It’s Your Life, so Live It Your Way

“Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

In one of the all-time best episodes of Seinfeld, Elaine gets fired from her job at the J. Peterman Company because she cannot hide any longer just how much she hates the interminable movie “The English Patient”, which everybody in her life will not shut up about.

Do you ever catch yourself doing the same thing? Hating something, but keeping it to yourself, feeling you’d be violating some kind of unwritten code if you admitted the truth?

Or perhaps it’s the other way round – you actually like something, but you fear what people might think if they found out and so you pretend not to like it?

I doubt there’s anybody who could truthfully answer “No, never…” to both of those questions all of the time – if there is, I’d sure like to meet them. And call them a liar. I digress… this kind of white-lying is just part of living in a society. A certain amount of it is both inevitable and healthy. We’re all doing it.

But are you doing it from strength, or from weakness? Are you keeping your true feelings to yourself because, well… they’re your business and nobody else’s? Or is it simply because you’re afraid of being found out?

There’s a very big difference. I have no problem with people consciously being private or modest. But what I do have a problem with is when we unconsciously invalidate our own thoughts and feelings, when we see them as unimportant, as somehow mattering less than those of “other people.”

It’s such a great way to waste the one life we’ve each been given.

When you prioritise what “other people” might think about you, over how you yourself perceive things, you are making a grave error.

Firstly, because to quote Olin Miller, “You wouldn’t worry about what people may think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”

But secondly and more importantly, even if they were thinking about you, you could never actually know what they were thinking. You can guess and you can presume, and that’s about it.

And so you put a fantasy – what you imagine might be in their head – ahead of reality – what actually is inside your head. As a human being living a subjective experience, your feelings are a primary source of information to help you navigate the world. What you imagine other people might think, on the other hand? That’s not information. To give it more consideration than what’s going on inside you… well, that’s just dumb.

If you are lucky enough to find something you enjoy, I’m happy for you. Own it. Don’t be embarrassed. What right does anybody else have to decide what you are allowed to enjoy? And if you don’t like something, own that too. Who cares? You don’t have to shout it from the roof-tops, but don’t awkwardly hide your disgust. Just go focus on something you do like instead.

You have to realise that your thoughts and feelings are just as valid as anybody else’s. In fact, a good way of weeding toxic people out of your life is to see how they respond to you simply being honest about what you do and don’t enjoy. If they try to belittle you or invalidate you, fuck ’em. You can let them down gently, but definitely do let them down. You’ll both be happier without each other.

What I really want to get at here is that it you were not mass produced. There was only one of you ever made. You are incredibly rare. And the most valuable thing about you is your unique perspective. How dare you waste it by acting like it’s less valid than everybody else’s.

I leave you with a piece of Marcus Aurelius:

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own. If a god appeared to us — or a wise human being, even — and prohibited us from concealing our thoughts or imagining anything without immediately shouting it out, we wouldn’t make it through a single day. That’s how much we value other people’s opinions — instead of our own.

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations: Book 12

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