Life of the Party

Some people thrive on their reputations, crafted with meticulous care. They seem to believe their own hype, buying into the stories they tell others in their efforts to be more vibrant, more alive, more interesting. I know this because I’ve watched those people tell their stories. And, I suppose, I’ve been the teller of those stories when I was feeling particularly lonely and vulnerable.

It’s heart-breaking to watch those people ratchet up their magnetism beyond the point of credibility. Suddenly, that self-made glamour becomes a fabric façade—as diaphanous as an old threadbare sheet—hoisted to catch the wind to carry them to the next opportunity to shine. But that gossamer sail is torn to shreds by even the lightest gusts.

The tellers of those tales, I think, aren’t looking for glory. They’re looking for relevance, for evidence their lives and their stories matter. Listening to them, one’s inclination is to think the tellers are full of arrogance, their tales simply bravado that takes the form of boasts that support their bluster. That’s frequently not the case; that assumed arrogance is just a mask for insecurity, symptomatic of low self-worth and sadness.

When I encounter the life of the party, I’m always suspicious. I wonder whether, beneath the sparkling exterior, there’s someone who desperately needs assurance there really is someone who cares, someone who won’t be judge, jury, and executioner. It’s hard, though, to offer that assurance to someone who doesn’t want it and wouldn’t admit to needing it. That’s when it’s easiest to assume the life of the party is, truly and simply, arrogance personified. That’s when it’s easiest to become that judge, jury, and executioner. And that’s when it’s most important not to.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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