The Insidiousness of What Other People Think

I don’t remember how I found this, but it’s a good article:

The Good Guy Contract

Here’s how the author defines it:

The Good Guy Contract was simple:  I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you, to care about you—and in return you would agree to believe that I was wise, compassionate, excellent as a human being in every way, and finally and most importantly, you would like me.

It’s common in the  present culture to believe that altruism is a noble philosophy.  But what does it really mean?  That sacrificing yourself for others is moral and good.  Your entire morality and self-esteem (for how can you feel good about yourself without knowing that you’re moral?) is built upon other people.  I hear a lot of lip service paid to “doing something for yourself” so that you don’t go crazy, but more often, when you see a person or their actions held up on a pedestal, it’s because of their sacrifice.

You might go through life thinking that you’re doing things to make yourself happy, but I see so many people hung up and anxious about what other people think.  I have this problem myself.  It’s pretty easy to figure out what you want, and if no one else is around, it’s trivial to do exactly what you want to.  But it’s so rare that other people aren’t involved.  Ay, there’s the rub.  All of a sudden, there are these other pressures involved.  Well, I want to stay home and relax tonight, but I don’t want to disappoint so-and-so because of whatnot.  Then the anxiety comes.  I want to do something, but I don’t want to feel that someone is displeased with me.  Well, should you be making decisions because of what you want or because of what you don’t want?  That’s what I try to keep in mind.  The author is right, it does take practice.  You just have to bite the bullet and risk finding out that someone doesn’t like what you’re doing.  Most of the time it’s not so bad, and when you survive another’s disappointment one time, you gain more confidence for the next time.

So why are the opinions of others so insidious?  Because it feels so good to get praise.   However, praise is fleeting, and you can’t bring up old praise in your mind to make yourself feel better down the road.  You have to learn to feel good because of your accomplishments, otherwise you’re left constantly needing a praise fix.  You’ll surround yourself with people you don’t care about because they happen to be there.  Your relationships are built, not on values, but on whether or not the other person can give you your fix.  When your self-esteem comes from inside yourself, you can feel happy without anyone else around.  If you feel down, it’s easy to think of all of the good things that you’ve done.  Life seems so simple once you realize this and live your life for yourself.

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