My whole life I’ve cared greatly about how others view me.
I don’t think it’s been in a negative, egotistical way, but more of a kindness and friendship way. Like, I assume that if they didn’t like me it was because of something I should have done better, or some sort of pain they were going through that I should try to help fix.
This has always given me an advantage in life. I get along with everyone. I like everyone. And everyone seems to like me (or at least not dislike me).
I’ve recently had an experience that made me rethink this approach. Not the being nice part, but the part where I need to find and fix any instance of someone not liking me.
I found a case where no matter what I tried, they didn’t care.
It’s a fellow infosec person, actually, a super smart guy. Talented, doing very well in the industry. And he’s well respected.
We had a casual relationship—only online—and we would occasionally talk about stuff that bothered us in the industry, about random funny stuff, or whatever. But a few times I reached out to ping him about a viewpoint that he had, which I didn’t agree with. It usually involved him being upset about a given thing, and me thinking I had some sort of perspective that he could use to either not care about that thing, or at least care less about it.
So after like five years of this relationship, and like 3 or 4 of those more debate-like interactions among many others about random things, he basically tells me that every time we talk I’m criticizing him, and he doesn’t like it.
So he blocks me on Twitter.
It was my first time being blocked (that I know of anyway).
I was devastated, and from time to time I still am. Hence this post.
I’ve been debating about religion, politics, infosec best-practices, and many more emotional topics like vim vs. emacs, Android vs. iPhone, and other highly radioactive topics for almost exactly 20 years.
Never have I had someone just shut off the conversation. Not enemies. Not people who were close to enemies. Not people I disliked. Nobody.
But here I am just having a friendly discussion with someone I respect—and who I thought respected me—and all of a sudden I’m blacklisted.
And over the months I’ve tried a couple times to apologize, to set boundaries on discussion that could be considered confrontational, and to just be friends.
I spend a great deal of energy trying to be nice to people. I’m a giving person. I like to give. I like to help people.
The idea that there is this nice person, who thinks I’ve wronged him enough to PROHIBIT me from speaking to him…it’s just extremely hurtful to me.
And that’s where this new idea comes in.
All throughout time people have been opposed. They try to do things, and people hate them. They try to have opinions, and people hate them. Maybe they just show up and people don’t like how they look, so they’re hated.
I’ve learned a lot about perseverance from biographies. Where people pour their hearts out in books or essays or whatever they’re trying to do, and nobody cares.
But the people we’ve heard of always continued. They just keep creating. Kept writing. Kept on keeping on.
Now I don’t place myself anywhere near the level of anyone whose biography I’ve read. I’ve not done shit yet. I’m a guy on the internet.
But maybe some people see me as something I’m not. They see me as having arrived in some measure, or as having taken something from them in some measure.
I don’t know if that’s true. And I don’t know how it could be true for this person.
But maybe that’s just how things work.
What I’m coming to understand is that I should try—and this will be very hard for me—to see someone disliking me as a sign that I’m doing something right.
Maybe it means I’ve made something. Maybe it means I’ve brought something into the world. Maybe it means I’ve said something true but uncomfortable. Maybe I’ve started an unpleasant conversation about religion, or security, or whatever.
It’s dangerous, though, becuase most people who are disliked are just assholes. I’m pretty sure I’m not an asshole. But it’s something I never want to be. It’s like the prime directive given to me by my father.
Don’t be an asshole.
Ok, that’s clear enough.
He also said if a bunch of people show up in a van and say,
Hey, we’re doing something super fun, you should come join us!
You should run away.
But I digress.
I think what I’m saying is that if I want to be great in the future I cannot obsess about being liked by every single person in the world. Maybe I could only pull that off by not doing anything noteworthy. Mabye I could only stay universally liked if I never made a difference.
So I need to find a way to figure out how to be my old self for 99% of situations, but for the other 1% who don’t like me for whatever reason, I need to just move on. I need to steel myself against the hurt it causes, and resist the urge to go and adjust what I did, or try to address what made them not like me.
The algorithm needs to be:
- Did I do something I should not have done?
- If so, apologize, and ask them to forgive.
- If I didn’t do anything wrong, or if they decline my apology, try again after some time.
- If that doesn’t work after 2-3 attempts, move on with my life.
- Hope that they’ll come around in the future, but don’t think too much about it.
That’s where I am with him now.
It’s not like we’ve been best friends since childhood or something. We’ve only know each other through infosec and Twitter, so maybe he just hasn’t seen the real me yet, and he has some negative impression from somewhere (combined with me not being sensitive enough in our interactions).
I just wish he could know who I am, and that making him feel bad enough to block someone is something I’d never consider doing in 1,000 lifetimes. It’s not how I work.
I like people. I like friends. And I like helping, not hurting.
So I guess I’m wondering if anyone else has gone through this transition, and if it was the right thing to do for them in hindsight.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop caring, but I need a technique to turn off the sensitivity. Perhaps this is it.