Trust people who are nice to you.
That sounds ridiculous to say aloud, but it’s really hard for a lot of people. It’s hard for me.
There are a few reasons for that. One is that I’m from New York City, home of the “friendly fuck you” which is when a taxi almost hits you, and you curse the guy out, and he curses you out, but no one really sounds mean or scared, and you then sort of smile at each other, because you’ve engaged in one of the prime direct communication rituals of living in this city. The way people in and from other places communicate often freaks me out. How do I know it’s sincere?
Also, my childhood, like everyone else’s, was filled with bullies. I had a lot of conversations that went
“Where’d you get it, KMart?”
“No. No, I… my parents bought it for me.”
“You’re an idiot, why would you think we thought anything you would wear is nice?”
So between these two things, when people are nice to me, I tend to be very What is really going on here?
And it’s not just me. I hear from lots of other people who also have a hard time believing compliments, who are sure they’ve just fooled people into thinking they are competent and/or that every kindness they receive is part of some nefarious plan.
And, you know what? Let’s be fair. It could be. The girls who asked me where I got my sweater didn’t all grow up to become people who would never, ever do that. You may also know some people who praise your stuff even when it’s half-baked, not just to you, but to everyone else. I know those people too.
But really who cares?
Energy spent trying to detect people with nefarious plans and bad taste is energy — and time — spent not doing the thing.
It’s also a bit rude. How would people who are kind to you would feel good to know you think they are up to something or super gullible? Generally speaking, they probably wouldn’t be that into it.
And this is where trust comes in. When people are nice to you, trust them. And trust yourself to be able to navigate those occasional weird moments when you’re actually dealing with sweater-insulters and sycophants.
But don’t go looking for them. They probably don’t exist. And if they do, they aren’t worth your time, not because they’re terrible people (they’re not, they’re just struggling with their shit, just like you are struggling with yours), but because you’ve got to keep your head down and do your Thing, whether that’s for 15 minutes a day or 15 hours a day.
Trust yourself to go looking for people who want to support you and who you want to support. Trust yourself to go looking for people who understand that support doesn’t require unadulterated praise, and that constructive criticism provided in appropriate contexts isn’t betrayal. And trust yourself to think about yourself as a person who deserves a life filled with awesome people who inspire you to get crap done.
Also trust yourself not to be a criminal mastermind who is fooling everyone. Because seriously, that outlook is just weird.
Got trust issues? Want to confess your status as a secret criminal mastermind so that we can all tell you you’re not an imposter and you can go back to doing the awesome stuff you’ve already been doing?
We’re here for you. And if we mention it, we are really, truly, sincerely into your sweater. No matter where you bought it.
I think this idea catches me much more deeply in my personal life than professionally. I guess when some gate-keeper-y institution says “we’ll take your work” I defer to their authority.
But when an actual person says “you know, I’m really feeling your you right about now” that is just it for me. I haven’t gone as far as to assume everyone’s a criminal mastermind, but definitely that people see getting me to feel stuff as a “project.”
I have issues with this, but I don’t really think anyone is playing some kind of long con in order to trick me into thinking they’re my friend (the bullies I’ve encountered were not that subtle) or that I’ve somehow tricked everyone into thinking I’m great when I’m not. I think “the said they liked it but they’re just being polite” or “they like it but they also like (thing I think is bad) so their opinion doesn’t count for much.” I know that that’s catty but if I start worrying about whether my thoughts are rude or mean I’ll drive myself crazy.
I deal with this a lot. I feel like my coworkers compliment me excessively, and it just all feels a little suspect to me, because I really don’t do *that* much at the organization I work for. But it’s not a criminal mastermind/ fooling everyone mindset for me, it’s that nearly all of my colleagues are social workers and therapists, so basically people who are trained to help others feel better about themselves. And while it’s nice to be appreciated when I know I’ve done something worthwhile, other times it just feels like too much, or a “let’s bolster the new, young girl’s ego so she sticks around for awhile!” situation.