When I was 28 years old, I was an asshole. I drank a lot, I dated a lot, I did pretty much whatever I wanted, when I wanted. It was hedonism at it’s height. And it worked for me.
But part of me was also very miserable. I think that’s honestly why I did it.
When I reached 30, I decided it was time for a total turnaround. I decided enough with the drinking, serial dating and the selfish behavior. Instead I became a ‘good guy’ and started focusing on truly trying to meet the needs of others.
I am not saying I was suddenly perfect by any means, and there were quite a few false starts, but soon I got the hang of it and I was on track to becoming a more giving person in life.
Sounds like a happy ending, right?
In fact, I was more miserable than before. And I couldn’t figure out why.
I was acting in a way that I believed people who have grown and matured should act. I was playing the part of a loyal, caring, giving person in life. It seemed like it should all be smooth sailing and very fulfilling.
The truth was, I was lying to myself.
I kept up this lie to myself until very recently. For almost the past 10 years I have been only meeting half my needs, the needs that align with me appearing to be a good person.
Recently, a few events have made me realize that my ‘good guy’ behavior is leading me to become taken advantage of. I have felt this feeling many times in the past few years, but only recently did I realize it was my penchant to be excessively kind and giving that was causing it.
You see, I’ve realized each person is both inherently self-serving and inherently giving. The challenge seems to be in finding the balance between the two.
The act of selfishness is part of our nature. Babies are selfish and concerned only with their needs. Children and teenagers are also very self-indulgent. It seems only in adulthood that we learn a balance and give as much as we take. But sometimes we lose our balance and tip too far one way or the other.
For me, during the past 10 years, I went from one extreme to the other. At first I was almost completely self-serving and on some levels it worked very well. Then for quite a while I was the opposite, so nice, giving and accommodating that nobody could fault anything that I did.
Both extremes made me miserable; because I wasn’t listening to who I truly was.
The point here, and something I am only just starting to understand, is that neither extreme of behavior is healthy.
The world is a neutral place. But people are not. People have their own agendas, and I believe that we as ‘good’ people should as well.
Being a good person means you sleep well at night. But being too nice, becoming a pushover, a doormat, or a sucker as a result of being ‘too good’ is a mistake.
The truth is, I am half self-serving, half kind.
Knowing these two parts of my nature and managing life in an ethical way is a challenge I am learning to navigate.