“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Repetitively questioning your decisions and not taking responsibility for important decisions can be a result of having made poor decisions in the past. Unfortunately, sometimes you make a significant decision in life, and it makes a complete mess of everything. This can be incredibly disheartening, especially if you are surrounded by egotistical, insensitive, self-centred and judgemental people who get extreme pleasure from pointing out your failures.
The thought of making a decision and then things going wrong could mean ridicule and pain. So it’s much easier to let someone else take charge and make the decisions as the responsibility and repercussions will be on them, right? Sound familiar?
We all feel the fear of failure and its punishing effects. It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous and fearful when making a decision. But it is not the fear of failure as much as the fear of judgement that hampers us. What will people say when you fail? People will laugh and talk about how stupid you are.
A study of a variety of people in retirement homes showed that there weren’t many people who regretted things they did and failed in – there were, however, plenty who regretted not trying.
Failing to do something is perfectly acceptable but yielding to fear of other people’s judgement is failure in its truest sense. I promised myself I would not add to all the noise online and in self-help guides about failure being a necessary component of success and all that great fluff, but I will say that failure is a necessary component of success!
The agonising truth is that the people around you, if you allow them, can be the medicine that heals you or the poison that destroys you. Although it is tragic, it can sometimes be the people closest to you who can’t stomach the idea of you accomplishing something that will propel you forward. You’ll find that these people are stuck themselves, and you moving forward will make them even more afraid and insecure. The idea of you doing something worthwhile will only make them feel worse about themselves because they are not courageous enough to do anything daring or uncertain themselves. This deep, uncontrollable fear quickly mutates into envy and jealously. And before you know it, they are looking to sabotage your success. It’s that crab mentality we keep hearing about.
This is, however, an extreme example – there are many other ways the people around you can affect your personal growth and ambitions. They don’t always mean to do it, and they don’t do it malevolently. They do it because they live by a set of values and have convinced themselves that everyone should live by the same values.
My first adult experience of this was many years ago, before facial hair was the trend. I liberally allowed my facial hair to grow and liked how it looked on me and how it made me feel. I remember walking into the office to be met by a peculiar gaze from one of my good friends. He stared long enough for me to feel uncomfortable. So, I did what any gentlemen would do; I asked him what the bloody hell he was looking at?!
He shook his head and then replied, “You haven’t shaved in days! Are you going to clean that crap off your face or what?”
I gave him a curious smile, “What do you mean. I haven’t shaved because I don’t want to. I quite like how the beard looks on me.”
“Yeah, right!” he laughed, “You need to shave it off, mate.”
“Because you need to look normal!”
And that’s when the familiar anxiety of conformity and desperately trying not to stand out came rushing back.
School was an experience. An institution that taught you more about human and inhumane behaviour than any scientific study ever conducted. School was a place where civilisation and the law of the jungle were so intertwined that something as simple as a bad haircut could result in instant death. There was no room for mistakes, and no mistakes ever went unpunished.
The rulers of the kingdom in school were ruthless, cruel tyrants. It was a place of discrimination, hate, and chaos, where size, strength, and status mattered. The strong assembled in factions, casting out the different and callously torturing and humiliating the weak. The regime without trial or jury annihilated nonconformists. Informants were considered traitors and publicly shamed and then hung, drawn, and quartered.
It was, without a shred of doubt, survival of the fittest.
This is where I learned that people who had no sense of individuality or creativity themselves could not allow others to display it. It was a horrific process of cleansing. When someone did something that did not conform to how the tyrants wanted, there was an instant declaration of war.
Like the tyrant rulers in school, my friend had a set of values that he not only conformed to himself but also felt I should conform to. He placed his view and value in the realms of what, in his opinion, society classed as “normal”. Thus, he thought he was doing me a favour, saving me from being judged and ostracised for being abnormal by other conformists.
Although my friend, unlike the school tyrants, took a nonviolent approach to impose his values on me, it showed me that there wasn’t much difference between school and life beyond it. Same judgements, same discriminations, and same imposing of values. Same factions, same cliques, and same fears. Children are brutal and brave in their opinions – one could claim that they speak their mind – irrespective of offending or whether what they believe is acceptable by any standard.
As we get older, we, in most cases, become a little more aware and sensitive to other people’s feelings. And we skilfully sugarcoat our opinions to avoid confrontation and offending. Some people would call this politeness.
This made me ask a lot of questions about society and values, particularly my values. A quote from Confucius sprung to my mind, “When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.”
It is irresponsible, unjust, and foolish not to consider other people’s values. It is also a good idea to ensure that the values you live by are good and do not hurt or discriminate against others. I know it sounds absurd even to think that your values could be wrong, but it might be the case – you might be the problem.
If you respect other people’s values, you might find that they will respect yours.