better. If our tastes are incompatible then I choose someone else. I find my people, my joys, my outlets, and I stick with them. A new person is a new challenge, a puzzle to be pieced together. I find what they like and if it's not too much trouble I try to win them over. If the price is too steep or the payout too small I don't haggle: I take my soul and invest it elsewhere.
There is no one "me": only versions of me. I have general characteristics that are applied in various ways, but nobody gets the same me as everyone else. There's no honesty in a "one size fits all" policy, only absurdity. I can't be a husband to a brother or a son to a customer. It isn't in me and nobody wants it. To the Greeks I became as a Greek. To some men I'm a clown and to other men a sage. The shades of requirements blend here, and stand apart elsewhere. I find my joy in fitting a role, and fitting it well, but not in abandoning it. Others' expectations must be met or surpassed, but rarely relinquished.
Anxiety is the great downside of this whole game. The fear of not adding up to enough, of not pleasing enough, of falling short of what you could have been, should have been. That you were too tired to be charming, or honest, or witty. That you weren't good-looking enough, or impressive enough, or talented enough to be desirable. Each of us is outdone not even by others, but by ourselves. Some days we're immeasurably above ourselves than others. We are aware of our failures not because of our dreams or our standards, but because of what we were yesterday***. We feel pain when we encounter ourselves as we shouldn't have been. We affix labels to ourselves as we go along, and try to keep them or lose them -- both, in the end, unsuccessfully. We are too variable to judge once and for all.
I love too many people and because of this I want them to love me. It feels like a burden but in reality it's a treasure. Something to chase. A pain that keeps us running, improving -- dancing. Those we see getting this love in return are thought of as happy****. But I believe within every great person lies a thumbscrew -- and if they don't act the best way, it will hurt them. Excellence is never an accident. It's flight from an alternative you couldn't stand to deal with -- and the flight and escape is where the joy lies.
*It might be tempting to take this passage and assume that everyone who's rejected is "a reject." But we all know there are times when rejection means you're too good -- and we usually christen these people, sometimes long after their deaths, as saints and martyrs. The belief in God is bolstered by a healthy and realistic fear of democracy. We've all seen the mob go wild -- and we hope, in the end, that He's ready to catch us if they throw us off the edge.
But I feel these cases of one good man standing against the mob are the minority. As the old saying goes, you run into one jerk and you ran into a jerk. You run into jerks all day, and you're the jerk. It's too natural to blame everyone else but ourselves; and I believe a part of the reason I'm so likable is because I take the opposite position: that I am the sky and the sunshine, and if the others wilt it's because I forgot to bring rainclouds.
**Sluts are both liked and disliked because of their low standards.
***How can I believe in the equality of mankind? I don't believe, across a week, in equality with myself.
****I once confessed to a real-life saint-in-the-flesh that I was too unambitious with finances. He took one look at me, reminded me of how rich I am in every other thing, and said Feel lucky. Some people are so poor that all they have is money.