It is very rare that you meet someone in today’s society that tells you something you don’t want to hear (but what if you do want to hear it, you just don’t know it yet?) Unfortunately I think far too many of us have become people-pleasers to say the least, and in a lot of situations, dare I say it, fake. Or maybe to put a lighter touch on it we just don’t want to over-step boundaries or upset people. But it’s only in stepping outside boundaries that we allow each other to learn about ourselves and grow, so is this really as nice as we think it is?
There are not enough people out there that challenge others, whether its with friends or strangers, so as not to upset the status quo we have become a generation of yes men. Whether it’s not telling people what you actually think or much worse.. social media ‘liking’ (flattering) someone but not actually liking the person, I’m not saying this applies to everyone, but there are a lot of offenders out there (I definitely used to be one of them). Is there something so wrong with keeping the social peace? Is it such a terrible thing? Are we actually all just severely nicey-nice people and ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ saints at heart? Or is the real reason we act this way because that’s just how we want to be perceived and not who we actually are?
It’s ok not to like everyone and it’s ok that not everyone will like you. The sooner you accept this the happier you will be.
I personally stopped engaging in people-pleasing a short while ago. You can feel more alone in a room with 20 not so well-intentioned friends than you would if you were all by yourself. It’s important to surround yourself with people who make you a better you, people that challenge you, people who love you and aren’t afraid to be honest with you, especially when you really need someone to be honest. The realisation that it’s ok to disagree with people you care about sometimes because everyone is different, is a crucial one. I used to be very stubborn and slightly disillusioned into thinking that if I had a disagreement with someone, that was it (this was my childish ‘my way or the highway’ trait coming into play). The best thing that ever happened to me was when a close friend said to me “if something doesn’t go your way you think the whole world is upside down, but in real life things really aren’t going to go your way all the time, so you can’t just push people away because of it”.
It was harsh at the time but it was true, I realised it’s ok to disagree with people, its human nature, it’s real, we are not built to merely get by and agree on everything, we were designed with different opinions so that we do challenge each other (and what a boring world it would be if we didn’t). Like I said, that’s how we grow.
I’m a slight control freak and I love planning, organising and order in general (or used to maybe I should say) but at least I’m aware of it. My former self has evolved into someone who actually barely ever falls out with people now, my self-awareness of that irrational stubbornness has blossomed and continues to (I’m sure it still has a long way to go). But this isn’t to be confused with me not disagreeing with people anymore, i just accept disagreement now, I look at it very differently, with an inside smile (try it and see how your next dispute goes).
I do have a slight OCD that I like everything to be done exactly how I’d do it, but now I’ve learnt to enjoy letting go of that control. In fact it’s kind of exciting. It feels uneasy and then it feels like growth, then before you know it you’re a care-free nomad with no structure, consistency, continuity or real control over how your days or weeks pan out. Choosing each destination as you go, never knowing who is waiting on the other side of the inter-State bus journey in the peering opposite hostel bunk-bed for you. They say the best way to conquer your fears are to face them. Well I guess you could call being out of control and living in the un-known a ‘fear’ of mine, so equally you will now understand more about the journey I’m on. Funny how life plays out isn’t it?
Self confessions aside, the reason behind this blog was a gentleman I met two weeks ago on the east coast. He was from the infamous LA and we will call him ‘treasure’, you will see why shortly. Treasure had so much personality that it could fill any room, a flamboyant, larger-than-life character with more emerging layers than a crisp onion. There was an outer layer of swag and charisma, an inner layer of outstanding intellect and perspective and a heart of gold right at the centre. He spoke 5 (or more) languages, he was previously a professional dancer (he’s danced with Justin Bieber and Chris Brown), and did I mention he was only 30 and part-owned a chain of hostels? Well, I was fortunate enough to be a guest of his.
He had an interesting story, a real-life Will Smith that (genuinely) grew up with his auntie and uncle in Bel-air (It gets me literally every time). Masters educated in computer graphics and previously pursuing a career in a reputable, not to mention impressive job at Pixar. Alike me, he gave it all up for something more, to chase his dreams, to live a fulfilling life, to have ownership of his own daily choices, to be surrounded by new and different people every day. An open book and yet enigma at the same time, he offered various facts about his life but facts are all they were, there was little opinion or emotion at first. I probed, as I do, and unveiled why, and it turns out he was keen to do some probing himself. Little did I know that every minute I’d been intrigued and psycho-analysing him, he’d been doing the same to me.
Treasure challenged my reasons for doing many things, in a way a lot of people don’t. Sometimes abruptly, almost always thought-provokingly, but never rude, I found it endearing. He wasn’t afraid to say that he saw certain behavioural traits in me, but instead of just telling me, he made me actually think about it myself and more to the point dig deeper as to why. He planted the seed and then let me water it. A cryptic message in passing in the corridor, a riddle on the stairs, I found myself slightly bedazzled. Not to be mistaken for someone mentally antagonising another, It felt healthy, and I’m not talking physical health or internal bodily health, I’m talking mentally. My mental health was being exercised, it was going for a work-out followed by a relaxing spa weekend. My mental health ordered the full brain therapeutic massage and it didn’t disappoint. I found myself thinking about things that I probably already knew in my sub-conscious but maybe just haven’t given enough light to.
In challenging my thinking the way he did, I not only came to some important realisations about myself, but what I noticed is that when he then complimented me, it was the most fulfilling compliment I could possibly receive, because it came from a place and a person that was honest and real. No force or fakeness behind it, and no alterior motive, plain and simple sincerity from a guy who truly believed ‘knowledge is power’ and endeavoured to empower people every day. Thank you Treasure for making my stay, truly unforgettable.
I guess my lasting message is; if you people-please your way through life, liking everything and everyone, and all they do, how do you think your compliments and good wishes are received? Are they rare and deserving? Or are they so commonplace they have become a mere greeting? Expected? A way of now saying hello? Will you have the same impact on someone that treasure had on me? I’m not insinuating we shouldn’t compliment people, compliments make the world go round, a better place, but do it with sincerity. Do it for the people you love or admire, do it for the people who inspire you, and challenge them alongside that too. Make your compliments gold dust and allow your challengers to enable other people to grow. Every man’s treasure is different. Be the treasure in someone else’s life and you may find treasure yourself.
‘Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him like you would a guide to hidden treasure’ ~ Buddha
As always, comments welcome and appreciated. Sent with love from Chicago/photo taken goofing around in Adler Planetarium in Chicago last week (I heart space).