One downmanship

Thursday, January 5, 2017 Permalink

They say we notice our own foibles in others, which I guess is why I’m struggling more and more with people’s constant ‘woe-is-me’ attitude or victim-like behaviour. (After all, NO ONE on this earth has it as hard as me! 😉 )

I’ve previously confessed to playing the attention-seeking victim more often than I’d like. Indeed, I’d prefer to never EVER do it at all though I’m not sure that’s possible. I’m fairly sure even the most contented person feels a little sorry for themselves sometimes; however ‘sharing’ how sucky one’s life is or how stressed and busy you are seems to have become increasingly popular.

We all know those people who moan and whinge constantly. We avoid them in real life and we hide them on Facebook. Don’t we?

I’ve been pondering this recently as – in private online chats with friends – I’ve found myself moaning almost constantly. And because I’m noticing it in others it’s made me even more conscious of my own habit.

A while ago I wrote about the notions of pity and envy, wondering if I’d rather be the subject of one versus the other. The overwhelming feedback on that post was that they’re the two extremes and that it’s not uncommon to want to impress people, but also want sympathy. When we feel deserving.

Social media has amplified this behaviour by a million. Once upon a time it felt like we only saw the good stuff online. And occasionally we still do only see someone’s ‘highlights’ reel.

However… because self-deprecation is the word-du-jour, many in the online world are striving to be more relatable. And yes… I’m as bad as others. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m more than happy to share how domestically-challenged I am and how hard I find #adulting.

I read something years ago that talked about one-downmanship and the phrase stayed with me. As the name suggests, it relates to our habit of wanting to be more of a victim than the next person; wanting others to think we have a harder life; that we are worse parents; or we’re fatter, uglier, poorer. Whatever…

It occurs to me much of what we see online is at two extremes: all good or all bad. But increasingly I’m finding myself tainted by those who have never-ending ailments or issues as much as I am by those with seemingly ‘perfect’ lives.

It can be exhausting being constantly exposed to endless moaning from others. Forever ago I talked about ‘protecting’ myself from life envy and unfollowing a lot of social media accounts that were just too good to be true. And I’m increasingly doing the same with the more negative ones.

I often moan about stuff, but simultaneously confess that I know my life is far from fucked. Indeed, it’s not perfect, but I’m luckier than most. So I need to stop moaning so much myself.

I can do what I do a lot already… type out my feelings in a Facebook update. And then delete it before I post it. There’s something cathartic about letting it out, but if we stop for a second there’s a chance to ask ourselves if this is REALLY what we want to say, how we want to be seen. Do we really only want to share these extremes?

Do you avoid / unfollow people who are overly negative? Have you noticed the one-downmanship thing seeping into our online world?

the-lovin-life-linkyI’ve joined Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit and some other bloggers to help promote “ageing positively” and the Lovin’ Life mindset across the interwebs. You can link up via any one of us!

The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
Kathy from 50 Shades of Age
Johanna from Lifestyle Fifty
Min from Write of the Middle.
and Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit.


49 Comments
  • Vanessa
    January 5, 2017

    I regularly unfollow people online. Especially when Instagram is full of stock photos of vases on desks… snore. Show me reality. Some days my desk is clean, others not.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      Ah yes, moderation seems to be the key in all things!

  • Joanne Tracey
    January 5, 2017

    It’s like crisis poker: I’ll take your boyfriend problem and raise it with a cheating spouse, for example. I tend to skip over many of those posts, but rarely unfollow. The thing is, when we’re in the middle of one of these, it can be like we’re in a bubble & perspective is so far away. I try to sound upbeat – especially when I’m anything but – but am aware that in doing so I’m not being honest…but then would people really want that? Especially when on the whole, my life is pretty flipping good. I rarely have envy for people whose lives seem so perfect – because I’m sure that they’re not.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      I’ve hidden a few people whose lives seem to be constantly filled with tragedies. I think – when something is time-limited (your move etc) people are more forgiving as you recognise it’s a stressful period and can relate. I struggle more with those whose lives ALWAYS seem so problematic.

  • Jan Wild
    January 5, 2017

    I so agree with you. I find the constant whinging worse than the constructed constant glamour. The former irritates me, the latter I can readily discount.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      True. I’m probably a bit the same Jan.

  • Gayel
    January 5, 2017

    I think it is great to have a vent to your besties, your tribe even IRL or via private message. Those besties are the ones that really do want to know what’s going on in your life because they are in it often and very much care. They are also the ones that are brave enough to say …pull your head in, it’s time to stop wallowing.

    But to be constantly complaining online with every update being a negative, that just makes people want to run for the hills. Regardless of who we are or aren’t online, we all have a personal brand to maintain and while it doesn’t always need to be a bed of roses, leaving people feeling good about the company you have shared with them is important.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      I ‘think’ I try to include a bit of humour when I’m having a whinge but do often find myself having a rant about something and then realising it’s not something I want to publish / want people to remember me for / want to say publicly. I need to get better at reining that behaviour in though!

  • Char
    January 5, 2017

    I definitely avoid people who are permanently complaining. I’ve become too highly attuned to negativity thanks relatives with depression. It’s important to be able to vent. I totally get that. But when venting is the only thing that that person does it’s time to steer clear. It’s also important to see all the good things in life. Balance and all that.

    At the moment one of my friends is going through the most hellish time. She lost her dad to cancer earlier this year and now her mum has been diagnosed. And she can still manage to throw in positives and smile. So I figure if she can we all can.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      Oh very true Char… and it’s often the case that those who whinge a lot haven’t got it as bad as others. I tend to think of myself as not particularly resilient!

  • leannelc
    January 5, 2017

    I call these people “Light Suckers” because they suck the joy right out of the room (or out of social media) People who thrive on misery or drama are not “my people” so I tend to avoid them wherever possible. I want my life to be about building each other up, not dragging each other down.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      Yes very true Leanne. There were some New Year’s resolution memes going around about things to do / avoid in 2017 and there was one I liked about ‘saying no’, ‘avoiding negative people’ etc… things that will help OUR mental health.

  • maxtheunicorn
    January 5, 2017

    There’s one person on my Facebook who is constantly whinging and always negative and I have thought about unfriending her but just don’t have the heart to. Besides, I’m really good at completely ignoring all her status updates now lol.

    • Debbish
      January 5, 2017

      Yes, I’ve hidden a few people like that… don’t want to offend them by unfriending them, but can’t deal with the negativity!

  • yinyangmother
    January 5, 2017

    I really like this post Deb and I promise in the new year (whoops it is the new year) to get myself organised to join in this linky on a regular basis. Like you I’ve done the victim identity thing pretty well in my time, but with infertility now in the distant past I really should leave that habit behind. I think it is a very common ego identity for women and a bit of a trap – I can’t imagine men playing the victim.

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      I tend to do it on the family / partner front as well Kathy…. poor me, all alone, kind of thing! And it’s true, we so rarely see men do it!

  • writeofthemiddle
    January 5, 2017

    I can’t handle constant whingers and complainers as they suck the life out of me. You are not like that Deb!! lol I think we all have our moments and that’s pretty normal but some people are real drainers and I need to avoid them because I have this personality that likes to help people and wants everyone to be happen but I can get myself down and drained in the process if I’m not careful. Great post Deb! #TeamLovinLife

    • writeofthemiddle
      January 5, 2017

      That should say …. “and wants everyone to be HAPPY” (not ‘happen’)

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Oh yes… it is draining when people are constantly like that and we tend to avoid them (in person or online).

  • sizzlesue15
    January 5, 2017

    Oh I’ve been feeling exactly the same way Deb and I hate falling into the ‘moaning’ trap. It certainly can be catching and I agree people seem to be wanting to outdo each other with their problems. Whilst we can’t always be upbeat because life gets in the way we need to really take stock and enjoy and appreciate life because really turning 60 this year I am believing in the saying ‘life is too short’ more and more. Happy New Year!

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      I think the spate of celebrity deaths (particularly in cases where people weren’t very old) also hits home a little – as death does when it touches anyone we know… we’re confronted with our own mortality and it can spur us on to live life to its fullest. My father’s passing (along with a few other things) spurred on my seachange in 2012!

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    January 5, 2017

    Deb, I like how you’ve raised both sides of the impact social media can have on our perceptions of ourselves. Like you, I have steered away from the all too perfect accounts of life but I can also see now that the dark and negative accounts that help raise a laugh when I’m feeling a bit defeated can also be negative attitudes to carry over into real life.

    For the record, I’ve only gotten a thoughtful and considered vibe from your posts. Nothing ‘woe is me’ at all. Also agree with you about professional victims.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Oh thanks so much for that. I’m not a parent but I know there’s a lot of debate out there in social media land about some of the ‘bad mommy’ bloggers out there – those who kinda make fun of their parenting. As you said it can be funny, but then there’s a tendency to out-bad each other and I think that tends to get unhealthy no matter what the topic!

  • Kelly
    January 5, 2017

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I relate to this Deb and I’ve found with myself within circles experiencing the same thing, which seems to have a lot to do with age. I think it’s the personal choice we make, we all need a good whinge to vent and get things off our chests, but it’s what you do next that makes the difference. You can pick up your big girl pants and soldier on or allow yourself to become a victim, complaining about circumstances that most of us can change. Not once have I ever seen any negativity from you Deb. You’re a phenomenal woman and 2017 is going to be year of the Deb <3

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Oh you’ve almost made me cry, thanks Kelly. I often feel I’m being negative (and grumpy) only later to discover no one else noticed it so I might be exaggerating my powers impact there a little! 😉

  • Jess
    January 5, 2017

    I haven’t noticed it in the online world as much as I have in real life. (The perfect world I have seen a lot of however online). I realised after I went through a bit of an ordeal and really wanted help “solving” it that I was becoming a serial complainer, woe is me type. I have tried to become more conscious of it and stop doing it. Ironically it made me notice the one downmanship far more.in others.

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Oh yes, I think once we realise that person doesn’t actually want the problem solved, we realise we need to back off and leave them to it. I think I wrote about this but my mother once told me that when I was little I’d sometimes go running to her and dob my brother in for something… and she’d say something like, “Well that was naughty of him,” and I’d be happy and go running off to play again. I’m conscious that sometimes we do want someone to acknowledge what we’re going through (the cats I’m looking after vomiting / pooping on everything) but then we need to move on – which I think some people don’t.

  • Lyle Gronow
    January 5, 2017

    I’m happy to see that someone else recognises this trend. I think it’s about “look at me”, people needing others to respond to their lives, so if they can’t show the best of things, they must share the worst.

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Oh yes Lyle, there’s a lot to be said for moderation. (And not just when it comes to cheese!) 😉

  • seizetheday20
    January 5, 2017

    One of my favourite sayings is “Surround yourself with people who lift you higher”. Embracing that mantra, I’ve hidden people on social media and wriggled out of various real life social arrangements in order to avoid those who are constantly whingeing and moaning. I’d prefer to spend time with people whose company I enjoy. We all have bad days, but it can so easily turn into a bad life … if we let it. It’s entirely our choice 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Ah yes, I’m listening to a podcast / audiobook thingy about finding joy. It’s a bit weird but I need to write about it… in the beginning the writer / speaker keeps reminding us: “Good or bad. It’s your choice.” And that’s true.

  • Kooky chic
    January 5, 2017

    So that what’s going on. I see it clearly now. I’m not game to unfollow anyone yet as I have so few readers of my blog that they could be one of them 😉

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      I actually think we often don’t recognise it in ourselves… which is worrying!

  • Hayley at RatherTooFondofBooks
    January 5, 2017

    I so needed to read this post today, thank you for writing it! This is the first time I’ve heard the phrase one-downmanship but I’m definitely going to remember it.

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      It was in some online piece I read ages ago, but I also found the definition in Psychology Today, which I adapted a little for the post.

  • kathymarris
    January 5, 2017

    You have echoed my thoughts exactly. Sometimes when I get together with my friends it is a whinge fest and a competition as to whose life sucks more. Then I realised a while ago that all of us have wonderful lives and nothing really that serious to whinge about. We have health, homes, money, lovely kids and partners/husbands. We have everything compared to some people. So now I tell my friends that I feel grateful every single day for what I have in my life and I definitely do avoid negative people and unfollow them on social media! Great post. #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Sometimes it takes great effort not to say something inappropriate or confronting. If someone whinges constantly about their kids: “I bet you wish you hadn’t had them!” or something. But of course we don’t as that would be hurtful…

  • Kirsty @ My Home Truths
    January 5, 2017

    I try to not engage in one-downmanship (which is rife in many circles) and I prefer to look on the bright side of things. Having said that, I do try to keep things real on my blog but I always attempt to keep a balance. Thta’s my hope, anyway!

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      I think you do Kirsty and the post you shared today is a good example of that!

  • robjodiefilogomo
    January 6, 2017

    I’m more of a fix it girl, so when I hear people struggling with issues, my first response is to figure out how to make it better.
    Realizing what we do and how we respond is always good…whether we change it or not is then our choice!!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      Very good point Jodie. I think we all find ourselves in difficult situations… but it’s what we do when there…. even if that’s just asking for / seeking help!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    January 6, 2017

    I walked away from the victims in my life years ago. I know that sounds mean, and I didn’t dump them altogether, I just started to naturally wander in another direction and only check in on those people occasionally. I found them to be constantly stealing my energy. I am naturally not attracted to people who live in the drama of their constant problems. I am much lighter as a result. I prefer to hang with people who grab their challenges by the balls and power through them.
    This is a great Lovin Life post because the more we get into the Lovin Life mindset, the less we feel like hanging one downmanship.
    #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      January 6, 2017

      True and (as I think Lyndall said) we want to be around people who inspire us!

  • budgettraveltalk
    January 8, 2017

    If I might equate on-line friends with in the flesh friends, I have one friend who always sees the bad side of everything and another who tries hard not to see the bad, even though she’s had a tough run the last few years. She likes to stay upbeat and only very occasionally gets a little teary, but then she comes good (one of her favourite sayings). Friend No. 1 I actually stay away from if I’m not feeling super-positive myself (so that I don’t spiral out of control) and Friend No. 2 I’m always happy to see and/or talk to. I think everyone has a right to have a whinge, but not continuously. This year I’m trying to love my life as it is, warts and all because I know just how lucky I am.

    • Debbish
      January 9, 2017

      Oh yes, I think I’ve always been conscious of staying away (protecting myself ?) against certain people in real life, but am only just getting better at doing it online. For some reason I’ve always assumed it ‘sticks’ less when it’s online but it’s a bit like reading endless negative news stories… it can be draining and disheartening!

  • charliegirl
    January 9, 2017

    I call the “woe is me” scenario repetition self-helplessness. It is very prevalent in the US. I know I often bemoan to my coworkers – as teachers do – especially in the spring because I am very stressed completing the yearbook with no technology (but God forbid those boys not have pretty football uniforms!), all of the state-required things language arts teachers have to do, and the upcoming tests. I’m still living in two households. At times after I’ve walked away, I realize I was really negative about myself – but it was mostly in the moment. I know my life is also far, FAR from fucked and I am thankful for my circumstances, my supports, and my abilities.

    It is interesting as a topic, and it is demonstrated in my family. There have been snarky comments and nastiness in the last few years since I have become an adult related to this topic. My mom’s older sister has four children (three and then one from different men). She gave them literally everything they wanted. There was no true discipline, consequences, etc. My mother, only a couple years younger, gave my brothers and I hardly anything. We had to do without A LOT. And it is interesting how we cousins grew up. All of my aunt’s children are in positions where they bemoan everything, complain, and wish they had something better. [I do have to give the caveat that my aunt’s son is no longer with us, and he was not really like that as his sisters are.] In comparison, my brothers and I do not complain and bemoan life like that. We do make the traditional “I ate too much” on holidays, but I have never heard any of my brothers complain like my cousins.

    One cousin in particular – I could pull up her Facebook feed and it is literally about these topics: I don’t have any lunch, someone bring me lunch? I need a babysitter today for the kids. Anyone? I can’t afford this $80 cake for my son’s first birthday. Please help. Whenever you think you’re getting ahead, life reminds you how much you can’t. Can’t get to work because I need new tires and can’t afford them. [She and family live with her father in his home, btw.]

    ALL like that. I am not exaggerating in the least. She is very much that attention-seeker on FB where she’ll post something cryptic and have 20 comments with “What’s going on? Please call me” responses. More than half the time I read her posts, think my thoughts, and just get on. If she wasn’t family and it wouldn’t cause a whole bunch of drama, I probably would remove her. One-downmanship is getting me down.

    • Debbish
      January 9, 2017

      Ugh… I think it’s something we tolerate – but it’s hard to cut someone too much slack. I really do ‘unfollow’ or hide people like that. I don’t defriend them cos then they’d know but this way I can check their page out every so often for news, but don’t get that tight frustrated feeling in my chest / neck / head when I read their constant STUFF!

      The thing that scares me the most is how few people recognise it in themselves which makes ME worry I’m doing the same thing!

  • Heather @ Random Redheaded Ramblings
    January 15, 2017

    Facebook is one social media which I wish I had never started with, a friend is giving us day by day insight in to her impending divorce and how dreadful her ex is, I don’t think FB is a place for this but she is full of woe is me (well yes it is crap) and reading the comments she is getting the attention she seems to want.

    I’m only human I feel envy/jealousy/the need to be told my backside is tiny but I don’t want to splash it across Twitter for sympathy. My friends are the best, we take it turn moaning about things in real life over a coffee and cake, that is the best remedy for me!

    • Debbish
      January 15, 2017

      Oh yes I hide people like that Heather or unfollow them or whatever. I’ve got a couple of people I check in on (click on their FB profile) every so often but have hidden so I don’t have to see every single thing they post.

      Of course it’s relative and I think most of us aren’t aware we do it. I know my brother has me hidden so I must drive him bonkers with my oversharing!

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