by phildini on May 13, 2016

Originally, I was going to start this post with:

Humans have a tendency to over-attribute our own importance.

But then I realized by starting the post that way, I was being incredibly guilty of the very thing I was saying. I mean, read that sentence again. I was getting ready to start a blog post by pretending to speak for all of humanity. That's like god-level delusions of self-importance there. So. Let's try one more time.

I have a tendency to over-attribute my own importance. This manifests itself most often in thinking that the way people act around me has something to do with me. I'll meet a friend on the street, or have an interaction with someone at work, and if it doesn't go the way I'm planning, or they seem upset, the conclusion I'll immediately jump to is that I did something wrong, or that they don't like me. On the one hand, this seems like a form of social anxiety, that I'm trying to please all the people around me in an attempt to make and keep friends. And I'm not saying I don't have that going on, and it's a struggle that's being fought in my head a whole lot of the time, but let's take a step back. 

How egotistical do I have to be to start by thinking that I am the sole driver of how someone else behaves?

It is totally possible that I am doing something or saying something to cause these weird social interactions, but in order to be fair, to treat the other person as a f%&$ing human being with some measure of agency in their own lives, I need to allow that at least fifty percent of their reaction to any given situation comes from what's going on in their heads, and has nothing to do with me at all. I say "everyone is the hero in their own story" so often that it's almost a damn catchphrase, but when it comes to dealing with the people in my own life I rarely stop to think through what that means.

If I am doing my best to be a decent human being, and treating the people around with me respect, then whether or not any given interaction goes well is basically out of my control. I should, we all should, be trying to treat other people with a baseline of respect, and not attributing to malice that which can be described by ignorance (excepting blatant -isms. F--- you HB2!), but I should also remember the flip side: Sometimes people have bad days, or don't like me, and that's not always my fault or under my control.

To think otherwise is pure ego.

Looping back to how I was going to start this post, I think I'm not the only one who has trouble with this. A theme among people I talk to, especially people who live on the internet, is that they attribute good social interactions to the other person, and take all the blame for the bad interactions on themselves. That is self-loathing, and self-importance, and I hope I can remember to do better should we ever meet (again).

tl;dr: I should examine my words and actions to make sure they meet my own standards, and remember that people are entitled to their own lives and reactions.


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