Based on my last post I realised I had more to say, about life lessons that I want to share with you.
You know how you always give the best advice, but never follow it yourself. Im all about making myself accountable through honesty.
A life lesson I had a hard time learning was that maybe I was the cause of a lot of my own problems. I had (and some would argue, still do) a pretty massive ego. I am the problem solver, I am the fixer, I am the master of making shit happen. If the situation sucks, I will sort that shit out and will take on and down anyone who gets in my way!
So naturally cos I was perfect, my problems were never me. It was everyone else.
Didnt get the promotion at work? They were holding me back cos I am too useful and make them look too good.
I wasnt happy with a particular situation! I would have the “courage” to stand up and make the changes. I thought it was an admirable trait because I wouldnt be silenced, I would work my Machiavellian wiles to change everything.
Things not so good at home? Insert just about every excuse under the sun about how its not my fault.
When I think about it now…
I didnt get the promotion because I was cocky and expected it (and should I have got it, I wouldnt have been a good fit for the role. Thats not so say it was the right decision on their part but in a way Im kinda glad I didnt. The decision I feel was personally and not professionally made)
The particular situation… I was the only one who seemed to want to change the status quo. Rather than being a hero, I was the fall guy. I was the convenient person to blame when things went wrong, anything I did was wrong and essentially people were just content to waddle along and not rock the boat. Why change when its just too much effort. The situation is still shitty, but I no longer have to deal with it.
Things at home… after the 100th or 200th argument about why I was a pretty shit partner… my wife stuck with me and we rode it out. I realised that if I wanted there to be change, I wouldnt be able to change her, I would have to change myself.
That seemed to be a recurring theme. People had been telling me for years that only I can control my reaction to things that happen. I believed that if I didnt blow up, people would think it was okay to treat me like shit. If I accepted other peoples crap, they would continue to heap it on me.
In essence, it wasnt me… it was everyone else.
So there I was one day, standing in the kitchen at some ungodly hour of the morning… wondering if I was gonna be still married in the morning, hating life, hating my job, hating everyone… I looked over at the knife block and that super cool looking Butchers knife…
Left to right is just for show… up and down will get results!
Thats when it finally fuckin’ clicked… the only way I was gonna sort out all of this shit was to sort myself out. I had to stop trying to fix everyone else to suit me, I had to fix me to stop giving a fuck about shit I couldnt control.
I went to the GP, got a mental health plan and got myself off to a shrink. My mood state was extremely poor. I was severely depressed. I had literally stopped feeling joy and could only see the negative in everything.
First thing the shrink tells me… you cant control other people, just how you react to them. I still held onto the belief that I was truly bending over backwards for other people and that they should cut me a little slack, show a little consideration… knowing full well that at the end of the day… people have their own problems and they couldnt give a shit about mine.
This was all happening at the same time as I was making the other changes in my life to get the hell out of a shitty situation.
So truth be told, I am on medication for my issues. As with most things, I am impatient and I was like “Why isnt these stupid meds working”. I was told it would take about six weeks to kick in, but hell man, thats too long!!! I want results now!
But I stayed the course and one day it dawned on me… I wasnt blowing up at a moments notice. I wasnt getting that rush of blood to the head when I felt someone was slighting me and it was on! I was calmer. I was looking at things more objectively. I was looking inside for solutions rather than outward.
Im not perfect, and I have my moments. I can still fire up at a moments notice, but I realise a lot sooner that its ridiculous and I should just stop it.
I still get pissed off, and it shows. As my wife says “You dont have a poker face… when you’re pissed off… you make sure everyone knows it with that look on your face”. People still push my buttons… but I know they wont change just cos Im in a bad mood.
Now, rather than getting all huffy and pissed off… I just remind myself that realistically its 10 minutes out of my day to do something for someone. I am still annoyed, but I can only control my reaction. Its okay to be pissed off, its not okay to punish someone for pissing me off.
So there is truth in the saying, you cant change other people, but you can change yourself. Take stock of all your “problems”, and work out which ones actually dont matter. If someone is giving you the shits, they wont change… so dont put yourself in a position for them to annoy you.
You can set the rules of the relationship but you cant make people follow them. There is a fine line between being assertive and being an asshole.
Rather than blame others for your shit situation, work out how you contributed to it… how did your actions let things get so bad? What can you change to improve the situation.
I really dont want to say it but…
Be the change you want to see in others…
Im not advocating that you should seek out the blame when things go wrong… but own whatever happens afterwards… as I mentioned before, I was beaten up at a train station many years ago. I was having a bad day, some one was mouthing off to me and I mouthed off back. Four of them tried to take me down. Was it my fault I got targeted…
- I probably looked pissed off.
- I look like a white collar dork at the best of times (so they probably perceived me as a soft target)
- They mouthed off to me and I wasnt going to take shit from some snotty fuckin’ teenager. How fuckin’ dare they start shit with me.
- I should probably have known better given that I preach “situational awareness”. Rush of blood to the head… I felt good putting them in their place. That lasted all of about 90 seconds when they surrounded me.
So whilst they had to make the conscious decision to try and rob me… it would be easy to say I was completely blameless. I wasnt. I escalated when I shouldnt have and I had to deal with sitting in an emergency ward for 8 hours, giving police statements and worrying that every Islander teenager that I saw was the ones who beat me and they wanted round two.
Im not an inherently violent person. I generally would rather help someone than hurt them. I figure there is more benefit in working together than working against each other. I also know that should the situation arise, I am the one who runs towards the problem rather than away. Not entirely a good trait, because its part ego and part wanting to prove I am up to the challenge.
This is why when dealing with people younger than me, I try to impart some wisdom… look to de-escalate the situation rather than fire up. If someone calls you a name, agree with them… “You’re fat”… “Yeah, I am… sucks huh”. Essentially, shut the situation down. Give them nowhere to go.
The big one when I was young was calling someone gay, a fag, a poofter… thats my goddamn masculinity you’re threatening there mate, I dont want people to think Im a ring pirate! Im all thats man baby!
Bearing in mind, this was more than 20 years ago, and it was a different time.
But now, if someone was to say that to me, I would just say something like “No wonder I find you attractive”, or “Well you know, gotta pay the rent somehow”.
Its just 5 seconds out of my day to deal with that idiot… they’ll be stumped for a comeback, and I wont even remember what they looked like.
Essentially, whilst its not your fault… you still have to own the consequences. That night at the train station, I did try and de-escalate, I apologised, I pointed out the security cameras (I knew I was getting beaten down, I wanted to make sure it was caught on camera at least) and tried to walk away. I knew the beating was coming, so I took it.
Does that make me a Beta Male? Does that make me weak? Shouldnt I have fought back a lot harder… rather than just try and protect myself, I should have shown them that Im not the guy to fuck with.
I made that conscious decision, because I knew if I fought back, they would fight harder, more would probably join in and I could probably end up dead or disabled. I knew I could protect myself enough so I would be able to walk away.
I know that if I had fought back, I would be forever waiting for payback. They wanted to assert their dominance, and they got to do it. There was no reason for them to go on with it after the fact. I didnt know them. They didnt know me. They were snot nosed punks and they got their kicks, I got to continue living. I do genuinely feel sorry for the person they pulled a knife on at the next train station. That knife could have ended up in me.
So yeah, in conclusion… take the advice if you want to…
Next time someone is giving you grief, or your not happy with the way things are going… ask yourself… what can I change about myself to improve the situation.