I’ve found reverse-snobbery to be helpful when dealing with those areas of my life where I underachieve. Using clever mental gymnastics I am not only able to justify mediocrity, but I can almost feel superior because of it. The only problem with this brand of cognitive dissonance (the art of pretending you don’t want what you want) is that reality always finds a way to break through – this can be painful when it happens.
Smart People are Dumb
I got kicked out of school at fifteen before I’d time to gain any qualifications. I compensated for my lack of education by pretending that it gave me an advantage in life. I became convinced that university students were as dumb as plankton – they had no common-sense. I surrounded myself with like-minded souls who shared my passion for mocking the educated – we congratulated each other for qualifying from the ‘school of hard knocks’ as we knocked back our first beers of the morning.
My reverse-snobbery towards students lasted until my early twenties. I held onto it like a life-raft during my years working as a barman in Oxford – I regularly over-changed the university toffs as a type of idiot-tax. Reality intruded into my life when I began dating a third-year student. She might have had shitty taste in men, but she certainly wasn’t dumb. My mocking scorn of the educated turned to bitterness. Being with this girl forced me to face my dark secret – my lack of education meant I felt like a loser.
My insecurity around our differences in educational attainment ruined the relationship, but it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I spent the next eight years studying. At the beginning of that journey I couldn’t even spell ‘university’, but in the end I walked away from one of these institutions with a degree – I now even have a post-graduate qualification.
Fighting Cognitive Dissonance on a New Battlefield
Getting an education didn’t mean the end of my reliance on reverse-snobbery to protect my ego. In recent years it’s allowed me to justify my turbulent financial situation. I console myself with the idea that successful people aren’t really happy. I play down their achievements by pretending they are just lucky or that they have benefited from a rich mammy and daddy. Of course this is all complete bollocks – the reason these people are successful is that they are willing to do things I haven’t been willing to do.
Cognitive dissonance is a poor substitute for achievement. It is a drug that provides a temporary source of comfort but comes with a heavy price. Life is too short for the mental contortions I need to perform so I can pretend I don’t want what I really really want. It is much easier to just get out there and achieve something.