Thoughts on, “The Confidence Game”

Content warning for homophobic language, transphobia, misogyny and racism. I…tend to be ugly when I rant about things.

I have trust issues. It’s probably obvious, given that I haven’t attached my real name to any of my writing or creative work as of late, and despite what my presence on social media may tell you, I tend to keep to myself. Sure, I go on dates, have a wonderful woman who I love (enough said), hang out at public areas, talk to people and even have a day job that requires me to talk to people and help them…but I keep to myself due to comfort and fear. I am not a saint or a hero, but I have been hurt before. So I try to be as vigilant as I can, wearing myself out in the process with a series of, “worse case” scenarios in my head, while searching for red flags wherever I go and being stubborn in my ways even if they may leave me miserable. Because who knows, the misery I may face by moving may be even worse than the misery I am in now, both self-inflicted and otherwise. It’s why I self-immolate and hold myself back due to fear of fucking up. It’s also why I spill my guts on here and elsewhere on the internet, showing people bits of my work and my life.

But if the book, “The Confidence Game” is right (and author Maria Konmikova does quite a bit of homework, weaving together stories of con artists and their acts alongside scientific studies that showcase mental vulnerabilities that can make us fall for them), then those kind of habits may not be enough to be safe. Through a series of stories and studies, “The Confidence Game” shows us what makes us vulnerable to con games, and it turns out to be the kind of traits that enable the survival of the human species to begin with. Human beings trust, cooperate, believe in themselves as the center of the universe through mental maneuvers convincing ourselves of such, all because it helps human beings move forward. If we didn’t trust each other or have a sense of self, we would at best be roves of hoarders, left to our own devices and living shorter lives than we do even today. Those traits that enable our survival turn out to be the kind of things human beings can exploit for ill, preying on our insecurities in order to grab a quick buck or more.

To describe the content of the book in detail is beyond my capacity. It’s a dense work that makes the reader navigate mazes of real-life stories and detailed studies to illustrate the vulnerabilities many human beings share, along with the mentality of the people who take advantage of them. The book leaves one with the impression that no one is truly invulnerable to the tactics con artists employ, for if they were, society as we now know it would not exist. It is through vulnerability that we grow as human beings, and also get taken advantage of. So, suffice it to say, I am trying to be a lot more vigilant about how I approach people, but I am also left with a sense of despair and hope.

I’m at a period of my life where it feels like it is full of opportunity, compared to how things were in my childhood, teens, and earlier adulthood. I have a job (for now), a lover (for now), creative opportunities (for now), and while I won’t deny my share of fuck ups, at least I can breathe and try to have a life of…well, that’s the thing, I want a lot of things. I want love, I want to be magnificent (or seen as such, because there is no guarantee that I will be given credit or praise for what I do), and I want people to be positively affected by what I do (or at least people to affect people in good ways thanks to me). Life is full of people telling me that I will be good, loved and appreciated if I take them at their word and do what they suggest. Well, what if they’re leading me down a horrible path? What if I’m lead into a cult of some kind, or become a victim of a crime, or have everything taken away from me? No matter how paranoid I am or how much I learn, there are gaps. I can say that I am a smart person who would never fall for simple things, but I have. Which probably makes me not so smart…just like most of humanity, I suppose.

I have been hurt before. I have been demonstrated to not be as great or even good as I think I am, whether by toxic relationships, scams or disappointments. And, “The Confidence Game” does make the assertion that people who fall for scams once are likely to fall for them again. For example, I once fell for a scam where a person claimed to be selling a room for rent, at a period in my life where I wanted to have a space of my own. Next thing I knew, I clear my bank account, put the money into a Green Dot card, e-mailed the person a code so they could accept my money, was told to wait for  a call, and…well, you know how it ends. Thankfully, I had family who was glad to help me out, but it felt like such a blow to my ego. And so it is today, having gone through toxic friendships, solicitations for my labor that don’t go through, and a lot of other events that have left me self-critical, paranoid and hurt. Who is to say I am not caught into a con right now? Who is to say that my life isn’t a lie, where I have sacrificed years of my life in return for a future that may never come? Who is to say that the ground won’t shift under my feet, or that I won’t see the sun tomorrow, or that my bosses won’t fire me for some reason, or that my projects won’t either be scrapped or fail?

Despite all of that, I have to continue, even if I have been hurt before. Have to lay my heart out to people, lest I be judged untrustworthy (after all, only untrustworthy people have something to hide…right?). I have to show my face on social media, tell people how I feel, what I do, what I believe, and what I aspire to, so that I can be with great, positive people who can help make it possible…or swindlers who will abandon you when you’ve been deprived, or asshole who will hurt you for being a, “bitch feminazi”, a, “fucking faggot”, a “dindu nuthin nigger”, an, “ugly tranny”, or a thousand other rationalizations that will crop up to justify you being hurt. Such are the chances of life, chances that I will have to take in order to live, in spite of my pain and my fears.

Time to roll the dice.

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