Jerk Brain*: If you don’t post to whatever that self-indulgent thing is you’re doing online at the usual time, you’ll lose whatever undetectable readership you have. All the experts say, you need quality content delivered consistently to build a following.
Me: Seriously, Jerk Brain?!? You know that’s not why I’m doing this. It doesn’t matter who reads it or when. I’m doing this for myself, first and foremost, as a way to put my thoughts and feelings into words.
JB: Come on, you know you like the attention. You’re an emotional exhibitionist. External affirmation is, like, the second track on your greatest hits album. Right after obsessing over whether others see right through you and realize there’s nothing special or talented about you.
Me: Imposter syndrome is a real thing and I’m working on it. Of course I like it when others affirm me. What human doesn’t?
JB: Beside the point. Regardless, you have a brand to uphold!
Me: But, what if that brand is an artificial construct based on a false narrative I’ve been feeding myself about the ways in which I am “allowed” <air quotes> to experience and express my emotions, fears, and desires out loud?
JB: Air quotes? Really?
Me: I mean, this is so meta. Here I am, continuing to curate an image for others, actively doing impression management, to meet a standard I know is effed up—
Me: Whatever. You drop the f-bomb like a comma.
JB: Well, my personal brand is spicy af. I’ll let you have this one.
Me: Thank you. As I was saying…
JB: As you were saying, you’re once again leveraging one of your patented unhealthy coping mechanisms to create emotional distance from yourself by intellectualizing. It’s one of my absolute favorites of your self-defeating behaviors. Can we do withdrawing from friends and family next? Boy, this is shaping up to be a great day!
JB: <the look>
Me: OK, fine.
JB: Look, I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to post our conversation online and hope that, when you check your blah-g later, you’ll once again be feted for what should be the norm for people in your position—basic leadership. Then, you can be skeptical and anxiously question the motives of folks who, from your vantage point, seemingly never showed an iota of genuine interest in you and now, all of a sudden, claim to be long-term admirers. (Spoiler alert: You’ll dismiss them as virtue signaling.). You’re so unoriginal. Anyway, we can do that after we sequester ourselves from people. If there’s time, maybe we can even play that game where you endlessly wonder whether anything you say or do matters and whether anyone recognizes your true potential, all while continuing to be a bottomless pit of other people’s approval.
Me: You’re a jerk.
JB: I know.
*In my head, the part of Jerk Brain is played by Ryan Reynolds.