People like to say things like, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you. Just follow your heart. Or it’s you against the world and you have to be true to yourself.
I worry about society filled with these people. I do get it. I get this do or die mentality, born out of a lifetime of the crushing reality that no one is going to cheer for you. No one is going to help you unless it’s good for them or they get something out of it. All the wrong people are going to get in your way. And the only people you hear from with any consistency are the naysayers and the doubters.
But I also get the larger truth that no one is an island. Everything you do in life has repercussions. Nothing you do is in a vaccuum. And while there is a balance to be struck, as with most things, between acting like a bull in a china shop and a doormat throughout life, I fail to see the longevity of wisdom in doing what you please every time.
I’ve known a lot of wonderful, amazing people. I wouldn’t want any single one of them to espouse the attitude of doing whatever they want all the time and good riddance to “the world.” *I’m* in that world. My family is in that world. My friends, my loved ones, my kids. I love my husband more than I’ve loved anyone in my life and he is amazing and good and intelligent and capable. I wouldn’t even want him to do as he pleases all the time or I think we’d all be in for some trouble.
My point of course is that somewhere along the line, we have to recognize we live in a circle, a community, an interwoven web that cannot be broken. There’s this great line in The Walking Dead (yes I know gaining wisdom from a zombie apocalypse show seems dubious). Daryl Dixon says “You can’t do things without people any more.” At another point, Andrea tells him “No one can make it alone now” and Daryl says, “They never could.”
I hope it doesn’t take the apocalypse for all of us to realize this. I hope it doesn’t take a tragedy in your life to recognize how interdependent you really are. We need each other. We were made for each other. It’s too easy to push everyone away every time they fail you – and they will. It’s also easy to blame others for the times you fail – and you will. But I believe that when everyone is “all in” recognizing our need for each other and that no one wins if we don’t all win, there’s really no way you can lose.
All this said, the push back is that you can go to the opposite extreme of being codependent on others in an unhealthy way. If you find yourself paralyzed by indecision because you want so much to please everyone else, then you have removed the balance. But I’ve found it also depends on who we’re talking about. Are we talking about people who don’t actually really care about you or your well being? They have a history of doing what’s good for them and not seeing the balance of community and common good. Or maybe they are people who deeply love you but they just don’t understand you or the situation you are in. Maybe they find it easier to compare their experience and what worked or didn’t work for them, but they simply aren’t you.
Anyone who has spent any time in leadership knows that it takes all kinds to achieve goals. It’s this constant give and take, and strong leaders find ways to not compromise their values even if it looks like they are. But like Daryl Dixon, albeit a fictional character, you learn that you can’t do anything alone. You need people just as they need you. Be you. Be strong. Be courageous. Be fierce. Be loyal. Be generous. Be kind. Be solitary when needed. Be unique. But be with others. Be in community. Be bound together. Be whole.