¿What? What’s this?!
Two blog posts in two days??
I know right. It’s magical.
Welcome to Heaven. Or Hell. Depending on how you look at it.
Recently I’ve been having a bit of trouble getting my head around a dilemma. A clash of absolutes, I guess you could call it.
- You shouldn’t care what everyone else thinks. You should do what you firmly believe in regardless of the consequences. You should be yourself, only yourself and fully yourself.
- You should try your hardest to understand where other people are coming from. You shouldn’t just mindlessly ignore other people if they disagree with you. You should try to appreciate different points of view.
Personally, I think both of these outlooks on life are admirable and key. There is definitely a case to be made about being yourself and not conforming mindlessly to societal expectations; you shouldn’t care what other people think of you and your decisions in life because if you act in fear of others’ judgements you won’t be proactive and you won’t believe in anything worthwhile. This is argued very well in this article.
Yet trying to understand where other people are coming from is also a vital skill. You can’t just go around living life getting upset at everyone who ever disagrees with anything you say or think, since otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get along with anyone. It’s important to recognise, appreciate and understand the differences between us in the way we value certain things above others and what we think life is all about.
So which mindset is more important?
Is it better to be yourself and not give a damn about others’ opinions, or is it better to be the person who is understanding of every point of view and think everyone deserves a say in a situation?
Because, to me, at first glance, the two ways of thinking are incompatible.
Popularity and people-pleasing
Without being overtly arrogant, I think I’m quite popular. A lot of people seem to like me and I don’t really know why. I just try to get along with anyone and I don’t think starting arguments with people left right and centre is a good way of using your time. It’s a lot better to try and make an effort to get along with people, (a) because life is a lot nicer lived that way but also (b) you never know when you’ll need them on your side.
But as I’ve grown up and more and more people have gotten to know me and like me, I’ve started to not want to change a thing. What I mean by that is people seem to like me for who I am, so it would seem natural to just keep on being who I am and that seems like an easy task.
But who I want to be and who I would like to be starts to be dictated by what other people want me to be. They like me, I like the fact that they like me, and therefore I don’t want to change too much of my personality in case they start not liking me.
i.e. I become a people-pleaser.
And although it is nice to go around pleasing everybody and trying to make sure everybody is having a nice time in life, that starts to bog you down. It starts to chip away at your sense of identity and your sense of who you want to be because you go around changing who you are and how you act and what you think depending on what others would prefer.
And that has really got to me recently. I’ve become a social chameleon, changing who I am based on the moment and my surroundings, and I’ve lost my foundations, my sense of who I want to be in any given moment no matter what the consequences.
So which is better?
I think I’ve created a false dichotomy. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s when you say you can either have A or B and that’s it when in fact that is not actually it.
An example would be:
You’re either with me or against me. Make your mind up now.
When actually it is perfectly reasonable to be with that person on some points and against that person on others. It’s turning the world into a black and white game and forgetting the
fifty many shades of grey.
It’s important to stay true to your core values, whilst also recognising that you’re bound to change some of those as you grow older and that’s ok. Yet it’s also important to understand the background and situations of others and not just run away at the first sign of disagreement or disapproval. Learning to balance them is the key.
If you’re looking for a formula which tells you how to balance them, then I’m about to disappoint you. I don’t have it. I think life is a bit more complicated than that.
Call me an idealist, but I think most (if not all) people have some little drop of inherent good inside of them, and a lot of the bad they end up doing is a result of nurture and circumstance. And so that would mean that ‘being yourself’ (easier said than done, by the way) would mean trying to be a goodish, decent person. And so along with that would come the idea to try and respect other people’s beliefs even if they strongly disagree with your own.
Maybe that’s not a solution. But it’s close enough. I think it’ll work for me for now.
Till next time 🙂