Thursday, September 19, 2013

When did "nerve" start to outweigh tact?

Let me start from the beginning.  Not so many years ago I was part of *that* crowd.  The "in-your-face" "I don't care what you think" crowd.  I think it's pretty par for the early teenage/early 20s age range.  However most of my friends from this crowd did not fit that demographic, they were much older.  One day, one of my friends, who I thought was very close and trusted, said something unbelievably heinous and mean to me, followed by the usual "I'm just telling the truth, I'm not going to sugar coat it, I'm not afraid to be real with my friends" or whatever version of that she believed would legitimize her behavior.

That was the exact moment I wondered "what the heck am I doing with these people?!"  Now, not all of them were horrible, insensitive, mean people, but I really sat down and looked at myself and them.  Why was I hanging around people like this?  Were they the type of person I wanted to become when I was their age (about 10 years older than I)?  What part of me is growing or becoming better because of my friendship with them?  Yes, I really did have one of these abc family movie moments in my head.

As I really studied things, there were a few things I noticed about this particular group of people.  And it was actually quite interesting to realize.

1) They were ALL low income.  ALL of them.  They were all on some sort of assistance to live, living in places that were not ideal, struggling to get out of their situation.  So was I.  I say this as a fact, not as a means to put them down.  Good people struggle and bad people prosper all the time.  But I thought to myself, "these people have been struggling for YEARS, what about them, their lives, their behavior, makes them unable to get out of their situation?"  Among many things they had no control over, I noticed they all had overpoweringly negative attitudes, and never tried to act any different than the place they were in.  I've read a lot of statistics about how negative attitudes and "poor behavior" keeps low income people low income, so this really interested me to notice it about my own friends.

2) They were unhappy about EVERYTHING.  Literally all they did was complain about other people.  They tore apart old friends that they didn't like anymore.  They tore apart beliefs they didn't share.  They tore everyone that disagreed with them to shreds.  All of the funny jokes were at someone else's expense.  And they lost a LOT of friends this way.  As some friends left, others would join, but only to participate in the shredding.  It was very depressing.  I joined in a lot, and I found it didn't help my mood any.  It felt good to get my anger out, but at the same time, it would start a lot of fights when the victims would find out (and they always would, by some magical anonymous person that would clue them in), and it would cause me great anxiety to constantly wonder who was hating me, who was talking about me, what if I said something stupid, then I'd get ripped to shreds, etc.  You always know that when a group of people tear apart someone else when you're there, they're doing them same to you when you're not there.  Being around such unhappiness all the time was really draining!  I found myself thinking constantly about what negative thing I could share with them, which then made me constantly think about generally negative things.  I couldn't share spiritual experiences with them because they tear religious conversation to shreds all the time.  I couldn't share kid experiences with them because they were constantly putting their kids down or mocking motherhood because it was funny, and I didn't want to seem like that "my kid is better than yours" kind of person.  I couldn't share anything positive because there was always some way it made me different, and different meant mockery.

3)  They were always being EXTREMELY rude under the guise of "nerve".  As in "I have the guts/the nerve/the balls to say this because I'm tougher than you!".  And their outsides matched their insides.  They looked tough, angry and mean, and did whatever they could to make their appearance unapproachable to anyone that didn't know them.  It's funny, because the people who do this are usually the softest inside.  My mom calls them M&Ms.  Hard on the outside, melty in the middle.  We all know people build up walls because their insides are vulnerable and blah blah blah, but I always thought they had some mysterious strength that gave them the confidence to do and say what they did.  I was so wrong.  Confidence is not being as rude as humanly possible to people because you want them to think you're tough.  Confidence is not "saying what everyone else is thinking".  Confidence is being true to yourself and who you WANT to be, even if that fits in perfectly and makes you another "lemming" or whatever they want to call it.  I guarantee you, 99% of these negative, rude people do not like themselves, and that's why they act so rude.  Rudeness is a weak person's imitation of strength.  I bought into it whole heartedly, and I lost a lot of friends this way.

This is actually the point where I stopped and said "why?".  Why am I doing this?  What can I do to change it?  I don't like me this way.  Why do people think that acting this way is good?  I mean, I know it's typical teenage behavior because they're still in the egocentric phase of life, but what about those people who never grow out of it?  When did we become a society of "nerve" instead of tact?

People say "you're just afraid to say what's on your mind because then you wont fit in." Is that so bad?  Fitting in is what gets you jobs, gets your foot in the door of places where you can begin to stand out.  And don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean you have to become this cookie cutter whatever to fit in.  It just means there are certain rules of society that MUST be followed, WHILE you establish your originality.  The people I used to hang out with never understood this one point.  You cannot be running around in torn up clothes with F-bombs all over it, calling republicans or democrats or tea partiers or whatever happens to be the cool thing to insult profanities and not showering ever, and expect to get a high paying job.  It just doesn't work that way.  You don't have to become some unidentifiable Wall Street carbon copy either, but you still have to abide by basic tactful behavior.

And I came to realize, sometimes that includes keeping your mouth shut.

This is still hard for me.  SO hard.  People post things so aggravatingly inaccurate about something I believe online and it becomes physically painful to keep myself from correcting them.  But sometimes this is the better way.  Being an adult includes weighing what matters versus what wont- in the long run.  Does it compromise my values and beliefs to let this thing go?  No?  Then shut up.  Standing up for yourself or your beliefs has a time and a place, believe it or not, and that time and place isn't every moment of every day.  The butcher that laughs at blonde jokes.  The bus driver that hates kids.  The anti-breastfeeding grandma in Kohls.  The jerk that cut you off then gave you the finger while driving on the freeway.  These people don't matter.  These people are not worth changing their minds because they don't impact you.  These people can harm you if you attempt vigilante justice (okay, maybe not the grandma in kohls, but you get my point).  You can try to change everyone's mind every second of every day, but it's not going to work.

So just shut up.

My old friends never did.  They'd literally hunt down people that disagreed with them, just to charge in together and beat their point into people violently.  At any cost.  Mocking serious human pain, tearing down people in already unbearable situations that had nothing to do with the topic at hand, just to get the upper hand.  Disclosing extremely personal information to expose a person's weakness.  It was vicious.

Unfortunately that's the state of society right now.  Politics isn't about who is the better candidate, it's about who has the most skeletons in their closet and who is the worst.  You don't win by being good, you win by exposing the faults of the opponent.  If you don't like your teacher?  Expose her moonlighting gig as a bartender at a topless bar, and get her fired.  You don't like someone in a place of power?  Expose something- anything- about them that someone on this planet could find negative, sensationalize it, and there you go.  Even if you completely make it up, their name is smeared forever, and google will always show the accusation as a hit when you search for their name.  It is so easy to ruin someone's life, and for what?  For a moment of power?

Nobody can truly be happy when they get their happiness from ruining other people.  It's a temporary happiness gained from the feeling of power, and because it's temporary, it constantly needs to be replenished.  So they keep doing it.

How did I fix this?  So far my solutions have been surrounding myself with positive people, and trying my best to be a more positive person. But this train of thought, this very very long realization about myself, has no ending yet.  All I have figured out so far is how to start becoming the person I want to be.  But breaking old habits is hard, and I revert to my former self often.  Unfortunately the friendships I lost will never truly be mended.  Not to mention this seemingly insurmountable obstacle called clinical depression.  But as I try to become more positive, it's helped me get to better places in my life, and hopefully as I continue to phase negativity out, I can learn to handle the negative people better.

As for society and its similar problem?  I don't really know.  My two cents would be to put more money and time into mental health issues, because as we see, those who truly tear down others have a serious lacking in their lives, and need professional help.  I would also stop stigmatizing being poor, and instead train people on how not to be poor.  Not just in money, but in behavior, in thought, in attitude, in responsibility.  In high school, teach a manners class!  Teach a "interviewing for a job" class!  Teach a "respectable online behavior" class!  Teach classes kids will need to know in order to succeed.  Not just book and lecture classes, but classes on being a human being.  Close the wage gap by treating the lesser employees like human beings that have bills to pay and mouths to feed.  Maybe then things will change and it will feel less like us vs. them and more like we are all in this life together.

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