What have you been wrong about, realized it, and it changed your life?
November 19, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

What have you been wrong about, realized it, and it changed your life? I remember reading Albert Ellis' wonderful self-help book A Guide to Rational Living where he gives a great list of irrational and self-defeating beliefs that people have. Among these beliefs was the importance people placed on other's opinion of them as well the emphasis people placed on being perfectionistic in their own lives. Much of this underlies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy but the effect is even more prevalent than that. We all have had beliefs that have held us back, and I'm curious as to what things you once believed that were holding you back in your personal or professional life. Anything will do. It can be anything from knowing the importance of making good first impressions to the need for keeping oneself physically fit even when one doesn't want to. I'm looking to see whether I share of any of these traits or not. So what are the beliefs that have held you back or others that you know?
posted by RapcityinBlue to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 344 users marked this as a favorite
I thought being dour and sarcastic and always finding the problems with things was the way to go through life. I thought it was clever and witty and I liked it when people laughed, I liked it more when I was proven right.

Turns out, it's a pretty great way to totally put your career on the skids.

Actually, solving problems, being upbeat and helpful to others is a MUCH better way to go through life. People who are nice to be around are KEPT around, even if they don't do all that well. High performers with shitty attitudes are found fault with, discouraged and generally shunted to the side. Weird but true.

I am a much happier Bunny and the people I work with enjoy working with me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2013 [87 favorites]

I realized that "rational" is usually an empty term of praise, and that it is more useful to judge beliefs by the effects they produce than by worrying if they are rational.
posted by thelonius at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

I thought I was lazy and inherently broken when it comes to getting things done. Turns out that I'm an exceptionally hard and productive worker who was self-sabotaging by being mean to myself.

In other words, I learned that unconditional self-friendliness is a much more effective productivity tool than a harsh and accusatory inner monologue.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2013 [69 favorites]

I echo #1 on the list of irrational beliefs you link to. It reminds me of a time several years ago when I briefly went through some therapy on some personal issues, and was led to this book. Total life-changer. I've since read almost all of her books, and they are consistently challenging and excellent and so very worth it.
posted by jbickers at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

A few years ago I was walking back into the Loop at night with a boyfriend, and we got harassed by one of those shoeshining panhandlers.

He approached, asked the boyfriend if he wanted his shoes shined, he said no thank you, guy followed us and scrambled down to rub some stuff on the boyfriend's shoes anyway, we said no thanks, guy followed us the better part of the next block being weird. Anyway, at some point I said to him, "look man, we're just trying to go home, he doesn't want his shoes shined." And the guy kept being weird and following us but said, "oh I see, y'all are just trying to get through this."

It was such a bizarre thing to say, but it stuck with me. Not so much for the circumstances surrounding it, but just because the phrase itself was unusual. "Just trying to get through this" became a shorthand between the boyfriend and me, and we used it to explain any kind of bizarre behavior we encountered from others.

Most people are just trying to get through this. Lots of folks get hung up worried about what others think of them or mad because they think someone is deliberately trying to hurt them. But the reality is, most of the time, they're not. Most people are too busy trying to get through their own shit, trying to keep up with their own day to day, to give one flying fuck what you do.

Now I try to be more charitable in my assumptions about others. It's no longer "this person is clearly not returning my emails because she's intentionally avoiding me" but now "this person is not returning my emails because she's probably busy right now, so I'll give her a call later." No more "crap, I have definitely worn these pants four days this week, what if someone notices" but "I have too much going on to notice what other people are wearing, they probably aren't going to notice what I'm wearing, either." Etc.

So yeah, most people aren't out to get you. Most people aren't sitting in silent, seething judgment of you. Most people are too busy worrying about themselves, just trying to get through this.
posted by phunniemee at 11:16 AM on November 19, 2013 [130 favorites]

I thought I had to please everyone around me or something terrible would happen/be done to me. Conversely, I also thought that being "nice" to everyone meant they were "obligated" to do the same to me. At the same time I craved some kind of permission to pursue my goals, and harboured tremendous resentment for those who "got to" do things.

Needless to say, these beliefs, especially the second one, led to a lot of doormat behaviour and bitterness to those around me. Learning that I could survive disapproval was a major breakthrough, as was realizing that other people were too busy living their own lives to care much about what I did or didn't do. I am a much happier person now that I allow myself to do as I please (within the bounds of kindness and legality, of course) and recognize that others have the right to do the same.
posted by rpfields at 11:18 AM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

I thought that if something was hard work, it meant that I wasn't good at it. Not true. If it's hard, it just means I've never really worked at it before. (Relatedly, I learned that doing well in a technical field requires much more than just reading a book.). I am learning so many completely new things now and achieving so much more and loving it.

I thought that you had to impress people, win them over, or flat-out buy them somehow in order to get them to be your friend. Woah was that wrong. True friends just love your company. Also, you don't have to be a social butterfly if you don't want to! It doesn't make you any less of a person if you'd rather just enjoy your own company once in a while. I enjoy my friendships a lot more now.

Also, you don't have to drink to have fun. If you're not having fun doing those same things not drinking, then perhaps it's just those things that aren't fun at all. And if the only good thing in your life is drinking, it's time to change what you're doing with your life. My life is so much happier, calmer, and more positive sober.
posted by sevenofspades at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

What have you been wrong about, realized it, and it changed your life?

Only people with natural, inherent genius get to make art/music/writing/etc. The rest of us just shouldn't bother, and practice will never make perfect- you either have it or you don't.

Truth be told, I am still struggling with the part where this realization changes my life, but at least now I mostly believe that I WAS wrong, and I CAN make art if I want to.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

I used to be really judgmental of people's misspelling and mispronunciation of words (see, e.g., "nucular" in lieu of "nuclear"). At some point I realized the following:

(a) there is a rich world of nonstandard English that should be appreciated on its own merits rather than mistakenly associated with a lack of education;

(b) if you judge people right off the bat for how they say things, you often miss the substance of what they're saying, which can be a real shame;

(c) nobody likes a pedant, and there's little benefit in coming off as a jerk in service of what are, frequently, arbitrary rules.

Of course, I still try to employ good spelling and grammar in my writing, but I resist as much as possible the urge to judge other people based on their command of linguistic details. I'm more open to the world as a result, and probably a nicer person too.
posted by Presidente de China at 11:43 AM on November 19, 2013 [30 favorites]

I thought that if I took responsibility for a mistake -- any mistake, whether it was my fault or not -- that that made me a grown-up, responsible person.

In reality, it was a game I played with myself, where taking responsibility made me feel like I was in control of a bad situation, or where taking responsibility meant the worst was over (me being blamed) so I could be at peace. I've learned that it's WAY more useful to focus on solving problems or preventing bullets than to run around stepping in front of them.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

I learned I was doing casual conversation wrong:

-When someone asks "How are you doing?," they want you* to say "Fine, you?" It's an alternate form of "hello," not an invitation to describe your current troubles.
-When someone compliments you, they want you to feel good about yourself, so you say "Thank you." You don't disagree with them, either because you want to analyze your flaws or because you want to hear more compliments.
-Most people aren't going to be impressed by the amount of knowledge you have unless they specifically need that information.
-Unsolicited advice is rarely, if ever, appreciated.
-Chandler-esque sarcasm sounds good in your head, but it makes you look like an asshole if you're constantly mocking those around you.
-If someone tells you a story about themselves, don't immediately counter it with one (perhaps a better one) about yourself. Ask questions, don't try to one-up them.

I have a lot more friends now.

*When I say "you," I mean "me." I didn't want to seem like I was admonishing anyone.
posted by bibliowench at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2013 [79 favorites]

I have learned that minding my own business has made me happier and made people like me more. I still struggle with it sometimes -- my natural instinct is to stick my nose where it doesn't belong -- but it's a huge one for me.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:47 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

I used to think that to be able to call a person a friend, we had to have a lot in common, a history of at least a year (preferably more), deep soul-sharing intimacies and a willingness to drop everything else going on in our lives to be there if the other person needed us. Needless to say, I also used to think I had no friends and never would (because my expectations were too damn high!). Once it sunk in that I could call someone I met once a month for drinks or to work on a fun project a friend, I began seeing I wasn't really as lonely or without a social group as I had initially bemoaned. This change in thinking has also helped me reach out to new people, because the stakes aren't so high anymore.
posted by dearwassily at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [14 favorites]

In my early years, I told a lot of white lies. I was raised to not hurt others' feelings or to make them think poorly of me/my family. (Mostly points 1 and 2 on that list you linked to.)

So as a kid, "I can't come to your sleepover party because my mom won't allow me to spend the night away by myself" would become "We are going to visit my aunt that night." I can't hurt their feelings!

As an adult, "I forgot to put in for that day off and now it's too late" became "Stupid management won't approve my day because both Bob and Sue are out." I can't be seen as letting someone down!

I spent so much energy concocting elaborate details as to what I would say if someone asked how the visit to my aunt's went or why Bob and Sue are BOTH off at the same time that I was mentally exhausted from trying to keep all of these inconsequential stories straight.

Now if I mess up, I admit it. I'm human and make mistakes. That's okay. If I don't know how to approach a project, I'll ask for help. If you think I'm stupid, that's not my problem. I'm not going to get hung up on what people think. If I don't want to attend an impromptu outing on Friday because I've been out the last 3 nights after work and am exhausted, I'll say just that. I can't worry about hurting feelings when I'm being reasonable.

I still get questions from my mom: "What do I say to so-and-so if she asks StuffBlah?" Tell the truth. Honesty is so much easier.
posted by kimberussell at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

There is nothing protective about pessimism. I was convinced for a long time that if you expect a poor outcome, it hurts less. It's actually easier to cope with failure if you spend most of your time celebrating and expecting the positive, building up your reserves of happiness and strength, instead of creating huge unceasing loads of psychic stress based on assuming things will go wrong.
posted by telegraph at 12:00 PM on November 19, 2013 [60 favorites]

Everything I needed to learn about life I learned from Dear Sugar. (Slight exaggeration, but whatever.)

- Be brave enough to break your own heart and do what you need to do even if it hurts
- Say no when you need to, and say it kindly (subpoint: learn when to say no)
- Nobody will protect you from your suffering
- Every last one of us can do better than to give up
- Tell people you love them
- Let go of attachments
- You are the only person you have to haul around with you for the rest of your life, so get comfortable with yourself and love yourself (subpoint: be kind to yourself)
posted by k8lin at 12:05 PM on November 19, 2013 [30 favorites]

When I was about 19 I worked at a summer camp where many of the children attending were living in homeless shelters. One day I started chatting with the parent of one of those kids and guess what? We had a ton of stuff in common! We are basically the same but I had an apartment (like they had up until a few weeks prior) and they were Homeless.

I know that's unbelievably naive but realizing that I could be in a homeless shelter was amazing to me. If this specific set of circumstances this person was going through had been visited upon me I too would be Homeless. It was almost as if being Homeless wasn't Who You Are but just something that happened to you.

This is true of many things. Most things I thought of as defining characteristics were really just things happening to people, things that could also happen to me.
posted by Saminal at 12:09 PM on November 19, 2013 [13 favorites]

People are not all good or all bad, but I used to put them in those categories subconsciously. I really struggled when someone I admired did something I thought was bad or beneath them. To a lesser extent, I was confused when someone I held in contempt did something really cool or really nice. It was the first step towards not viewing the world in such black and white terms.
posted by soelo at 12:09 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have learned that I don't always need to prove I'm right, especially in casual conversation, especially about dumb crap that doesn't matter.

my turning point came during an argument with a friend over which had been taller, the (old) World Trade Center or the Empire State building. we were at dinner in NYC. I whipped out my phone to prove I was right (which I was). the result: my friend feeling stupid and me feeling like an insufferable asshole. maybe I read a lot of Internet and know a lot of Random Crap, but life's not a game of Jeopardy and making others feel stupid is a really shitty prize.
posted by changeling at 12:19 PM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

also, embracing the inevitability that I will change in ways I can't even anticipate.

when I was younger, I thought the way I was was the way I always would be. my goals, opinions, likes and dislikes, who I loved and how I loved them. five years and ten years later, I'm the same in many ways, but I'm also extremely different.

now, when I'm making decisions or speaking about/analyzing myself, I try to respect the woman I will become, and to leave room for her and everything she'll have learned by the time I get there.
posted by changeling at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2013 [23 favorites]

There are no life points that you are awarded for being Right. If it's important to correct someone about a thing that might be dangerous or that has some significance to society, that's one thing. But if you're just correcting someone for something that doesn't really matter, like a pronunciation of a word or a small factual issue, it makes you look like you care more about your own ego than anything else. It's just a petty way of plumping yourself up, but it comes at the expense of someone else.
posted by marginaliana at 12:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I was too prideful to listen to others, especially their feedback of me. I assumed they really didn't understand, and if only I could explain it clearly they would see it as I do. Now, I love feedback. First of all, true and honest feedback is rare. Most people just avoid you if they don't like how you are. Feedback helps me see how they see the world, and how they experience me. Even if they're judgy assholes, I can see why they judged and hated me. Not that I had to change, mind you, but it has helped my relationships a lot to be able to accept that people see me in a variety of ways, and that they don't have to see me as I see myself.

I also believed other people caused my feelings of fear or anger, and that they needed to change in order for me to feel recognized and safe. Now, I don't need people's validation as much. I don't need their constant reassurance. I know who I am. And when I feel angry, it is my anger. When I feel insecure, it is my insecurity. This has completely transformed how I communicate. I rarely communicate for emotional validation (aside from very intimate relationships of course), and communicate for impact instead. This has helped me be more objective, as they say, and focus on the true issue instead of communicating to get my multiple emotional needs met.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

I realized when I was about 34 years old that I never had to have sex again as long as I lived. It had really never occurred to me that I had that kind of agency in my own life. It was a major turning point for becoming the (happier, healthier) person I am today.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:01 PM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

I was wrong (in the way that many young people are) about what love looked or felt like. I thought if I wasn't obsessed and wound up and anguished over someone--if I hadn't given someone the power to totally ruin my life--I didn't really, truly care about them. So naturally I thought all of the worst people ever were my true loves ;)

Understanding that passionate obsession is only one kind of romantic feeling, and not the most important or only kind of romantic feeling, was tremendously, enormously freeing. now I just have to wrangle with the guilt over some quite lovely relationships that I destroyed in my quest for Life-Ruining Love.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

People I like are not necessarily smart or good at things or whatever positive qualities I want to assign them. And the opposite; people who are smart or good at things or have other positive qualities might not be my friends, for a variety of reasons up to and including no reason at all.
posted by Etrigan at 1:37 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I learned it's ok to be a dilettante. Nobody's grading you. Since then I've learned how to play tennis, speak a smattering of languages, put up shower rods, draw sketches, and play some blues. All half-assed, but with huge enjoyment.
posted by mono blanco at 1:57 PM on November 19, 2013 [40 favorites]

I learned that I don't have to prevent every possible thing I can from going wrong. That I can deal with stuff when it goes wrong instead of trying to prevent every possible problem. It's made a huge difference.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:08 PM on November 19, 2013 [13 favorites]

Feelings don't obey logic. Having no good reason to be upset doesn't magically make me not upset anymore. Rather than argue with myself about my emotions, I've learned to recognize when they're just passing clouds, and let them pass.

Related: feelings don't follow logic, either. The fact that something seems like a rational course of action doesn't make it a right one. (Relationships where "we just get along so well" and little more, a job that's spirit-dimming but comes with good pay and benefits, an invitation to a party on a night when I have no plans but really want some time alone...)

These were hard lessons for an INTP.
posted by Sullenbode at 2:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

Two more...

One... that for all our gifts language, rational thought and art, we are animals. We act in animal interests, and we've transmuted these interests into the symbolic realm.

Two... that we are all in this together, and we all suffer the same fate. No matter how high you climb up that ladder, age and death will claim us all. So fighting amongst ourselves is as useful as haggling over the price of earrings on the Titanic.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:24 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I thought that I could have a sexual relationship with someone and have it not mean anything to me or that I would be able to make it not mean anything. In reality, I have discovered that the main outcome of having sex with someone for me anyway is that I become more attached and start to see them as relationship material even if they are not. Also, I have discovered that sex is kind of boring and not as good if it is with someone I don't care about or who doesn't value me. Holding out for good sex with the right person now. The idea kind of scares the crap out of me because it means I could get hurt even more. But I guess I am also working on battling the assumption that I will be unable to deal with this hurt in a healthy way that is one of the main sources of the fear of having something meaningful.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

1. The idea that living quarters should always be extremely clean. I lived like this most of my life and drove myself crazy keeping up with it all. Then one day at my DIL's house i noticed how dirty everything was, floors, kitchen etc both before and after baby came. I also noticed how relaxed everyone was and how everything was done eventually with a palpable air of calm. Now I am more relaxed about cleaning too and the world has not come to an end and we are all still healthy.

2.The idea that I could not walk out the door for anything, even a trip to the supermarket, without being correctly dressed and made-up. This stressed me out so badly sometimes I didn't go out. And I never looked 'good enough' unless a lot of time and effort were put into co-ordinating it all. Now, I don't stress when it's just errands and wear less make-up most of the time. My quality of life has improved consequently. I try to assemble 'uniforms' I can throw on without thinking about it too much and mostly wear one pair of shoes (have 2 copies of same ones so they can air) Most people have little to no interest in one's appearance (unless it's odd, which is another issue).

3. The idea that my friends should treat me a certain way. I accept them now as they are and if their treatment of me isn't 'good enough' I try to reflect on how I could be a better friend or on how maybe they need some space at the moment, rather than on my disappointment,

4. The idea when I was younger that I had to impress certain people too much , in-laws, acquaintances, etc rather than enjoying the moment whatever was going on and just being myself, relaxing enough to know that I was unlikely to do anything terrible without over- monitoring my every word and gesture. It didn't help that I was also coping with numbers 1 and 2. And some judged me harshly anyway so what was the point.
posted by claptrap at 2:33 PM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

I thought I needed 5-6 hours of sleep a night to function, end of story. Turns out there's a difference between "function" and "stay sane" and "be happy". 6 hours is "function", 7 hours is "stay sane" and 8 hours gets me to "be happy". It's like magic! And it pays off not just in happiness, but in energy for things like exercise and cooking, productivity levels, and creativity and insight in my work.
posted by ootandaboot at 2:44 PM on November 19, 2013 [18 favorites]

I have become much more transparent in my old age. I tell it like it is when it comes to how I am feeling and what I am thinking. That does not mean I get to be mean, but rather life is too short to play games. Here is what I am thinking. Love me for who I am because that is exactly what I will do for you. Accept you for who you are.

Also, I try things now. Be it food, a book, an idea, a trip, whatever, try it once.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:50 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

* I thought everyone was looking at me and judging me at the gym. Then I started listening one day while resting at the pool in between sets and realized that everyone was really mostly just judging themselves and ... after all, if they were looking at me and judging, why was I letting them live my life for me? (This is a variation of what phunniemee said)

* I learned that my parents are people too. That they were doing the best they possibly could with what they had and they did a better job than their parents and that all I could ask of myself is that I do a better job than they did.

* I learned that teaching people wasn't about conveying what *I*, in my great wisdom, wanted them to learn...but rather what they NEEDED to know in the way that would help them learn it. Thinking about it that sort of backwards way from the obvious way has made me a much, much, much more effective instructor.
posted by eleanna at 3:15 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

From a quality perspective.....

I discovered that if I took my time, my quality really would go up. This helped me realize that I HAD the time. If it was important enough for me to work on, it was worth some time. Guitar, sculpture, study of any sort, writing, planning.... all benefit from patience. Speed comes with practice, and accurate practice is essential, and slow, initially.

I also discovered that something was finished when I decided it was. That relates to everything including a relationship gone bad, a mis-conversation, a project, a skill. Even if I set it aside, it's never too late to take it out and examine it again.

From a personal standpoint....

Help people out. Even if it costs a buck or some time. Don't always insist on a financial payoff or even acknowledgement or appreciation.

It's important to spread your positive memes. They are the spiritual equivalent of immortality and if you can hand off either good lessons, or attitudes, or values, they live inside the brains of people for a long time, and go on to propagate, too.

What I hope to learn....

How not to take rejection personally.
How to shut up when things aren't important.
How to modulate my knee jerk reactions.

Supplementary conclusions:

We're all equally famous. Most of us will die unknown.

We're all equally ignorant. No one person can hold a micro-percent of the human knowledge base.

We're all dead, already. Life is an instant. It's over. Now. From day 0, we're in the cool down mode. It only seems not to be the case, but that's exactly what all those prior dead people thought.

Humanity has the capacity to exceed its animal nature, through the wonder of free will and inspection. We have a choice that we can make to do things that aren't all ME! ME! ME! and instead are other-focused. Altruism isn't unknown in the animal kingdom, but we as a species can self-will it. It's the essence of the christian ethic (and I am a radical atheist) and its best feature.

Everyone has to get through this the best way they can. It's hard to watch the mistakes and the damage and the bad starts and wrong paths, but those are the choices folks make and they are entitled to them.
posted by FauxScot at 3:20 PM on November 19, 2013 [14 favorites]

previous askme
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:23 PM on November 19, 2013

I'm a Buddhist and a big believer in karma. This would be a nice, comfy sort of crutch when someone would hurt me that "Oh, it'll take care of itself..." Y'know, "that jerk" would get his/hers later.

This especially helped me in my divorce. Oh, it was all going to be ok and someday "that jerk" would get... whatever. It took me a few years, but one day it was like being hit with a lightning bolt. SHIT. In *his* life, *I* am THAT JERK.

The minute you realize that yours is not the only plot that is going on around you, it truly changes your outlook. I'm oddly much more ok with doing things that others might perceive negatively (such as distancing myself from unhealthy relationships) because I'd rather be "that bitch" in someone else's plot than make my own more difficult.
posted by sonika at 4:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

I used to think I would forever hate my job because it was in a cubicle and not some "exciting" field, like history blogging. I was doomed because I had to follow procedures, sign documents, and I overall saw my job as pushing paper around a desk.

It took some introspection, but I see now that I had a very jaded, cynical perception of my work. I wanted people to tell me I was funny and interesting, but I realize now that, while that's a nice bonus of my personal life, that's ego-boosting, and I don't need that to do good work. I also re-evaluated what I do, and instead of a paper-pusher, I see myself as a burgeoning expert in a niche field who can do a lot of valuable things that help save lives.
posted by Turkey Glue at 4:57 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, I've learned to ask questions about things I don't understand. I spent way too much of my adolescence stuck in the macho belief that something "un-manly" deserved to be skewered.
posted by Turkey Glue at 5:04 PM on November 19, 2013

Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

And luck? Lucky people aren't as locked into a goal, so if something great happens to them, they accept it; it's luck. Unlucky people pass by the great things to get to a more specific set of goals, but don't always get where they wanted to go.
posted by talldean at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

I have certain things I do for friends, like sending holiday cards every year.

I used to get peeved if they didn't do the same in return. They didn't send me a holiday card! They didn't always remember my birthday! They didn't do the thing that I did for them! Those assholes!

Then I read an advice column pointing out that having a friendship wasn't signing a contract. You don't sign up to reciprocate actions if you're someone's friend. It's unreasonable to be angry that "I did XYZ for my friend and she didn't do the same back!" And anyway, people express love in different ways.

This was a great reality check for my expectations. It wiped away all the tit-for-tat scorekeeping in my head and made me reexamine the ways that people show their love besides the ones that I was used to.
posted by cadge at 6:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Fashion is a language. You're speaking it whether you want to or not.
posted by NortonDC at 8:04 PM on November 19, 2013 [22 favorites]

The falseness of continuing to do something which it becomes clear you should stop doing, simply because you have already invested a lot in it. This can be as simple as "I am really hating this book, but I've read 150 pages so I should finish it anyway" or as complicated as "I really loathe the person I am married to but we've been together through lots of huge life events and 15 years, so we should stick together." This is a trap. I don't mean you should always give up the instant something becomes difficult, but when it's really clear that you're making a mistake, don't let the time/money/emotional investment you've already made dissuade you from stopping. Sometimes you really just have to cut your losses and walk away.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

It is not normal, harmless, or innocuous to hit or otherwise inflict violence on other people, even/especially members of your family or significant others.

When I read this, repeated by poster after poster on an AskMe thread years ago, it was like a lightbulb went off behind my eyes. It seems like other people know this intrinsically their whole lives, but for me the knowledge did not arrive until my 20s, and that day was life-changing. It was the day I realized that I had a complete lack of learned healthy habits or strategies for handling and defusing my anger, and the day I realized I needed to rethink what I allowed in my relationships; both what I allowed to happen to me, and what I allowed myself to do to others.
posted by audacity at 8:44 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

As someone who believes in God and the Bible I realized I was wrong about God. I thought God was much harsher. I didn't go quite as far as Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (PDF) and I never believed in hell but I did always believe God was looking for our sins, our willful mistakes, and each of these counted against us. I didn't really think of God as a person who actually wanted to be close to me or anyone else as an individual (except for those very special "good" people who for some reason just seem naturally aligned with God and I would never be that).

I realize now that God is not looking for our sins to count against us but is looking into hearts for anything good, anything He can work with. And when the Bible says we need to take on a new personality that means becoming the best possible version of ourselves, the most faithful, most joyful, most loving, most patient person we can as individuals and most importantly, since we aren't perfect, to be trying to do that more often than not and learning from His word how to do that because it benefits us to be better people. It doesn't mean there is a lockstep way to be, to be "locked in" to God's way of doing things and therefore I would always fall short until I "got it".

I am so much more relaxed now and feel much closer to God.
posted by Danila at 8:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [14 favorites]

I learned that staying in relationships out of a sense of obligation or pity was not a good reason. I also learned that saying what is acceptable to me or communicating my feelings in relation to another's actions was not being bossy or judgmental of another; they can go do that action somewhere else than in my space. I am allowed to say what I want in mine.
posted by Jandoe at 10:43 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I used to believe it was vitally important that I have a close, affirming relationship with every member of my family, and if I didn't, it meant there was something wrong with how I was living my life and the choices I was making.
posted by deathpanels at 6:05 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to think I had to get out of the house and rush to work as fast as possible in the morning, since for some reason I didn't value "morning" time as much as "post-work evening" time. Now, I try to value them both equally. This morning I did a load of laundry, made some tea, and watched a TV show before I left the house. It's made me feel much calmer and already more productive.

I also decided to arrange my life so that I never have to run for trains or buses or metros. I rarely speed up to cross the street with only 5 seconds remaining. I think I'm seeing a common theme whereas I've decided to avoid hurrying. Tortoise FTW!
posted by kinsey at 6:39 AM on November 20, 2013 [21 favorites]

A couple people have said variations of this, but Lifehacker had an article: "No one cares, so do what you want" a few months ago. I have to constantly learn this lesson over and over again.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:04 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

People don't care about you as much as you think they do. That is, when it comes to appearance, choice of footwear, diet etc. If people do, then it's more likely a measure of their own insecurities than something which you should concern yourself with, as small minds are threatened by those who do something differently.

People do care about you as much as you think they don't. I've always loved the title of that Beach Boys record, 'You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone'. Everyone needs someone to keep them upright from time to time, and you'd be surprised how often people are willing to do so. I used to be convinced that people couldn't possibly care, or that being sad was a sign of weakness when everyone else seems to be coping. It turns out that most people think the same of themselves.

Also, on a more materialistic level - cheaper isn't always better, and never save stuff/experiences/food for 'best' because you think you don't deserve it right now.
posted by mippy at 7:13 AM on November 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

Status and money might make some people happy, but not everybody. If you’re not one of those people, it can be hard to live in a society where you are judged by your wealth or job title. But in the end, if you decide those things don’t matter all that much to you (and sometimes it's hard to really conclude that they don't), you’re wasting the only life you’ve got in order to fit in, and ultimately it’s a pointless sacrifice.

I spent the first decade after grad school putting my career first and doing all the “right” things to advance it (staying late, working weekends, etc.), often at the expense of personal relationships and other types of non-career personal enrichment. I had been lucky to fall into what many would consider a pretty awesome career path (diplomacy/foreign affairs), but it also one that demands extraordinary amounts of what would normally be considered one’s personal time in order to “play the game” and advance.

Ten years and two kids into this lifestyle, and after much introspection, I concluded despite the fact that I work side-by-side with hundreds of dedicated, ambitious people who view this profession as a noble calling worth almost any personal sacrifice, to me this will never be more than a job. I prefer time with my wonderful wife and kids, as well as the spare time to pursue my personal interests, to being at work. Those are the things that make me happy, not my job. But I had already invested so much; had this vague idea that it might be "worth it" in the end to remain at the front of the rat race. It has been very difficult for me to pull away from my instinctive drive to match the achievements and behaviors of my peers and instead focus on the things that actually bring me happiness.

This doesn’t mean I quit my job, but it means I will leave at 5:30 on most nights instead of 8:00, even though it will undoubtedly lower my career trajectory in this field, as there are dozens of my colleagues who are eager to take my place and work until 8 pm every night. But I've realized that even though society and many of my peers tell me I should, I just don’t share their aspirations of high office and status. Rather, I've realized that my chief aspiration is to enjoy my time, now, with my family and friends – and make the most of life as I live it, because I only get one and I'll be damned if I waste it at the office.

This has been a hard realization for me to come to, because I’m a natural “people pleaser,” so knowing that I may be gaining the reputation as an unambitious guy in field chock-full of uber-ambitious people leaves my psyche a little disheveled at times. But I’m getting over it. Life is short, and we all make our own decisions about what is important. Don’t be a slave to society’s expectations if your values are different. It took me until age 35 to even seriously begin contemplating this. I wasted way too much time.
posted by GorgeousPorridge at 7:40 AM on November 20, 2013 [21 favorites]

There's a mindfulness technique where you just sort of label all of the thoughts as they waft through your mind, sort of like using those google labels to tag emails. So you think something and then say to yourself, "Worrying" and think the next thing and say to yourself "Planning" (or comparing, or thinking, or figuring-out or rehearsing). Anyway, I started doing that intentionally for periods of time and realized I was spending an absurd amount of time comparing myself to others and trying to decide if I measured up, and that it was making me unhappy. It sounds like an obvious thing, but I had no idea how frequently I was doing it until I paid attention. Then it sort of lessened and now it's not really such a problem.
posted by mermily at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2013 [25 favorites]

I used to not care about any animals except pets. I didn't think that farm animals mattered. And then... I got a job working with farm animals. When I began interacting with farn animals face-to-face, I understood that they have feelings, personalities, and minds. They matter morally and are no less important than dogs or cats. I soon stopped eating meat, but I continued to eat dairy products and eggs. However, I found out that there is more suffering in an egg or a glass of milk than there is in a steak.

To make a long story short, my wife and I have been vegan for about eight years now. We both work in animal rescue, our house is filled with pets, and we try to have compassion for all sentient beings. (Veganism is also good for your health and for the planet. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than does the transportation industry).
posted by alex1965 at 5:24 PM on November 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd say the most valuable thing I've learned has to do with personal relationships: Friendship and relationship-wise, if someone is having a horrible go at life, you can't swoop in and "save" them. It will never be like the movies where if you endure enough of their awful behavior and are always there for them they'll realize what a great friend/partner you are and hey maybe life isn't so bad after all.
posted by Autumn at 2:55 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

i learned to not take the mean things other people said to me too seriously, and i learned to not let them hurt me. not to be too meta, but this thread is relevant.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:34 PM on November 25, 2013

That how good you are at something is not fixed. That thinking you need to be already good at something is the surest way not to get better at that thing.
posted by swheatie at 8:11 AM on November 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I was young, I would sometimes not do things because I didn't feel like it. Which is fine right? Because they say you should pay attention to feelings. Except that deep down, the real reason why I wasn't doing these things (e.g. venturing out into new social situations) was because I was afraid.

So now when I choose not to do something, I really ask myself why. And keep asking until I know that it isn't just fear in a clever little disguise.
posted by storybored at 9:04 PM on December 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

I learned about the concepts of consent and consensus.
posted by aniola at 10:57 PM on December 7, 2013

I remember reading Albert Ellis' wonderful self-help book A Guide to Rational Living where he gives a great list of irrational and self-defeating beliefs that people have.

There is a slightly more elaborated version of Ellis's list here.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:30 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

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