The oldest of my cousins (on my mother’s side) was always the standard by which the rest of us were measured. He was smart, athletic, and an overall well-behaved kid. Whenever one of us did something that disappointed our parents, we would be reminded of my cousin’s achievement and asked why we couldn’t be more like him. While some of my cousins fell for that little bit of manipulation, I figured out pretty early on that it was just that, a manipulation strategy. Our parents and aunts/uncles did it in order to get us to do something, to behave in a certain way.
“Why can’t you be like him?” I don’t know… Maybe because I’m not like him?
I wasn’t having any of it. I would purposefully not work on my homework. I would purposefully not do as I was told. I was rebellious, and I didn’t care if I wouldn’t get to be like my cousin. He had his own life. I had mine. I realized that very early on.
This strategy has been used on me for decades now. From my parents to my relatives, to my bosses and mentors, they all try to point at someone else’s success to encourage me to seek my own. It sometimes makes me wonder if they really know me. Surely, a few months into knowing me, they should have figured out that this is not the way I operate.
Go Ahead, I Dare You
Another strategy used by people to try and manipulate me has been threats. I laugh at these because they’re actually kind of lame. When I was a kid, my cousins would threaten to tell mom or dad about something if I didn’t go along with their plans. This would end badly for them because I’d turn around and go to my parents (usually in front of my cousins) and say something like, “Mom, so-and-so wants to talk to you about something I did… Something I’ve already told you about.” See, having an open line of communication with my parents, no matter how bad what I did was, always saved me from blackmail.
Later on in college, a dude in my medical technology class threatened to tell a professor that I had “stolen” some pictures of abnormal white blood cells. I had not, of course. What I did was go to a pathologist at the local county hospital and ask for those prints. The pathologist was more than happy to give the prints to me and to tell me all about the leukemias they represented. But the dude would have none of it. To him, I had not worked hard enough for the project. (We had to do a presentation on a disease of our choice.)
When he threatened one more time to tell the professor, I looked over at the professor and called her over. “He has something to tell you,” I told her. Then I looked at the dude and told him to tell her what he’d been threatening to do. He was dumbfounded and stuck on what to say. She asked him what this was all about, and he just said nothing and walked away.
Even later, whenever an antivaxxer has threatened to tell me boss about me being mean to them, I fire back with my boss’ email address and maybe even copy the boss on the exchange. Sure, it annoys the boss, but it completely disarms the aggressor. Same with people threatening to tell something to my wife. It’s just not going to work because, if there’s someone I share everything with, it’s my wife.
It’s My Life. Chill.
More recently, a couple of people at the school of public health (graduate students, nonetheless) have told people who know me that they’re not happy with me. They’re not happy with me getting scholarships or being praised by professors. They say that they see me posting on social media about how much fun I’ve been having outside of school, and they’re frustrated that they have been focused so much on their studies.
This kind of bothers me a little bit because I have not been having all fun all the time when I’ve been traveling lately. In November/December, I was in Puerto Rico, chasing Zika. Whatever pictures I posted of “having fun” were taken on the weekend or in the hours after the long hours working. Later on, I traveled to Mexico to help dad go through a major surgery for his colon cancer. Thinking that I was going to lose my dad (first to cancer and then to the complicated surgeries) was no fun at all, though I did try and enjoy the time I spent at the ancestral hometown.
More recently, I traveled to Las Vegas with my wife for a conference. She is six months pregnant, so I accompanied her to help her with anything she needed. I had the time and we had the money for me to come along. I didn’t gamble. I didn’t go out partying. Heck, most of one day was spent trying to find a place to fix my iPhone, and a whole other day was spent grading papers for one of the classes in which I was a teaching assistant.
But these people saw my pictures and updates on social media, and immediately went whining to my own friends that I was having too much fun. Then I get awarded a scholarship and they whine even more because they apply their own sensitivities to my life. I’m an adult. I have a mortgage. I’ve been through life. I’m living my life. I’m sorry they’re too focused on the grades and their projects so as to only live life vicariously through my social media postings.
Seriously, Though. What’s Wrong With Me?
I got introspective the other day, and I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I wondered if maybe I should play the game and go along with people who try to manipulate me like that. There are times when, as is the case with my parents and mentors, their manipulation is not for their own gain but for my own edification. Mom and dad might want me to graduate from high school, or my academic advisor might want me to finish the dissertation and defend it sooner rather than later.
So I asked my wife if maybe I wasn’t one of those people who were just defiant to authority in the extreme. Maybe I had oppositional defiant disorder? She laughed. “Are you vindictive toward authority figures?” she aked.
“No,” I replied. “But I do try and show them that, despite their authority, I still get stuff done… Or get away with stuff.”
“Yeah, but you’re not angry about it,” she added. It’s true. When I showed my high school principal that I had graduated despite his claims that I wouldn’t because I was Mexican, it wasn’t out of hate or anger. It was more out of a sense of pride about my accomplishment. Not only had I graduated high school, but I had done it as a 16 year-old.
The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize that this is just one of those things about me that makes me who I am. I respect authority, but I question it endlessly. It’s just my personality:
“ENTPs’ capacity for debate can be a vexing one – while often appreciated when it’s called for, it can fall painfully flat when they step on others’ toes by say, openly questioning their boss in a meeting, or picking apart everything their significant other says. This is further complicated by ENTPs’ unyielding honesty, as this type doesn’t mince words and cares little about being seen as sensitive or compassionate. Likeminded types get along well enough with people with the ENTP personality type, but more sensitive types, and society in general, are often conflict-averse, preferring feelings, comfort, and even white lies over unpleasant truths and hard rationality.
This frustrates ENTPs, and they find that their quarrelsome fun burns many bridges, oftentimes inadvertently, as they plow through others’ thresholds for having their beliefs questioned and their feelings brushed aside. Treating others as they’d be treated, ENTPs have little tolerance for being coddled, and dislike when people beat around the bush, especially when asking a favor. ENTP personalities find themselves respected for their vision, confidence, knowledge, and keen sense of humor, but often struggle to utilize these qualities as the basis for deeper friendships and romantic relationships.”
I’ve been lucky to find a woman who understands this and tolerates me. I’ve also been lucky to find many friends and colleagues who get it as well. Unfortunately, there will always be those who I rub the wrong way. I wish I could apologize to them, but my apologies will seem insincere when I rub them the wrong way again. Still… I’m sorry.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.