What Happened When I Started Using Donald Trump As A Form Of Self-Help

Photo: courtesy of the author / AFP
donald trump thin-skinned

"Don't cave into insecurity" goes the mantra of my new self-help method, which I basically invented the other day, inspired by President Trump. Thin-skin may as well be orange skin.

Let me state for the record that I'm not anything like, or even in danger of becoming like, Donald Trump. Few non-pathological narcissists are.

Less than a month into his presidency, it seems every single action he's taken has been cartoonishly and surpassingly evil, as if he lifted his agenda from the to-do list of a super-villain.


The only thing that makes me laugh just a little bit  and it's a bitter laugh, for sure  is the knowledge that most of the country hates him, and he knows it, and it's killing him. Even though he won the electoral college vote, he seems obsessed with defending the legitimacy of his win.

Whenever a celebrity or journalist publicly insults him, he immediately jumps onto Twitter to accuse them of being overrated and dishonest. The name "Trumplethinskin" is a characterization that brings a tiny bit of joy to my day. This man is not loved, he will never have the validation he clearly craves, and I seriously doubt he will ever be happy.


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I'm not like that. I'm not a deranged tyrant who craves absolute power to fill a bottomless narcissistic void. I don't disparage or dismiss entire populations based on their religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or physical appearance. I don't thrive on hateful rhetoric, misspelled tweets, or a view of America as a bleak, terror-filled hellscape.

I am, however, like a lot of other flawed humans on this earth, insecure. I tend toward depression and low self-esteem, and I sometimes allow myself to dwell on minor psychic wounds for longer than I should.

I am what I might once have defined as thin-skinned...until the term "thin-skinned" became synonymous with the delicate ego of our commander-in-chief.


Specifically, I struggle with rejection, in all its forms. When I was a kid, it was the sting of being snubbed by the popular girls at school. As a teenager and young adult, it was the emotional rollercoaster of romantic rejection. Then I made the genius decision to pursue writing for a living.

The field of publishing, like national politics, is not exactly the safest bet for the emotionally fragile. Mostly, I've learned to cope with the inevitable phenomenon of rejection, but some days it gets to me. Some days, it causes me to question not only my ability but also the purpose and value of this compulsion to share my thoughts with strangers.

The other day was one of those days. It had already been a long, emotionally exhausting day in the "new normal" of the Trump era: like many horrified Americans, I'd been scrambling to do my paid job while also calling senators to oppose Trump's odious cabinet appointments and executive orders.


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It's a thankless, almost impossible task, really: trying to do a solid day's work while also trying to undo the work of the President of the United States. I'd been running on that hamster wheel all day, with very little to show for it.

Then I got a rejection from a favorite publication for a piece of writing I'd been optimistic about. It hurt, as usual. It caused me to question myself, as usual. At some point, though, my ego got snagged on anger and stayed there.

Go to hell then, Editor X, I caught myself thinking. I am sick of trying to get into your stupid publication. You think you're so great, but you're actually...

Overrated? Was that what I was going to say next in my rambling mind? I'll never know, thankfully, because I stopped myself but that was the general direction of the internal rant. In that moment, my injured little ego was firing off the equivalent of defensive, mean-spirited tweets against this person and their publication, which I regard highly.

You're being like him! You're being like fragile Donald Trump! I scolded myself.

Of course, I wasn't actually being like him. I wasn't publicly voicing incoherent, hateful nonsense followed by the exclamation "Sad!" But I was thinking like him, and that really was sad.


At that moment, I realized I was so thoroughly repulsed by witnessing these unseemly qualities in our new president that I could no longer allow such pettiness to occupy space in my own head. I had stumbled on an unexpected Trump effect: the presence of a powerful new anti-role model, a poster child (and I do mean child) for the ugliness that can happen when petty insecurities consume a person.

During these disturbing weeks in which I've felt helpless to combat Trump despite all my efforts, here was an area in which I was not helpless. I am not helpless about the petty, ungenerous, insecure, defensive emotions in my head. I'm not helpless against my own fear, jealousy, or need for validation. None of us are.

I vowed zero tolerance for any signs of Trump-like fragility in myself. I haven't fleshed out the entire self-help approach just yet, but roughly, it's sort of like a "What Would Jesus Do" in reverse.

I've also found it useful to practice mindfulness, something I suspect Trump is physically incapable of: noticing the insecure or hypersensitive thoughts as they arise, acknowledging them, and letting them go. As a slightly gimmicky, more shame-based deterrent, I've thought of finding some sort of temporary orange dye, and for every thin-skinned thought, dyeing a small patch of skin the color of Trumplethinskin.

So far, it's a small positive I could find in this presidency: the idea that I could use his frightening example as a way of outgrowing insecurity once and for all.


If there's not going to be a grown-up in the White House, I can use this time to become a real grown-up myself. I just hope it doesn't take me a full four years to work through it.