Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Difficulty of Being Good

Like every other kid in the world, I heard stories of good vs evil. But I think I took them more seriously than normal kids do. I somehow thought, I should always be on the 'good' side. I think all the appreciation that being good got, got into my head. Now, it would take a psychologist to tell me how much we are born with, and how much of our personality is conditioned by our early experiences in life, but I would think this whole good vs evil thing had a very strong hold on me.

A little disclaimer is worthwhile here. I don't mean to say I went on to become a saint. I think the ways this desire to be good manifested itself needs to be understood. If I dig a little deeper, it was probably a desire to be appreciated that was driving the whole thing. So, I took on habits that were appreciated. I would follow a schedule. I would respect the elders. I would never fight or bad mouth people. I would never make the first choice and would be happy to take what was left. And so on - you get the idea. I must say it was all in innocence. I was not trying to manipulate people into liking me. I would say it was a factor - hopefully a subconscious one.

What also happened was that I developed a strong sense of right and wrong; I began to dislike people who did things I thought were wrong. I would get uncomfortable with people who would smoke or drink, or with people who would lie, or not follow the rules, or even not do the homework on time. At the same time, I would rarely protest against any of these people. Because I think I was not comfortable with any sort of confrontation as well. As a result, I also became a little reserved, I think. It's better to keep shut and let people wonder if you are a fool, than open your mouth and confirm the doubt, I guess. I don't think I ever explored assertion when I was younger (lest it should come off as aggression?)

Anyway, I think it's a lot more complicated than what I write. But I think I started realizing I was letting this go to the extreme when I was nearing my teens. I became a lot more 'liberated' but some old habits die hard. I retained a bit of my introversion, I guess. This desire of wanting to be appreciated got narrowed to people I thought were good/nice/respectful/awesome, etc. (this also included some of my early crushes :) In most social gatherings, I would usually recede to a corner away from the limelight whenever I was unsure of my company and secretly hope that people notice the talent/skills in me and pull me to the center. And then, I would bask in the glory, perhaps.

I guess the realization became much stronger when I realized I made very few friends because I would rarely talk to new people on my own. People who knew me would usually swear by me, but the number was so small that I was invariably left alone. It was ironical I guess. Because being alone was never part of the plan. Who would really show appreciation if I were alone, yeah?

I realized the want of attention and admiration from people was pulling me down, and pulling me down badly. I think I have made a significant improvement in how much I care about what others think about me - sometimes to the extreme that I have become somewhat cold-hearted. I think there still are a set of people whose appreciation (or in it's milder form, acceptance) matter to me, and it's still bothers me a little. But I am happy with the progress I have made and I hope to continue to do so.

An integral part of this whole transformation was the realization that appreciation / acceptance doesnt necessarily come from outstanding habits or actions. In fact, everyone's definition of what is acceptable behaviour is different and it keeps changing. I used to think people who drink or smoke don't do well for themselves and are not good people. One by one I met people who I came to deeply respect/admire/love for who they were and who later turned out to be smoking or drinking. That's when the disassociation started happening. More such things followed. I still instinctively think people don't usually lie. I was surprised recently when someone denied the truth on my face. I could either point it out to him, or let it pass, and try to understand what made him do that, so that I don't hate him for it.

Don't get me wrong. Righteousness is a positive thing. And, I hope we all have a sense of the same. But it is not the only thing in the world. It's a reality I am coming to terms with. Hopefully, you already know it. Else, I hope this post makes you think a little.


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