The action of playing yourself—as in “Congratulations, you played yourself,” a catchphrase embraced last year by DJ Khaled—can it is in loosely defined as working versus your conscious intentions.Photograph by roger Kisby / Redux
Earlier this year, in the deep boredom of late winter, ns started keeping a Google doc called “Who played Themselves 2016.” It was both a private joke and also a significant inquiry. There was something about the year conditions—the weather on social media, a certain psychological wind—that appeared to put us, together humans, in boosting danger of playing ourselves. Ns felt a rude however genuine certainty the recording significant incidents the this nature would work as a kind of personal prophylaxis. I would certainly teach myself exactly how not come play myself; I could feel private satisfaction about other people’s hubris while ns learned from their mistakes.

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Of course, in law this, ns played myself completely.

The act of playing yourself deserve to be loosely defined as working versus your mindful intentions. It’s what girlfriend do when you think you’re offer your own interests however are in reality betraying them—often through significant effort, frequently in a spectacularly windy way. In 1990, Ice-T exit a song referred to as “You played Yourself,” in which every verse is devoted to a cautionary tale of the phenomenon. A rapper boasts around his money to do himself it seems to be ~ richer, and then his pan see through it and also abandon him, leaving that broke. A male thinks that he have the right to buy his date’s affections; she empties his pockets and also disconnects she phone. In the two-line chorus, over a James Brown sample, Ice-T spits, contemptuously, “You played yourself / Yo, yo, you play yourself.” In a 1999 episode of “This American Life, a male named john Bowe described a youthful effort to hitchhike across the Sahara Desert—a journey that, as one could expect, flourished increasingly dire. “You just record this small click the the universe makes,” the said. “There space no words you could use to explain what that emotion is like, of, Oh, i’m so naïve, oh, the people is therefore cruel, oh, my God, this is what you wanted, and this is what you got.”

Bowe then found the words: “It’s simply that feeling of you played yourself,” he said.

A to mark 2016 example comes from a man in Vancouver, who, in dealing with the anxiety of his wife’s noticeable infertility, arisen a wandering eye. In order to indulge it, he asked his wife for an open up marriage; she subsequently acquired pregnant by who else. In June, he wrote a an individual essay about this trip on the Huffington Post, and then, after facing ridicule, he requested that the editors delete it. (This story illustrates a vital axiom of play yourself in the period of the Internet: the act tends to beget much more examples of the same.)

All year—because, frankly, ns am a fool—I found it useful to meditate ~ above the ever-present opportunity of play myself. I like the ethical position behind the concept, which holds all at once that the world is bad and capricious and that an individual responsibility is even much more important together a result. The a long-range, level-headed method to self-management: DJ Khaled, the musician rotate Snapchat-famous motivational figure, adopted both “Don’t ever before play yourself” and also “Congratulations, you played yourself” as catchphrases critical year. In May, i grudgingly included my very own name to my Google doc, ~ a blog article I wrote for Jezebel, whereby I climate worked, walk viral. I had written the after a friend told me the she’d to be mishearing a popular song lyric because that a decade—not realizing the the post, which I’d created in around four minutes, made that seem as though I had misheard the renowned lyric myself. Morning-show radio hosts made fun of me, which i deserved.


Playing you yourself can take place like that—ephemerally, inconsequentially. Agree that playing yourself happens, that’s the ideal means to go. You have the right to play you yourself in an instant, an especially on Twitter, i beg your pardon preserves each user’s self-contradictions in an quickly searchable archive, and also which, through its propensity to amplify the hateful and also the simplistic, urges aggressive and incoherent politics stands. When, in June, a toddler was eliminated by an alligator at a Disney resort in Florida, one woman


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But once you really, yes, really play yourself—when you affix your identity to a political or ethical position, and also end up damaging or repudiating that position by your very own actions—the procedure often takes years. Playing yourself have the right to feel like the the opposite for fairly a lengthy time. I would guess that Boris Johnson’s unlikely and also extended political ascendance felt great until, this June, he had to spike the Brexit proposal the he had actually personally supported and swiftly withdraw from the Conservative Party race. Ns imagine that Abigail Fisher, the young woman who chose to come to be the confront of the anti-affirmative-action motion after being rejected from the college of Texas in 2008, must have actually believed, at least at part point, that she was crusading towards a noble politics victory. Instead, in June, the supreme Court ruled versus her argument and mission, and Fisher came to be a poster son for white entitlement, and was dubbed “Becky v the negative Grades” by social-media users and the brand-new York Daily News.


The difficulty, for all of us, is that you don’t understand that you’re play yourself until you’ve already played yourself. That, through definition, is exactly how hubris works. In she 2010 publication “Being Wrong,” my partner Kathryn Schulz writes the “error literally no exist in the very first person current tense: the sentence ‘I to be wrong’ explains a logical impossibility. As soon as we recognize that we space wrong, us aren’t not correct anymore, because to recognize a belief as false is to stop believing it.”

It was about 10 P.M. ~ above November 8th as soon as I realized how thoroughly I had actually played myself. I had actually imagined the I inhabited such a safe and silly position, in a messily yet steadily ameliorating world. I had actually assumed that Hillary Clinton would success the Presidency; ns assumed the Donald trumped was essentially unelectable. I had actually tried to repeat myself that social gains don’t interpret to wide social consequences, and also yet—perhaps due to the fact that it offered my position to do so—I had actually come to believe that lock did. I had thought that, in ~ my tiny life, i was credibly offer the future that i wanted: one in which we would have actually our first female President, one in which truth mattered, one in i beg your pardon Trump stood for the death rattle that old prejudices rather than a vessel for those prejudices made hot-blooded and also new. I allowed some sense of an individual righteousness to satisfy me, and I intend that’s the start of whereby I go wrong.

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In 2016, ns played myself, and it’s no comfort to me that i am no alone. Many of united state played ourselves. The phenomenon goes every the means to the top. A variety of reports, citing sources close to Trump, have said that Trump never ever really want to be President. Ours President-elect shows up to have played himself, and all of us, too.