This may be the most, or least, relatable post I ever I do. The first part is general thoughts about interacting with others, which we’ve all probably heard 1000 times. The second part is about how selfish I think I am.
Something I try to be intentionally cognizant of is other people’s perspective, and the idea of “I know maybe 10% of the full story“.
This applies to two realms.
When someone does something perceived as wrong, careless, ignorant, etc. I always try to give them the benefit of the doubt, whatever the situation may be. Whether it’s a close friend, customer at work, or a total stranger. Before getting upset or drawing conclusions, I actively try to think about either putting myself in their shoes or understanding that I don’t know the full situation. What’s something I don’t know here that actually would justify their actions? If I feel I know enough to conclude the person is an asshole, then I can be mad, but otherwise, I refrain. I believe the world would benefit from more (all) people doing this.
News / Celebrity
Stories come out everyday about how some person or company is an asshole. I virtually always hold off judgement because the story is never fully known. Sometimes, it turns out that these people are monsters, which I happily admit to after the fact. Sometimes, it turns out they’re not so bad, or that the story fabricated entirely. Regardless, measured is better.
Additionally, it feels wrong coming to conclusions about the type of person someone is without ever having met them or knowing what their life might be like.
While these two thoughts above are not profound, they are something I actively remind myself of every day.
Now, onto how selfish I am.
Taylor Swift has the following lyric in her new song Anti-Hero:
“Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism“
Regardless of what you think of that rhyme, I’ve felt like this countless times in my life.
Here’s my most recent example – I spent time giving honest feedback to a friend about a piece of work they put together. I didn’t half-ass it, and it wasn’t all positive. I didn’t have to do it, but I spent probably ~five hours writing my best comments (whether they actually benefited from it… who knows).
On the surface, I’m happy to help a friend, and in this case it was something I genuinely enjoyed doing.
But hidden underneath it all I couldn’t help myself thinking about his reaction; the ‘Wow, Sam really tried to help here, what a great guy.’ It was a constant undertone in my brain.
And that constant thought makes me question the act entirely. I start wondering ‘Am I doing this out of the good of my heart, or am I just selfish? Does it even matter?‘
I would say this – I reviewed the work because I genuinely wanted to help him and it was something I enjoyed doing, NOT because I wanted him to think highly of me. Frankly I like helping people in general. I would even say that I never do things ENTIRELY because I want people to think highly of me.
Another easy example is running. I run because I like it, and I try to run fast because I think it’s fun and I like the feeling of accomplishment. But on the side, I can’t help but wonder what people might think about me if I run a really fast time (for me). It’s not WHY I’m trying to run fast, but it’s there.
There are 100 examples throughout my life like this where I’m overly aware of how I will appear to other people. They always paint me in a positive light. And although I rarely advertise these great actions, I fixate on the idea of what people will think of me when / if they find out. Sometimes it’s just one person, and what they’ll think. Sometimes I think of dozens of scenarios, involving dozens of people, interactions that will almost certainly never happen, but I still think about them.
WITH THAT SAID
I find it equally fascinating as to WHY I think about it. I honestly can’t help it. Is this something everyone does? Just some percentage of the population? Are these characteristics consistent with certain personality types? Ted Bundy probably thought like this.
I imagine ‘this’ is a known thing, but I haven’t heard a name for it other than just being selfish or self-centered, which it sort of is, but not in the traditional way. It’s not ‘I need people to like me‘ or even ‘I’m so worried what people think about me‘. I don’t get anxious about it and like I said, I don’t do anything specifically for this self-serving reason. If I did, I’d post a lot more on social media or something.
But on the topic of this blog series, this is something I think about all the time. Both the literal situations of how I’m perceived based off an action, and also wondering why I obsess about those thoughts. I can’t be alone here, right? I bet you’re all so impressed by this post!