Where did I go wrong?

I came across this photograph of myself in second grade a few weeks ago. I haven’t been able to stop staring at it.



There’s something wonderfully knowing and bright and mischievous and indomitable in those eyes.

That’s a little person who’s determined to take on the world and win.

I wrote a blog about her once. It went like this …

I was the girl with plastic bobbles and ribbons in my pigtails (until I was ooooh, 15). I had freckles and a nose that “matured” before the rest of my face. I hid my bananas behind a sink in the classroom after a boy called me a “gorilla.” No-one suspected it was me because I was the teacher’s-pet type.

In fourth grade, I was christened the “walking dictionary” – when the teacher was busy, he directed all enquiries to me (I peaked early). In fifth grade, I pretended to read Runyon On Broadway to impress the head librarian, Mrs Thurlow (who – ’70s scandal – remarried and became Mrs Arca De Pane). God knows what Runyon was doing in a primary school library. It was beyond me, but faking interest afforded many library privileges and hushed speculation about my superior intellect.

I pulled the wool over my sixth grade teacher’s eyes too. He taught me Jabberwocky and I repaid him by breaking into his storeroom to steal the results of my – and the rest of the class’s – IQ tests. I knew it was wrong, but I just had to KNOW. I’d been hoping for something MENSA-worthy after doing all those Reader’s Digest tests. Sadly, no.

I don’t know when I lost that spirit, but I’m glad to be finally getting it back 40 years later.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering when things started coming undone for me.

I think it was after I had my first baby. I was flirting with PND, but I was too bloody minded to admit it.

I had awful health problems for a few years following the birth of my second child.

Then the workplace sociopath finished me off.

M.E Thomas writes in her book Confessions of a Sociopath: “I have to have a way to blow off steam. So I ruin people. It’s not illegal, it’s difficult to prove, and I get to flex my power.”

I got comprehensively ruined. It was difficult to prove and they got to flex her power.

The SMH writes that M.E Thomas admits “she does not have a conscience and never experiences remorse. The concept of morality is foreign to her, going right over her head ‘like an inside joke’. She has no comprehension of what’s right and wrong – only for what’s in her personal best interest.

“Clinical psychologist Martha Stout estimates sociopaths constitute 4 per cent of the working population. And, according to Professor Kevin Dutton from Oxford University, these are their favoured professions:

  • CEO
  • Lawyer
  • Media professional
  • Salesperson
  • Surgeon
  • Journalist
  • Policeman
  • Clergyman
  • Chef
  • Civil servant

Note profession number 6. Yep, it’s full of them. And I’ve run foul of a few, but there was one that stood head and shoulders above the rest.

“In the workplace, sociopaths are high-performing superstars, using their charisma to ingratiate themselves with the people that matter,” writes the SMH. “But, if you’re singled out as a target – as an enemy – they won’t stop until they’ve torn you down, feeling no empathy whatsoever for any collateral damage that ensues.”

I’m pretty sure my workplace sociopath has no empathy for the collateral damage that ensued for me: the breakdown of my marriage. In their mind, I probably deserved it for standing in their way.

Sure, there were other factors that corrupted the heart of my marriage, but being decimated by that workplace sociopath pretty much sealed the deal – it destroyed my confidence and filled me with anxiety.

Sometimes the sociopath pops up in group photographs in my Facebook feed. They look so smiley and normal and nice. It’s tempting to think I imagined it all.

But I didn’t because I’m not the only victim.

My gentle path through journalism may have truncated my trajectory, but I leave with a clear conscience … something workplace sociopaths don’t have or even care about.

And I’ve realised I feel sorry for them.

What an awful, soulless way to live.

Have you ever fallen foul of a workplace sociopath? 





6 thoughts on “Where did I go wrong?

  1. What a cute, determined little girl you were. The look of conviction on your face is unmistakable. I’ve met a work sociopath and was stung but it was more on a social level not a career level. It was my fault for allowing myself to venture into the spidery web of nastiness in the first place. Now, for me, work is work. I’m there for the kids and no other reason. Work shouldn’t become a popularity contest. I’m guessing your situation was more to do with your career. You won out in the end Alana and still have your morals intact 🙂

  2. M.E. Thomas clearly does have a sense of right and wrong, or she wouldn’t make the statements she makes. She just chooses to ignore it, to put her own pleasure and sense of power first. I believe most, if not all, sociopaths know what they do is wrong, and morally and socially unacceptable, or they wouldn’t try to mask it with other behaviours. They just don’t give a stuff.

  3. Oh sure. I spent years with the workplace psychopath. It was beyond difficult. He wanted me to leave so he could put his wife in my job. Eventually I just didn’t even think of reacting to his manipulations. Someone else came along and he targeted them. He got the sack for that though. It only took about 10 years for him to get his marching orders. I hung on to my job only for my family. Laughing now though.

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