The common mistake of overestimating your own relevance

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As an admirer of design and poetry, I feel ashamed for reading and (occasionally) agreeing with these cheesy pictures.
The quotes have the poetic quality of fortune cookies, are poorly designed and popular on Tumblr. No matter how blatantly trivial the statement is: Sometimes they fit very well.

When taken for granted people often experience a lack of appreciation. Their kindness and care have become a standard while the work and effort behind are left without credit. Obviously, this imbalance is problematic and will lead to conflict sooner or later. Whether this is reminding on an ex-partner, a former friends or even family member: The motivation to support people shrinks drastically in the face of ungratefulness.

It’s weird. With autumn being around the corner and the weather growing colder I found myself becoming harsher as well. As if trying to compete with the trees shedding their leaves, I am eagerly cutting people out of my life. The last weeks have been undoubtedly tough but the stress helped me to open my eyes. Some people are straight up shit. Like so shit that I have really no reason for keeping them in my life.
The story in short: While I made an effort to support these people as good as I can, I did not have the impression of gaining much of the friendship apart from disappointment, weak excuses and empty promises. I am currently struggling with many things at once and I do not have any energy to spare. Especially not for people who are hardly trying to be useful. Fuck them.
This time the overall conclusion was very very simple: Bye.
It is a practice I do on a regular basis since keeping my environment healthy is just too important. Moreover, it is a question of efficiency as well.

How dare I?

To make this perfectly clear: these cuts never come suddenly. I give warning shots on different occasions. The final decision of letting people go is always a conclusion of incidents in the past.
On good days I try to give people a fair and useful description of why I am tired of them.
On bad days I keep it very short.
On very bad days I tell them to fuck off.

Do you know that is very funny though? Sometimes people have the damn audacity to try convincing me that I do a grave mistake. As if I am about to lose something precious.

“You can always text me if you change your mind.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“It would be a shame to end things like this.”

Ok, so first of all, no. Just a big NO.

Why on fucking earth should I want to endure this attitude much longer? It is obviously god damn easy saying this from their position. You had no disadvantage from the friendship and are in fact losing a useful toy here.
It’s pretty much asking: “Yo dude, you sure you don’t want to do some emotional labour for absolutely nothing in return?” (Surprise the answer is still no.)
I fail to see what I gain from changing my mind. Where is the value of this relationship? What makes it worth all the shit?

To me, it feels as if we have two different judgements colliding here. While one party feels unappreciated, the other sees hardly a problem in the current dynamic. For them, the friendship has been functioning before and still is. Reading this choice as a mistake is oddly logical.
It does not change anything about my feelings though. No matter how much fun and laughter I have shared with people: In the end, it has little meaning to me if strangers can easily replace them. How am I supposed to make the world a better place when my well-being comes too short? It is not my job to teach people about being a good friend to me.

Displaced Trust: A painful lesson

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Photo: Jenny L.

Only a few things hurt more than a loved person letting you down. Whether it is your significant other, your best friend or even your own family: it hurts, maybe not so much physically but emotionally.

My trust does not come easily and I am sceptical towards most people. A friend who hurts you – even if it’s unintended – feels more gruesome and painful than usual. It is because we were neither prepared nor protected for this fall.
We call people friends and we keep them close for a reason. Ironically, it is that very reason why these moments leave us paralyzed.

I always thought I was a good judge of character and can see through lies. It seems that my vision gets clouded when I have invested a certain amount of trust in people. Why so? Calling somebody a friend – especially close friends – comes with many responsibilities. You tend to be more honest with each other, caring and protective. These are the differences between your friends and a brief acquaintance.

Would I call a person I just met last Sunday when I am having a panic attack? Probably not. The idea of presenting myself that vulnerable to a stranger doesn’t seem pleasant. I guess this is also one reason why therapy tends to needs some time until it progresses: Opening up to somebody we don’t know (yet) and therefore don’t trust is hard. In other words, the act of building trust in a person is a form of work by overcoming your own distrusting nature.

There is a reason why I don’t burst into tears when the bus driver was rude to me this morning. During the day I am aware that I will need some wall to protect me from unfairness. It is sad but the reality we live in. On the contrary, I had tears many times when a friend said something equally rude in the heat of a discussion.

Besides the trust and love we feel, we also see a set of expectations towards our friend. Or maybe it’s just me. I tend to assume that my friends and I have similar values. Whatever I would do for them I like to believe they would do the same for me. This concept of mirrored devotion does not work. The abilities that I have and the circumstances I’m living in are not the same as the ones my friends face. We are different and I forget about it. This concept is meant to disappoint. When you build up a set of expectations on this theory it can differ from the reality a lot.
I guess I need to look at it from a different point of view: How is the other person supposed to know the extent of my devotion if we never talked about it? Therefore, how is the other person supposed to know what I expect from them?

With that in mind, I try to recover from my current disappointment. Somewhere torn between “This just can’t be true! This is a big misunderstanding!” and “Wow, that person was my friend and did it anyway.” I try to evaluate what happened. For now, I feel that my expectations were too high and my trust not really justified. I feel stupid and I started to doubt my own judgement in the oddest moments now.

If friendship was a game then my expectations were its rules and I believed that my friends and I were both following them. Seeing it that way it reminded me a lot of the following quote from Peter Pan:

“Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. […] After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.” ― J.M. Barrie

Why are you not into me?

I will put it very straight and very short: My crush is not into me and that sucks.

Apart from the regular bitter taste of rejection I can not help but wonder what the fuck is wrong him (it’s a male person in this case). After several failed attempts to meet each other and the overall lack of engagement from his side I had to embrace the fact that my interest and affection is probably one-sided and did the one thing, I could do to avoid more frustration: I accepted it. Again: My crush is not into me.

I accepted his busy schedule, his priorities and plans that didn’t involve me at all. In moments like these, I try to look beyond my hurt ego and force myself to put myself in his situation. How would I like to be treated if I was him? Being rejected might hurt but rejecting people is equally hard- especially if you care for the other person. I thought back on all the friends I have lost because I did not return their feelings and I also remember how much it hurt me to justify it.

Why am I not good enough for you?

The question is lingering in the room and was probably also in my friends’ minds back then. If I would have been more mindful back then I might have found the better words and ways to handle it. Instead, I was solely focusing on myself and felt so terribly betrayed by my friends for not accepting my feelings. I did not understand why or even how I was supposed to explain the fact that I did not return their romantic feelings. The entire situation was not easy for anyone but at that moment all each of us could see was the unfairness that we were facing alone. In our anger and frustration, we hurt each other so badly that we stopped talking and avoid each other since then.

If I could turn back time, what are the things I want to be different? What could we change to avoid more stress and pain?

Acknowledge each other’s feelings

Knowing that somebody has feelings for you might seem very flattering but truly acknowledging it is a bit different. Taking their emotions seriously and acting mindfully is import to treat them with respect. It is already a huge step to confess your feelings to somebody so to me it’s the least I can do in response.
The same does go to rejection as well. The lack of feelings is just as valid as a confession of love and should not need to be justified or explained. Affection is nothing you can claim for. Not by insulting, not by screaming, not by arguing. It is not there.

In both cases, it is important to mention that both feelings will probably linger for a while. I will probably have that crush for a little while longer, despite the fact that the feelings won’t be answered. At the same time, the lack of affection will last as well. These are to facts that need to be accepted.

Acknowledging your own needs

Back then I wanted to continue whatever we had as if nothing happened. I wanted my friends to chill at my place as we used to did and spend the entire night talking about silly stuff while listening to our favourite songs. That was stupid.

No matter how nice and easy that would be, when expectations are differing everyone should re-adjust to the new situation and take their time to reflect on what they need in order to feel better. Sometimes that means that you need some distance in order to find out. Sometimes it also means that you start stalking their new partner and (please don’t) to curse the world and scream. Whatever it is, keep in mind that all this is temporary. Don’t force yourself to continue something that is not making you happy. Don’t pretend you never got rejected and play along this happy friendship game. Don’t pretend you would return the feelings and start a relationship.

Last but not least: Move on.

All this has nothing to do with anyone not being good enough. It is about the different kinds of happiness each and every one of us is looking for and sometimes it just won’t work out. I can try and be the best version of myself but that doesn’t mean everyone will love it. To put it very drastically: People have their own taste and you have to accept that some have a poor curious one. It sucks, yes but you have no right to change it. Your own taste is subjective and nothing more.

With all that in mind, I swallowed the fact that my pretty face does not save me from rejection. After another failed attempt to meet I told the guy that I respect his busy schedule, wished him the best of luck in Berlin, hoped that we will bump into each other at some point but apologised that I won’t compete with his timetable anymore.

He was confused by this … finality. After explaining me the full dimension of his busy lifestyle (which was unnecessary because I got it by then) I phrased it very simple:

– I just have the impression that you are not into me as much as I am into you.
– Yeah… that might be true.
– That’s ok. I’m not upset but I hope you respect my decision.
– sure.

Obviously, I was not madly and deeply in love since I never had the chance to properly date him (which was good in the end, I guess), but I was sad after all. The fact that he didn’t even want to find out who I was is really … sobering. He probably didn’t feel the chemistry between us at all and his knees probably didn’t get weak when he saw me. It was just me but that’s no reason to hurt or insult him.

So can I punch him now or …?

The following story is sadly a very common and ordinary one that happens probably to some of your friends already. I give you three keywords: clubbing, males, drunk.

A tale as old as time I guess: drunk people disrespecting lines and behaving poorly. The reason why I explicitly wrote “males” is that my weekend encounter was with a man. In fact, it made me so angry that I wondered if violence can be a legit method to end conflicts. (Spoiler: the answer is no.)

Taking a break from Berlin I decided to visit a friend in Hamburg and obviously it had lead to some parties. I was in very good company and danced to the beats of decent techno when an obviously drunk guy decided to dance next to me. As a matter of fact, he had to dance really close, so close that he was literally standing on my shoe. (That I had to remove forcefully because that human being had no intention to move anywhere)

I looked around and noticed that there was plenty of space in the club. Standing on my shoes and the overall invasion of my personal space was absolutely unnecessary. My attempt to make the guy notice my discomfort by standing still and intensely stare at him got rewarded with him stepping in front of me and slowly pushing me aside.

“Fine”, I thought, “I hope the eternal flames of hell will get you and slowly burn your intestines.” Not in the mood for mindful engagement I just moved away and danced at a spot that was drunk dude free. It didn’t take him a minute to show up next to me again and repeat the stepping on my shoe and pushing me aside crap.

Me: What is your problem? I don’t want to dance with you.
Him: I don’t fucking care about you. Go away if you don’t like it. I won’t go anywhere.

Sure, I took my stuff, congratulated on the “asshole award” I just gave him and moved to a corner and danced with my friends. Until he showed up again behind me.

That’s it. No more chance. You die.

SERIOUSLY! HOW ON EARTH CAN A SINGLE HUMAN BEING BE THAT DISGUSTING? WHAT DID THE WORLD DO TO HIM? Out of all the things he could possibly do in a club he decided to use his energy to ruin my time. He was not flirting. He was not interested in getting my attention or number. He was simply an extremely rude person very ambitious so spread negative vibes. I couldn’t believe how he is not ashamed of himself.

I turned around and told him to go away. I told him that I do not like him this close. Angry he said I should shut up.

No, I will not let you go that easily. I want you to have nightmares.

Yes, I now that this is not very zen and yes, there would have been ways to solve this with less aggression. I am still learning and this as also a lesson for me. I was taken away by my own anger. It simply pissed me off to see him casually walking around being disrespectful. A club with loud techno music is probably not the best place for a mindful conversation and I also had the impression that this guy in specific is not going to listen anyway.  That is the reason why I decided to yell the shit out of him. My usually calm voice was suddenly competing with the bass from the speakers behind me and I used my hands to make my demand perfectly clear:

GO AWAY!, I yelled, my hands pointing at the farthest corner I could find. GO THE FUCK AWAY!

As expected he did not move away and got even more aggressive and I seriously had a hard time not grab him by the collars of his ugly ass checked shirt and throw him down the stairs. I decided to continue screaming instead, hoping that either security will show up or him making the mistake of grabbing me so I have an excuse for self-defence. (I might have been angry but not stupid.)
What happened, in the end, was better though. A friend of mine stepped between us trying to move him to the side. Two girls who were dancing next to us told him to get lost as well. Another friend was also blocking him from me. Finally, a guy who I just met in the club was gently taking the dude aside and said something to him that made him disappear without causing any more drama.

Everything ended well without anyone getting hurt.

However,

I just wondered if there was a way to solve this situation without depending on the kindness of the people around me. Well, going to the bar and asking for security is obviously a possibility but is there literally no way to solve this situation by myself? Why am I even in need of asking others for help? Am I doomed to rely on others just because my body doesn’t look threatening enough to make people respect me?

That piece of shit is trolling

Arguments, discussion, different opinions, negotiations. All these things are part of our lives and while they can be exhausting and heated they do enrich our personal point of you as well. What we take from these encounters is usually depending on our own mindset. While I am able to apply the teachings of mindfulness for most of the time you should not deny one thing: there are some people who just want to piss you off. For real.

I am not talking about an ignorant question or the lack of ambition to inform yourself. It might be annoying but I am not upset by it. I am talking about straight up dipshits who fucking shit talk right in front of your face and wait for your reaction. Hoping they can start a vicious circle where the two of you can piss each other back until somebody starts tearing up and one stand triumphantly enjoying the victory. That dear reader is the point where I lose it and forget my mindfulness and zen. These people came to the wrong neighbourhood. I won’t be the one tearing up.

As a matter of fact, I have to say that I am simply not there yet to overcome my anger and investing some serious time to open a dialogue with a person who openly wants to upset me, in order to find a reason for his/her terrible attitude. Not there yet, working on it. So far my most convenient strategy was to explain that person very calm and clear that if he/she pisses me off, I will fuck them up big times. It usually sends the signal that their current behaviour is not ok.

That might be kind of (but in fact not really) acceptable in your private space. While at work and in any other situation in public space I was semi-forced to find a way to handle these people differently. Trust me it is hard and in my eyes less efficient, but I need to pay my rent. Here are 4 methods how not to enter the spiral of insulting each other and giving the troll what it wants.

Repeat their shit

Repeat very detailed what they just said as if you want to make sure that you got everything right. End the summary with the rhetorical question if this is their serious opinion/ proposal/ question.

Expose their shit

I usually experience these encounters when I am in public or with a group of friends. When I repeat their shit I make sure others hear it and are aware of the crap that is going on. Well, it only works if you have the feeling the environment is in your favour and generally sharing your point of views.

Question their shit

What is their damn point? Ask them what they expect from such a statement.  Point out the contradictions and explain where the bullshit lies within. Most contradictions I encounter are

  • expressing an opinion but not accepting the opinion of others
  • asking for tolerance by insulting others
  • potentially opening a conversation by being disrespectful

Explain why their shit is shit

Make perfectly transparent why you think the statement was shit. Whether it is racist, sexist or simply uncalled for because the person is crossing a line. Express the impression that you – emphasize on the fact that it’s your subjective opinion only – have from that encounter.

Make them understand that you know exactly what they are trying to do right now and why your refusal of dealing with this crap has nothing to do with being anti-social or a coward. It’s just the fact that there has never been an honest intention of conversation, to begin with.