Oh Yeah, Well I: 5 Ways To Deal With A Serial Upstager

Wendy Stokesby:


Have you ever dealt with a serial upstager? A one-upping, attention-grabbing, spotlight-stealing individual who never quits? Have you forgotten what it feels like to tell a story about work/the crazy man outside of your apartment/that time you were in Africa teaching kids to read and write/anything in its entirety? Have you’ve become all too comfortable sitting on the sidelines during family gatherings while this individual entertains aunts and uncles with tales of her days spent disciplining inner-city kids that are so absurd they definitely border on the untrue? Well, I have. And if you have, too … you know that it really sucks.

Whether this person is a younger or older sister, an ass-kissing coworker, or your best frenemy for life, here are some tips I’ve picked up — over several years spent upstaged and pissed off — for dealing with these individuals (without acquiring a personal assault charge):

1. Learn how to cut through the shit. The one-upper in your life is probably is massively insecure. Maybe they were chubby in middle school, or didn’t discover a hair straightener until college or hasn’t been able to get their career on track. Constant status updates about their fabulous relationship/job/apartment/puppy/dinner/casual outfit that actually took an hour to put together/ironic street sign/fill in the blank are anything but a true reflection of how one-upper feels about themselves. No one who is 100 percent confident or satisfied feels the need to seek approval in the form of likes and/or comments.

2. Foster meaningful, one-on-one relationships. It’s easy to feel like no one cares about your life when an attention-grabber is holding court at the dinner table, regaling her audience with stories of hilarious scenarios that are just those … scenarios. These things never happened. Someone as poised and unassuming as you will not thrive in this type of situation. Spend your time developing strong, one-on-one relationships with the people at this table when you are outside of group settings. They’ll still be interested in what you have to say once the laughter dies down.

3. Never try to one-up a known one-upper. This will only end badly and lead to a situation where your story slowly trails off and your final, soft words end up being something along the lines of, “Well, I guess you had to be there…” Remember, the one-upper’s actions stem from insecurities and, sadly, their behavior is hardly a cure. No, that will likely take years of therapy. You, on the other hand, are above trying to one-up a one-upper. Right?

4. Recognize when someone is stealing your spotlight … and move on. You know when someone is purposely stealing your spotlight. But no one likes a cry baby. Do not get up from the table in a huff, stomp out the door, and refuse to come back inside for birthday cake. It is highly likely no one around you will recognize the spotlight stealer for what she really is … a serial upstager. Recognize the situation, remember that you are confident in your career, completely satisfied in your relationships, level-headed, and loved by those around you. There is no need for you to one-up the spotlight stealer at this moment in time. You do that simply by existing.

5. Know what to expect. A one-upper will definitely flaunt a slightly bigger engagement ring and top your travel stories with nights spent gallivanting around [insert appropriate city]. She will always steer the conversation towards a topic that allows her to shine best and leaves you with very little to contribute. That is just what a one-upper does. Expect it, prepare for it, and embrace it. But if all else fails … announce you’re pregnant at her wedding. Take that.


Original by Elizabeth Ritonia

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