The Best In Me

I’ve found, and recent experiences have confirmed this to be true as well, that in order to see the true nature of someone, you should demand the best from them. Demand that they be all that you know they have the capacity to be, and you’ll see the conviction or betrayal rise to the surface, often viciously so.

I’ve been quite distracted recently. That distraction has in many ways confirmed why I sway between wanting to share my thoughts, or write that book, and not wanting to have any part in interacting with people at all. I quietly observe the hypocrisy of so many that polarise towards those that pacify them about their shortcomings, their bad decisions, or their half-hearted efforts to live life while waiting for someone else to come along and contribute the other half. They do this under the guise of compassion and understanding. Both, the pacifier and the pacified. The dishonesty of it all leaves a distinctly bitter after-taste almost literally in my mouth.

I’ve always found it to be insincere on my part if I agreed with someone that was looking for affirmation about doing something that was either denying them or someone else of a right or benefit that they were capable of providing. It’s as if we live life assuming everything to be optional first, and then only define what is compulsory or obligatory on our part relative to what we believe is a reasonable expectation that others are allowed to have of us. This also implies that we view ourselves through the same tainted lenses. In other words, rights are not rights until we agree that it is so, and then also, only if there is a reciprocal arrangement in place. What’s in it for me has become the mantra of the selfish and the weak.

Yet the world apparently thrives on it. Far too often I listen to people repeating leadership advice that says that to be influential you must be sure to emphasise what is in it for your target audience otherwise your chances of soliciting their buy-in is significantly reduced. While that may be the reality of it, it also suggests that you become complicit in the cycle of selfishness. I’m obstinate enough to believe that shared convictions are more important than what’s in it for me as a collective perspective. I guess you could also argue that the fact that something is achieved implies that there was conviction behind it to begin with. While that may be true, it doesn’t necessarily imply that such conviction was well-placed.

If my conviction is focused on self-preservation or self-promotion, then I would act with a conviction that inadvertently erodes the wholesomeness of the society that I belong to. When that selfishness comes full circle and I become a means to an end for someone else from that same societal structure, I complain bitterly about the decay of humanity, forgetting too easily how it is that the same impact I imposed on others left them feeling equally defeated. It seems that such bitter pills are what prompts many to consider the impact that they have on others, because it’s only in moments of defeat or humiliation that we are forced to recognise our weaknesses. Unless you’re so bitter about life that your fixation on the betrayals of others prevents you from seeing your contribution to your current state. Such bitterness always ends in a diseased body and mind, which leads to an untimely and often very unpleasant demise.

Obstinacy with conviction is what is lacking in this world. I would much rather be surrounded by those that disagree with me because of a genuine sense of conviction in what they hold to be true, rather than to be surrounded by people that agree with me because their affiliation with me benefits their own selfish purposes. I can barely recall anyone demanding me to be more than I am because they saw potential or capability in me that I did not recognise in myself. Fortunately I’ve had little reason to wait for such encouragement although I did find myself wasting a lot of life waiting for others to  catch up. In a way, that has been the most wasteful approach of my life.

Waiting for others to believe in you implies that you lack conviction in what you see in yourself. While there is merit in testing the veracity of your assumptions and perspectives by sounding it against others, if we’re not careful about what we’re testing for, there’s a good chance that we’ll abandon something valuable because we were looking for the wrong response. Too many test for acceptance rather than soundness of purpose or conviction. We present ideas that have merit to small minds and then abandon those ideas because the value of it was not grasped. We shouldn’t be testing for acceptance or popularity. That is exactly what got this world into the state it is in. As clichéd as it sounds, being part of the crowd only ever maintained the status quo. It’s the individual, the maverick, the relentless pain-in-the-butt that spurs growth, and by implication, growth implies discomfort.

We need to learn to be comfortable in growth. The only hindrance I can think of that prevents such comfort is the fear of failure. The fear of appearing incompetent in a new setting. That fear is grounded in our belief that others are always competent in what they appear to be doing, but often discover that they were not as competent as we assumed when we engage and apply our minds to the new reality that we were avoiding. It also implies that we assume we’re incompetent by default and therefore incapable of learning, until we find reason to believe that we have sufficient skill or knowledge to start exploring with a fair amount of confidence. Unfortunately we rarely start exploring because we’re waiting for that minimum amount of skill or knowledge to magically appear first, or for someone to believe in us before we try.

The best of me always manifested in times of trial and intense betrayal when my crutches were snapped away, or my comforts were destroyed. Familiarity often appeared as healthy surrounds, but I only realized how unhealthy it was when I was forced to step outside of those familiar boundaries and became a spectator of my own life. It’s only when we achieve such perspective that we are faced with the daunting choice of whether to prevail, or to succumb. Beyond all this the greatest challenge I continue to face in my life is finding the balance between forging ahead in spite of the lack of conviction from others in what I am passionate about, while simultaneously avoiding the severing of ties. Forging ahead demands conviction and purposeful introspection to guide me, while maintaining ties prevents me from being reckless or ungrateful about the benefit and rights I share with those around me.

Life is easier if lived in isolation, but it’s less fulfilling. It becomes an incomplete cycle because I believe that our innate nature drives us towards improving the lot of others. The more inclined we are to believe that we are capable of achieving that innate need, the healthier our self-worth, while the opposing belief drives us towards complacency, and self-defeat. The awkward truth is that more often than not people don’t know what they need to improve their current state, but they usually have a very good idea as to what someone else may need. Hence the benefit of perspective when our familiar surrounds are taken away. The point is, if we’re going to wait for others to agree to the change that is needed before we provoke it, we’ll spend a lot of time waiting, and very little time living.

[My distracted state is evident in the randomness of this train of thought, if it can even qualify as a train!]

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