“People will hate me if I think I do well,” my friend Joely wrote today. Today’s post is brought to you by righteous indignation on her behalf and fervent desire to make the world a better place. Let’s go.
How many of you were nerds in high school? Raise your hands. *raises hand*
How many of you were teased or given a hard time about getting good grades? *raises hand*
Today, I want to bitch about how much that sort of thing sucks, talk about why I think it happens, and then talk about how to make it better. (Or at least, how I’ve made it better for me.)
It really sucks.
It makes me really angry that people need to tear others down to make themselves feel better. I feel really sad about all the awesome and potentially awesome people (like, for instance, who have to process through metric tons of crap that isn’t even their own crap but is just other people’s shitty way of bolstering their “self”-esteem.
Why do people do this?
I think it’s because of the iPhone effect.
The iPhone effect, in short, is that people tell stories that relieve their dissonance. If people receive conflicting information, they’ll resolve the conflict in a way that makes them feel comfortable and happy with themselves.
For example, if Russ has trouble getting good grades in school, he’ll experience dissonance between conflicting stories: “Doing well in school is good”, “I’m not doing well in school”, and the implicit assumption “I am a good person.” To resolve this dissonance, Russ will likely ditch one of the conflicting stories. Perhaps he’ll change his story from “Doing well in school is good” to “Doing well in school is for nerds, and nerds suck.” That story allows Russ to avoid changing his actions while still keeping the belief that he’s a good person.
Russ redefined “good”.
Nerds do the same thing, though, but in a different way. For example, June looks at all the popular kids in school and experiences conflicting stories: “Being popular is good”, “I’m not popular”, and “I am a good person.” June might resolve this dissonance by changing her story from “Being popular is good” to “Being popular is for jocks and cheerleaders, and they suck. Being smart is what’s really good.” That story allows June to avoid changing her actions while still keeping her belief that she’s a good person.
June redefined “good”.
I think just about everyone does this, from kids to highschoolers to adults to the Dalai Lama.
Why is this awesome?
It’s awesome because you can choose what story you want to be in.
If you don’t like the story you’re currently telling, you can change it. Maybe the story you’re currently telling wasn’t written by you. Maybe it was written by your parents and your classmates and your childhood friends and your exes. Maybe it was written by former versions of yourself who were very different from the you that you are now. Maybe a sentence or two was written by random people you passed on the street who looked at you the wrong way, or by surly food service employees.
You can rewrite your story.
Do so with care, because the story you write will become your reality. You might not want to put “Nerds suck” or “Jocks suck” in the story of your life. But whatever you choose to write, keep on writing. Keep on writing the story of your life, keep on unfolding, keep on growing, and keep on creating yourself.