8 || SELFISH WITH A TOUCH OF SHITTY
Compelling title, huh? Yeah, I got my degree in screenwriting. No big deal. Amazing, you say? Ah, stop that. You’re making me blush. *Flips hair, pops collar, does a lot of awkward winking, pops another collar*
You hate that? You’re welcome. Moving on.
This is probably one of the more valuable letters I could write you. One, because selfish people are unfortunately prevalent. Two, because shitty people are unfortunately prevalent. And three, because to some degree all of us are a little selfish and, therefore, a little shitty.
I initially considered naming this just “Shitty People,” but decided against it after a conversation I had with one of my close friends yesterday in which we discussed exactly this. The thing about shittiness, especially in your early twenties, is that most of it comes from a place of selfishness. People aren’t just generally the worst. I mean, some are (and to those people I say “fuck you”), but most aren’t. Most are just learning how to be independent functioning parts of society while simultaneously trying to understand who it is they are and what the hell they’re doing on this earth. When you really think about it, it’s a lot.
Selfishness in your teen years and early adult life comes in varying levels. There’s the “I’m not going to go out with my friends tonight because if I drink one more lukewarm tequila sunrise this weekend I’m going to follow it by digging my own grave,” which lands under the oh-so-important category of “Self-Care”. Something that is always fair and justifiable. And then, on the other spectrum, there’s the, “I’m only going to care about others when it’s convenient for me and I refuse to take any responsibility for my actions because how could I ever be the one at fault when I’m so emotional and insightful.” That second one can create a real bitch of a person and while I will always plead with you to play the kinder move with those sorts of beings, I’ll tell you now you’ve come pretty close a couple of times to throwing a swift punch in the face.
But something you should know is that, at times, you’ve deserved a swift punch in the face yourself. As far as selfishness goes, you’ve always been all over the place. When life circumstances get the best of you, you have a tendency to revert to some serious levels of self-centered BS. Not the extreme end of the spectrum, but you can be a total passive aggressive asshole if you don’t get your way. If you’re in a good mood though, you’re mostly easy and willing to do whatever others want. For a while there, about half a year back, that more common “go with the flow” mentality disappeared into nearly nothing. You were in a tough work environment and it got the best of you. Your days were long and crappy, and as a result you wanted your nights and your weekends to be compiled of whatever it was you wanted to do and you didn’t really care much about anyone else or their opinions. It wasn’t great. One day I’ll fill you in on all of that, but for now it’s still a little tough to talk about.
What I can say of it is this: looking back and recognizing that insane level of selfishness in myself allowed me to approach it with more decency when I saw it, and still see it, in others. Whether it’s bailing on schedules, taking advantage of a good opportunity, doing things at your leisure at the (somewhat) expense of others, etc. etc. it’s become all fine in my book as long as it’s not an overly consistent personality trait. Those shitty little selfish qualities are all human and if you want others to forgive you when you conduct yourself in that way, you have to forgive them just the same. But being aware of this doesn’t mean there aren’t days where I’m still tested. There are. Plenty of them. And this is because there's one type of selfishness I'm still learning how to deal with: emotionally entitled selfishness.
I’m quickly discovering that if you’ve been a nightmare of a person at some point in your life, there will be people who don’t easily forget and, even if you’ve made significant strides to better yourself, that doesn’t mean they won’t capitalize on an opportunity to throw it back in your face if given the chance. I’m warning you, this first half of 2017 is going to be very difficult for you. But it’s going to teach you a lot.
Here’s the thing about people who throw your past shittiness back at you. At first you’re going to think it’s because you deserve it and, for a while there, you do because you were terrible. Then, when it becomes entirely more evident the person they keep talking about is no longer the person you are, you’re going to think they’re a bunch of mean dickholes. Really, there’s nothing quite as exhausting as doing your best to smile through being told you were “horrible,” “miserable,” “manipulative,” “psycho,” (that last one is going to really fuck you up) all those fun positive words, when you’ve finally overcome a mental break from a chronic deep depression. But then you’re going to realize it’s not because they’re dickholes. They’re actually doing it from a place of, what they think, is good intent. And that assumption of good intent comes from emotionally entitled selfishness.
This is what you really need to know about selfishness: the worst part of it isn’t so much the self-serving vanity – that’s easier to deal with – it’s the disregard for other people’s feelings. It really blinds you from any emotions other than your own. Sometimes the disregard is subtle, sometimes it’s blatant. But regardless it’s coming from a place of someone validating their emotions first and then sort of forgetting the second party has feelings worth validating as well. So all those undeniably upsetting comments you were being told (and unfortunately still are to some degree) were coming from a place of someone taking only their feelings into consideration.
Yeah. Honestly, yeah. But a selfish person will always think they know better. I know this because I’ve been it. Take a minute to try and point out out their misstep, chances are they won’t understand.
So what can I really do otherwise? I can try to not exhibit the behaviors they’re exhibiting. I advise, as you grow, that you do the same to the best of your ability. Other people’s feelings are always important. ALWAYS. Yes, there are going to be days when you suck and you take responsibility for nothing and you point a finger of blame at everyone and you bail on friends and you say mean things to people who really don’t deserve mean things said to them and only your emotions matter and you’re just overall a selfish person with that special sprinkle of shitty. We’re all allowed those days. Just don’t make it a habit. Seriously, don't make it a habit. Selfishness, in many ways, is treating others in a way you think they should be treated and then being stunned and hurt when simliar treatment is returned to you.
If you want kindness, you have to give kindness. Think about your words before you say them. Think about your actions before you do them. Yeah, maybe you think you’re in the right. But what if that person said the same thing back to you or did the same thing back to you. Would it hurt your feelings?
This is not a technique you’ll master quickly. I’m still in the early stages of learning it. But being aware and making a concentrated effort is a good first step. That doesn’t mean you need to give in to that third day of poorly mixed tequila sunrises when you’re not in the mood, but it does mean taking the time to consider you’re not the only person with feelings when faced with difficult, or even easy, circumstances.
“The quickest way to happiness? Learning to be selfless.” I’m going to refrain from quoting who that's from because it will earn an easy eye roll, but for all those Seattleites out there, you included, I hope you appreciate.