Saturday, 26 February 2011

False Modesty

I'm a good actor.  All the world's a stage and it is necessary to be a good actor to fit into social situations when you don't have a normal emotional response.  I have learned how to be superficially charming, and to adapt my personality to elicit the desired response from the target audience.  I usually have no trouble acting as the exuberant, sensitive, interested, geeky, arrogant, caring, or considerate guy, as the situation demands.  I do however have some trouble with the roles of being modest or stupid.

I used to justify never using these two masks by telling myself that they weren't necessary; another mask would do just as well to achieve the same, or equally desirable, ends.  But I realised several years ago that I was just telling myself what I wanted to hear, and since then have worked on them.

I've worked on modesty quite a lot, and even though it was extremely difficult at times, there was a period when it even became one of my favourite go-to masks - people (in the UK anyway) like self depreciation and do not like someone who has let on that they have achieved something impressive.  To pretend to an imbecile that I am not superior to them certainly did not come naturally, but I just had to remember that it is just a game which has an objective; it is just an act, and achieving the end by the most efficient route has its own satisfaction.

Acting stupid... I'm still working on that.  I've practiced looking stupid: relaxed and defocused eyes, combined with a slackening of the jaw muscles works extremely well.  Normally I consciously decide to intonate my voice, use facial expressions, and gesticulate, so it is easy to just use my natural monotone, speak a little slower, and not be as expressive to complete the main construction of the mask.
I still struggle to not say something intelligent, but I've found that coming across as initially stupid (non-threatening) but actually intelligent is one of the most disarming and useful personas to wear in some situations.  It comes across as wise rather than intelligent.


HavenNyx said...

Modesty is one of the few manipulations I employ on a regular basis. Being a little self-depreciating is just that, disarming, and it makes people more sympathetic because they can feel superior to you in some way, believe that you're not some perfect example of things they themselves aren't. False modesty has gotten me out of lot of potential trouble.

I can't bring myself to act stupid though. The thought of even attempting it makes me ill. I'm smart and people can deal with it. I had an ex that had never dated a woman smarter than him. He would regurgitate scientific articles he'd read and try to come up with ideas for how to use such things, and I'd {tactfully} interject on ways that things could be better utilized or I'd postulate on deeper aspects of findings and come to my own conclusions about various theories and applications. I mean, I'm an engineer, it's what I do. He didn't want to hear it though. He just wanted to be patted on the head and told he did a good job (good job being literate?). He didn't have the capacity to explore information further than it's layman interpretation and he resented the fact that I could. He just accused me of being argumentative. Feigning a little stupidity would have saved me a lot of aggravation, but I'd rather be with people that appreciate a quality I value than demean my own intelligence.

Anonymous said...

This is an odd one for me, as I'm sure a minority within the spectrum.

Modesty is my go-to mask, actually. Not with friends, because I can't be bothered, but with family and others, I am usually very modest. I honestly can't say that it is all feigned, either. Perhaps I have a poor understanding of the word.

I'm not naturally reflective upon my realities, and those around me, but was taught how to be by someone I barely knew. It has helped, immensely. I can look at any angle, and play myself off as that solid, humble, wise foundation. I'd like to think that's not all trickery ;)

Humility, especially intelligent framed humility, is very disarming for people. They're not used to it, at all. You can give them a life lesson and pierce their ego in one fell swoop while instilling guilt that they don't measure up to you, as opposed to resentment.

Keep up the good work. It is a wickedly keen blade made to look a butter knife.

ResCogitans said...

i guess modesty is a wise mask for family if your dad is possibly NPD :p
how much effort it takes to maintain the mask also has to come into play - it is a lot easier to be modest and quiet in a neutral (no objective other than to not stand out as being different) situation than it is to be boisterous. If there is someone who is very extrovert around (or NPD!) then my instinct is to observe and stay out of the attention. in fact almost the only time i would not do that is if i wish that person harm, in which case i will enter the fray with malevolent intent and a smile on my face :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed.

Like a silent serpent, waiting to strike ;)

My father can't stand how humble I seem, because it isn't coupled with shame or guilt, which has zero effect on me. It angers him into a rage. I have very few things he can manipulate me with, and none of them are emotional

ResCogitans said...

one thing i am definitely glad of is immunity to emotional blackmail. a friend who knows about me keeps forgetting this, and i keep laughing at her when she tries it on :)

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

hey res,i wanna be you for a week. you wanna swap? seriously, if you could, would you?

ResCogitans said...

lol i presume you mean swapping some psychological traits rather than swapping bodies!?
i find questions like that rather odd - if i were suddenly on an emotional rollercoaster would i be me? maybe that question will be the basis of a post soon...
sidestepping continuity of self questions, if i could choose to be more emotional just for a week as a trial then i would be tempted - i'll try most things once ;)
i guess i see how i am as a personality type, whereas you see how you are as a personality disorder. is that fair to say? are your highs worth the lows? would you rather be flat effect (i think there are medications that will achieve this for you?), or is the only good point somewhere in the middle of the NT range?

Anonymous said...

haha, glad you liked it.
yeah, just take on my mindset and emotional sensitivities. I always say that people would be taken aback if they had to be me for a week. To be honest, I'd think that for a week, you'd definately enjoy it. But it's when you live with it year after year, it's exhausting.

Are the highs worth the lows? as masochistic as it sounds, i'd say yes. But there is possibly a happy medium within the non-NT spectrum itself. That would be preferable, to keep it under control with self-awareness etc.
I'd like to be you for a week, just for a break you know!

i do see it as a personality type not a disorder, but keeping it in check is important.
medication sucks, it's not real you know?
And it's temporary, and it has side effects. But my brain sometimes cries out for it.

i'd say the middle of the NT range is good, but then, someone has to pick up the slack. may as well be me. :/

ResCogitans said...

think i will write that post about whether changing yourself significantly is a bit like dying...
but i'll not get a chance to write it for a bit, busy busy, busy! including a snowboarding holiday soon :)

have you seen Mr Jones? it's about a guy who has to go to court to avoid taking meds to regulate his manic depression. i saw it a long time ago but it made a lasting impression.

actually i am slightly on an emotional rollercoaster at the mo... i can feel the oxytocin flooding my veins, influencing my thoughts, my desires. it is a bit like a drug addiction, and i can feel myself fighting it as a loss of self-control issue. am trying not to fight it too much... see where it can go.

Zhawq said...


How come I haven't found my way to your blog before. It's marvelous, and I see we have a lot more in common than what would be easily perceptible from our respective comments at other blogs we both frequent.

What you describe in this article right here, it could be me you were describing. Right down to the 'Acting stupid... I'm still working on that". I love it.

Well written, mate!

ResCogitans said...

thanks zhawq, glad you see common ground and find it interesting. there are some crap posts, but others i am quite proud of. some i wrote the guts of ages ago and re-edited, and some i wrote in real time and hit the button. you might find the 'who am i' post interesting, or perhaps the 3 parter on emotions.

Zhawq said...


I'll be sure to take a look at the post you're referring to - and a lot of the others as well.

Yeah, common ground indeed. What you say here in this article:

"I'm a good actor. All the world's a stage and it is necessary to be a good actor to fit into social situations when you don't have a normal emotional response."

...made me chuckle. It hit the nail right on. So typical, finding oneself in this kind of situation, lol.

By the way, I have a good deal of articles I almost wish I hadn't published. As time goes by I intend to weed out the more horrible stuff and leave on the good ones. I have this certain kind of dyslexia-like condition (very typical for psychopaths, they say) that sometimes make me write really, really horrible stuff, starting out with a clear idea of what I want to say but ending up with something totally different, not answering the questions I pose to begin with, and even come off as if I'm contradicting myself.

But hey, I'm working at it, and I believe I'm getting better too. *S*

Anonymous said...

Acting stupid really is an art. You have to just be honest about what you genuinely do not know. I see it all the time on sw. "Hey by the way, I'm um ..i'm just curious about sumpm..."

Bella said...

"I'd rather be with people that appreciate a quality I value than demean my own intelligence."

I want to be here. Thank you Havenyx. I hope you still get to dance.

Steph said...

I know exactly what you mean with the unfocused eyes and slow speech!! It has helped me manipulate my way out of several situations =)