The most important first step in dealing with unfairness in your life is to start being true to the way you feel. State your opinions. If, for instance, another person tries to tell you how to react, remember that you have as much right to your opinions as he does to his. “I just don’t find that joke as funny as you do.” Or, “You might think they’re great people, but I can’t stand their racist / sexist / homophobic comments. I don’t agree that they’re just kidding and it doesn’t matter.”
You might also want to ask the person to discontinue the activity for a while. Don’t apologize for the request. But if it’s not heeded at once, make sure the person understands how uncomfortable his actions have been making you. It’s beside the point whether the same actions would have made him uncomfortable. The answer that you’re “oversensitive” or that he doesn’t understand your reaction can never provide justification for causing you pain. The person may counter that he wouldn’t care if you did or said the same things to him. Maybe. But that has nothing to do with the way you feel.
When you ask the person to stop, be careful not to attribute any harmful motives to him. His motives are unimportant. You merely want him to stop so that you can get rid of your feelings of anger. It’s enough that you have these feelings and are asking another human being to honor them.
The worst may happen. The person can refuse to stop, which is much the same as saying that he doesn’t care how you feel. But it’s better to learn this now than to spend more time in frustration because you’re afraid that you’ll find it out.
When the infuriating situation comes up again, don’t do anything designed to prove yourself or justify your behavior. If your friend ignores something you have to say, don’t get in a shouting match with him. Call him aside and ask him to let you speak. Or if someone starts telling you all your faults, don’t respond by pointing out your virtues. The more you allow an attack to influence your behavior, the more important that attack becomes to you.
Anxiety arises from the sense that you’re being abused and is compounded by your persistent silence about it. Each choice to defer to someone else’s rejection of your feelings has the effect of agreeing with that person: you’re rejecting yourself. Don’t do it. Speak up. What feels important to you is important to you. You have to make this choice: Either you change your beliefs and actions to match the other person’s, or you own your right to be different from them. Both options can be healthy. What you cannot do without creating anxiety and confusion inside yourself, is on the one hand to maintain certain standards, and on the other hand to disparage those very standards by remaining silent when they are attacked.
– Self Creation, Dr. George Weinberg (adapted)
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For a few years now, I’ve been exploring options for LASIK surgery. I’ve been going to the same ophthalmologist since I was a kid, and I would go for checkups often and ask him every time when I’ll be eligible for the surgery. Every time, he always had some sort of vague opinion about the general state of my vision and tell me to come back for another checkup. Basically the doctor equivalent of, “We’ll see.”
Recently I began to suspect that he didn’t know what he was talking about, so I went today to another ophthalmologist for a second opinion. He outlined the risks and benefits for me in concrete terms, and basically gave me information to consider before making my decision about the surgery. As an aside, he also said that the expensive eye drops that the other doctor had prescribed for me were unnecessairly costly. I asked him if the other doctor was affiliated with the company that distributed that product and he said yes. (In other words, he didn’t volunteer the information to disparage the other doctor, but he didn’t withhold it either.)
What a good egg.
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THE PEDICAB DRIVER
Several personal experiences and anecdotes from friends have made it clear to me that pedicab drivers in Manila are completely evil. (I’ll make a separate post later expanding on this.)
I’ll focus now on a particular episode that occurred maybe one or two weeks ago. I was walking home after school on the road, probably listening to a podcast or thinking about sex or something, basically running on autopilot. (It’s important to note that where I live, there are places where the sidewalks are unusable, so pedestrians have to walk on the road.) Suddenly I heard diaphragmatic screaming behind me, of the sort that my voice teacher from that one summer would have been proud of. It was this pedicab driver hurtling down the road at the maximum speed that a bike with metal sticks and tarp attached can possibly muster (you’d be surprised).
He was yelling something along the lines of, “Get out of the way, you stupid fuck!” I instinctively jumped out of the way just in time. Since the traffic was both dense and fast, there were only two other possible outcomes from that situation:
1. I would get run over by a pedicab, which is probably one of the most embarrassing and useless ways to die.
2. The pedicab would swerve to avoid me, into a vehicle going the opposite way, and begin a domino effect resulting in a pile of twisted metal and bodies.
After I jumped out of the way, he pedaled off and was lost to the vast universe. (By which I mean several streets away, I guess.) My initial thought was:
1. God, I am a stupid fuck, why wasn’t I looking?
Several minutes later, when my brain had stopped madly pressing every panic button inside the control center, it informed me:
2. This is a one-way street, and you were walking facing the traffic. There was no possible way you could have foreseen that encounter.
Then I was overtaken by rage, and began fantasizing about things I could have done instead of simply jumping out of the way (such as magically lighting his hair on fire as he sped away).
I was meeting some friends for dinner, and I told them about it, and they told me about their horrible encounters with pedicab drivers. Then I forgot all about it until today, after I went to the ophthalmologist. I was expressing to [redacted] about Section I in this post, about not letting anybody needlessly undermine your personal well-being, which at the time I was specifically relating to the ophthalmologist I did not like.* Then I remembered the pedicab driver encounter as another example. [Redacted] remarked that [redacted] could associate with the law enforcement body in the area to look into that. Which is something I hadn’t even considered before. It was just an annoyance that I brushed off at the time. (Near-death experiences are par for the course in the city, which is one of the reasons why I’m moving away as soon as I graduate.)
The point is, personal experiences don’t have to remain personal experiences – they can be the impetus for beginning social change.
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So, that’s another thing on my standing to-do list. Which is very much standing. Like stagnant water. Which isn’t good. Which I’m not proud of. But I don’t want to create the impression that I have a lot going for me when there really isn’t. Planning to try isn’t the same as trying.
I’m on a dating site for the nth time and under “What I’m doing with my life” I realized that there wasn’t any way to describe what I do on a day-to-day basis without sounding like:
a) a pompous fuck “engaged in an ongoing project of self-improvement”?? “Developing my writing”??? “Working on making my body hot”??!?!
(all of these are technically true)
b) a complete bum “I stay in my room a lot, cooking, cleaning, reading, writing and sleeping, and looking at porn. Sometimes I go out to do things and see people. I go to school at night.” (Also all technically true.)