Monday, October 17, 2005

Melancholy Monday: Don't Waste Your Resources on all the Wrong People

I have wasted hours and hours trying to persuade people that their impressions of me are the result of a misunderstanding. I particularly labored at transforming peoples' negative views of me while I was in graduate school. Other students considered me "moralistic" "cutthroat" "too ambitious" or "too straight laced." If ever I caught wind of these indictments of my character, I would be deflated and visibly shaken. I would often single out the source of a particular rumor about me and ask them to reconsider. In the process of trying to disabuse them of what I thought was a false view, I would show him or her how much I was impacted and affected by it. Anyone with a vicious streak, or just a highly developed self-interested streak, would suddently have the secret formula for derailing me, for taking the life out of me.

I foolishly thought I could change their opinions of me if they just got to know me better. I took a sick pleasure in this portrait of myself--the kind-hearted, self-sacrificing soul who is consistently misunderstood.

"People just don't see my kind heart."

"My German-American and Danish stock has trained me to be stoic, too uneasy showing warmth and affection."

"This witholding of obvious signs of warmth wrongly communicates to others that I am cold hearted," I consoled myself.

When I was in graduate school I discovered the film, Philadelphia Story. I identified so thoroughly with Tracy Lord (Katherine Hepburn's character). C.K. Dexter Haven (her ex-husband and "true love") tells her that she is like an ice queen. She is incapable of accepting human weakness and fraility, claims Haven. Boy, that was me.

My discomfort with physical affection and overly cognitive style is a means of self-protection. I had to develop this style to cope with a chaotic and tumultuous family. Perhaps, I thought, this mask is what leads people to misperceive me.

I wasted hours and hours analyzing this. The fact is that we accumulate a lot of enemies in our life, even when we try to be a kind-hearted and compassionate soul. Sometimes people resent us because we are trying to help them. Or, they resent us because we don't give enough, once we have given some indication that we can give to others. Others hate us because we too at ease with the world, too optimistic, too conscientious, too _________ (you fill in the blank).

The melancholy realization is that it's not that these rumor-spreading-others have misunderstood us, they simply reject us. You cannot make everyone love you. If you spend your life doing so, you have no life. You also waste your resources on all the wrong people.