It’s no secret that life is hard.
Some of the hard things are obvious: The awkwardness of growing into adulthood; the pain of dysfunctional family life; the cruelty that often pervades one’s existence at school and in society in general; and the struggle of making one’s way in life.
There are, however, many other difficult things about life that people rarely talk about — things that you should at least be aware of so you can be prepared for them and hopefully, save yourself from a whole lot of suffering.
These are the brutal truths about life that I wish someone told me about so I could’ve been spared from the pain of not knowing.
Truth #1: People-Pleasing Will Never Earn You Any Respect.
Everybody wants to be liked.
Wanting to be liked and accepted is just human nature. Our ancestors needed to be accepted by their tribe for survival and protection. Without acceptance, they were screwed.
But unlike our ancestors who worked together for the common good, modern humans have evolved to work (largely) alone to ensure their own survival and protection, creating the perfect breeding ground for greed, selfishness and narcissism.
This means that if you’re a people-pleaser who just wants anyone and everyone to like you, you’re leaving the door wide open for anyone and everyone to walk all over you.
So how do you be liked without bending over backwards for everyone in your life?
By having boundaries.
Remember this: “No” is a complete sentence.
Truth #2: Being Assertive Is Uncomfortable. You Need to Do It Anyway.
Being assertive means acknowledging your own power.
This is something that you may not be comfortable with, particularly if you’re a woman taught to play the role of the nurturing supporter who’s more invested in seeing that everyone else gets their needs met rather than ensure that your own needs are fulfilled.
“We’ve learned to be less direct so we will not be perceived as taking too much power away from men. This is at the core of our difficulties with gaining increased influence skills, negotiation capabilities, and organizational visibility.” says Lois P. Frankel, PhD, an executive coach and the author of Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office.
To successfully get what you need, want and deserve, you have to resist the urge to fall back into stereotypically feminine behaviours, such as being polite, soft-spoken, compliant and relationship-oriented — all of which got your needs met as a little girl.
But contrary to popular belief, being assertive doesn’t have to equal being mean and nasty, says Frankel.
“Nice is necessary for success; it’s simply not sufficient. If you over-rely on being nice to the exclusion of developing complementary behaviours, you’ll never achieve your adult goals,” she warns.
Truth #3: You Won’t Like Everyone, And Not Everyone Will Like You.
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”~Dita Von Teese
Too nice, too rich, too poor, too confident, too independent, too short, too tall — there are endless reasons not to like someone and everyone’s got at least one.
And humans being the complex creatures that they are, no one’s to blame if two people just happen to rub each other the wrong way (or not at all) for no good reason at all.
The next time you feel the sting of realizing that someone doesn’t like you despite your best efforts to win them over, remember this: You don’t have to like everyone you meet either and that’s A-OK.
Truth #4: You Don’t Have To Be Kind To Assholes.
Few people would want to work for an asshole, and even fewer would want to be friends with one.
Unfortunately, despite the trail of mental health destruction assholes tend to leave in their wake, there’s no hard and fast rule on how to put them in their place.
“Although evidence about how to best deal with assholes is murky and incomplete, the negative impact of demeaning and disrespectful people on their victims is crystal clear,” says Robert I. Sutton, a professor of management science at Stanford University in his book, The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt.
“Hundreds of experiments show that encounters with rude, insulting and demeaning people undermine others’ performance — including their decision-making skills, productivity, creativity, willingness to work a little harder, stay a little later to finish projects, and to help coworkers who need their advice, skills, or emotional support,” says Sutton.
His recommendation: You don’t have to be kind to assholes, but this doesn’t mean that you have to be mean to them either. More often than not, your smartest move is to have as little contact with them as possible.
And if you can, just stay away from them entirely.
Aside from preserving your mental health, there’s another compelling reason to keep your distance from assholes, says Sutton, and it’s this: “Treating others like dirt is contagious, so if you work with a jerk (or worse, a bunch of them), you are likely to become one too”.
Truth #5: You’ll End Up Right Where You Started.
You enter this world soft, naked and helpless.
For a significant length of time after your birth, you remain somewhat helpless and have very little say in how you live your life.
As you transition into adulthood, you gain the independence, authority and freedom to make your own choices, decide who you want to be in life, choose the people you want to surround yourself with, and live wherever (and with whomever) feels like home.
This is your time to live life on your own terms, so do it.
Take life by the horns and as much as possible, avoid living someone else’s life or letting fear get in your way.
You’ll never know how precious this opportunity to live is until decades have passed and you realize how much time you’ve wasted chasing, obsessing and agonizing over petty, unimportant things.
So dream big, dream often and do your best to stay aware while you’re going after those dreams.
And do it before your physical body regresses into the same soft, naked and helpless form you were born in.
Truth #6: People Will Come Into Your Life, And Then They’ll Leave.
When you form a friendship with someone, you hope that it’s a friendship you’ll have for life.
When you say “I do”, you say it with the belief that you’ll be together forever.
Forever does happen, but for many of us, it doesn’t, and here’s why: People change. People move away. People break things (including hearts). People fall out of love. People die.
So as much as we want our relationships to last forever, they often don’t.
This is one of the toughest life pills to swallow, but it’s also the one that constantly serves as a powerful reminder to not take the people we love for granted while you still have them.
Truth #7: Society Is Shallow. It’s Up To You To Reject The Fakeness.
When our ancestors walked the earth, it was the biggest, strongest and fittest who got to make their way to the top of food chain, garner the respect of their communities and attract a mate.
It isn’t all that different now, except that it is. Well, kind of.
Societies still value looks, strength and resources (the more, the better) and nowhere is this more evident than in the digital world, where influencers and ‘personalities’ clamor to show the world how pretty, powerful and rich they are.
In fact, you’ll find these values just about everywhere you turn: Billboard, TV and radio ads; the new phone your colleague buys every year; the over-celebration of youth and skinny bodies in just about every form of media around; the pedestal that the world’s rich get put on instead of everyday heroes who are doing just as much, if not more good in the world but lack the financial resources to stand out.
What most of the world values as ‘successful’ probably won’t line up with yours and it’s OK to not buy into them.
You’re better off focusing your energy on what truly makes your life meaningful and happy.
Truth #8: Your Emotional Baggage Will Weigh You Down Until You Let It Go.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”~John Heider
No one makes it through life without accumulating baggage.
Some are physical while others are mental or emotional, and everyone collects a number of all three as long as they’re alive.
As time goes on, all this baggage starts to weigh heavy on your soul, and if you don’t put the bags down for a moment, open them, unpack their contents, reflect on every item inside so you can then look for the opportunity to leave it behind, they will keep dragging you down until you feel like you’re drowning.
You’ll feel like you’re drowning in pain, resentment and anger that’ll continuously stir up a desire to control or destroy everything in your path.
So if you can, put your heavy bags down and take a look inside.
Being fully aware of everything you’re carrying around and why can help you figure out if you want to keep carrying them or let them go.
My guess is that you’ll probably want to let go, and I hope that you do.
RESOURCES YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL
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Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy The Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James I got my hands on this treasure over 15 years ago, way before simple living and minimalism became popular, and it was the first resource that introduced me to practical, everyday steps I could take to ‘un-complicate’ my life. I didn’t have enough life experience then to ‘get’ everything that St. James presents in this book, but when I revisit the pages of Simplify Your Life now, they make perfect sense. If you’re just starting out in your simple living journey and are exploring your possibilities, I highly recommend giving this a read first.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo Being able to pay attention to the little things in your life starts with decluttering — not the easiest thing to do if your living (or even work) space is disorganised and drowning in stuff. This is my bible as far as tidying up my space and keeping it that way goes.
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill This classic is so much more than what its title implies — it’s also a guide to taking control of the biggest driver behind everything you do and the reality you create for yourself: Your mind.
The Simple Living Guide When life feels overwhelming, this guide-and-workbook-in-one will help you gain clarity with your values, well-being, career, relationships and money.
The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
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