How To Keep Everyone At Arm’s Length And Never Enjoy An Authentic Human Connection: An Essential Guide

It can be hard living as a wholly insecure, broken person drowning under the pressures of an endless parade of perceived failures . . . and that’s why I’m here to help!

If you're trying to avoid a balanced life filled with love and real connections with others, I'm here to let you know—you can realize this fantasy! You have agency! Life doesn't have to be filled with authentic joy or bolstered by the support and sincerity of other people. You don't need to have any self-esteem. Screw Dr. Phil—there's no actual need to get real about any aspect of your life. With my advice, you’ll sever any and all connections with your inner self and successfully stave off any well-meaning people eager to love you or wend their way into your life giving it meaning or sense of purpose.

In the past few years, I’ve found other ways to live (just to keep things fresh—variety being the spice of life and all), but this blissfully tortured existence used to be mine and it seems like a waste to let two and a half decades of exacting expertise go down the tubes. So gather 'round kids: with such an experienced guide, you’ll be wrapping yourself up in blankets of shame, living out your darkest, most anxiety-drenched dreams in no time flat! 

1. Make friends with the phrases: “I’m fine,” “I’m just tired,” and “It’s okay.” Deploy them liberally and with conviction—especially when they ring the most hollow.

2. Always remember: If you achieve something, it’s because anyone could have done it—not because you have any notable skills or smarts. Never be satisfied with your success—keep those goal posts a-movin’—you just got lucky. If rationality tells you otherwise: eschew it vigorously.

3. Pro-tip: People love to talk about themselves. Use this to your advantage by turning any question you’re asked around on the other party. More often than not, they’ll run with it and forget they ever inquired about your emotional state. This is an excellent way to stay hidden in plain sight!

4. If for some reason this fails, roll out a massive lie. Get creative, go big. For example: When someone asks about your weekend and you’ve spent it trapped in your apartment out of crippling anxiety, exclaim that “Holy shit! An alien spaceship landed outside my window, Elvis strolled off it, started doing the chicken dance in the moonlight, and then beckoned me onboard where I joined him to zip around the galaxy while watching—weirdly enough—Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on the extraterrestrial big screen and eating popcorn drenched in butter. It was just wild!” Aim for intentional obtuseness and outlandishness—people will know they are being lied to but if you’re entertaining enough, it won’t matter. Pair it with a huge smile and you’re certain to be golden! (Note: If you’re not feeling creative, inexplicably reciting the monologue from Taken will also do in a pinch, so get on memorizing that.)

5. Never reach for your phone when you’re sad or angry or in any kind of emotional distress. You might inadvertently lean on someone when you need comfort—this kind of vulnerability only leads to meaningful human connection and thus it is to be avoided at all costs. Hide your phone, if necessary. And bear in mind: If you fumble the ball and do offer up some meaningful words to someone in a text, you’re gonna have to fling your phone across the room and maybe shriek a little while waiting for a response. You might crack your phone but this is the only way (sorry).

6. Romantic feelings are shameful and vulnerability is bad. Thus you must develop them solely for wholly unavailable dudes. Like ones who are moving across the country, still so in love with their exes that they send Valentine’s Day flowers to them (. . . in Jordan), or people you’ve never met. Safer still, however, is to only interact with potential (ha!) suitors online. If you meet a dude in person, move your “relationship” to gchat. Then talk about it endlessly. Pine for him openly and neurotically, but never actually seek him out. Playfully muse that you have no idea why you’re single LOL.

7. When your eyes are red and swollen from crying in a stall in the freezing bathroom of your office but it’s been an obvious amount of time and you have to return to your beige cubicle, pretend like you have allergies even if you’ve never had to pop a Claritin in your life. When you see a coworker, make a show of saying, “Fucking cherry blossoms! They’re gorgeous but a bastard for allergies, amirite!?!!!” Giggle uncomfortably and stress out for the rest of the day about whether they suspect you’re an actual human with the ability to cry and feel and stuff. That would be the worst.

8. Spend your days and nights thinking about all the conversations you’ve had with people. Pick them apart endlessly. Denigrate yourself for any comment that seemed to elicit any kind of negative response from the other party (no excuses for not being able to discern any negative results—conjure one up!). Then try to figure what conversations you might have down the line. Plan witty comebacks for these theoretical interactions. A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Spontaneity and authenticity in your interactions only leads to vulnerability which, as established, is a slippery and sinister goddamn slope—avoid, avoid, avoid!

9. After six months of traveling in Asia, when you've run across a charming Brit at a Filipino ferry landing—one who enjoys literature and even shares your parochial fixation on Angry Birds apparel—run! Get out of there! Super fast. To be safe, blow your day’s budget chartering a private boat trip to another island. When your captain starts giggling at your willingness to hurl such easy money at him, remind yourself how the Brit wasn't turned off by your weird sense of humor and even egged it on, seeming to find your the egregious laugh-crying at your own joke for 10 minutes straight endearing—it's time's like these you need to get a body of water between you and a shot at something meaningful! When you arrive back on a different island, pretend like you had a real reason to race there. Drink until you forget his green eyes, the color of the sky as you watched the sunset, how doing something as cliched as watching a sunset with him didn't feel gross and earnest. Drink until you’ve forgotten what it feels like to wrap yourself around him on a motorbike. Drink until you've forgotten the memory of him singing Bruce Springsteen in his Cornwall accent while your tiny netbook's speakers blared in your hostel's dorm for good.

10. If ever you start experiencing feelings that might actually help elucidate your inner emotional state, fear not! There are some actions you can take to distract yourself from them. A starter list:

- Eat everything in sight. Bonus points for heaping bowls of frozen yogurt with hot fudge and graham crackers (although even canned peas will do in a pinch). Eat until you think you might vomit—this will give you something else to focus on other than the endless anxiety of your existence, at least for a little while.

- Run—but propel yourself only out of self-hatred. Aim to log enough miles that your body aches and you’re reminded how wholly pathetic you are for days.

- Pair a six-pack with a painkiller!

- Fumble around with a coworker—your impending awkward interactions in the wake of the hook-up will only give you more fodder and failures to fixate on.

11. When you’ve smashed your head into a surfboard in Indonesia and you’re bleeding, possibly concussed, in need of stitches, and exhausted, fight with the boatman who’s attempting to help you into the boat. You don’t need help, seeping head wound be damned. Same with the hostel worker who wants to drive you to the clinic. Psh! As if. You’ve got that covered too, even if you have don’t know where the clinic is, speak the local language, or possess even a shred of a sense of direction. Start accepting basic displays of human kindness and you’ve begun a dastardly dance with the devil that only lands you dangerously close to real emotional bonds. Just say no!

12. Cultivate a complex relationship with your physical appearance wherein you assume that any professional achievement of yours is solely due to a man with systemic power over you finding you attractive WHILE AT THE SAME TIME (and this is important!) categorically rejecting the notion that you could possibly actually be attractive. If these mental gymnastics sound challenging, I can only say hey, no one said this would be easy! (Hence this handy guide.) Reminder: If you want to be truly successful in this whole insecurity endeavor, rationality is not your accomplice. Tell Occam and the razor he rode in on to go fuck himself.

13. Deflect any and all compliments while internalizing all criticisms as truth. 

14. Bear in mind—at all times—that while you genuinely want to hear and know and listen to your friends’ struggles and issues, there is no way they want you to reciprocate. Absolutely none (disregard their opinions if they try to tell you otherwise—you know better!). Talking about your issues is the ultimate transgression. You are a rock and you are fine on your own, thanks! Note: If you ever do slip up and get upset in front of someone, apologize quickly and continuously. Fixate on the slip-up, wonder why that person still wants to talk to you, and strive extra hard to crack jokes around them for a couple weeks so they know you’re cool and won’t do it again.

15. Finally, remember: A steady mantra of “you’re the worst” punctuated by a few “everyone hates you” will never lead you astray!

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