Thursday, September 22, 2011

Killed by Kindness

I was conditioned early on to be nice.

Hmm...that's not entirely accurate. What I was conditioned to do was to do whatever it took to avoid conflict, to not feed the fire with my own fire, to keep a low profile, keep my head down, and, occasionally, duck. I was trained, very well, to become the path of least resistance.

As I've gotten older, that's translated into kindness.

I wasn't particularly well-liked by anyone growing up. I didn't have many friends. At times, I had no friends. Literally. Not a one. I was shy, quiet, lonely. I wasn't invited to parties or to dances or to sleepovers. I wasn't picked to be on teams even though I was a decent volleyball player and could kick a mean kickball in my day. But, whenever someone would take the time to get to know me, they would find a kind, generous to a fault, funny, loving, faithful friend. Most of those few friends I made then are still friends of mine today.

As an adult, I discovered something akin to confidence, an ability to just, you know, make people like me...nay, love me...through sheer force of will.  Big Matty told me lo those many years ago that he didn't have a chance. I just kicked down the door of his heart and worked my way in before he could even begin to defend himself.

When you've grown up knowing you weren't liked, being liked, for me, becomes all that much more important.

As a consequence, I tend to believe people like me right off the bat. And then I sub-consciously set out to work my magic self to prove to them there's a reason they do. I listen. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I rarely ask for much of anything - respect, kindness, consideration being the exceptions. I bake things. I say nice things. I donate money. I buy drinks and brunch and silly little gifts. I honor my commitments. I try to help people I don't even know.

Consciously, I do these things because I believe I'm a good person and want to do nice things for people I love or could love. Sub-consciously, I do these things because I've been conditioned to do whatever I have to do to avoid conflict. No one likes a mean girl. And I want desperately to be liked...still.

So...when I find out someone doesn't like me, it a lot. Because I don't really understand why when I've tried my best. And if they don't like me when I've offered nothing but my best? Then, sub-consciously I re-enforce, I must be a bad person. Because only bad people aren't liked...right? RIGHT?!

Worse still, it a lot...when someone I care about, someone I think cares about me, chooses me as the path of least resistance and unceremoniously tosses me to the curb (or in the streets because the curb wouldn't have me) in their own effort to avoid conflict or to do something they think is more fun. It irritates me that, when given a choice between letting me down and letting someone else down, the choice to let me down is usually what's chosen because I don't make waves, I don't get mad, I don't get even, I don't get crazy.

Except...when I do.

Everyone has their limits. I'll take an awful lot of crap off people - crap they probably aren't even truly aware they're pushing out - and I'll forgive, be flexible, give space, back off. When people are mean or inconsiderate or irresponsible, I tend to laugh it off, let it least, outwardly. Inwardly, I'm keeping a score card. Inwardly, I'm understanding that what the other person is saying is that they believe I'm not worth their attention or their respect. I'm not worth their diligence in honoring commitments, friendship, or reciprocating kindness. And the ugly core of me - or maybe the self-preservation core of me - says, " more instance like that and I'll be saying fuck you and don't let the door hit'cha".

I read an article today, Being the Better Person Will Teach People to Treat You Like Crap. While the article focuses on mean people, abusive people, I think the argument can be made that the behavior holds true for the regular joe too. I mean, come on. If you have to choose between hurting the one who won't make waves and hurting the one who's going to make you feel bad for not choosing them, who are you going to choose?

Yeah. That's what I thought.

Just remember, "regular joe", the one you continuously treat like crap? Will eventually make those waves and write you off as the worthless joe you actually are. And when you're sitting there, stunned, that the one person who tried to always treat you with kindness, the one who gave without reserve, is gone? It was you. Not me. Kapeesh?

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Love, a girl I know and love has (in the past decade or so) been kicked to the curb twice by friends because of a less-severe version of your ailment. We teach others how to treat us by what we will and will not tolerate. You project onto others that they are like you, normally a reasonable presumption. BUT...but...especially when you fish for friends in the fouled waters of the alternative scene, you get A LOT of people who don't see things that way. Their ongoing crisis justifies (in their minds) ideas like imposing on people without thanks, asking for favors without ever reciprocating, borrowing without giving, and other extremely selfish behaviors. It's why I advise everyone treat new friends like credit accounts (as cold as that sounds). I'm willing to stand most people a drink, maybe a night if I like them. I will help people move...if I feel they'd do the same for me. The old phrase "friends help you move...real friends help you move bodies"? That's a developed thing, over a credit account. There are hundreds of people that have been unceremoniously dropped from my friend rolls, because they took without giving generally. Don't make excuses for them, didn't meet them in a particularly acute stage in their lives; they're like this all the time, because they found that it works against people like you. And definitely don't be shamed for being unwilling to give your "all" when they haven't given their "any" yet. The other justification I have heard is that they are giving the wondrousness that is them, that is the coin they are paying. Don't buy friends that commerce in such BS...insist on giving the first credit extension and maybe even the second, but no further. If they haven't come across with one giving effort by then, be done with them. Be civil, be mealymouthed if it's more comfortable, but explain/excuse why you can't/won't . Use a colander to selectively weed out the people who get to be with you and accept as part of the cost that there will be alone nights at times...but you're not being used. Otherwise, they'll drain you down to dry and then still want more.