Saturday, November 19, 2011

He was kind of a jerk (and maybe that's okay)

I've been reading the Steve Jobs biography... and although I haven't finished it yet, the first few chapters portray him as a volatile, selfish, and demanding individual. I'm pretty sure that had I been one of the employees described in the book, Steve and I wouldn't have gotten along. He would have been too mean, and I would have been too sensitive.

The funny thing, though, is that although the book makes no attempt to sugarcoat who he was, it's actually inspiring me to change the way I interact with people. I'm a people-pleaser - not by nature, but by training. I learned early on to focus outward, away from myself, on the things other people wanted and felt. I wanted to make everyone happy. By nature? I am not the nicest person you will ever meet. I can be selfish, perfectionistic, driven to the point of tunnel vision, disgruntled, critical, and overly emotional. I try to hide all of that; my whole life, it's been drilled into me that these are all very negative qualities. So I try to squelch them, not just for the sake of everyone else, but also so that I won't hate myself.

But trying to please others while constantly stifling my own opinions and frustrations isn't working anymore. It just makes me feel bitter - especially now, given the situation with my mom and how busy I am with school and home life. I don't have time to sit around wondering how to make every other person around me happy or worrying that they won't like me. Screw it. Innately, I am all the things I listed above, but I am also a good, loyal, and caring person. I am a loving mother and a committed partner. I'm self-reflective. I'm generous with my time and material possessions. Expressing how I feel won't change that. I've decided to "let it all hang out" and see what happens. I'm not going to be intentionally rude - but I'm going to be direct.

I've tried it over the past week, and I'm surprised by how well it's worked. It's possible that I have caught a few people off guard by being more outspoken and opinionated than I've been in the past, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't hurt me or anyone else. In fact, it has been helpful to me because it's allowed me to state my own boundaries: "No, sorry, I can't do that because I just don't have time" or "If this happens again, I'm going to need more advance notice" or "That project seems more like busywork for the students than something of value. I think we should change it to make it less time-consuming and more meaningful for them." Maybe I'm going to come across as more negative or more demanding, but if so, so be it, because I also think it'll help me preserve my own integrity and build relationships that are based on complete and total honesty.

I'm starting to realize that the people I get along with the best aren't necessarily the nicest people, but rather the most honest people. More than anything, I appreciate knowing where they stand. There's comfort in knowing that they are looking me in the eye and saying everything, not placating me with a bunch of niceties and then talking about me behind my back.

Furthermore, I love what I do, just as Steve Jobs loved what he did. And I don't want "being nice" to stand in the way of doing what I love and being as good at it as I possibly can be. I don't want "being nice" to stand in the way of creativity and development of ideas.

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