There is an unfortunate truth which everyone will eventually face, and it’s that frequently people suck. People can be incredibly disappointing. When we are younge we have no basis of understanding about other people. Those first few surrounding members of family or community, that’s our world. We love them unconditionally, because it’s all we know. As we grow older we meet new people. School bullies are a shock. Why are they so mean? We slowly watch people we meet and start to understand that there are a lot of angry, sad people in the world. People are mean to each other and we don’t know why. We don’t fundamentally understand what would inspire someone to be shitty, or a dick, to a stranger. It makes even less sense when people are shitty to people they care about. Why be mean to your friends?
Some people learn this early, some later. Any which way, every person will discover, in time, that people often suck. Typically, people will figure this out somewhere between 15-25 and then they’ll get selective about who they spend time with.
I want to be clear – not all people suck. In fact, most people have good hearts and are good persons. It’s just that life is stressful, and stress and confusion makes people shitty to each other.
Why am I even bringing this up? Why do people suck?
I’m bringing this up because it’ll be better for you if you’re not surprised. It will also be better if you understand the underlying truth of why most people suck. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a fundamental part of being human in the modern day.
Why people suck has a lot of answers. The most typical is a domino effect of disappointment. Someone has hope, they are let down, disappointed and angry, they lash out, which disappoints someone else. Rinse repeat.
That good ol phrase, ‘don be a dick’? That’s what ‘people sucking’ means. People being rude, shitty, mean to each other has a lot to do with disappointment, anger and trauma. Some people are awful on purpose, like they go out of their way to be mean, con, etc. Most of the time there are legit life reasons as to why a person turned out awful or is acting poorly, and unfortunately people have a tendency to get stuck in a loop of bad attitude, backed by bad choices. Eventually all they know is how to be awful.
Some people, most people, suck on accident. They can’t manage their lives and all the balls they’re forced to juggle get dropped. That’s a big part of it. A lot of children are forced to grow up too fast, forced to take on responsibilities they dont want and weren’t prepared for. That lack of choice, that obligation, makes them angry.
Truth be told, life is hard and complicated, and doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
Most of us are doing the best we can with little guidance or instruction, surrounded by people who are so good at faking understanding that we feel we missed a memo.
What I’m trying to explain is that, as you go forward, you’re going to discover that people suck. For ever. Bosses can be awful. Road rage is real. Dating is a real pain – which is a bummer, as dating should be fun. You’ll find days where the grocery clerk at the store looks at your face and hates you, for no reason at all that you can understand. There are, of course, real injustices out there, but truthfully, people who are having a hard time in their own lives will take it out on others, often strangers.
I mention this for two reasons – the first: it’s important to be aware that this is a fact. Doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Just means that when someone is mean or shitty to you stop and pause and ask yourself, ‘did I do anything to deserve that?’ It’s usually pretty obvious if you did. If you flipped someone off and they punched you in the face, well.. you did that. Often, though, it isn’t you. Sometimes you’re the target because you are there. Nothing else too it. It’s important to be aware that people can just be mad, and not at you, and take it out on you. It’s not a reflection on you.
The second: this is a two way street, and you need to be aware that you might be the person who sucks. If you have an altercation you need to stop and ask ‘did I do that?’. A lot of people act out because they are stressed. It doesn’t make you a bad person, but if you find people are angry at you often, mean to you often, crying around you often, you argue and get in fights often… well, maybe you’re acting like a dick. Maybe you’ve gotten out of hand.
It’s worth asking both these questions regularly. Mostly because it gives you a chance to calm down and cut yourself some slack. We work so hard to function… its important to be kind to yourself, and cutting yourself some slack is a good place to start.
Okay, so if people are stressed… and stress, responsibilities, obligations… are what tends to make people angry, then how can we mitigate that problem? Obviously there are things which must get done… but how do we think about our lives? How do we organize our time so that we don’t get overly stressed?
First, we all need to consider how we spend our time. Humans only have three basic requirements: Sleep, food, bathroom. That’s all we need to live. Obviously there are a handful of other things we tend to need as well. Shelter, warmth, water, mate. Right. Basic human needs. All the work we do is to facilitate those seven basic human needs.
Seven. Seven is a good number. Let’s break those seven needs down to normal modern day living.
Sleep: Sleep is actually wrapped up with shelter. Sleep, in this case, represents two concepts – that of rest and home.
Food: Food is wrapped up with water.
Bathroom: Back to shelter.
Warmth: Back to… shelter? Or food?
Mate: Erm… shelter? Warmth?… maybe food?
See what I’m getting at? The seven basic human needs are almost completely reliant on each other. In fact, mate (family) is really the only one which could be ignored. The rest… well, that’s all actually one subject of thought – survival. That subject is usually solved by a job. A job provides you money and money gives you shelter, food, water, bathroom, warmth, and a place to sleep. Understandably, a job is pretty important.
Since we have a cause and effect here, let’s say we have two subjects of thought: Home, Job. Those are two things everyone thinks about pretty much daily. Granted, they are big subjects, but still… only two.
I mentioned mate. Mate is family. We are mammals, after all… we need community. Lets put Mate as subject three.
Home, Job, Mate.
Wait. Wait wait. I seem to have forgotten something important! Bodies! We have bodies! The whole reason we need to think about those three things is our bodies! Call that health – call that working out, diets, medical… whatever. Bodies!
Body, Home, Job, Mate.
Four things. Four major subjects which humans spend time thinking about, juggling, working out, worrying about. These four things just about every single person on the planet is thinking about. Four things.
Now, take a moment and ask yourself, what else do you spend time thinking about? I’ll tell you what… there are a lot of options. Facebook? School? Sports? Global domination? Friends? Art? Reading? Cars? Mafia? Gambeling? Travel? Sex? Drugs? Money? Power? Children? Family? Instagram? Getting rich? Fashion? Looks? Success (whatever that means, it’s different for everyone)? Animals? Forests? Gangs? Music? The list goes on.
This is exactly where people get stressed and become angry people.
We have to handle four things – four subjects – and often we handle those four subjects, and any number of these other subjects as well.
Me? I can, at maximum, handle seven subjects. The four main ones, and usually Friends, School, Sex and one other… and that last one, thats usually where and when I start to become a stressed out aweful person. Often for me, the last one is booze. I try not to drink when I’m stressed, only when I’m celebrating. If those seven subjects are too big, then the last one will be a coping mechanism, which usually doesn’t help anything.
See, thing is, those seven subjects, they can be big or small. In a perfect world with good planning and control, and a pure heart where everything is sunshine and rainbows, I love my job, I have a beautiful peaceful dream home, access to fresh food and clean water, a comfortable bed, good health, wonderful and caring long term friends, an attentive family, a supportive funny partner, and Im acing my classes at school because I find them fun and engaging. Right. Perfect. Those seven subjects, they’re small. In this scenario they don’t stress me out. Juggling them is fun and I love my life.
Now, the real version of that: I work a job I’m too smart for, while being underpaid. I pay an exorbitant amount of money for a subpar home I share with friends cause we cant afford our own places. I do have access to fresh food and clean water, for an extreme price, and I know how to cook, which is unusual. I do have a comfortable bed, but didn’t for years, leading to back problems, and no health insurance. My friends are awesome and long term, but so-in-so are fighting again, and so-and-so just got fired, and so-and-so just had a baby and can’t find child care, and so-in-so has cancer. I talk to my folks once every three months. I’m single and dating is a process of dick-pics and rude jerks. School is expensive and my professor is a drone because they’re underpaid, which makes learning boring, and I need to have a drink at the end of the day because I’m so stressed all the time from all this shit that my body is constantly tense, which hurts, which makes sleeping hard, which makes exhausted all the time.
Whew. That, my friends, that second one… that is real life for most people. Those seven subjects… they are BIG and difficult. It’s no wonder people are mean and angry to each other, if that’s what you have to live with. That’s just one version. There are millions of versions that often look similar to this… which few ever discuss.
So what do you do? Right!? That’s the point of this. How to fix this?
First, deep breath and pause. Second, identify problem points. That means taking a week off. You probably can’t take off work, of course, but you can take off giving attention and time to friends and family and dating and drinking. Take a week off and hide at home. Clear the mind. This is not a vacation or a holiday. This is self management. That, that right there… is the point I’m trying to get at.
We get pulled into these social cycles where we believe we absolutely have to do all seven of those things. We don’t. It’s a choice. We may want too… that’s fine. But if life is stressful and you’re being a dick to people, or are depressed all the time, or hate life.. Well, somethings gotta change, and you are in charge of how you spend your time.
During that week identify problem spots.
If it’s the job, then job hunt. Find a new job. There are lots of jobs.
If it’s the friends, cut out toxic friends. People grow and change. Sometimes we need to stop being friends with people. If your friends aren’t supporting you, lifting you up and encouraging you, and you them, then cut them loose. Drama… is huge part of casual friends, and no ones got time for that.
If its home, it might be time to consider relocating. Or at least addressing the problems. Maybe it’s time to clean the house, repair something. Even if its a rental, so what? You live in it now, repair it. Make living in your home a good thing, even if it won’t be yours forever. You spend a LOT of time at home. Your home should be a place you enjoy, your sanctuary.
Dating is an interesting one. We often forget that it’s a very voluntary thing. If actively dating isn’t serving you then stop, go find a hobby. There are plenty of sex toys out there, and theres no reason to spend time having someone make you feel bad about yourself – which is exactly what bad dating is.
You get the picture. You need to consider how you spend your time, what you focus on. There are ways to solve all problems if you bother to look.
There is another important level to people being awful and that’s expectations.
Expectations are going to be a huge defining factor on how you perceive life. If you expect christmas and your birthday are going to be great every year you will likely be disappointed. On the same token, if you believe those holidays are going to be terrible, you may have a terrible holiday because you expect it to be so – self-fulfilling prophecy style.
The jam about expectations is that expectations are you saying to yourself, ‘I believe someone else’s choices and actions will make me happy’. That, right there, is a huge problem.
You agree to a date. You are jazzed. Ya like this person.
The agreement is to meet at a time and a place, go on a date. This agreement has almost instantly led you to an expectation. The expectation is that you will show up, your date will show up, yall will have a good time together, and everyone will feel good! Yay! For the most part, that is a reasonable expectation based upon the agreement, and what you know about each other.
Or is it?
No. Actually, it’s not.
The only reasonable expectation is that you both will show up on time at the agreed upon location. You both made that commitment to each other.
Everything else? The good time and feel good and yay!.. that’s hope. That’s not a guarantee. It may seem like I’m splitting hairs here, but try and wrap you mind around this.
The hope that the date goes well… that’s fine. It’s good to have hope. Expecting to have a good time? That may be reasonable, given the person and how you both interact, but expectations are often elevated to guantrees. We often take an expectation and rise it up onto a pedestal which says, THIS SHALL HAPPEN!!! Except, you aren’t the only person on this date. Life can go wrong. The expectation that your date will be awesome… that’s not a good expectation to have. Not because you shouldn’t hope for awesome, but because we’re human, and weird stuff happens. If you only expect to meet your date at the agreed upon time and place, and nothing else, then when stuff goes really well, you’ll be surprised and happy! And if stuff goes poorly, you won’t be disappointed because you weren’t expecting more. Get it?
Identifying expectations is real important on the road to not being disappointed.
I’m not saying all expectations are bad or unreasonable, but I am saying that plenty of them cause undue heart ache. When preparing for something ask yourself if you have an expectation, and if that expectation is reasonable to have? Will you be disappointed if that thing doesn’t happen?
Back to the example…
So there you are, on time, at said location. Your date isn’t there. Your date is late.
Sitting there, you go through a slew of feelings and thoughts. Most will start with, gosh, I hope they’re okay? Followed up by, wtf, where are they!? Followed up with disappointment and anger, and often self deprecation. It must be me. I must be awful. No dear, if a person doesn’t show up they suck, not you.
If they just happen to be late for a good reason it’s usually easy to forgive. Shit happens.
Last minute cancellation, that is direct disappointment. Even for a good reason, it doesn’t bode well. See, where there was an expectation to see each other, there was also an agreement to see each other, a commitment. For a canceling date, there’s the loss of expectation, but also the failure to uphold a commitment. That’s a different level of bummed. That’s a break in trust. Some breaks in trust, like not showing up to agreed upon meetings, they chip away at you. They quietly tell you that you’re not very important to the other person.
20 minutes early, 20 minutes late – that’s your window of reasonability. Try and show up in that window of time.
No call, no show. Fuck em. That’s just flat out disrespectful. There are more fish in the sea.
So there you are sitting alone with no date. That’s where this has escalated to. Your date commitment has not been met. You had hope for a good date, and maybe even expectations, and no matter how much you rationalize, you can’t quite shake that you feel bummed. You were looking forward to having a good time.
AHAHA! ROOT CAUSE! HAVING A GOOD TIME!
See… disappointment is the result of having a good time, a good feeling, taken away. Sure, your date might be a great person, but it’s really the good time which you were after. You like the way they make you feel, how you act around them. You feel good inside your body. You like how you engage with the rest of the world when they are around. You like their attention.
Thinking that they are the cause of your good time… that’s the problem.
See, you can have a good time any where, any time… if you want to. You are the cause of your good time.
If your date isn’t there look around and engage with the world around you. Go on that date without them. Take yourself out. Or go home and take a bath. Most of the time we want company, we want excuses to feel good. We somehow believe we aren’t allowed to have a good time if there isn’t an excuse. Life is just the opposite of that.
If we remove reasons to have a good time, remove expectations of having a good time, and instead engage with the world around us, with the desire to have a good time, most of the time, we will have a good time.
Your good time does not have to be dependent on someone else being there. Truth be told, the date might be boring, or gawd awful, because they person isn’t what you thought they were. Walking into the date with the expectation to have a good time wherever you are, regardless of who you are with, because you are in control of your own joy and experience, that is the only reasonable controllable expectation to have.
The expectations which often come with a date, that of being swept off your feet, good sex, laughter, insightful conversation, whatever, those expectations are out of your control. Those things happen naturally, because both parties involved are to distracted having a good time, with themselves and with each other. The dizzy magic of a great date, that’s the mind checking out, letting go of worries or cares for awhile. That’s why we go on dates. It’s called abandon – that distracted letting go of expectations to enjoy the moment – and where many people believe they need a date to get that feeling, the truth is that if they want that feeling they can make it happen any time they want by letting go of expectations.
I bring all this up because often people create false expectations. They day dream a whole scenario of how things will go down, and when the event doesn’t go they way they imagined it they are crushed. People do this every day. They set their expectations on high risk for failure, and then are surprised and disappointed when failure occurs.
Why do people do that? Sometimes cause they can’t help themselves. Sometimes because it gives you a mental rush. Impatience or excitement are frequently reasons. Also, we tend to kind of like feeling angry or sad… like chemically, on the inside. Sometimes people will day dream just to feel sad. Day dreaming is fine, but creating false expectations so that you can be mad and sad… that’s not healthy. It makes it impossible for people to live up to your expectations.
If you see how someone acts and expect them to be different because they’re with you… that’s a false expectation. You projected what you wanted onto them, instead of seeing them for what they show you of themselves. That false expectation will lead to disappointment.
People often suck because they’ve created a whole false world around themselves where everything is a disappointment. It’s an effect of broken trust and a broken heart, and it works in a loop. At some point people start believing that everyone is a liar or a cheat, and they get afraid. They don’t want to be hurt, yet a known hurt is better than an unknown hurt. A false expectation, they can pretend like nothing is their fault, like everything is out to get them.
It’s a choice, a choice to focus on being a victim of life. It’s also creates an excuse to be mean and angry, to let out emotions of disappointment without being vulnerable.
In order to hate something you had to care about it, and caring about something requires some small amount of love. Anger and hate, those are symptoms of a broken heart and a broken heart will mess a person up. Being disappointed again and again will often lead to a broken heart.
The only way out of that minefield of disappointment is to pause and reorder your life, to look at those seven things and clean up and make them clear and simple. We’re in control of those seven things. If we can make them small and simple and easy, then we can have space to deal with other things… like how we interact with people, and healing broken hearts.
The wisest folks I have ever met, hands down, and I’m not sure why, are black folks in roughly their 60’s or higher. They tend to be perfectly content with wherever they are and whatever is going on around them. They look and see that the world around them, this moment, aint so bad. They have low expectations for anything good or bad happening. They’re here and happy to be here and that’s just enough. That means when something good happens they are thrilled. And when someone bad happens they just shrug it off, cause it’ll pass. That’s the truth of surviving this life. Ya get to an age where shit can’t really get worse than its already been, thus anything bad that happens isn’t great, but it really aint all that bad. Not really.
Self management with a side dish of compassion. That’s the way to not be disappointed by the fact that often people suck.