I hate to be set in my ways on anything. I mean anything. Food choices, taste in beer, music, art, and everything up to and including my social ideals. I’d like to think I’m rationally progressive. But the older I get, the more I plant my feet into the dirt on the opinion that wherever I explore, there will always be a few shitty people.
The people who slow other people down, blockade their ambition, make them feel inferior, and if everything works out, make them seem unwanted. And as I get older, I realize more and more that it has less and less to do with me. The problem belongs to them. Before I arrived to this hypothesis, I used to tone myself down around them. I actually changed who I was in their presence, and temporarily stunted my growth as a person. I gave these losers credence. And I let them define me.
Today, I’d like to say that I’m on the outer edge of this negativity vortex. I’ve become more involved in improving my own pursuits instead of adjusting my endeavors to suit my tormentors. No longer taking the inordinate time to consider the viewpoints of these shitty people. Shitty people that should consider themselves lucky to darken a few shades in the Venn diagram of my life. I listened to enough verbal barbs. I had inflicted enough self-punishment. I went to therapy, spent hours reflecting on the interpersonal aspects of my life, and became stronger. Enhanced by no longer allowing the following types of people to define me:
1. The Unhappy
A classic characteristic of unhappy people is that they’d rather defeat the spirit of a happy person than attempt to understand why they’re so unhappy. The longer they’re unhappy, the better equipped they are at disarming a happy person. Better at putting that person down, better at quick-fire insults, and better at snowballing another person’s tiny flaws to mask their own.
If someone goes out of their way to invade your personal space and make you unhappy, tell them to go fuck themselves. And do it without subjecting yourself to remorse. This isn’t “stooping to their level,” it’s “drawing a line.” You didn’t fire the first shot, they did. You just followed the rules of engagement. Explain to them why they’re an ass, and then move on.
Happy people live life from present to future, doing their best to keep going forward. Unhappy people live in the rearview mirror without sentiment and are constantly thinking about how other people have “crossed” them. Once you’ve stated your piece, leave that loser behind. It’s up to them to apologize, respect you, and ascend to your level.
2. The Risk Adverse
They’re right there to advise you to not do something outside of your comfort zone, and right there when you fail. And when you fail (trust me, failure happens often, but often it’s a good thing) they’ll remind you of every warning you ignored, how “careless” you were with their advice, and how their prophecy was fulfilled. Take the feedback, consider it, and then be on your way without second thoughts.
You don’t let this person define you because they don’t have character. Deep down they have a lot of regret too. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. As long as you’re not endangering anyone or a danger to yourself, you’re taking a shot at growth. Don’t let the covertly spineless suffocate you. If life’s a journey, then it’s worthy of adventure.
3. The Online Presence
I’ve been on Facebook for 10 years now (scary), and I think I can finally state my theory: the more ‘friends’ you have on Facebook, the less ‘true friends’ you have in real life. Foxhole buddies aren’t made on Facebook. And neither are good advisors.
The people you grow with are the people that you’ve had life-altering experiences with. Not the people that helped you tag-team a political comment thread back in 2012.
Being popular on Facebook is the opposite of being interesting. The world needs more interesting people. It’s cool to see your friends as they progress through life and achieve milestones, but it’s tremendously not cool when they seek approval from Facebook.
Facebook is crawling with too many self-aggrandizing assholes to ever be considered seriously. Don’t ever try to be Facebook popular. If it happens because you’re great, then that’s fine. Otherwise don’t let applied narcissism define you.
4. The Person who has “It All Figured Out”
Never trust the inexplicably confident and zealous. They lack self-awareness. If they’re set in their ways, investigate every facet of their ideology. 160 years ago, Slavery was “OK.” 50 years ago, tobacco didn’t lead to cancer. 20 years ago, the Catholic Church couldn’t admit it had a “boy problem.” Don’t let someone who’s stuck in the mud get mud on your shoes.
If someone has never been broken, reduced to nothing, and/or never had to crawl their way out of hardship, then there’s no gauge of their mettle. And don’t take one answer to be “the answer” (unless it’s a mathematical certainty of the physical world). Constantly question what you think and what others think. And constantly seek new sources of information. The world is evolving faster today than it was yesterday, and will be evolving faster tomorrow than it is today. A smart person doesn’t realize how smart they are, they realize how smart they’re not. Don’t let someone’s willful ignorance define you.
5. People Who Use the Word ‘Liberal’ Incorrectly
Liberal is synonymous with “progressive, compassionate, and accepting.” Not what the pandering Fox News pundits are paid to say. Being Liberal does not mean that you are also a “Hippy.” It does not mean that you’re a “pussy” or a “pushover.” Being Liberal also does not mean that you are Liberal on everything. Think for yourself, and don’t let one-dimensional buffoons define you. Go ahead and listen to that country music if you want to.
6. The Hyper Religious
By being Agnostic or Atheist, you already have way better reasons for not-believing than any religious person has ever had for believing. Religion is not based in logic or fact, and folds under proper scrutiny. So don’t let anyone guilt you about not believing in a god, or admitting that you don’t know there is a god. They don’t know either. If they claim to know, they’re blinded by “faith” and delusional. Don’t let someone bully you with an invisible product or get pissy with you because you won’t fall in line with their manifestation of an unknown. If you’re a free thinker, don’t let someone living in the dark define you.
7. The Grudge-Master
Cliche coming in 3… 2… 1… Life is too short to be petty. It’s true. Those who anger you control you. Besides, you should be invested more in where your life is heading and not at all in something that peeved you somewhere back down the line. Take the broken record advise and move forward. Leave backward thinking to the miserable Grudge-master.
8. The Jilted Lover
Saying that some guy “stole” “your” girl makes you appear sexist and shows that you view women as property. Some guys figure out that this is veiled misogyny sometime around their early 20s. Yet there are others that just don’t. If you’re experiencing input from the latter, be careful what you confide in them. Because they likely do other emotionally immature things. Don’t let the resentment of a jilted lover define you.
9. Mr. (Ms.) Vicarious
Just like the title implies, this person lives through your accomplishments and your failures. Using you as a measuring stick for how great (if you succeed) or how superior (if you fail) they are for being your friend. Most of their stories seem to be from your perspective, and that’s just weird. But when your friend is just another evaluator — ready to champion your corner when you’re doing well, but equally ready to throw you on the bus when things seem down — are they really interested in helping you grow? No. They prefer the coziness of coat-tails. So don’t appease these people. They’ve observed from the sidelines so long that they’re stuck there. Live your life on the field. Don’t let them define you.
10. The Inactive Listener
You talk to them, albeit through a series of interruptions. They heard your words, but listened very little. By the end of the conversation, you wonder if they’ve digested anything you’ve said, or have just been waiting for their turn to speak.
You notice how many talking heads often have guests on their show with differing viewpoints, but instead of hearing their guests out, they often interrupt them? Seems to be a very inefficient way to enlighten yourself, right? Odds are, the pundits are doing this for pay. Staying true to their audience. But this is exactly how an inactive listener makes you feel. As if you’re a guest on their show, and whatever you have to say will never find a footing in what truly interests them.
Don’t absorb this habit. Become an observer first, contributor second. Don’t let an inactive listener define you.
This doesn’t mean you should turn your back on feedback. But you should treat it with discretion, and take effort to tease out the noise from the signal. Maybe you’ll get burned a few times along the way, but so what, getting burned just another great feedback mechanism. Hopefully now, you’re ready to learn from it.