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October 22, 2004


A couple of weeks ago Roo and I were talking, and somehow the conversation came around to the fact that I really admire one quality of hers in particular - that she seems to be able to get along with anyone. Even if she (maybe) doesn't like them all that much, she's at least able to be friendly and inclusive when she is required to interact with them.

I admire this quality because it's something I find very hard to do; if I don't like you, I don't make much of an effort to hide it. I will be cordial to you in person and in public, but that's as far as I will go.

It's not that I think this quality of mine is a particularly positive one; there are many times when I don't think it's good (and yet an equal number of times when I'm glad I'm like this). In general, though, I just accept that this is who I am. What was funny about the conversation with Roo was that she said that sometimes she wished she were more like me in this area (i.e. someone who doesn't shy away from confrontation).

I started thinking about this conversation again late last week, when my dad and I had a discussion about whether or not there is such a thing as a truly selfless act. Neither he nor I believe that there is; we both believe that every action a person performs has, at its root, a basis in one's own feelings of self-worth and self-interest.

For example, when I go out of my way to do something for friend, it's not fundamentally because I know it helps my friend for me to do so. It's because it makes me feel good about myself to do it. Or it's because it's something I believe I should do, and not to do it would cause cognitive dissonance (much like the anxiety I feel when I behave in ways that I don't think are "in tune" with the person I believe myself to be).

This spun off into a conversation about self-worth and how people achieve it, and from what sources. I suspect that people fall into one of two categories - those who are predominantly internally motivated, and those who are predominantly externally motivated. People who are internally motivated derive their self-esteem from how they feel about themselves; someone who is externally motivated would derive it from how others feel about them. Everyone is, certainly, a blend of the two, but I think almost everyone falls solidly on one side of the fence or the other.

Me? Very internally motivated. I stopped caring what strangers think about me when I was about 13, and began a four-year swing of shaving my head and wearing all black, all the time. Stares, I've had a few. But no regrets. I don't recall doing it for attention, though; I was never that kind of kid. I just liked dressing that way, and I didn't particularly care what anyone else thought about it (outside of my own friends).

Side note - I give full credit to my parents for raising me to have confidence in myself; it is, without a doubt, one of the most important traits they passed along to me.

That attitude - that I don't particularly care about what other people think of me - has continued throughout my adult life. Overall, I'm glad it has. I do recognize the ways it might have "negatively" impacted my life, though. I have a small circle of very good friends, rather than a wide array of acquaintances, which means that I don't have an unlimited number of social outlets at my disposal. If I don't respect you, your opinion of me means nothing, so I'm not at all likely to doubt myself or change myself in response; but that doesn't mean that you might not have a point.

It's sort of the same way I feel about rejection (both on a romantic and platonic level). Do I find every person I meet attractive? No. So why would I expect everyone who meets me to be attracted to me? I've crushed on guys and not had it returned, which is, technically, a form of rejection. I just don't take it all that personally, because I remember the times when I didn't return crushes that certain guys have had on me.

So by the same measure, if I don't like everyone I meet, why would I care if not everyone who meets me likes me, either? As far as I'm concerned, it all evens out, and the people that can like you will like you.

So I was giving it some thought the other day as I was driving to meet my mom for lunch at Jason's Deli - who, exactly, are the people whose opinions of me I care about? It's a pretty small group as far as family goes - my parents, my stepdad, and my brother. As far as friends go, there's only ... *counts on fingers* ... five people whose opinions of my character are meaningful to me on a significant level. After that, there's probably 7-8 people (both friends and family) that I hope like and respect me, because I like and respect them, but if they don't it's not a revelation that will keep me awake at night.

(Heh, even though I won't fake it when I don't like someone, I will avoid directly naming names in certain cases, to avoid people being upset because they thought they should have made one of those lists, and didn't.)

So yeah, dislike me all you want, think I'm horrible, what.ev.er. If I don't respect you, I won't care. It's only when I let myself down - when my image of myself is shaken - that I really have issues.

I have this idea of who I am, and who I want to be, and when I fall short of that - even in ways that are completely normal and natural - I have a difficult time dealing with it. I'm my own worst enemy, in that sense. I don't care at all about what most people think - you can say anything negative you want to me, and it just really doesn't make any impression on me at all. But when I do something that shakes my confidence and belief in myself, I end up kicking myself in the head for days, if not weeks (just ask my friends!). It is those times when I'm wracked with self-doubt.

I'm not sure which type of motivation is better. It probably depends on your personality as a whole. I don't mind not having a ton of friends to do things with, and that's probably one of the reasons that I am so internally motivated. If it was important for me to have everyone like me - or be seen as someone whom everyone likes - I'd be out of luck, because that's just not going to happen. At the same time, my feelings of self-worth probably aren't as malleable as someone who ties their own value, in large part, to the opinions of the people around them.

But I still come back to that admirable quality in Roo, and how I wish I could learn to incorporate that quality into my own life. Even if only to make my own life easier.

Because it's all about ME ME ME.

Posted by Highwaygirl on October 22, 2004 10:25 AM to the category Stuff About Me

Odd. I always thought it was all about teem. *grin*.

Very interesting thoughts. While I am even more accute in my inability to feign liking someone, I still care a lot about what others think of me. There's something I'd like to be able to pick up from you.

Posted by: rappy at October 22, 2004 11:37 AM

Thank you again for thinking that I have an "admirable quality," though I still disagree. I am too much of a "pleaser" sometimes, and it's no secret that I worry *entirely* too much about what people think. Though my parents definitely raised me to have confidence in my own self, I just don't. I hate that.

Posted by: Roo at October 22, 2004 12:05 PM

Yes, rappy, it's supposed to be all about ME. But nooooooooo, it's not, as usual. Woe is me. What have a done to deserve this neglect? Tell me, what? Whaaaaaaaaat!?

Posted by: Teem at October 22, 2004 01:04 PM

I think that it is fine to derive self esteem internally, rather than relying on others to provide your self-worth. In fact I think that is the best way to be. External motivation is what drives 30 year old women to feel like failures if they are unmarried. If your sense of self worth is determined by who is in your life then it can come crumbling down when a relationship ends. If your self worth is determined by who you are then the end of a relationship will be sad, but not completely devastating.

I also have a small circle of friends rather than a large number of aquaintances. I like it that way. If you are a member of that circle I will do anything for you. I don't have the time or energy to devote to people that I don't particularly care for. If that limits my social opportunities, then so be it. I enjoy spending time alone - sometimes more than spending time with others. It is healthy to be able to spend time alone. I know quite a few people who are absolutely terrified of spending any time alone. I feel very sad for them. How can you know yourself if you don't spend any time with yourself?

Posted by: Brent at October 22, 2004 02:19 PM
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