Christians, why do you have to be so happy and self-actualized?
March 14, 2012 3:33 AM   Subscribe

Am I a jealous fool or a conniver's tool?

I am writing this post to try and sort out how I feel towards someone I see on a regular basis due to school. anonymous for obvious reasons.

This classmate is a very successful person: she's very confident, extroverted, good-looking and has many fulfilling pursuits that she practices often. She's more than an acquaintance, I guess I would say she is a new friend. Because we are in the same small program, we will be seeing each other frequently for the next few years.

I am trying to understand whether my feelings of annoyance are founded on my own jealousy and insecurity or whether I have legitimate reasons for feeling the way I do.

Things she does that bother me:

- Talking loudly and openly about her achievements and projects

- Any time I have introduced her to a (long -time) friend, she begins to act as if she, too is very close with that friend (adding them on facebook, hugging when we meet up, etc).

After she meets a friend of mine, she'll refer to that person as her own "friend" - Taking on jobs for which she has no knowledge or qualification, but succeeding at them anyway through sheer confidence (I admit this one makes me sound purely jealous)

- Name-dropping about people she vaguely knows

- Talking about future projects she dreams of doing

- Never getting mad at anyone.

Now in my mind, these things are only half of the story. The thing is, this girl is an avid Christian, and generally has a view of the world which sees everything as "amazing" and "awesome". So, I can't help but think sometimes that these behaviors are true expressions of agapic love. So then I begin to feel guilty for my annoyance when she "takes my friends for her own" because isn't she just displaying the principle of agapic love? Or is there something darker behind it?

Is it just a question of my own introversion vs her extroversion (I don't like bragging about myself, and I am far too shy to call someone I just met a "friend")? Or is she a very powerful and confident person who is crafty on the inside but sweet on the outside? Using everyone she meets to increase her own (already large) social capital?


1) If a person is highly self-actualized, are they usually annoying about it? Or more humble?

2) How do I reconcile my feelings of jealousy towards her if she is acting based upon high moral principles which I do not necessarily share? How do I stop myself from feeling inadequate due to my inability and lack of belief in agapic love?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
the thing is, right now you don't actually know what she is really like, you just know how she acts. To really get to know someone takes years. She may seem self-actualized, but the reality may be something different. Your feelings are your own, you're allowed to have them, you don't need to justify them to yourself. If there are some aspects of her persona that annoy you, then fine, let them annoy you. if something makes you feel jealous, then that's ok too. The trick is to not act on your negative feelings, acknowledge them, sure, try to let go of them, fine, but don't let them make you become less of a decent person. I don't feel that I need a god in my life to follow. I have my own moral compass and I can feel good about myself, because I try to be a decent person.

for what it's worth, however, I think I would find her annoying too. She sounds like someone I would be friendly to at school, but not hang out, or become close friends with.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:12 AM on March 14, 2012

How did you feel about the last person you met that was like this?

And the one before?

You make her sound like a friend-stealing braggart. I can't tell if that's true or if you're just an averagely miserable person who averagely loves company.
posted by tel3path at 4:14 AM on March 14, 2012

You both sound very young and fairly insecure, in different, common, age-appropriate ways. Maybe less labelling (never heard of "agapic love," thanks for that!), analyzing, comparing, judging, measuring. Maybe more minding your own business, enjoying the parts you enjoy and going off on your own if her style feels overwhelming. It's just navigating, you're learning how to do it. Good luck.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:21 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

She sounds like she has a positive and extroverted personality. Honestly, with all the dreaming big and succeeding in tasks through confidence will probably make her a manager some day.

You do sound jealous. And annoyed with her religious beliefs. Maybe she's positive and extroverted as an expression of agape, or maybe not. Some Christians are able to pull off unconditional love for everyone, but most can't, and some are downright morose and dislike many people. It's not necessarily her faith that makes her personality, but clearly you've put it in that category and it's annoying you.

If you can't have a positive outlook and unconditional love for everyone, well, you can't. You are different than her and there's nothing wrong with that. You might try learning to not be aggravated by people who are different, though, because of what I said about her being a manager someday -- your entire life you will be around people who are different. Whether this makes you annoyed or not does not change the fact. It only dictates how happy you will be. Learning to shrug it off and accept that you are different, and that the difference does not matter, and that maybe even different personalities are needed in this world, is the first step.

And when you do that, who knows, maybe you'll stumble upon some agape feelings yourself, with or without the Christianity.
posted by Houstonian at 4:22 AM on March 14, 2012

The saying goes, "Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside."

You don't know what your friend is actually feeling. Maybe she's desperately insecure and is overcompensating. Maybe she's fragile and feels great now, but will fall apart once something doesn't go her way. Maybe she's genuinely confident.

Living in a less-religious culture than the US, I don't think this kind of external attitude is particularly linked to Christianity, there are atheists who act this way too.

Don't worry about her, think about your own path.

Decide what your deepest goals are and what kind of person you really want to be. Your own goals might not be religious, they might be social or political or just being a good friend or parent.

There are all kinds of ways to improve your confidence and social skills: read 59 Seconds or How to Win Friends and Influence People or How to Work a Room depending on what you think you need.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:32 AM on March 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

I can't really tell either way from your description.

However, I can say that people who are extremely nice and intimate right away usually want something from you. If her behavior is truly out of the norm, just remember that there's a good reason the norm is the norm- people work out boundaries to avoid hurting others.

It's possible she's very naive about boundaries, in which case, she'll eventually get hurt and learn her lesson. It's possible she does "truly believe in agapic love" but even if she does, it can become like any other aggressive belief if she pushes it on others when they're not ready to accept it. Believing in agapic love implies acknowledging it in a tacit sense, as an already existing underlying principle- what she is doing sounds like engineering that love through actions and behavior. Which can, like any other campaign, be well-intentioned and still self-serving and aggressive.

There is a lot of talk about “respecting boundaries” in the abuse-survivor community for good reason- it is a warning sign. I can’t tell if what she’s doing would fall under that category, but it sounds like it’s a possibility.

I am a believer in mostly giving people the benefit of the doubt until there’s real evidence against it. But I’m also a big believer in never ignoring your gut. Needless to say, don’t confront her- even if she was in the wrong, two wrongs don’t make a right. Do protect yourself, keep an eye out, distance yourself if necessary, and maybe stop introducing her to your friends.

Keep in mind that if she is a manipulator, like all manipulators it comes from a sense of need, or is otherwise rationalized by her as necessary- in which case, you should probably pity her rather than feeling jealous.
posted by quincunx at 4:38 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

She does sound kind of annoying. For those who are dismissing the religious aspect out of hand, certain strains of evangelicalism basically tell you that the way to be a "good Christian" is to cultivate this "happy all the time/friends with everyone" persona, so I hear where you're coming from.

But some people are just "like that." I have a sort of grudging admiration for those who can so aggressively increase their social circle and social capital like that. Is she actively making those new people she meets feel "wanted"? That may be what she's trying to do.

I wouldn't say that this is an artifact of her Christianity, by she does have a lot of personality traits that certain strains of American evagelical Christian encourage and validate as ideal.

my inability and lack of belief in agapic love?

How does one have a "lack of belief" in agape?
posted by deanc at 4:45 AM on March 14, 2012

Her being Christian has nothing to do with anything. Plenty of non-religious people think the world is amazing and awesome and full of magical adventures. Maybe she thinks things are amazing and awesome because she's successful at things she pursues and makes friends wherever she goes. It's natural to feel jealous of that.

The thing about jealousy is it's a useless emotion. It doesn't affect the person you're jealous of, and it just brings you down and isolates you. Recognize that, and work on letting it go when you can.

One trick that helps me to do this: when I'm pissy-jealous, as opposed to the admiring kind of jealous, I try to find something about that person that I genuinely can appreciate and try to cultivate in myself. Say, if a shitty artist starts getting a lot of exposure sells a lot of work, instead of focusing on that person's shitty art I look at their ability to self-promote. (Speaking introvert-to-introvert, Anonymous: self-promotion doesn't come naturally to us, and we can sometimes resent it because it looks like bragging, but it in fact is a very useful skill to have.)

Another thing, and you don't have to give a rat about agape to do this: the kind of people we tend to be jealous of are almost always way better to have as allies than as enemies. Successful, confident, knows a lot of people, and never speaks ill of anyone? She's a networker's dream. You don't have to be close with her, but if you're on friendly terms it'll benefit you in the long run. If you're standoffish and bitter, you'll isolate yourself from her and your friends.

Sure, maybe she is a manipulator; keep her at a distance if you suspect this. But make it a polite and friendly distance: don't shut her out, just don't let her in too far. That way, if you're proven wrong, you'll still have that bridge.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:46 AM on March 14, 2012 [15 favorites]

She sounds annoying and phony. I would not like to have to work with the person you describe here either. Too much gushing instant friendship rings some alarm bells about her sincerity, and I can understand why you may suspect she is a manipulator as many manipulators come across this way. Or she may just be an annoying extrovert who grates against your introverted style. Don't confront her but keep your own boundaries and try to distance yourself from her as much as possible but still be polite. You don't need to be jealous of her, people like this often crash and burn eventually. My sympathy in being stuck with her for now though.
posted by mermayd at 4:48 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I knew someone exactly like this. (He is Jewish, so I don't see a religious element to this.) He and I were work colleagues years ago and he was very successful.

We officed right next to each other for 5 years so I was around him a lot and enough to see that he was genuinely energetic, friendly and above all else, kind. Truth be told, I found his immediate "friending" of people--before Facebook--a bit presumptuous at first. But I grew to learn that his immediate positive regard for those he might have just met genuine as he was truly excited to meet said new person.

He also spoke of his accomplishments "loudly and openly", which at first turned me off too since my personality is quite different. But I came to realize that he was always loud and always open, and would generously boast loudly and openly of everyone else's accomplishments too (including mine).

He was (and is) a benevolent force of nature not prone to "get mad at people". His confidence led him to also succeed at things he was not good at because he genuinely did not believe he could fail.

Yes, his unbridled enthusiasm and "chipper" spirit wore me out at times since I have more cynicism in my pinky than he has in his whole body. I first believed that it had to be an act--nobody is really like this, right? But his relentless kindness wore down my most cynical self where I couldn't help but appreciate him and marvel at his beautiful spirit.

While we never went beyond friendly work colleagues to actual friends, I am grateful for having known someone who personifies living a life of confidence, love and gratitude.
posted by murrey at 5:06 AM on March 14, 2012 [30 favorites]

Notice that attributing your differences to Christianity, agapic love and self-actualization is not helping you at all. You don't actually grok what any of those things mean; this is just a list of abstract labels you are using to explain to yourself why she doesn't seem to suffer and struggle the same way that you are suffering and struggling. Instead of shedding light and helping you see how to improve, they are only tying you down. It's comforting to excuse your perceived shortcomings this way, but it's also very constraining. Try and resist such broad categorization of yourself and others. Push out at the edges of your comfort zone. Strive to be just a little more like the person you wish you could be. Make progress in small increments.
posted by jon1270 at 5:21 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Apart from deanc's qualification, I too would say that this has absolutely nothing to do with her being a Christian. Make up some fancy explanation about agape all you like, it's not going to help.

I've had to deal with a similar kind of reaction myself to multiple coworkers who are massive extroverts and network their faces off given one second with any bunch of strangers. They start gushing over the slightest hint of, well, pretty much anything that's not terrible.

As an introvert, this kind of behaviour irritates me simply because it's so far removed from my style of interacting with people.

So, your question kind of boils down to how to stop being jealous of her.

1. Recognise this is pointless. You're can't be like her. You're not an extrovert. Don't even try to be one.

2. Get used to her. Accept her for who she is, and accept that for her, extroversion and confidence is a default setting.

3. Get used to this kind of person. This won't be the last one you'll meet, so learn to love (or at least somewhat tolerate) them. There are some great tips for doing that in other answers here.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:37 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't own your friends. If they want to be her friends too, they can. You cannot control other people. You don't sound jealous, you sound a little controlling. She sounds very controlling. I can't see why the two of you are friends - you seem destined to bring out the worst in one another.
posted by myselfasme at 5:54 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Given that the qualities you describe about this person -- extroversion, confidence, sociability, physical attractiveness -- are qualities that are heavily favored in our society, I think the thing you need to determine is whether these are qualities you actually aspire to, or if this person makes you uncomfortable because she's an embodiment of the pressure you feel, from outside or within yourself, to be more like that person.

If it's the latter, I think you should work on accepting yourself as you are, as someone with positive qualities that don't happen to conform to cultural ideals -- and therefore can offer some tremendous advantages -- and reject the message that you are somehow lesser because your inner current doesn't flow in the same direction as this person.

If it's the former, and this person represents the kind of person you sincerely wish you were more like, then I would be direct and just say to her, "You know, you seem so together and positive -- how do you do it?" Be open to learning from her, if she is someone you actually admire.

Most of all, though, you must embrace yourself as a worthwhile and valuable person. That agapic love cannot happen before you feel that love for yourself.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 5:55 AM on March 14, 2012 [10 favorites]

She is not annoying. You are annoyed. I mean, from your description, she would annoy me too, but that's on me.

Pick something you love and do it well, and you will focus less on other people.
posted by desjardins at 7:15 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

From the limited amount of information you give here, this sounds like your standard good-natured, open and motivated individual
Agreed. Nothing you presented suggests anything other than what Rodrigo L said.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:24 AM on March 14, 2012

Nothing you presented suggests anything other than what Rodrigo L said.

Eh, I think it could go either way. The woman certainly could be the type of personality Rodrigo L describes, but she could also be the type who routinely appropriates people and tasks for her own self-serving purposes. Which is an intensely annoying personality that others will reasonably wish to steer clear of.

OP, I'd say the way you can tell the difference is to pay attention to whether this woman genuinely cares about other people. Is she a good listener, or just a good talker? You say she takes on "jobs for which she has no knowledge or qualification, but succeeding at them anyway through sheer confidence"--well, does she ever show an interest in other people's successes too, or expend energy making sure others succeed? Is she compassionate, is she interested in learning from others?

If she doesn't genuinely care about others, then there's no point being jealous of her in any respect; she's fundamentally kind of an empty person (IMO). You don't want to be like a person with sociopathic tendencies, her string of successes notwithstanding.
posted by torticat at 8:31 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I sit right on the line between introvert and extrovert, I am also very cynical but at the same time optimistic, as well as an atheist, and I refer to people I've just met as friends all the time. If I've just met Y and I'm introducing Y to X I will say "hi X, I'd like you to meet my friend Y" for no real reason other than that I liked Y when I met him/her.

Anyway, I do know where you are coming from with the religious aspect, but I don't think you've given us enough information to decide whether that is the case here. If that is the case, I think it is some level of jealousy/insecurity. Sometimes I wish I could be a religious person because it seems like it would make life much easier overall, leaving more energy for being positive and upbeat, but then that doesn't explain the religious people who are not always sunshine and rainbows, so it has to be at least part personality.
posted by fromageball at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an acquaintance who I see regularly in our shared social/hobby circle and who annoys me in a similar way. My solution is to not let her take up any of my headspace. I see her at our shared events a few times a week and I just don't interact with her beyond politeness if we happen to be grouped together. I'm unsubscribed from her facebook updates. I don't read her blog. I don't invite her to social events that I organise, and if we are both at someone else's event I talk to my other friends there. She has no space in my head, she pretty much doesn't exist to me any more, and I am much happier for it.

I'm fully aware some people think this makes me a horrible person, and I absolutely don't care.
posted by corvine at 8:57 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agape doesn't mean that you have to think that everyone and everything is awesome or marvelous. Jesus certainly didn't--he was pretty clear about when people were being jerks.

This lady sounds like the kind of person about whom the novel Good Christian Bitches was written. Passive aggressive sugarcoating of the world is not, in my mind, Christlike.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:59 AM on March 14, 2012

Are you worried that the warmth with which she responds to your friends means you will lose them or they will like her better than you? In that case, maybe there is an element of jealousy. Do you wish you had her confidence, outgoingness, and other qualities? Then you may be envious of her. Jealousy = you perceive her as a threat; envy = you begrudge her what she has (material or otherwise).

I don't think it's as easy as saying you are jealous/envious or just annoyed. Likely there are aspects of all three things affecting you. It sounds like you may question her sincerity, particularly around the friend thing. Note that you don't have a word to describe her relationship to you -- she's not quite an acquaintance, not quite a friend (the unnamed category, a very B. Spearsian conundrum). She calls your friends "friends" because there is no other way to categorize them -- I do this, too, though I sometimes feel self-conscious and ramble about people who "are my friends, but not really my friend, just someone I know and see around and feel warmly towards" or "someone I engage with frequently on the internet and admire but have never met in person." Frankly, that gets a bit tiresome. So I just call people friends, and further define the relationship to others as needed. You might do that, too. It sounds like she feels warmly towards the people you introduce her to, and that's a good thing. It means you know lovely people who are engaging and with whom other people feel engaged. Maybe she isn't like this with everyone, maybe you just run with a particularly great crowd.

So she name drops -- think about why or how she does it. Is it as a function of a story she is telling? Is it necessary to a particular conversation? Or does she seem to be doing it to for no other reason than to impress you? If you become closer friends, there are ways to playfully and gently let her know that she is doing it and that you would prefer she didn't. And if you do in fact like her and want to be friends-friends with her, not acquaintance-friends, and she continues to do this, take it as one of those things you don't particularly like but which you put up with for all the other benefits you take from the relationship. Everyone has something.

I understand getting annoyed with her apparent lack of cynicism or what you may perceive as her shameless self-promotion. I can be pretty cynical, though I actively make myself try to give people the benefit of the doubt. People are more often than not kind, or at the very least not out to take advantage of others. And if she is doing things she is excited about, there's nothing wrong with her talking about it. She feels joy about what she's doing and wants to share that. I DON'T talk about The Exciting Things I'm Doing That I Love a Lot because I'm worried people will see it as braggy or self-promotional. Fortunately I have people in my life who will do that for me.

It sounds a little like you see this girl as succeeding at things without really trying (i.e. her ability to take on jobs she has no qualifications for, yet still excel). I guarantee you, she is probably trying more than you know. Add that to her annoying skill set -- making difficult things look effortless.

There is no way of us telling you if this girl is objectively annoying because few people, if any, are objectively annoying. I am constantly annoyed by people who are perfectly lovely, but with whom I just don't connect with or relate to. But that's my problem, not theirs. And sometimes it's just a matter of reframing how I see them or my expectations of people in general, or acknowledging that I don't see everything there is to see about them, to diminish my annoyance.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

i used to know a girl who was kind of like this (not a christian). she was genuinely sweet and loving in some ways, but, like all of us, sometimes unfair and insecure, sad, &c. she had plenty of love for friends, but trouble with intimacy. very successful in her endeavors, but was confused about her future. it took me years to see that she struggled with things like this, because i basically fell in love with her when i first met her. eventually she started treating me like less than a friend, which was a shock, since she was bubbles and sweetness for the first two years i knew her. i noticed that as with many (definitely not all) girl friends i've had over the years, she started throwing me under the bus when men were around, &c. i eventually just stopped seeing her or thinking about her because it was too upsetting.

i used to be a christian, and it did make it a lot easier to stay positive and focus on the good in things. but i agree that jesus himself knew when to be angry, too-- that's just not part of the attitude training that young women are usually given in church. one of the most amazing women i know is a christian, but she has none of the social-building instincts that came between me and my ex-friend, and thus her constantly upbeat personality is just really cool.

so, i don't know. she sounds annoying, but as long as she's not doing anything truly hurtful to you (yet), i'd just try to keep thoughts of her to a minimum. in my friendship with the first girl, i felt as thought i'd always look diminished around her, but people "of my kind" always gravitated toward me and kind of ignored her, so you don't need to be anything you don't want to be. (wow, we're all a little fucked up, huh?)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:14 AM on March 14, 2012

If this person is a malevolent user, you won't be the first to notice it. What do other people say about her? (What do they say about you?) This is a pretty inoffensive gossip topic you can broach: "Boy, how does she do it?" Gently ask if someone else thinks she's genuine. This might reveal that she isn't, or it might reveal that you're envious and that could make an uncomfortable topic.

Basically, a secure person will not worry about dealing with someone who is extroverted, aggressively friendly, or even crazily successful without qualification, unless they are someone who is in fact malevolent, like stealing ideas or credit or creating drama or being unable to settle feuds. You don't have to be like them; you don't even have to like them. Whatever you do, you probably won't affect how they live their lives, anyway.

Just try to map out how this person substantively impacts you, and if any of that is negative, figure out what you can do about it. But you haven't stated anything concrete that is really negative, just inchoate feelings you have colored with, perhaps, some religious prejudice.
posted by dhartung at 11:42 AM on March 14, 2012

I am trying to understand whether my feelings of annoyance are founded on my own jealousy and insecurity or whether I have legitimate reasons for feeling the way I do.

Let's see:

Things she does that bother me:

- Talking loudly and openly about her achievements and projects
- Any time I have introduced her to a (long -time) friend, she begins to act as if she, too is very close with that friend (adding them on facebook, hugging when we meet up, etc). After she meets a friend of mine, she'll refer to that person as her own "friend"
- Name-dropping about people she vaguely knows

....This'd bug me too. I don't think this is an insecurity thing on YOUR end.

Also, I knew someone like this in high school (down to the me-introducing-her-to-a-friend-and-then-she-acts-buddy-buddy-with-them" bit) -- she's Christian now, and is like this, but she was also like this before she became born-again, so I don't think Christianity has anything to do with it.

Some people are just insecure and try to deal with that by making themselves the center of attention. They may be nice about it and all, but at the heart of it the mindset is still "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME".

So you have permission to just go ahead and feel like she gets on your nerves, because hell, she's getting on mine and I don't even know her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to your first question, but think I can help with the second.

An adviser gave me some really useful advice about grad school: tune out the static. Grad students have a tendency to pay attention to the static/meaningless noise other people in their program put out and to focus on it, because school can get really competitive, and the structure of academia can foster deep insecurities. Anyways, what I would do is begin tuning out the static. Here's how:

1. I wouldn't worry about liking or not liking her, because she's someone I know from school -- meaning that she's a colleague, not automatically a friend.

2. I'd stop worrying about her talking about her success. There's success enough for everyone in the program -- particularly because HER accomplishments bring prestige to OUR program, which makes MY degree more valuable.

3. I'd focus on being successful in my own way, and think critically about how I can find opportunities to be successful. Maybe, for example, I need to sign up to HNet, or post on HASTAC, or make use of an profile, all of which are networking tools that rely on a different type of confidence than the one you're describing.

4. I'd stop worrying about whether her Christianity gave her insight to larger cosmic principles. It doesn't make her a better student, colleague, scholar/researcher/future professional, and I would remind myself that that's what I care about.

5. Finally, I'd really focus on redirecting my envy and annoyance into something useful for myself -- like taking yoga, a dance class, or another kind of active hobby that takes your mind off your program and away from your fellow students/colleagues.
posted by spunweb at 12:59 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to a Christain college and know exactly the kind of person you are talking about. Bubbly. Optimistic. Almost but not quite intolerable, and still annoyingly pleasant to be around. A couple of sisters like this went to our church and I finally came to terms that I have a different sort of energy than they do and that that's all right.

Me? I'm more of an ember rather than a bright flame. I have a lot of energy and a lot of friends. I'm also meloncholy at times. And that's okay.

My friends would never cry like a baby listening to a Leonard Cohen album or to Handel's Messiah. I have emotional depths the bubbly ones do not. And that's okay.

I connect deeply with other meloncholy ones and with certain forms of art. I'm not sure the bubbly ones can do that so well.

I try not to brag about it when I'm around the bubbly ones.

Maybe the same attitude would apply in your case.
posted by rw at 1:19 PM on March 14, 2012

I heard a little shroud of advice a while ago (though I might not get it exactly right), that has helped me in some situations- treat everyone as if they were you in a past life- at an earlier stage. That person who is angry & rude to the clerk in the grocery store checkout? You in a past life. That person riding the bus who shoots others miserable looks at others? You in a past life. The girl who maybe doesn't believe in her own self worth, & feels she needs to boast about her accomplishments to almost all she interacts with for some validation? You in a past life. The homeless person you pass by on the corner you walk when going in to work? You in a past life.

It's hard to get the feeling of being disconnected from one another that way, it's seems a bit easier to be kind to people when you relate it back to you. We've all been at certain stages in our lives, you can actively see people who remind you of the tendencies you used to have in yourself. I find it makes it harder to judge others that way.

When I try to act with compassion & a sense of connectivity with the world & others, I find most of my negative feelings seem to dissipate. Not all, but alot. Just knowing what you're good at & what you've accomplished, that's a quiet confidence. Others will notice it too. People will know who you are & what you're capable of, just by being around you. There's no need to advertise it. It helps to be patient & understanding that others are in a different place than you are. It's not good or bad, it just is.

Just my thoughts, for whatever it's worth.
posted by readygo at 1:37 PM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

In junior high, I was a big nerd. I was a short, chubby kid who wore Reebok pump shoes and a fanny pack filled with pencils and pens (and a protractor... and white out... sheesh).

When I got to high school, we moved to a new school district and I made a conscious decision to become social. I started sitting at lunch with kids who didn't have many friends. I started inviting different groups of people (jocks, choir nerds, band geeks, etc.) to go out to do things together. In short, I made an effort to make everyone feel like part of the crowd.

I'm religious, but it had nothing to do with religion. Rather, I just wanted to make other people feel wanted and I wanted them to like me in return.

I'm sure *some* people found me annoying, but I didn't care.
posted by tacodave at 3:17 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks so much for the breadth of answers I've received here. I especially appreciate those who made the effort to understand my question from my point of view as a sceptical and introverted person. I hope I didn't come across as a miserable person, as someone suggested. I also hope I haven't offended any Christians in my description of this person. Many people have suggested that I am wrongly attributing many of these things to her Christian faith, when in reality I am confounding that aspect with her extroverted personality.

The reason I focus so heavily on that Christian world view thing is that I experience pain from --to put it bluntly--- failing to "find God". I've wanted at many times in my life to be a devout person but in my efforts attending Church and reading the Bible I have always encountered a cynical, painful doubt that I cannot overcome. But the answers here have shown me that regardless of my world view I need to work on developing my own goals and improving my self-esteem so that I can focus on making the world a better place, even if I don't believe in God.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 PM on March 14, 2012

Mod note: Also from the OP:
El Sabor Asiatico, you genius, you hit the nail on the head. "She's an embodiment of the pressure you feel, from outside or within yourself" to be more like someone who displays "extroversion, confidence, sociability, physical attractiveness --qualities that are heavily favored in our society." I would add that she's also an embodiment of both the societal and existential pressure that I feel to commune with God (s) which I am unable to do at the moment.

Honourable mention goes to:
quincunx for pointing out that it is her lack of boundaries that makes me feel uneasy
Rodrigo for pointing to the harsh fact that it is hard for many people to be happy for for the ultra happy
murray for showing me the attitude that I need to take from now on, or at least aspire to (gratitude)
torticat for the phrase "She could also be the type who routinely appropriates people and tasks for her own self-serving purposes" (couldn't have said it better myself)
corvine for not caring that he/she is a might be a "horrible person" (made me laugh)
Sidehedevil for this : "Passive aggressive sugarcoating of the world is not, in my mind, Christlike",
felicity Rilke-- your gentle attitude is inspiring
stoneandstar for your compassion
empresscallipygos for feeling my pain, and
rw for pointing out the value of melancholy.

Again thanks for all the answers. The ones above stood out to me the most, but all the sincere contributions put together really gave me a lot to think about. And I'm sorry for being so self-absorbed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 PM on March 14, 2012

I read no other answers, but only your updates.


- It doesn't matter if she is sincere or not

- She probably feels she is sincere

- Religion is the red-herring here

- She sounds like she's found a GREAT and socially acceptable way to make everyone like her. Doesn't mean you have to jump on that train. You can be your own person.

Yeah, it all sounds like an act, even if she thoroughly believes it. Sometimes people find a formula that works, and they run with it. Sounds like she's done that.


FWIW, I match some of the qualities you name (maybe?) because I often advocate here on the green for being self-less and just doing cool stuff without expectation of return whenever you feel depressed and off-track. But the name dropping IS A GIANT FUCKING RED FLAG.

I grew up in NYC and now live in LA. Let me tell you how many ways to Sunday I HATE it when when someone fucking name drops. Oooo, do I hate it.

I know someone just today I was about to recommend for a gig (he does great work!) but I have trepidation about it, because his biggest client is/was Brad Pitt. Like I give a shit. It's a construction/historic restoration gig, and maybe Brad Pitt is/was known for real estate ventures like that in LA... but fuck that. Ugh.

I know plenty of other folks who do this kind of work that boast about the address or type of job, but don't mention the name of the client/owner. Guess who is getting the better recommendation from me, even though I intend to pass this other name along with a disclaimer?


People who name drop do well in some circles, but not others. Socially and professionally I see it as a red flag if you can't cruise on the quality of your own work, hence, name dropping.

It's OK to say, "I worked on a 2 million dollar project on a 1920's estate and did X improvements - here are the photos - let me know if you want a recommendation from the owner."

It is NOT OK to say, "I'm a good hair waxer because I do The Kardashian Klan!"

As in, just because $$ is involved, doesn't mean Good Taste or Fine Workmanship was, too.


Every time this chick name drops or similar, think about about her hair waxing the privates of some BS reality star.


Problem. Solved.
posted by jbenben at 11:11 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

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