Things That You Will Never Be

This one’s for the people who are trying.  People who actively or consistently harm others or intentionally perpetuate oppression, go read something else.

You will never be “perfect” enough, on any scale or standard, to please everyone. In today’s hyper-social world, you are more likely than ever to come into contact with criticism, usually online. And nothing you can do will prevent people from criticizing you (I suppose you could leave the online realms forever and only interact with people face-to-face but since you are reading this online I’m assuming you’re not planning to take that path).

My father, a theological hardass and extreme perfectionist, trained me to self-police against a host of factors. Is my thinking ideologically pure? Are my actions entirely ideologically consistent? Have I slipped up in any way which would bring the wrath of god upon me? When I gave up my father’s specific theological tenets, I remained self-critical. But my own self-criticism has grown lax of late, as I have begun to believe that general principles are better than lists of rules, and that loving myself is more effective to my well-being and ability to operate in this world than policing myself.

Never fear! If I feel that I need just a little more nit-picking in my life, there is always the internet. Leave aside the hordes of filthy trolls, right-wingers, sexists, MRAs, PUAs, and so on. I’m talking about leftists who maybe wrote some really good stuff or said something that resonated with me, so I keep abreast of them on social media. Inevitably, one or two people in the group of folks I follow will begin to play the “leftier than thou” game.

This will happen. If you have any sort of ideals or convictions by which you try to live your life, you will find others who spend time attempting to prove they’re better at it than you, or than people in your cohort. You will find others who waste their lives on purity tests, throwing other people under busses, flaming people online for perceived deviations from the ideal in question, and subtly suggesting that if everyone thought exactly how they did on every subject, the world would be utopia. There are always going to be disagreements carried on in a reasonable manner, or even things that get blown out of proportion because of the nature of the medium, but these people, the ones who are never happy and can never work with anyone, would probably only be happy as cult leaders. You know the type. (Unless you are the type, in which case, I apologize in advance if my words are used as weapons against people they disagree with).

You will never be ________ enough for everyone. Lefty enough, feminist enough, socialist enough, vegan enough, and on and on it goes.

But here’s the beautiful, freeing truth. You don’t have to be. You are not alive here on this earth to make everyone else happy. All you can really do is live the life you’ve been given the best you know how, to learn all the time, and to love. Do well, but don’t cripple yourself with other peoples’ expectations of perfection.

The people who want to hold you to some arbitrary standard of absolute purity, who spend all their time policing “who’s a good leftist” instead of building something constructive, these are not happy or healthy people. Their own lives are almost certainly filled with contradictions which they don’t want anyone to place under the microscope. Don’t hate them for it. Just disregard their opinions of you, and move on.

You will never be able to please everybody. So stop trying, and start figuring out how you want to live your own life well.


One thought on “Things That You Will Never Be

  1. “I have begun to believe that general principles are better than lists of rules, and that loving myself is more effective to my well-being and ability to operate in this world than policing myself.”

    I want to write this all over the walls of my former pastor’s office. After all, when we’re focused on doing or not doing a certain list of things, that is all we are thinking about. We’re not thinking about why we don’t do those things, or how not doing those things is loving or not loving the people around us. We don’t have the energy to create or encourage when we’re policing ourselves. It’s an exhausting and ineffective way to live.

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