Updated: Sep 4, 2022
It depends how you interpret it really, but a chip on your shoulder has been described as something that's troubling, causing a change in behavior to a grumpy state. It can also refer to a sense of inferiority or a perceived grievance with another person or entity.
What 'flavour' it is, referring to the reaction state. For example: are they in a permenant state of anxiousness, are they feeling vexed or angry, are they just fed up, or do you see them over reacting to everyday life?....
Or is the chip actually on your shoulder? Is their issue actually your problem?
We’ve all met people with a chip on their shoulder. They carry their issues with them wherever they go, and their aura silently screams, ‘Why me? Why this? Why is my lot so unfair?’ It’s one of the most self-destructive forms of emotional clutter there is. Commonly known in my career as 'neg ferrets' they suck the energy out of any room and make it all about them. So keen to tell you their issue, they don't listen - at all. I’m willing to bet that loeveryone reading this has known someone with a massive chip on their shoulder. Maybe you’ve even been that person, who knows?
I am just saying, you probably do know somebody — and those around you definitely do as well. Look at what is happening in Russia and Ukraine - Vladimir Putin definitely carries a huge chunky chip on his shoulder. What I would describe as a 'little man in a big suit' that fool.... or 'little man round a big table' in his case. Sour, mean and bitter, Putin's appalling behaviour is perpetuated by a massive inferiority complex.
Putin at one end, and somebody so far away, that they could be in the neighbours house
Most amazingly, there are people who don’t seem all that eager to knock that chip off. They nurture it like a beloved child. As long as the chip is there, they are protected from reality, they can say “Woe is me” and embrace the victim role they so joyously revel in. They are enabled to justify bad behaviour to themselves, and so in return justify their reacting badly to others. Like Ricky Gervais' character in the first episode of 'AfterLife'. He was so entrenched in his own grief that people around him became a victim of that huge burden he carried. The abrasive, changing personality caused by his response to the World around him. Through the failure of anybody to challenge his behaviours, they became complicit in accepting the chip on his shoulder, and subsequently accepting of the behaviour itself. By the way, in the real World nobody would disagree that life dealt a shit hand and placed the chip on his shoulder in the first place.
There's numerous examples if you take the time to think - examples of people that perpetually lament their lot in life, which keeps them locked in their own circle of misery. It may be working at a job you wish you didn’t have to do, feeling resentful about doing all the housework or laundry in your home, or feeling frustrated because you don’t have more money, better looks, more enlightenment or any of the otherworldy or spiritual qualities you believe you deserve. In short, the chips you carry are anything you approach with a victim mentality, rallying openly or secretly against the injustices of what life has dealt you. Yes, the hardships faced are real, but made harder to bear by the resulting attitude.
I worked with a guy called Stephen Thomas once upon a time - an absolute legend in the late-night industry, and sadly no longer with us. Never fully trusting of any colleague, he carried this salty chip on his shoulder, and he was never shy at telling you exactly what he thought. One day my ops team had a standard dressing down, complete with hairdryer treatment from Steve - systematically working the boardroom table in a round of fucks, his salt and vitriol settling on a colleague - Gavin - lovely guy, great ops manager and highly intelligent. Steve described Gavin as a "cunt with a chip on his shoulder" followed by "in fact, you got a chip on both shoulders, you well-balanced cunt" - the irony of that incident did not go unnoticed by any of the other 8 operators at the table.
Be kind, and get that chip off your shoulder
I mean the truth is this - Others can’t make you feel bad. Well, Steve (above) could probably make you feel like a lukewarm poo, but generally speaking, you do that to yourself by interpreting others' intentions in your own way. Keeping that chip where it is, like a comfort blanket on your shoulder. We all do it sometimes and it isn’t good for anybody. Take politics as an example - Politicians target the majority and describe to them a dream of a better life, they down play the current lot of life with venom and diadain, they make you fearful of stability and tell you who is to blame for your fear. That is how elections are won. Control of the weak of mind willing to accept whatever they are told as fact. I use this as an example - the biggest hurdle for us all to overcome is emotion. Our own emotions take us to those fearful places, and before we know it, find us somebody to blame - truthful or not. Our reaction is key.
The hardest thing to learn is to let it go. Most of us are capable of this, and when we do, we are shifted into a very different space with very different possibilities. The world has not changed you see, but our attitude to it and our engagement with it has.
We've all been through frustrating and painful situations that can leave us with unresolved feelings of hurt, guilt, shame, and anger. But asking, "Why did this happen to me?" and finding somebody to blame only leads to more toxicity. Instead, the question is, "what do I need to learn to change my interpretation of this event, and make use of the feelings I have left". It may be painful to hear those opinions of others, or that remark from a stranger or that unplanned incident. There’s a good chance however, if you are emotionally intelligent enough, that you can adjust your chip, and see whatever it is in a different light, one that helps you approach the issue from a basis of logic, not emotion. At times in my life, I have convinced myself that what was said to me carried some other more sinister agenda, I bet we all have. This is natural of course and an example of a fiery over-reaction caused by the insecurity chip on our shoulder.
More often than not though, once I searched my soul for reason and logic, I found that the originator's intention was not what I thought.
What flavour is the chip on your shoulder?
I mean just how arrogant is it, and how big is that chip, to believe that others waste their valuable time dreaming up ways, just to hurt, deceive or harm you? The inconvenient truth is in the irony that these people that you are cheesed off with, are potentially the only ones honest enough, brave enough, and with enough respect for you, to have that dialogue with you in the first place.
In summary, I say this - Clear, honest, authentic communication benefits everyone always.
Emotional clutter is more challenging to clear than physical clutter, but we all owe it to ourselves, and for the harmony of life to try to find a way out of the stressful cycle. We need to find ways of developing new and better habits and ways of living. Good habits, that are better for us that help us regulate and manage ourselves, our attitudes and our situations better.