Thoughts on Self

Condescension, listening, and self-destruction

Malcolm Johnson
4 min readJul 26, 2018


L’Ange du foyer ou Le Triomphe du surréalisme by Max Ernst (source: WikiArt)

I’m not sure what I’m doing anymore, sitting here on my floor with my phone strewn in the distance, food containers halfway between the fridge and being warmed up on the stove, cheeks warm with a ball in the back of my throat making it hard to breathe. I want to yell at someone, but that someone happens to be me and I’m not sure yelling at myself would really get us anywhere anyway. Closing my eyes, I remember every conversation, every word that came out of my mouth and made you get a feeling of distrust. I’ve been like this for a long time, not listening to what people kept telling me, not even listening to what I was telling myself. I should have noticed all the reasons I find myself alone, it’s not because I’m choosing it, but rather my way of moving through the world hasn’t allowed for space for others to fill, acting superior to others seems to do that.

Arguing about the way I was acting over the sound of rain on the thatched roof, I couldn’t even listen then. Maybe I like the sound of my own voice too much, maybe I’m entitled and never got put in my place, maybe I’m still trying to figure out how to do this whole human thing. Regardless, more fighting and destruction, the angle crashing through the bamboo and leaving a smoking pile of ashes in its wake. Why didn’t I see it then? Why didn’t I stop and tell myself that it was time to change? Why couldn’t I hear all the warnings that I was on a path of self-destruction where there would be no room for anyone but me at the end of it? One a month, once a week, every day. The more I reflect the more it seems like I don’t care, the more it seems like I’m holding myself above everyone, the more I appear as insensitive, unaware, manipulative. That’s not me, is it?

There are dozens of articles online titled something like “10 ways to be less condescending at work,” as though reading an article like that can make someone any less of a terrible person. Don’t waste your time, it’s much simpler than that. Stop and listen. Want to respond to what someone just said? Stop and listen. Think of a good piece of advice to your saddened friend? Stop and listen. Want to try to brag about one of your skills? Stop and listen. Feeling like you are getting things because you are special and entitled? Stop and listen. Pretty much at any moment in your life when you are thinking about opening your mouth to say anything, stop and listen. Maybe ask a few questions, but don’t just talk for the sake of talking. You aren’t nearly as smart or important as you think you are. (But really all this advice is for me when I reread this post later today, tomorrow, and whenever I feel like I need a reminder)

Over the last year, I thought that I was getting better at being a human, that I wasn’t falling into the same cycles that pushed everyone away in the first place. I felt confident in who I was, I felt as though I was listening better, I had figured out how to talk about emotions, it was all fine and dandy. But the Universe has a funny way of humbling me when I need it, punching me in the gut, stomping around the house, and destroying my Self. If the first half of this year was dedicated to figuring out how to be alone and still and silent. The second half of this year will be fore listening, stepping back, and figuring out the type of person I want to be in people’s lives. I am choosing to be better. Maybe if I can prove this to myself, I can prove it to you too.

Wiping away the tears, I stand up and yell, frightening my cat and probably all the wildlife resting outside my windows. Stop and listen. I can hear the phrase repeating through my mind like a mantra, over and over. Next time I spend time with people, I’ll hear it run through my mind. Next time I’m having a discussion about the state of the world, it will dance before me. Next time we are talking on the phone, I’ll stop and listen. I’ll never be perfect, I’m full of faults, I’m not nearly as smart as you’d like me to be. But I do care, I do want to change for the better, I do want this world to see me as a source of light rather than darkness. Maybe I’ll stop sharing my deepest thoughts for the sake of listening. Maybe I’ll struggle to know what to say once I’ve stopped and listened. Maybe I’ll vanish and hide away in solitude until it’s all over. Or maybe I’ll become the person we both want me to be.

I give thanks for this love that you’re giving me

My love is like an ocean and I got no worries

I sail to be hung on the forbidden seas

Well, I’ve been chasing the sun and but it’s gone eventually

Wake is rough and I’m not giving up

This place it is forsaken, your memories are sacred

Life gets tough, never stop looking up

Give thanks for this life, we must hold it as a waiver



Malcolm Johnson

Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Tasmania, studying climate change adaptation, risk perspectives, and coastalscape values.