My first grounding lesson of 2019: You can never convince someone that they are bad; it’s an exercise in futility. I know this already from reading Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book on ‘How to win friends and influence people’ yet these past few weeks have brought that lesson into sharp focus for me. Carnegie’s first rule in handling people states that criticizing and condemning others will never result in the behavior we desire. Instead, he suggests we give honest and sincere appreciation, something we can all do if we set our minds to it because we all have redeeming qualities; nobody is all bad all the time.
Hello friends! Hoping you’re all doing well, as am I. 2019 is shaping out to be an adversarial year for me but I’m learning to take it all in stride, hold my peace and carry on. Back to lessons learnt, we can never convince someone that they are a bad person. And even if we did for a while, it will backfire eventually. Someone can try to tear you down, tell you how bad you are, how undeserving you are of everything, how unworthy you are of their love and attention, etc. Yet within us is an indomitable spirit, an enduring belief that we will not be diminished, misrepresented, or written off as bad, unlovable, unworthy, undeserving…
There was a time in my life when I believed myself to be all things unworthy, undeserving, unlovable… there was a time when I accepted blame gladly, even naturally, everything would have been my fault. I’d take the fall over and over again. My shoulders slumped, my head bowed, I unquestioningly accepted all the blame for everything that went wrong in my surroundings. I even got sent off to therapy to get myself ‘fixed’ and I went unquestioningly; it’s the therapist that told me there was nothing wrong with me, and that it was just the dynamic I found myself in.
The turning point was when I embarked on my self-love journey last spring/summer this past year of 2018. I somehow understood that no one could take this journey for me and that building myself back up was entirely up to me. Slowly I observed my demeanor change. I no longer accepted I was bad when that was communicated to me subliminally from whichever source.
‘I know I’m a good person’ is a mantra that clothed me on many a days as I went about my business. If I had a disagreement with someone at work, I knew I was a good person whatever their reaction. If at home, I reiterated the same, that my heart is kind and my intentions pure. I knew at my core that I was okay, there was nothing wrong with me. I refused to believe the critics and instead examined my heart for darkened spaces so I could shine bright lights and keep growing and improving.
I’m proud to have worked myself to place where I hear the lie as soon as it’s told, whatever the source, even if it’s coming from people that are supposed to love and support me. I’m attuned to it now, and I immediately recognize it for the lie that it is. I don’t need to rebuff it verbally but my demeanor changes and I go quiet and sit very still, numb almost. It’s my mind and body’s way of rejecting the lie and protecting myself from it.
If the lie comes in writing, say, in an email or a text message, I think it through and do my best to refrain from mudslinging, coz I understand it gets no one anywhere. Although I might cry privately afterwards, my truth remains: I am a good person inside. I have no malice and my intentions are good and pure. And over time, that has come to be enough, it has had to -and I’m glad to have arrived at this place of blessed assurance.
By that same token, I learnt that it’s useless to try and tell someone that they are ‘bad’. I realize I am neither the head-prefect of life and nor am I the ‘bad’-people-police. Everything is relative and when we judge another harshly, we overlook the part we ourselves might have played in the resulting ‘badness’, because for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In conclusion, going to someone and listing all the things that make them bad is the very definition of an exercise in futility, they will never believe you and all you sow is bad feelings and negative energy. Our time is better spent self-reflecting on how we ourselves can be better people and how we can keep growing in character. It will serve us well to realize that each time we are pointing our index finger at someone else, the other folded fingers are pointing right back at us.
I’ve often found that when I’m tempted to tell someone off and count all their ‘sins’ against them, I quickly realize that I too am guilty of the same things in one sense or another, even if not identical, which helps me pull back and hold my tongue. I am one of the lucky ones that I have the ability to self-introspect and pull back rather than placing blame elsewhere. Let me know if this is/was something you ever struggle(d) with and how you handle(d) it. I’m sensing there will be immense growth this year and I’m so here for it. The journey continues, stay with me…