I Don’t Want to Be an Elf

Do you know the story of the elves and the shoemaker? If you don’t, I’ll explain:

There’s a shoemaker who isn’t doing well, mainly because he is terrible at his job and can’t come up with new designs. He has one final order, and if he can’t deliver he’ll lose his business. He stays up all night trying to make decent shoes, but everything comes up terrible. In despair, he throws down his work and goes to bed, knowing he’ll wake up a failure in the morning.
He doesn’t. When he wakes up, there is a pair of spectacular shoes waiting for him. He sells them, pretending they’re his work, and all of a sudden he gets fame and recognition. Recognition for nothing. He keeps leaving the material out, and somehow each night new shoes are made.
Eventually, the shoemaker decides he wants to know what’s going on, so he pretends to go to sleep, but actually spies on his materials. After a while, he sees two little elves come out of his chimney, and he watches them create the most beautiful shoes of all. The next day he sells them, of course, and waits for the process to repeat. Except this time, the elves don’t come. He’s forced to make the shoes himself after that, but with the knowledge he’s picked up from spying on the elves, it’s a lot easier. Also, he’s become so famous that no one even cares about the quality of his goods anymore.

The point of me telling that at all is that I relate very strongly to the elves. I feel like a lot of the work I do goes unrecognized, either because people don’t think to be appreciative of it, or because someone steamrolls me and takes credit for everything I’ve done. Even if they don’t mean to do it, the more dominant personalities stifle my voice, while stealing my already-spoken words.

It sucks. For reasons other than it just being annoying to have your work stolen.
It sucks because when things like this happen, I’m the only one being inconvenienced. If we’re working toward a common interest, putting a project together, or generally trying to help people, the end goal is to accomplish whatever we’re accomplishing for the sake of the accomplishment. Does that make sense? It shouldn’t be about praise for the people working, but about actually doing something and reaching a goal. I’m actually all for team effort without any “I”s. I prefer it. However, when someone from the rest of the team tries to step up and get “I”-Recognition, with my work, I have a problem.
The thing is, I’m usually the only one who recognizes that the person accepting praise doesn’t really deserve it. And what can I do about that? I can’t correct everybody, saying that the person who should really be praised is myself, because I don’t want praise. I want to help people. It would also make me look like an asshole. The only thing worse than a person accepting credit for what’s being done is the person who actually deserves the credit, saying that they deserve it. It’s like George Castanza with his Big Salad situation.


I feel for him, slightly. Correcting the mistake makes everything about you, instead of the people or things you’re trying to help.

I recognize this. It’s the reason I’ll stay silent while inwardly, simultaneously cursing the other person for their thievery, and being disgusted with myself for being insecure enough to be bothered by it in the first place. Oh, my beautiful, painful head!

I don’t want this to happen any more. I don’t want to be an elf that people can walk over. And yet, because I actually care about what I’m doing, I don’t know how not to be.

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