There's a disease infecting the hearts and minds of sophisticated city-folk, upwardly mobile urbanites and Byron-dwelling, yoga-devotee, rat-race dropouts across our nation, and it's having a drastic effect on human relations. Yes, people, smugness is rife, causing our colleagues to gloat, our friends to roll their eyes and the culture critics to point the finger.
From the SHE (Smug Healthy Eater) who casts an accusatory eye over your peanut buttered toast in the office kitchen before merrily chopping up her apple and kiwi fruit, to the all-knowing, newly minted exercise fanatic who lost 5kgs by taking up running ("You should do it too!"), and the time-frittering, friend-accumulating Facebook and MySpace loving Techno Smuggers, we have become consumed with self-confidence, fueled by our ability to consume information at supersonic speed, digest it, apply the parts we believe to be beneficial to our lives (or uproariously entertaining to our unique senses of humour) and happily share our newly acquired expertise/knowledge with any friend, family member, colleague or passer-by within ear shot. We've been slimed, Punk'd and fugged – and now we're being smugged ("I can't believe she smugged me!")
The Oxford Dictionary defines smug (adj) as the state of being irritatingly pleased with oneself and/or self-satisfied. Varying strains of smugness have infiltrated our lives and loved ones – technological, spiritual, political, material, marital, intellectual, musical, geographical, sexual – and it seems the more time one dedicates to refining his or her smugness, the less likable he/she becomes. The Smug-Busters must be called in, toting their humble-pie machines, before it's too late!
For the SHE (a term used in this month's Women's Health – the magazine for female health smuggers; self included), it's almost painful to walk through a food court without wishing to extol the virtues of eating protein-packed salads to those Maccas-munching mums and kiddies; for the marital smugger, single people become projects to be worked on; for the spiritual smugger, particularly newly-minted Christian folk, it's hard to hold back on the Bible bashing when you seek to save others from their seemingly meaningless and material lives (which is not to undermine this worthy cause; I could evangelise till the cows come home).
Perfectionists are the most irritating smuggers of all, such is their devotion to refining every aspect of themselves and their lives (daily exercise, diet, intellect...), though most smuggers specialise in one area. The symptoms of the smugging affected include gloating, a blinkered world view, a reluctance to be challenged, unfettered self-confidence and a fondness for sharing information, even when unwarranted. A failure to see one's own faults is an ugly side-effect.
Smugging has infiltrated popular culture, too, with bloggers, TV producers and book publishers all packaging and commercialising smugness for our consumption. Perez Hilton uses his contacts and 'takes one to know one' smugging power to out homosexual celebrities; the lovely lasses behind Go Fug Yourself delight in the fashion foibles of red carpet regulars; Trinny and Susannah take the common woman and spruce her using their smug knowledge of style; The Chaser boys use charisma and a dash of cockiness to tear down the pollies...
There's no doubt smug can be funny. And a little self-assured smugness is needed if one is to have the confidence to pursue his or her goals. But when the stench of smug hangs over a family gathering, coffee date with a friend or workplace chat, it can become toxic. The smugger is like an irritating fly that buzzes about making judgments about your every movement under the guise of a 'friendly suggestion' or makes you feel complicit in an evil scheme to undermine the upwardly mobile and, thus, the progress of the nation/world ("What, you don't have a Facebook page?!")
Whether you're a music or film buff, a nutritional nut, happily married, a social queen or Prada-toting fashionista, smug can be avoided with a little self-deprecating humour, the ability to bite one's tongue when an opinion has not been sought and a bit of self-reflection. It can also be avoided by using one's smug potential for good (i.e. helping those with a deficit in some area – financial, spiritual, intellectual – with a genuine desire to see change and improvement in people; not simply for the glorification of one's own superiority).
Do we want to be known as smugly pains-in-the-butt or a friendly little helpers?
Girl With a Satchel
P.S. GWAS realises she is totally complicit in smugly behaviour, given her preference for certain intellectually superior/aesthetically appealing magazines over others. But there's a fine line between smug and plain old good taste.*