You know the kind of people I appreciate? The ones where you call them out on their not-so-complimentary characteristics and/or behaviors and they actually own up to it. What is that called again? Honesty? Self-awareness? Compliant?
Naturally, we do not want to be wrong; we don’t want someone to challenge our beliefs, to question our actions, or to disagree with something that we feel quite strongly about. Flunking a test you thought you aced, dropping weights you thought you could lift, being rejected for a job you thought you would score — examples of results from events that we could have prepared better for, overestimated less, etc. However, what happens when someone questions our own characteristics? Our persona? Our morals and values?
For the millionth time on this blog, I am quoting Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck:” who you attract [or don’t attract] into your life, and who you keep [or who you don’t] in your life boils down to what you value. In essence, if you value intelligence, you will attract [and keep] intelligent people around yourself. If you value sense of humor, you will hang around people who are funny (Proximity is Power! You choose your peers!). Pretty simple, right? However, we often do not realize our own characteristics unless people reinforce it to us. Comedians are comedians because people laugh at what they stay. People reinforce to comedians “you are funny,” [by laughing] therefore, comedians recognize one of their defining characteristics as “humorous.”
This goes for characteristics we are not called out on as well. If no one criticizes or calls us out on the things we do or say, we rarely recognize them on our own. Like I said earlier, we want to believe we are right; and that are morals/values are supported. If I steal money from someone and no one tells me that it was ‘wrong,’ then why would I question my actions? Why would I get down on myself if it’s not something that is criticized?
Unfortunately, even when we are told we are wrong, most of enter the ever-so-popular denial phase. Denial is surrounded by synonyms like defensive, stubborn, uncompromising, etc. Most things in life are subjective, so it’s not like most of the time we are morally wrong when someone says we are. In other words, just because someone disagrees with us, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are wrong and they are right and vice versa.
Yet, there are a plethora of topics that are universally objective (yet still not completely). For example, breaking the law, lying, cheating, drug abuse, etc. These things all have generally negative connotations and have a lower rate of conflicting viewpoints (on the other hand, think of political, religious, and social issues which are all topics with a high rate of conflicting viewpoints). If you cheat on your partner, most people will agree that it was not a ‘good choice’ on your part, however, it depends if these people will actually confront you about your decision (or if you even tell them about it since naturally we want to avoid confrontation/criticism).
When I read Manson’s chapter about self-awareness and personal values, it made me think, “what do I value? what do I deem to be the most credible characteristics? what values do I admire about myself that I want to see in others around me?”
As I mentioned above, we are aware of many of our characteristics by the reinforcement of others. People obviously do not reinforce me with the statement, “You are tall,” because I am obviously short. However, if people started to tell me that I am tall, I may start to believe that I am tall.
The most frequent characteristics that people use to describe me are: blunt, honest, funny, compassionate, hard-working, perfectionist. All of these characteristics I am proud of, and just like anyone else, I have characteristics that I am not proud of: insecure, indecisive, self-conscious, etc. I do feel lucky that I can recognize my faults, as many people obviously have a hard time doing so (cough Donald Trump cough cough cough cough). People who have a high sense of entitlement, cockiness, and pretentiousness usually have a hard time recognizing any flaws in their persona.
I have realized from my many years of dating and the #singlelife encounters I have experienced, the one characteristic that I can’t quite get past is stubbornness. If someone I am dating displays any hint of stubbornness, I almost immediately mentally check out of the date. I wouldn’t say someone who is stubborn is not honest, but rather they are not honest with themselves. I do believe they lack self-awareness and mentally cannot acknowledge their flaws. I know A LOT of stubborn people: I have worked with them, I have befriended them, I have and still am related to them. Both my brothers and my mom are incredibly stubborn about certain topics that arise in life. I honestly don’t recall my mom every saying the word “sorry.” I love my mom, and I we have a very good relationship at the moment. However, we have also had more arguments and vicious screaming battles than I can count.
What is shocking to me is that many people don’t find stubbornness to even be an unattractive characteristic. I think some people pair stubbornness with passion, I.E., those people who are so set in their ways/beliefs/opinions are just incredibly passionate about them. I can see the correlation in this viewpoint, however, stubbornness brings me to another Manson quote, “Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth.” This is very similar to Voltaire’s quote, “Doubt is not a
pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” What does this mean? Yes it feels uncomfortable to have doubts about something and not feel 100% right. However, it’s worse to think you know it all, all the time, and not question your own self. To question our beliefs and our knowledge is vital. If all we want and choose to believe is only what’s in our head, we are putting a dangerous barrier in front of our growth and success. I mean honestly, what is science? Science is the study of constantly observing and experimenting the physical and natural world. Your hypothesis is your question – what are you trying to prove or disapprove? New information arises from questioning other ideas and behaviors. How would we know so many of the thing we know today without embracing experimentation and questioning? Someone who is stubborn is closed off from embracing new information or questioning their own. For me, someone who is not willing to learn is someone who I cannot date.
I am currently in the process of reading Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I think EVERYONE should read this book. It has a lot of similar themes that Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck has. In Part II – Chapter 1 “Always Stay a Student,” Holiday talks about the importance of keeping a humble mind, and never acting as if you know everything. You are never a master in anything. Although you may think you know everything about making a martini, there is a plethora of knowledge you still don’t know, and that is still being questioned. Holiday quotes, “If you are not still learning, you are already dying.” If you decide to stay in your comfort zone of beliefs and knowledge, you are essentially putting yourself in more danger than you think. You are limiting the knowledge you can acquire, and we all know the very popular saying, “Knowledge is Power.”
One of my favorite quotes is, “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. If you really want to succeed, become a CEO, entrepreneur, meet awesome people, you must accept being told you are wrong (accept humility) and understand that people will constantly criticize and/or question your beliefs. Like I said earlier, this is not a situation of who is wrong and who is right. It’s understanding that maybe your way of thinking isn’t the ONLY way of thinking. Opening your mind to new and challenging ideas is the beginning of personal, emotional, spiritual, and mental growth.
Do not be stubborn. Open your mind. Accept your flaws and accept humility. Those who are humble are those who improve.