knighthorse shared this video with me. There is a character, Penelope, who always needs to be the best, have the best, biggest, most of whatever it is that other people are talking about.
I've known people like this and they make me craaaaazy. I'm not competitive in this way, and normally I don't really care if my [fill in the blank] is better, worse, more expensive, or whatever. But I do not like people telling me that my [fill in the blank] is inferior to theirs. Really, who would? I also don't really see the point in people teling me that my [fill in the blank] is better than theirs. My ego isn't tied up with that thing.
So, I put my shoe on the other foot and tried to understand why a person would be like that.
And then I finally caught a glimpse of why some of my friendships and relationships have failed so badly. It's because no matter how kind I try to be (and in fact, the more I try to be kind, the worse it got) the other person ended up feeling either a) resentful or b) inferior. Or maybe both.
Here's how I think it works: I invite people over for dinner, or a housewarming party, or a holiday party. I have planned, cooked, cleaned, and gone all-out to make it the best event it can be. Because that's what I like to do. I'm hedonistic and materialistic, to be sure, but in my way of thinking, nothing I have is worth anything or even particularly enjoyable unless I have people I love to share with. (That may be it's very own mental aberration, but I don't think it's all that destructive, so I'll leave it alone for now.)
So this person (We can call her X, or The Rubber Pig, or "Penelope The Sad,") comes over to my house for dinner or Xmas or a party and immediately their anxiety goes thru the roof.
I think they are thinking either
a) "now that E has given me this nice time, I owe her something as good or better."
b) "E is just feeding me this great food and giving me this nice time to show off how much better she is than me."
Or maybe both?
Because that's the way "Penelope" operates. She doesn't give you things because she likes you, she gives you things so you'll owe her equivalent or better things. She doesn't do things strictly because she enjoys them, she does things to show off, so that you will envy her, and she attributes those same motivations to you. Her whole life is this big nasty game: keeping score, getting even, paybacks, punishments, and, ultimately, winning.
So my theory is, if Penelope reaches the conclusion that she doesn't have anything as good or better than yours, she feels inferior and becomes resentful and angry. You big stupid show-off, you.
Likewise, if Penelope *does* give you something or do something for you and you don't turn around and give her something of equivalent or greater value in return, she becomes resentful and angry. Don't you understand YOU OWE HER!? You are not playing by the rules, and you suck.
So...that's why I've lost some people as friends. I was too nice to them, for no reason, and I did not ever understand that a game was being played so I frustrated them by not following the rules. No big loss, after all, but it would have been nice to convince them that they didn't have to 'win' all the time in order to be liked and respected. That I wanted to like them for who they were, rather than what they could give me or do for me. But the game got in the way.