You may or may not know that I’m a very self-critical person who tends to pay undue attention to what goes on in the world around me. Whenever I sink into this habit, it is a sure indication that my self-esteem is crumbling, because instead of supporting itself from within, it seeks validation from outside. This has led to a rather worrying trend of how I “listen to what other people have to say” too often. Or more accurately, I “take what other people say too seriously”, etc. I sometimes forget that these people I’m listening to are as immature/insecure and fragile as I am, and that they too are perhaps projecting aspects of themselves instead of confronting their true selves.
I had a very enlightening conversation with my father last night. Here’s what I learned from them.
Rule 1: You are permitted to be selective
I am so tired of apologizing for myself, that I have abused the word sorry a little too often. No, I’m not sorry for liking the kind of music I like, reading the kind of books I like, having the kind of opinions I have. I understand that my world-view is still very young, and that these opinions are subject to the passage of time. However, I’ve spent hours and hours in misery, moping and wondering why my opinion is so different from other people’s, and why they think the way they think. I should have cared less, if not at all. But in times of self-contemplation, I always forget that I get to choose the people I call my friends. I have enough self-respect to know that my loyalty is earned, and therefore, when people seem to abuse it, I have the right to walk away. You don’t have to be with people who don’t make you happy.
Rule 2: There are no standards.
This is sort of derived from rule 1, and while somewhat controversial, I tend to agree. I’ve heard enough of things like, “Oh, he’s usually a nice guy” or “Don’t be so harsh on her. She’s actually a nice person.” This has led my self-criticism to believe that my “standards” are too harsh or too high, etc.
Let me use some observations from my over-analytic mind and make my point as a mathematical proof
- As free, sentient, sapient human beings, we have earned the right to dislike and disagree with things that we dislike and disagree. Sometimes, we can rationalize these feelings. But it is not necessary for us to explain to everyone why we have to.
- All human beings do not judge other human beings equally or by thee same criteria. Hence the subjectivity in opinion.
- This brings us to the idea that people have standards. Whether we consciously admit it or not, we do have certain standards for the people we call our friends/employers and/or the people we choose to be in relationships with. Some may make these standards public and obvious. For example, there used to be this rather snobby classmate who decided to include only those from affluent families in her friends circle. (It’s a petty standard, you could say, but it’s her standard and so it’s not subject to our opinions).
- Therefore, these criteria by which we evaluate apply to every human being we interact with. Before a person becomes your friend, you are treating them a certain way anyway. A person’s standards do not necessarily apply only when they know that they are being considered as potential friends/lovers.
So, there you go. There are no “standards”. There are only “ways to treat fellow human beings”. You can be nice about it or you can be nasty about it. Those are your choices, but nobody in the world should be able to tell you that your standards are too high. I’ve discovered that when people usually tell me that, it means that they are more lenient with bad behavior than I am. Should I be sorry that I was raised to treat people with respect?
It doesn’t matter what the other person says or does, if they cannot make you feel respected or cherished in their company. It’s simply a waste of time that could have been spent with someone else who truly does make you feel that they are worth investing time and emotion into.
Rule 3: Having expectations is okay
I’ve heard a lot about this. “Don’t expect too much from people, so that way you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.” This sort of misleading optimism is the kind that has made me tolerate many instances of bad, negative behavior for that one in a million chance that they might actually be nice to me for a change. There’s always the few days when people are having bad moods, mood swings, etc. As a friend and a person, you should draw the line if someone is projecting their negativity onto you by default or ALL THE TIME.
As someone who has suffered enough of this (and if you’re someone like me, listen up), you do not have to forcibly expose yourself to other people’s crap. Just don’t. It’s unfair to yourself to test your tolerance level. It is not character-building in anyway. I’ve ended up feeling miserable, inadequate, naive, shut-down because of my happiness and the other person continues to thrive among their own biases. It is okay to decide that enough is enough. It is okay to decide when something is not enough.
More so, it is okay to let these demands be known to the people involved. If they truly care, or were simply ignorant about what was upsetting you, then they will bother to listen. We can’t expect people to change themselves (Fact: they won’t. Time will). But if there’s any relation in which we feel that our sacrifices are unequal, or non-reciprocated, then it’s time to either stop making those sacrifices or let the other department know that there is something bothering you. It’s okay to expect, especially if you’re trying to meet their expectations.
There you have it. These are what I think should help me re-define the people I hang out with, so that their negativity doesn’t affect me as strongly. Maybe I could grow a thicker skin, or maybe I should have to focus my energy elsewhere in my life so that my social life doesn’t turn into a liability? Let me know if you have similar/digressing/other opinions below.