We have to get along with others. That’s the indirectly spoken rule in society. We were taught since we were kids that if you weren’t apart of the group you were the weirdo or the outcast. Even the adults, whether intentional or not, enforced this belief by rewarding those that got along with one another. Brownie points for sharing. Extra cookie for being nice. Participation awards for things you’d rather not have done in the first place.
We were forced to get along with everyone. Forced to say hi to strangers and only take candy from them on a designated day. Forced to hug relatives you’ve never met. Forced to share your candy with kids at the park. Most of the time when you asked “Why?” the response was:
“Because you want to treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t you want them to share candy with you?”
What a thing to tell a child. My five-year-old will trade me for a chocolate bar without waiting to hear the consequences first. Of course, I want some of Linda’s gummy worms, you know, if she ever gets around to even having any to share with me.
The problem with the simplicity of this paradigm is one day Linda gets the gummy worms, she doesn’t share with you, now you’re in the hole one Hersey’s kiss with nothing to show for your forced kindness.
This goes on and on for years of your life and further in the hole you go, one chocolate kiss at a time until one of two things happens. You become utterly selfish or you can’t stop handing out your candy.
What should be taught is the balance between appropriate selfishness and reasonable sharing, but if you’re anything like me and you have fought with this, losing more times than not, then something else needs to happen to remove years of trauma with living for others. Regardless of what people may believe, it is a trauma. Every time you held back doing something you knew you should or should not have done, your ego takes a hit. After taking so many hits, you become a fragment of who you believe you should be. We begin to question our judgment and try to hold on to being a good person and what we believe it entails.
Some people aren’t even aware that they have given up so much of themselves to get along with others. To them, as long as there is minimum friction, they must be on the right track. But the battle within themselves ensues, thinking about all the things they wish they could have done and all the things they wanted to say. It shows up as microaggressions, passive-aggressiveness, drug or alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety and a shit load of other mental and emotional ailments. They don’t even realize they’re handing out candy wrappers, having no more chocolate to give.
How do we combat this doormat attitude, where our fears of being seen unapproachable and unagreeable override our own sense of well being?
The answer is pretty simple, but there are going to be some phases you have to prepare for because remember, you are undoing years of laying down and taking it, which means your environment, career, home life social networks and relationships are in for some unpleasant and shocking changes.
You need to say “NO!” and say it without compromise. That’s the first thing to do. You have to get into the swing of things and that means practicing something you are unaccustomed to trying. Tell people NO. Even if you feel like they may hate you for it (they will), even if they try to make you feel guilty for it (they will do that too), and even if they threaten they won’t do anything for you either (they mean it and nine times out of ten, they wouldn’t have anyway).
You’ll start seeing who really cares about your feelings and who was just leeching off of your empty candy jar. I like candy.
Then you’ll have to get used to the loneliness and the fact that you did depend on some of them for things you needed. Of course, by now you’ll have realized that it always came with a price but a part of your dependency that required you to acquiesce your power now has to figure out how to do without. And it’s not easy, you may start questioning yourself believing that it wasn’t that big of a request and you could have said yes to avoid the drama. There lies the imbalance. They seem so capable without you, yet you feel you cannot do without them.
The burning resentment that comes from doing favors is not a sign of inner selfish that cannot be forgiven, but the conscientious awareness that what you are doing is not beneficial to your wellbeing because it makes it you uncomfortable. If you were truly being selfish, you would feel a sense of pride or enjoyment by withholding your share from others even when it would benefit you not to do so.
If you can take the time to consider with deep contemplation trivial matters that occur in your life like, what outfit to wear to a party or which new phone you want to buy, then you can think about your values and boundaries with the same time you allot everything else. But thinking about them is only half the battle. You must then be prepared to execute and stand by those values.
Here is what I know from practicing the art of appropriate selfishness the f***ck them if you will. Those that disappear because of your newfound boundaries weren’t there for you in the first place and those that stick around have what you’ve been seeking along. Respect.
Following your path and making the decision in your life that suits your purpose is no one else’s business. Who cares if they don’t approve? Who cares if they ridicule you? Who cares if they pull back their support? Would you rather live a half-ass life where you only feel allowed to make certain decisions concerning your happiness or would you rather dance to the beat of your drum and watch the crowd that feels your music come to dance with you -without asking you to change the tune?