The Average Antagonist

My last post was a bit idealistic, to say the least. Sometimes rivalry simply sucks. Those who know us best also “best know” how to judge and belittle us. Why do they do this? Why can’t we just get along?

These flamingos can't get along, either.

These flamingos can’t get along, either.

It’s only human to favor our own qualities (loud and expressive) and feel scornful towards the opposite traits (quiet and withdrawn). If we are loud and opinionated, we might view quietness as boring; after all an extrovert can feel deathly bored when quiet. We may even find that culture (or a subculture) agrees with us, confirming our attitudes and inclinations. Modern culture values confidence and quickness. So, Buddy, you better speed up!

We might even consciously ask ourselves, “how can anybody be so _____ (fill in the blank here)?”  We’ve survived, afterall, by being exactly who we are, by possessing the qualities that we do. We’ve seen how our strengths have helped us. Without our strengths, we wouldn’t have accomplished anything that we’ve accomplished. And we might wonder, how could anyone get by without this quality? They just need to learn how to be more like us. We wish we could change the world and make it think more like us. And wishing we could speed up the driver in front of us, we internally become the antagonist.

You’ve been there… The antagonist may be thinking, how can we get their attention? If I tease you, it’s because I want you to change.  It’s the “here’s a dose of reality,” they assert, believing your personality can’t survive a certain circumstance.

2011_07_23_1571

Ruffled feathers

So, some antagonists bring us down because our qualities only grate them, being opposite of their own. We cannot judge the aversion—their feelings are their feelings—but we don’t have to agree with the conclusions.

If someone criticizes something which is actually a vice, something that is actually harmful to ourselves and others—then the negative remark may sting but it might also be helpful; if someone points out something that we didn’t realize, something that we’re capable of improving, a comment might be helpful. But, if someone points out something that we can’t change, or something that is a part of us, it hurts. Criticism suggests something is wrong with us and can leave us feeling pretty bad about ourselves. It’s the “Look at you, you’re just too ___ (fill in the blank – happy-go-lucky, too serious, too fat, too skinny, too quiet, too uptight, or too wild and free, and so on…”). In reality, our differences do have a home in humanity. We’re not all meant to be alike.

It’s up to you to realize that your “weaknesses” might not be so weak after all. If you’re slow, maybe it’s because you’re thorough, or maybe it’s because your brain just processes things differently. So what? The world needs you. If you’re shy, maybe you are more sensitive than some. We might try to change our deep-seated attributes, but to what effect? If we change to be more like everyone else, the world will lose an important angle only found in our uniqueness.

When we are at our best, we are acknowledging and valuing ourselves and others. We should appreciate our personalities instead of over-writing them. As we live and grow, we can come to see that so-called weaknesses are actually strengths.

For further inspiration…here’s a fitting example from a song by Plumb and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (highly recommended).

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