I hated myself.
Every single person I had met had treated me poorly, and I didn’t believe in conspiracies, so if everyone met me with hostility, then, I was left with no course but to conclude: They must be right to punish me with every meeting that we have, because I must be deserving of it in some way.
I didn’t know how to change to be good enough that they would stop hating me; I’d tried for years and years to get better and better, and no one showed me any change in their demeanor.
I leaned into it.
I accepted that I was a villain, and that I would never be welcome, and I resolved to just become useful enough that people had to have me around even though they didn’t want me around.
When I was 24, a heated argument with my mother broke me down, and I started expressing this worldview to her, and in using these words she finally recognized the depth of the pit I was in. Before these words, she just assumed I was a sensitive Millennial taking my sweet time getting my life together, but after, we immediately got me into 10 years of weekly therapy to pull me out of the pit.
“You hate me. You hate me.” Over and over again. Not dramatic like I was asking for attention. Not a weapon to scold her. She did not hate me, and was sure of her conviction that she did not hate me, and I was my own lawyer, demanding that the truth be known. “You hate me. You hate me.”
After 10 years of weekly therapy, I can now explain what had happened to me, the mistake I was making, and how I no longer have any reason to hate myself. (Though I do have my bad-days; I lived with this worldview for decades, so it hasn’t ceased easily.)
2. The Mother of Home Economics
Catharine Beecher wrote the book on Home Economics. The first book on Home Economics. Written in 1841, “The four-hundred-page tome brought together education, cleaning, religion, civics, gender, and morality. It wasn’t just about how to care for a house. It was about the power of women to glue together a fragile society.” -The Secret History of Home Economics, Danielle Dreilinger
One of my beloved aunts is a Home Ec teacher. When I ran across The Secret History of Home Economics, I felt a duty to give it a read.
What I learned was that in the 1800’s, though women were not given a choice about whether they would marry a man and keep his house, there also was no formal education for this unpaid career.
Until Catharine Beecher wrote a book trying to save the lives of the women of the day, by passing on smart ideas that would apply to anyone in this job.
Before then, you had to just win the lottery of having a mother who knew everything you’d need to know, or failing that, have a great mother-in-law.
Such a gamble. To rely on parents to teach you skills that you will be graded on later.
In the 21st century, we continue this tradition, by bombarding our citizenry with constant needs for communication skills and patience skills and mindfulness and ability to think complexly about the differences of the lives of others, and if you had a parent who knows how to navigate all that stuff, you’re golden, and in the other 999,999 cases, you’re screwed.
Emotional intelligence is a requirement in the 21st century. We interact with one another far too much to be squabbling most of the time.
3. Colonel Sanders’ Title Comes From His Midwifery
“There was no one else to do it. Husbands couldn’t afford doctors when their wives were pregnant.”
Colonel Sanders, many decades before the chicken franchise, volunteered himself as a midwife. It is for his service as a midwife that he earned his title ‘Colonel’ from a civilian honor commissionable in Kentucky: the Kentucky Colonels.
It is commonplace now, to hope that the person facilitating your delivery will have a life-path that intentionally led them to your delivery room, and it is commonplace to assume that they prepared extensively for the work.
But go back a century, and you’d have been happy to have Colonel Sanders, a volunteer midwife, because he was better than nothing.
It may seem extravagant, the world I am proposing, the world where we take the time to learn how to interact with one another. But I will hear your argument for the status quo with the same cartoony air that I imagine of the people getting Colonel Sanders for their delivery and thinking, “This is fine, why rock the boat?”
4. There Is No Such Thing As Earned Kindness.
Why did I think everyone hated me, no matter where I went?
Because I was punished, wherever I went. I could not find an example of someone who treated me well, because the people who treat one person well, treat all persons well; it is a skill, and most don’t have it.
5. Teachers, Interview Your Students More
Classics can be good. I won’t shut up about how much I like Tolstoy’s catty attitude toward his own characters. I cannot get myself through the books because the pacing is based on the length of Russian winter and how much time you have to fill up, but the tone is exquisite.
But most of the best stuff I’ve consumed in my life was created within the last ten years.
In this article, here, I explained how much better my drawing skills got when I watched Disney Animator Aaron Blaise explain his process for developing color and light, for drawing expressions, -even his take on perspective drawing was one I had not seen before.
I couldn’t watch those classes in high school, because he had not made them yet.
The wold is becoming a better place because smart people are allowed to broadcast their smarts to wannabe-smart-people.
But we’re not there yet.
For every Aaron Blaise, there are a dozen course creators who have put in low effort to their teaching skill. Their smarts are efforted; their information is usually good; but their ability to bring you up to speed with what they know is severely unskilled.
Even when examining the industry most reliant on the ability to understand the person they’re talking to and communicate well, still, the majority of course creators are unskilled at communication.
Og Mandino said, “My books are so easy to read, because they are so hard to write.”
Hard work is going to be done. Either we will find writing to be a breeze, because we ‘bravely’ spoke our mind, just like we see it, and then our writing will be hard work for our reader because they have to claw through some glut to make sense of our meaning. Or, you admit your meaning is not yet clear enough and you refine it until people merely have to show up in order to receive your smarts.
Everyone who speaks, wants to be understood; some will put in the work; most will put the work on their listener.
Einstein said that if you don’t know your subject well enough to explain it to your own grandma, then you don’t know your subject well enough yet. He also said that he was no smarter than his peers, but he had more success it was because he’d stick with a problem longer than most of his peers were willing.
Growing up at the tail-end of the 20th century, no one was sticking with their subject long enough to explain it to you.
Every single interaction was an abdication of responsibility. If you talked to a person, they would expect you to divine their meaning, and zero thought was given to how you felt after the interaction.
6. Fairness Could Be More Than A Fairytale, But Who Among Us Will Be Willing To Pay The Price To Create It
I hated myself.
Everywhere I went, I was met with people punishing one another, and then me.
I hated that I kept getting myself into trouble. Anywhere I went, people treated me poorly, and so that is what my brain concluded: “It must be me that is causing them to treat me this way.”
If half the people treat you sane and fairly, and the other half treat you with no clarity and an absence of warmth, it might become obvious sooner that good treatment has to do with the treater, and not the recipient.
But it was ubiquitous.
People were unhappy and unclear anywhere I went.
It was inconceivable that it was not me.
It was inconceivable for the world to be this unanimously bad at treating people well.
It had to be that people were sane, that people were treating me fairly, and that I was the imp ruining their good life.
But people are not sane.
They are not treating you fairly.
People were never given the years and years of training required to allow a person to be clear and warm toward another.
We are living in the era of Colonel Sanders the delivery man, and everyone is fine with it.
We all hate it. We hate the contention. (Well, that’s not true, a few people like the fight and don’t care who becomes collateral damage.)
But fix it?
Train ourselves to be able to accurately communicate with one another, and stop the fight?
7. Just Save The Fucking Starfish You can
I think it was wise that we put systems in place to train people to read.
You wouldn’t be able to read this if you hadn’t been taught to read, and yet the generation they started standardizing literacy for all, I’m sure many people balked and said it was a fatass luxury.
I think it’s essential.
I think we keep expanding what are the essential skills, and so yes, it takes a person longer to be ready to launch their lives.
But I also think that an inordinate number of our problems are us fixing screwups. And the screwups come from miscommunication, an inability to accurately model the lives of others.
While mad at an appliance, my mother once said, “We really should force engineers to use the machines they design. That would change things quickly.”
We’re terrible at understanding one another.
It makes us all feel misunderstood. It makes each of us feel how alone we are.
We are fighting fights that would not be necessary if we all get skilled up in how to explain ourselves and understand one another better.
But I am not in control of the culture.
The most common person to find is one who blames and lashes and makes people feel miserable about themselves.
They are legion.
They think they’re normal.
They certainly are the norm.
I cannot change the momentum of the culture, so the best that I can do is convince those of you reading, who hate yourself, the framework, the broader framework which explains the world that inspired your strategy of hating yourself, in hopes that once seeing the framework, you will realize that hating yourself is not only doing nothing productive for you, but also happened in response to a crazy ass-backwards world of people in pain who pass the pain on.
The people I know who show others dignity? They worked at it. And they show dignity to everyone; they do not smack people for being bad. You oughtn’t have been smacked; the person smacking you was uninformed, and went through no training, and because we live in the backwater century of the 21st, everyone thinks that’s totally fine.
But our descendants, they’ll look back, and my career is staked on this, they will shake their heads at how little thought and preparation went into how we treat people.
And they will feel happy about living in the century that they live in, where no one has ever hated themselves, because the framework for lazy but rampant fighting, will simply not be there for them to get caught in the crossfire.