Where to start? This title has been rolling around in the old brain pan for awhile now. It fights with me if only for the reason that it makes me uncomfortable.

We, the human species that is, are complicated beings. We like to put the world around us in little boxes where we can assign things like courage or fear, love or hate, good or bad, pretty or ugly. So many labels to use and yet so little time to truly understand why we do this to ourselves.

Jen Sincero wrote You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life and talks about how we are born amazing only to start listening to a lot of made up rules from the grown ups around us.

We have learned that we should love, but only if it meets certain criteria. We shouldn’t talk about feelings unless we want to risk looking weak. We shouldn’t care more than the other person cares about us.

I want to love you all – even when you don’t agree with me. I want to believe in the best in humanity, even when every news post or social media account is full of the “problems”.

But we are hypocrites. Naturally, we work against ourselves.

We talk about freedom, yet most of the things we interact with are specifically designed to pull your attention away from who and what you truly are.

Even before technology was in our hand every day, we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated. We looked for approval from our parents. I grew up with the idea that if I did everything right then my mom would love me. I’d get good grades, nothing would be said. Got any bad grades, I’d get yelled at or grounded. So what did I learn?

In school, teachers seemed to like me if I was smart – how does a student show they’re smart? Get good grades.

But if I got good grades and I was smart, what did my peers do? I was a nerd. I was picked on, singled out, excluded, ridiculed…So I stopped getting good grades.

Then nothing changed – I was still bullied because I wore glasses. Because those glasses had tape on them since we couldn’t afford to fix them as fast as I broke them. I had holes in my clothes, my shoes were once held together for half of a school year with duct tape because I knew we couldn’t afford to get new ones.

I don’t write this looking for peoples’ sympathy – I’m actually proud of my childhood, if only because it taught me something valuable. That no matter who I was, what I looked like, how I acted; people were going to make their decisions about me based on themselves. Maybe it felt good to them to put someone else down, or to see that they were “winning” because people like me were “losers”. I know that part of my life taught me that you can care for people, even showing some consideration for others, who are not like you.

Have I been perfect that way, every day extending my hand out to the different person to connect with them? No, I fell into the same trap – when someone else is “less” than me then I too would bully others. That extended into my career and even my family – when I would be in a perceived position of power I found a natural way to keep people feeling less and in a way I would punish them. I saw this with my children, if they were acting out then they would get yelled at or sent to their room. These aren’t memories I’m proud of and the pain I feel writing this is…well…it hurts. I put them through some of the same stuff I went through, as if I could ever love them more or less than I do.

We have been told so many things that we cannot even find our own truths today. Get good grades and you’ll go to a good college. Go to college and you’ll get a good job. Get a good job and you can have all the things you ever wanted like a nice house, with a nice car. Take a moment, tune into your feelings for a second, and reread that sentence. Lots of warm, fuzzy words and images there.

Now, that person who did get good grades? What kind of value did we assign them? Did every person who got good grades go and live the American dream? When I think about some of them, they unfortunately had other monsters in their heads, and some didn’t make it to be alive now. But they got good grades!?!

Go to a good college: I have had the privilege to manage a few hundred people in my career. I can tell you that it didn’t always indicate how well a person worked. I have had people with Master’s degrees work no harder than my high school graduate. And I’ve seen people with college degrees “fail” at some of the most mundane tasks out there. Better or worse? Each person applied themselves differently.

And well, college degrees didn’t matter when the company decided to take a different path – they were on the same path as everyone else and fighting to keep their families and incomes going. Screw the nice house or nice car, you might not have a job in a week or two – BUT YOU DID WHAT THEY TOLD YOU TO DO!?!

We hear this kind of hypocrisy from family, friends, and society as a whole…mostly shoved down our throats these days by that little thing your hand that you’re probably using to read this now with. We project these rules onto so many other people around us, people we love and even people we don’t know.

Get a good job, but not that one.

Do what you love, unless it doesn’t pay the bills.

When are you going to have kids?

When are you going to get married?

We are free to choose, but only if you agree with me.

Don’t wear the wrong clothes, you’ll get raped.

Working moms – but when will you have time for the kids?

Stay at home- But how will you provide for your children?

This list goes on and on and on…And we seem to continue the trend from one generation to the next. My grandparents thought my parents’ music was a bunch of crap. My parents thought my music was a bunch of crap…if I could look back further, I wonder if anyone’s music was ever good enough.

Post script – What is something you were taught as a child and later on you found not to be true?