Monday, July 11, 2011

Being a Friend Repeatedly

I guess that article I posted about my life-guiding quotes was very timely, as I think rereading them has helped me realize why I'm feel discontent about my behavior regarding my lovability pursuits. As you might know, in order to cultivate more fulfilling relationships I've been working hodge-podge on nurturing a lovable self, which is mainly focused on obtaining my ideal self, where an ideal form of treating people is only a natural attribute. My reason is because I've had bad relationships with people in general throughout my life, so to better pursue my happiness I think I need to address some bad premises and habits adopted over the years.

The quote that made me realize where I'm going wrong is Aristotle's: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." After citing that I realized that in various concrete forms I do have a clear picture in my mind as to what my ideal self would be like, and have been feeling shame and guilt in noticing that I've either been lazy in constructing goals or have been unjustifiably derailing myself from desirable habits, such as ignoring a hurt friend rather than inquiring about their well-being. In other words, repeatedly, I am not striving towards my ideals.

The thing that has been bothering me in particular is my lack of openness. Even with the coworkers I've known for months now I am considerably a tightly private person, uncomfortable with even sharing that I'm a chocolate connoisseur who writes reviews. In order to construct and strengthen bridges some amount of personal sharing is necessary, so my semi-reclusiveness has been making it so I can only maintain kite strings along the river bank.

My hesitancy is due to not only the age-old fear or being rejected or witnessing hostility (as I had in my youth, to unpredictable things), but also to the age-old fallacy of expecting things to just happen. In my failure to introspect and notice, I've just been waiting around being with people with the expectation that it will somehow strengthen our bond as time passes, much like how a wine only needs to sit around to age. I am more friendly with my coworkers than when I started, but there still tends to be a lot of tension due to my withholding so much of myself.

And it's silly, now that I think of it, to be afraid, for I have little to fear from the people I know. Besides -- and most importantly -- the fear quickly goes away as I force myself to action and expose myself to discomfort. It's like jumping into a cold lake: The anticipation might be terrible and the temperature shock rather frightening, but once your body temperature adjusts it's no challenge at all. By making myself more open during the first few instances, I'll quickly set myself along the path that it'll become my natural deposition, and I'll no longer feel such discomfort ever again. Out of the millions of steps I can take in this direction, it is only the first few that will be uncomfortable.

I have empirical evidence too. One way or another, religion came up at work one day. It wasn't a very deep conversation, but it somehow came to question as to what my religious beliefs were, and with only a touch of discomfort I admitted that I was an atheist. Throughout it remained a friendly confrontation that has affected none of my relationships at my workplace for the negative. Now everyone knows a personal religious belief of mine, that I believe gods don't exist, and have suffered none for it. It was uncomfortable to begin pronouncing the first words of those sentences, but once into the paragraph I was at total ease.

To help myself more open and less shy I think I need to create more situations like this, so I'm thinking about pursuing a rather weird goal: Every day I go into work, I must tell at least three people one good thing that has occurred to me recently. Yes, bizarre, but appreciative on multiple levels I think. For one, it brightens up the atmosphere by opening daily confrontations with a talk about values. Secondly, it helps avoid those monotonous, meaningless greetings people tend to say by rote and hardly notice when they say it. It freshens up conversations, brings values more strongly into play, and assists in bonding, all in one. Starting today, I'll resolve to complete this goal every working shift I do and report the results on my weekly summary.

But still, to aid in the construction of goals to instill other habits I should take a shot at writing down a list of traits I view as essential to my conception of an ideal self. I think I might have tried that before, but then again if I did I think the slip of paper would be out and visible, so maybe I didn't. I'll undertake to attempt such brainstorming this week and share the results once I think I have a succinct list formed.

It's satisfying to me to have figured out what was bothering me about my lovability pursuits, but this is only one step in many needed. It's a challenge I look forward to, nonetheless: Happiness is worth it.

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