I think it’s time to announce our blogfriendship/bestfriendship to the world, so today I’m doing a little Q&A with my real life and blog-life best friend Erica of Coming Up Roses! I officially met Erica freshman year, after this period … Continue reading
“Take the log from your own eye before you take out the stick from your brother’s.” – Taylor Yates, grossly misquoting Matthew, The Bible
It’s weird how things just hit you sometimes. Truths that are seemingly obvious remain hidden from you for ages before suddenly revealing themselves in a way that makes you wonder how much of the world you’ve been unaware of, makes you wonder if you’ve been blindly trudging along for much too long.
These moments of sudden truth can happen anywhere and at any time, and they’re usually in the small moments. Mine just happened to be in the great house of knowledge and self-reflection that is the shower. I always think in the shower; I think most people do.
The other day, I was pondering relationships in general, and how complicated they can be. Friendships, romantic relationships, family ties: they all take a great deal of maneuvering. It’s actually miraculous at times how humans, in our infinite capabilities for imperfection and selfishness, are able to come together and form lasting bonds. In thinking about relationships, I began thinking about past ones that had not ended well or gone awry, and plain as day, a glimmer of truth hit me.
You have literally never thought about how much of what happens in your relationships is your fault.
What? No way, I thought. I’m self-aware! I’m open to change! I’m not someone who goes around pointing fingers while seemingly unwilling to point the finger at herself. But the more I thought about it, the truer it became: I had never really considered my own role in the relationships I have with others.
I had from a very abstract level considered my own actions, but I had never considered how my actions were perceived by others, or how my actions (or their misperception) could be causing adverse impacts in my relationships. I had somehow managed to be the queen of over-psychoanalyzing every situation to death without looking at myself once.
This is not to say that I have always blamed others for everything. I’ve often attributed problems in relationships to my own actions, but I’ve only done so when the action seems crystal clear to me. I’ve never thought about how often things can get lost in translation or how what I believe I’m saying and what I’m actually saying can be very different. It’s not out of selfishness or an inability to see fault in myself; it’s as if I’d just forgotten that I’m a person, and not a machine that spits out white photocopy paper pages printed with feelings, thoughts, and motives, written in size 12 Times New Roman.
It’s easy, as I’ve found, to see yourself as an open book. It’s easy to assume that our motives and thoughts are clearly communicated to others, and that any adverse reactions must be due to the thoughts themselves. If there is any ambiguity, it’s the easier route to assume that any error in interpretation is solely theirs. This, however, is missing half the pieces of the puzzle.
As I move forward in my relationships, I’ll be interested in seeing how much more I unearth about myself. I’m already learning a lot. I know two things for sure: The shower is an excellent place for thinking…and I should probably reread Matthew.
Usually you’d hear that someone’s first crush or a wise word of advice from their mother shaped their dating lives. I think mine was shaped by a seventh grade girl.
For about two years in junior high, I liked the same guy. It was one of those early junior-high, admire-from-afar sorts of affairs, but of course I wanted to change that. I had class with this guy, and Ally too. She had the reputation of being a flirt, and everyone knew. Especially the guys. In particular, she was always flirting with my crush in question. It was so overt that one day the teacher jokingly-not-so-jokingly said that they either needed to start holding hands and make it official or she’d separate them.
You probably know where the story is going. You are expecting me to now tell you that this made me believe that only girls who are teases can get guys, it made me believe that no one likes nice girls, it made me think that I’d have to start being super-flirty to get this guy’s attention, etc., etc., etc.
All of those would be wrong.
You know what it did? It made me absolutely terrified of flirting.
For all of junior high, and early high school too, I was scared of talking to guys for fear that I might be as obvious as Ally. I remember getting advice from my mom about boy matters, and I’d tell her, “I just don’t want to be an Ally.” She’d always respond, “But Taylor, you have to say SOMETHING to them!”
At the time, I believed my fear stemmed from not wanting to have a bad reputation. I didn’t want to be “that girl.” But looking back, I think that my fear instead stemmed from something we can all relate to: vulnerability.
Emotional vulnerability is scary. Owning our feelings leaves us exposed, open for attack of the heart, where it hurts most. But it’s an absolutely necessary part of life should we ever wish to move forward with anything. If you want the dream job, there’s no use in going into the interview half-heartedly excited and half-believing that you aren’t going to get it. The people who excel are not only the people with the credentials but the people whose genuine excitement and passion shines through.
The same goes, of course, for relationships of any kind. Inviting a peer from class or work out for coffee means that you’re putting your feelings on the line. You’re expressing interest in spending time with that person, whether with platonic or romantic intentions. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. You might be missing out on the love of your life or on your new lifelong best friend.
For way too much of my teenage years, I allowed how I approached guys to be shaped unknowingly by a fear of vulnerability. I can’t say that things would have worked out any better had I been more forward with my feelings (do junior high relationships ever really work out well?), but at least I could have gotten my verdict of interested or not interested and moved on with my life.
Moral of the story: Don’t be Tiny Taylor (or medium-sized Taylor, as it were). Vulnerability is scary but it has immeasurable payoffs. There’s nothing worse than putting your feelings out on the line, nothing worse than feeling like your head is on the chopping block. But there’s also nothing better than casting that line into the water and getting a bite. (Especially when that bite turns into a three-year relationship. :))
“It’s not enough to be an expert at something. Sometimes you have to have the wisdom and experience to pretend like you don’t know anything.” – Pulitzer Prize finalist and award-winning journalist Binyamin Appelbaum
Mr. Appelbaum gave this word of advice during a speech he made last night at a campus event, and it really stuck out to me. While he was referring more specifically to being an excellent journalist, his words ring true regardless of domain.
The application of this to career seems salient enough. Those who are truly excellent in their fields are good at playing dumb. They’re good at going back to basics, and catching the things everyone else has missed because they’re busy doing something much more complicated. Everyone else is trying to figure out which formula would work better while the true expert has realized there’s a number mistyped.
I found his advice to be logical in the area of career, but I think where it really struck me was in an area perhaps Mr. Appelbaum had not thought of: relationships.
How often do we assume we are “experts” in our relationships with others?
It’s so easy to make snap judgments about those around us and their feelings, especially when they are people that are close to us. We do this almost without thinking about it. “Oh, I said this, my friend said this, I responded like this, and he ended the conversation. He must be upset. Typical reaction.” We assume that we know the thoughts and feelings of those we engage with closely because it only seems logical. “She’s my sister. Of course I know what she thinks of….”
While it seems so comfortable to make these judgments and it sure makes us feel like we’re super-smart, I think there is a lot of value in “pretending like we don’t know anything” about the people around us. Without invoking a strange “shrink-like” feeling (“So, how does that make you feel?”), what would happen if we stopped assuming and started asking?
Friends have told me that I’m a good listener, and I think it’s because when I’m actively listening, I’m asking a borderline obnoxious amount of questions. So, a big life change happened to you. I’m assuming you were super excited, but were you? Were you a little nervous too? How did it make your family feel? etc, etc. These are the kinds of questions we so often forget to ask, and I still don’t ask some people these often enough.
Not only do these questions make the people in our lives feel understood and valued, they serve to help us understand our relationships better and to strengthen them. I send my friend a text that’s a little snarky, and she doesn’t reply for a day. I automatically assume she’s angry and so I get annoyed, because I’m an expert and I always know how my best friend acts when she’s angry. If I were to only ask her about my comment and how she felt about it, I might find that I was completely incorrect in my thinking, avoiding what could be an unpleasant situation entirely.
The example I just mentioned is a little simplified, but the message is clear. We ask people about their lives but rarely ask them about what really makes them unique: how they see the world and perceive and internalize the events that happen around them.
As you go about your day, think about how often you’re asking and how often you’re assuming. Because you know what they say about “assuming….” it keeps us from having meaningful conversations with those around us. Oh, and it makes an ass out of you and me.