A Ph.D. in Self-Awareness

Here’s a quick test: think back to a time when you were in the wrong. An instance when, if you really put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine what happened as if it were a story told from their perspective, with themselves filling the role of protagonist, the villain would be played by you.

desk skeleton

OK, got that story in mind?

No? You can’t think of a single example, not one point in time when you did or said the exact wrong thing and caused someone else pain?

You have just failed the test. The worst kind of person is someone who refuses to accept the possibility that they’re sometimes irritating, idiotic, and/or downright mean. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there may be no hope for you.

If Cards Against Humanity has taught me nothing else (and o the things it’s taught me could fill several volumes), it’s that sooner or later, we are all horrible people. In general, humans are clumsy, selfish, thoughtless creatures. I’m convinced that the vast majority of times we say or do bad things, we aren’t actively trying to hurt anyone and we probably aren’t even aware that we have. I bet even Mother Teresa felt regret over something she did, whether it was leaving home never to see her mother again or that one time she accidentally served cream-based soup to a lactose-intolerant orphan.

I, personally, have earned a Doctorate in Awareness of my Own Horribleness. Any accrediting agency in the land would agree that I’m fully credentialed and well qualified to teach an advanced course in Maria’s Misdeeds.


I’m capable of making myself feel guilty about pretty much anything, from the butterfly my windshield smashed on the highway, to the friend’s birthday I missed, to the times I said the wrong thing, to the times I said nothing simply because I couldn’t think of what to say. I rethink and over-analyze, examining case after case in search of the real or imagined destruction I left in my wake.

A terminal degree in self-awareness is really only helpful up to a point, but some of y’all need some tutoring in this subject, and I’m here to help. Now, you don’t have to go as deep into your scholarship as I have and get a Ph.D. in your own faults. Not everyone can be as ambitious and advanced a self-critic as I am.

But if you’re one of those self-reflection drop-outs who can’t fathom for a millisecond the uncomfortable truth that you’re not, at all times, an utterly infallible creature incapable of EVER being in the wrong, well, you need to buckle down and at least get that GED.

Because it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s liberating and enlightening to sometimes turn and face your inner wretchedness.


Coming to terms with the fact that you’re not always in the right means you can actually hear someone when they say you’ve hurt or offended them. Instead of immediately responding with defensiveness, certain this person is disillusioned because you never meant any harm, you can really listen to what they’re saying and accept it without trying to invalidate their experience. Then you can apologize and mean it.

And then you can try not to say or do that shitty thing again.

Because in this life, that’s the only way to avoid being doomed to eternal shittiness. Acknowledge your mistakes, do what you can to mitigate them, and learn from them. Denial gets you nowhere.

So if you still can’t think of an occasion when you were the bad guy, let my extensive knowledge of my own awfulness be an inspiration to you. Dig deep and try again. If that doesn’t work, ask a close family member (especially a sibling). They’ll be able to give you an earful. And if they don’t, it means you’re such a scary, psychotic S.O.B. that everyone’s afraid to be honest with you. Either way, this flowchart lands you in the exact same place:

the worst

Accept it, learn from it, do what you can to make it not so.

4 thoughts on “A Ph.D. in Self-Awareness

  1. “playing Cards Against Humanity–then you’ve gotta let your horrible flag fly.”

    No, you don’t. Any “game” that relies on puerile sexual tropes, petty insults, and potty humor isn’t entertainment, it’s a Trump speech writing session.


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