a nice girl primer on the common asshole.
As a little girl, I grew up in a household where there were two opposing points of view about how to behave as a human being.
On one hand, there was my Mama–my be all, end all, tireless cheerleader, constant support–who sacrificed literally everything to be my Mama and wanted nothing more than to give me everything in the entire world.
And then, there was my Daddy. A charming guy who was also quite the asshole–who hurt people routinely for no apparent reason and was literally the most selfish person on the planet. He believed in the squeaky wheel getting the grease. And because he loved me, when kids would bully me or treat me poorly, he told me I had an obligation to speak up and stand up for myself. So, he taught me how to do just that. And he taught me to fight. And he told me that he wasn’t going to save me.
I only knew my father for six years, but yep–he made an impression.
Only I often fought the lessons my daddy taught me–because of the things he did to us that hurt me. Mostly because I didn’t understand. And he did love me in the ways he could love me. But all of that, well, let’s just say I grew up with some contradictions that did a real number on me.
I was always more inclined to be like my Mama. Long suffering and miserable. Always putting others first. And I took my Daddy’s advice sometimes and stood up for other people–rarely myself, though. Except if you pissed me off.
The long suffering BS didn’t work too well for me. I ended up with PTSD and felt guilty for needing anything at all. And just because I ignored my needs didn’t mean they went away. Only now, I felt selfish when I asked. So, I had to go through a process of unlearning this crap and embracing some of the things my father knew. And I started seeing my father a bit differently in the process. Maybe he wasn’t an asshole. Maybe he just learned a few things about shitty people and learned how to not be a victim. Maybe he knew who I was back then was inclined towards that mindset. And maybe he wanted the story to be different.
I’ve known a lot of assholes in my time. I’m like a magnet for them. And I can’t even be mad at them because I invited them in. I knew. I have an intuition about people. I still chose to invite them in.
The thing is–toxic people don’t have to be your big bads. They’re not murderers. They won’t sexually assault you. They just don’t honor your humanity or pay you any respect. And it’s not personal. That’s the horrible thing about it. They often don’t even know they’re doing it. So, you can’t actually teach them a lesson. When I treat someone poorly, it’s usually pretty intentional or completely unintentional. When it’s over, if it’s intentional, I feel guilt and shame over it. If it’s totally unintentional and someone brings it up, I feel immense amounts of horror that I did that and will spend my life apologizing.
Toxic people don’t do those things. They probably don’t intentionally do anything because they actually don’t care about you or your feelings or making you feel bad. This can be a freeing thing or an immensely hurtful thing–depending on who you are. And if you tell them they hurt you, it will often be met with disdain because you’re trying to make them feel bad for your feelings (which have nothing to do with them, from their POV) or they will literally not understand why you’re upset–because they don’t care about people’s thoughts or actions about them–so why should you?
The thing is–no matter what you do–this person is just not going to honor you. And that can be a hard thing for someone like me. Because I want to believe that everyone is good and kind. The hard truth? While many people are good and kind, many people simply aren’t.
So, how exactly do you identify these people before you allow them into your life? This is something I tried for years. If I could just avoid the shitty assholes who hurt me, everything would be fine. The problem is that people change and evolve. Sometimes, you don’t see these sides of people until you’re way invested. Sometimes, life makes people change who they are because of the crap of living.
It’s taken me a very long time, but I’ve learned that the best way to deal with people–in general–is to change me–not try to size up other people or fix them. That is just a ticket to Cray town. You also don’t want to do this because then you become a lesser human. You start protecting yourself instead of just experiencing life.
For me, I truly want to be open to anyone. I don’t want to judge people or think I know everything about people. I’m guilty of this–so it’s something I have to be aware of. At the same time, I need to be open to the possibility that all people are capable of anything–good and bad–and that the version of the person in front of me is just a version. It doesn’t change how I treat them, but it also allows me to set healthy boundaries.
And that’s the big thing here: set boundaries. No matter who they are or how they live in your life, you have to have these boundaries in place. If people routinely run over those boundaries, they’re probably assholes. Sometimes, people aren’t assholes but do this anyway because of their own shit. Doesn’t matter. Treat them like they’re assholes because effectively they are. The minute you feel the need to apologize to other people for how someone treats you in their presence–the minute you’re making an excuse for them? It’s done.
Good people can be assholes. They can be amazing and funny and smart when you’re useful to them. But if they routinely fail to consider you or just act mean? Distance yourself. You don’t have to cut them out completely, but as Maya said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”