Best I can tell, American culture has things exactly backward when it comes to the notion of personal strength. I read much about the current generation being weak and unable to cope with life’s reality, and though I agree, it behooves us to remember they had parents and that it was those parents who helped to fail them. Not simply by their parenting alone, but by my generation’s own denial of reality. Having grown up in times when the Everyone Can be a Star nonsense began in earnest, far too many of us did not grow up. Still haven’t. We watched too much Mtv, VH1, Behind the Music, The Real World, and all of the entertaining poisons of our day until my generation began to believe its own bullshit, which it passed along to the next generation in far toxic ways. We then watched these same artists as they reunited, made comebacks. Having bought our own bullshit, we then started using words like, ‘dude’ and ‘bro’, dumbed ourselves down, and began dressing and acting perhaps half our age. Having played in many a dank, dim bar, I can assure you that Gen X (and some Boomers) have forgotten both their manners and their dignity.
I could go on here, but won’t. Millennials, so many who are weak and fragile, despite being brash and often having ‘self-esteem’ levels that are nearly sociopathic, did not become this way on their own. And the more Millennials I meet who have become self-possessed, ditched self-esteem and decide to work to attain respect, the more of them I find righteously angry at how they were let down and downright deceived by both my generation and the Boomers. And those Millennials are not weak, I assure you. Some of them will school you.
But the one thing I see these days that is toxic is the notion of ‘haters’ and, specifically, this notion that strength is somehow obtained by either shutting up these ‘haters’ or simply ignoring them. This is a horrible idea. If you want to find yourself weak and ineffectual in every way outside of being a magnificent and tragic victim, listen to this advice to silence or ignore ‘haters.’
Everyone when speaking to you is telling you their story, not yours. Those ‘haters’ are no different. They are telling you about themselves with every word. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves part of their story. Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes, it isn’t. Learning to set blame aside on the outset helps you understand and hear what a ‘hater’ is trying to tell you on the outset. You may often find that ‘haters’ are, indeed, jealous of you, your success, looks, doesn’t matter. Ignoring them because of this is child-like and shortsighted. If you want to win at your own missions in life, pay attention to the ‘haters’. I can’t stress this enough: if you want to be strong, face your damned enemy. I do not mean to engage them in arguments or in any way meet them on their own turf. That’s likely a lose-lose.
I’m going to quote a Robert Downey, Jr. bit here that has helped me learn how to deal with contrarians. For those of you with weaker constitutions, it contains a very bad word. When it comes to ‘haters’, I think this philosophy works well with an additional thought. The additional thought: take into consideration what the ‘hater’ says, then remember they’re telling you their story. If you find yourself pulled into their story, have the guts to double-check your own motives. Find out what you believe in and weigh it. Eventually, your brain will adapt; it will learn to recognize the patterns of the ‘hater’ and dismiss what it already knows to be false. You won’t be having to weigh out each hater’s thoughts forever. Or long at all, if you do the work. But it is work.
Now, how do you deal with the ‘hater’ whose actions and words demand dismissal? Mr. Downey, Jr., you’re up:
“Smile. Nod. Agree. Then go do whatever the fuck you wanted to anyway.”
This bit of vulgar advice from Robert is a bit of gold in your pocket, I assure you. If the words are heeded and the work is done to skip blame and weigh criticism with honesty, you’ll find in some time that you’ve got strength and energy you didn’t know you would ever possess. If I am wise at all it is because I was a fool for so long. Many years I spent ineffective at completing my own goals in life because I took the wrong advice. I took the advice about dismissing contrarian viewpoints, more often than not. I wanted to stand up for myself and my principles before the situation got out of hand. I rarely could, however, because I’d grown weak by assuming, in so many ways, life would come to me and, like the typically passive-aggressive ‘Nice Guy’ I used to be, when it didn’t, I had depression and tantrums. It’s no way to live.
Another bit that has helped my life is from my friend Ryan, and it is this: your opinion of me is none of my business. Once you know who you really are, you’ve weighed all the contrarian viewpoints you can stand, and your principles and guidelines for your own life are set and fixed, then you can learn to stop thinking about other people’s opinions. Of course you care. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t actually care what others think of you. As a social creature, it’s perfectly natural and normal. If you push yourself too hard not to care, sociopathy can creep up. You care, and you’ve weighed it all, you know who you are, so you just teach yourself to stop thinking about other’s opinions of you.
You’ll be too busy by then to devote much time to thinking about those opinions anyway. At that point you’ll know how much more there is to be done in life besides thinking about what the hive mind thinks. You’ll know whose opinion matters and when to listen. No one will be hearing you tell them how strong you are, they’ll be too busy trying to keep up with you.