That Guy: Little Man Syndrome

I want to continue a perhaps subconscious theme in my last couple That Guy posts. As I skimmed through I noticed a similarity, a cloth each that guy had been cut from. Realizing there’s still enough cloth left to craft the sails for the Mayflower, I chose a that guy I must admit I find myself often involuntarily donning the mask of. My that guy for this week is someone we’ve not only all encountered, but have to some degree or another personified, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unbeknownst to ourselves. This that guy is in many ways like acne. All of us suffer from it, some get it so briefly and inconspicuously those around them believe them to have been sparred its often scarring impression. For others the process is much more debilitating. Perfectly wonderful individuals are devastatingly afflicted and despite their efforts they can’t liberate themselves from its moniker. But for a few, it’s a phantom’s curse, a mark of shame branding them a scourge of society. They exacerbate their condition by holding onto the bitterness and stress it causes, thereby repeating the cycle, or by turning to skin harming vices. Yes, much like acne, this week’s that guy, the affliction known as Little Man Syndrome, is a universal contraction, varying only in the intentionality and degree to which we all suffer.

When we hear the phrase “Little Man Syndrome,” all of us almost immediately picture its personification. For many it’s probably the stereotypical lifted pickup with more chrome than a KitchenAid, tires so big you could store oil reserves in them, and a metallic paint job with about as much chance of getting a speck of mud on it as the International Space Station. Others might visualize a diminutive individual peacocking his way through a bar leaving a cologne wake wide enough to stir chemtrail conspiracies. But probably none of us picture ourselves. I didn’t, I thought I was the last person on Earth to contract Little Man Syndrome. I didn’t suffer from it, I sniffed it out like a truffle pig. I scoured the Internet, the bars, the strip mall parking lots of my hometown to identify and ridicule its patients like lepers in Babylon.

But as I got older, I fortunately stumbled (I say stumbled because I have zero belief it was a conscious decision on my part) into surrounding myself with people who would call me out when my Hulk of a Little Man came raging into a situation. Thankfully, my transformations into a full fledged “did you just breathe on me bro,” Little Man are fewer and farther between, but when they would come out, I never thought to question them. I always just reconciled it as something I’m going to have to deal with, to burden those around me with, because I’m kind of a douchebag with not enough self control. Recently though, I’ve been experiencing many of the same emotions I realize have been perpetually fueling my Little Man tantrums all these years.

As sure as the sun rises, we know little man Syndrome is caused by phallic deficiencies. God forsook the accursed with a less than desired phenotypical reproductive system, and now we must all face the wrath of his lifelong attempts to distract and compensate through obnoxious and societally repulsive channels. To write off little man syndrome as the adolescent rebuke of one’s lot in life is to proclaim the sky blue merely because it is so. Certainly there are little men out there subconsciously and consciously soothing their egos through cringeworthy proclamations of their existence. But what of the rest of us? What of us who would never diagnose ourselves as lacking, yet are still plagued with infrequent and involuntary appearances of little man syndrome.

To properly diagnose any ailment, be it the smallest weed to the largest plague, one must seek the root. For too long we’ve stopped digging at the cause of little man syndrome as soon as we found a satisfactory explanation. Writing it off as carnal frustration was too easy, so we ran with it. But biological insufficiency is only a symptom of a deeper cause. The real reason the little man leaps from our otherwise stable demeanors is existential insecurity, a purveying paranoia that one’s being in this world is acknowledged, nay, even perceptible only to them. We already know how strongly we all crave recognition, what we’ve been ignoring is what happens when the denial of that recognition reaches its tipping point.

You see, I’ve been feeling pretty existentially invisible the past few days. There’s a persistently nagging voice in my head telling me who I am, what I’m experiencing, is not only not recognizable to those around me, but that I’m unique in its suffering. This voice perverts the smallest slight of my circumstances as a further admonishment from The Lord upon my being. It begs me to lash out, to demand my rightful recognition from everyone, to take what I believe should be my justly deserved attention. In previous instances I would’ve seized these feelings and channeled them into misdirected aggression and confrontation, or incoherent rants on social media, even through directionless indulgences in whatever vices I could find. Miraculously, I haven’t done any of that yet. Part of me wants to. Part of me wants to lash out as quickly and noticeably as I can, so that the world is forced to give me its audience. Part of me wants to let the little man take over beat his chest as he bleats for attention. Instead, I’ve taken to contemplation. I’ve sought a more demure reaction to what’s happening right now, one that rejects the normally self destructive alternatives I usually resort to. I’ve found solace in a support system that I must admit I still don’t quite trust to replace the first and largest tether I had to the world outside my mind.

So, rather than take what’s left of this already ramblingly long piece to cast the little man syndrome affected of the world out of decent society, I want to offer a request for condolence and understanding to the guy bankrupting himself on a vehicle he may not know he’s using as a signal flare to whoever will see it that he exists, that he needs some form of acknowledgement. I ask that though one definitely need not let Rico Smooth in the dagger collared button down buy you a drink, one also needn’t entertain the devil within Mr Smooth that demands retribution for his injustices in the form of a fight. Instead, let’s remember the still misattributed Platonism to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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