I spent the better part of my life a doormat. Always apologizing. Stepping into the shadows so others could reap the limelight. I can’t say I regret all of that. It did teach me some tact and politeness. Yet you can’t exist as an also-ran. At some point you need to stand up and be noticed.
Scene from Fight Club, where Edward Norton beats himself up to blackmail his boss.
Basically, I’m advocating a bit of selfishness. Do something that’s just you once in a while. One favorite of mine is to stop (usually at Starbucks) and grab a snack. I’m partial to anything with a crumble top (Mr. Blueberry muffin, I’m looking at you). Don’t think about the calories or where or when you need to be someplace. Just chill. Enjoy.
If you’re surrounded by dominating personalities, then separate yourself from them. Learn what you want. And the next time they suggest something you don’t like, don’t give in. Step up. Tell them what you want. Grab some control. Heck, very few people are going to give it to you.
Hey, I’m not going to go all self-help or motivational speaker on you. Basically make the choice. It sucks to stand up to people. Confrontation is uncomfortable. That’s why the jerks of the world get what they want. They don’t mind confrontation. In fact they thrive on it. For you and me, it takes practice. Like learning a new language. Start small and build up. Just saying what’s on your mind is great start.
I was (and probably still am) a massive Dungeons and Dragons geek. The game was a turning point in my life. I recall trekking out to a summer school class as a twelve or thirteen-year-old and tripping out on the tiny lead figures and the various multicolored dice. I even adored the various statistics and tables (these satisfied the the inner math nerd in me). Mostly, role-playing sparked a love of imagination that would eventually lead to writing. After all, most of the game took place between my ears.
One aspect of the game that stuck with me were the alignments. Anyone who’s played knows what I’m talking about: Lawful Good, Chaotic Neutral. That sort of thing. These are pretty simplistic vectors of personality, but they could easily be applied to the characters in my stories. Moreover, giving my protagonist an alignment would actually make me aware of his motivations and action in the narrative.
I created my own (quite basic) alignment system for story characters. Instead of good and evil, I opted for selfless and selfish. I feel they account for many of the same behaviors. I thought about replacing lawful and chaotic with rational and emotional, but they didn’t have the same usefulness. After all, knowing a character is chaotic means he will take far different actions than an emotional character. (Note: I base my pronouns on the manuscript I’m working on at the time. Right now it has a male protagonist. The previous one was female. Feel free to change the he’s to her’s.)
These alignments prefer to follow the rules. You all know these types. If there’s a stop sign, they stop. On the other hand, you might consider this to mean rational or scientific. These types of folks would break a law if they considered the law to be irrational or nonsensical.
This is the domain of the anarchist. The “rock and roll all night and party every day” sort. They not only break rules, they yearn to live outside conformity. They dress different. They take risks. This could also apply to overtly emotional people. The ones that see a flash of light and jump to UFO rather than weather balloon.
The bumper sticker reads: “Save the Whales” or “Visualize World Peace.” Bleeding hearts please line up here. The degree of selflessness may vary. Perhaps it’s just picking up some trash. Maybe it’s saving animals from abuse. All the way to obliterating nuclear weapons from the world. Bottom line, these people think more of others than themselves.
The “me” generation. These folks think about numero uno: themselves. Whatever they can do to better their lot in life. They will steal or hurt others to get what they need. However, they often have a high level of confidence because who matters most? Why themselves, of course.
The perfect union of law and order. This is your basic Superman or Captain America. This type of person works hard to maintain the greater good. He trusts authorities. After all, those people reached their jobs because they were so earned it, right? Othello might have started here before he fell.
This person is on the split between selfish and selfless. He loves rules and logic. I picture him as a scientist who’s not so much interested in helping others or himself, but fascinated by the laws and puzzles he can solve.
The corporate tycoon who finds the loopholes in the system. Is it really breaking the law if those loopholes are there? This might also be someone who is very calculating and organized in his plans. He gets what he wants because he’s patient and meticulous. He ultimately loves rules because he can subvert and control them.
You want to stop that new toxic waste plant from being built, but that might mean breaking a few laws. You carefully weigh all the options, choosing what you think might be the best for everyone. You can break the rules if it justifies the end and helps people.
There are two options here: Buddhist or indecisive. Either you realize that there is no self or law and you must let things be, or you simply can’t make up your mind on anything.
This is pure selfishness. This guy only thinks about himself. He don’t want to get caught, so he heeds the law when needed, but circumvents rules if they stand in his way. It’s all about what others can do for him.
This is your basic vigilante. This guy wants to help, but prefers to work outside the law. Batman and Spider-man fall into this category. Both want to help people, but they realize that following the rules will only let the bad guys escape.
Pure chaos. An anarchist. He wants to abolish all laws and rules and just have some fun. This fella would not be a team player. In fact he probably doesn’t think much about anyone and lives totally in the present moment.
Your basic criminal. This guy wants it all and he wants it now. He prefers to break the rules. It’s a rush to flout the law and get away with it.
Do any of these alignments describe you? How about any characters in books you’ve read? Consider this the next time you read or write a book.