Can expectations prevent effort? Do they make us blind to potential and cause us to abort personal and professional relationships because they don’t yet match what we want?
Individualism and capitalism have corrupted the way we interact with one another. Rather than see others as equals and our relationships as a mutually beneficial exchange, we see every interaction as a transaction and focus exclusively on what’s in it for us.
When only our needs matter, we fail to take those of others into consideration and relationships inevitably suffer. And yet, we complain about disconnectedness and how difficult it has become to relate to one another despite all the tools at our disposal.
While social media connects us across geography and time zones and offers us the opportunity to learn about how other humans do human, we seldom care. Instead, we use it to turn ourselves into brands or products, furthering the cult of the self over the common good.
But without the ability to listen or take an active interest in anyone other than ourselves, communication doesn’t work. We end up talking at people, trapped in solipsism and antagonism because if a relationship doesn’t serve us then it’s not worth pursuing.
Worse, we start believing others are either against us or with us, and go through life systematically denying our peers the benefit of the doubt.
We become sour, bitter, petty, and even paranoid.
Value is where the answer lies.
Every human life is equally valuable and we all have unique assets we can put at the service of our relationships and, by extension, society.
No human is an island and pretending we can go it alone in life is as erroneous as it is dishonest. While isolation often leaves many of us holding our own hand out of necessity, we only begin to realize our full potential when others show up.
When they cheer us on, support us, and help us, we immediately become more capable because we’re no longer fighting alone or toiling away in obscurity.
For example, no matter how gifted and dedicated an athlete may be, it takes diligent coaching to help them reach their full potential. Often, it also takes others to sacrifice time as well as financial and emotional resources so the athlete can achieve their dream.
Every significant human achievement has always been a group effort so it would be remiss to assume otherwise. Or seek to hog the limelight and take all the credit without giving back or doing all we can to help those who help us. There is no better illustration of this than the self-made myth, which erases all those who have helped us get to where we are.
Basic human decency should be self-evident and standard so why do many of us exploit the kindness of others to serve our own interests?
And how many more of us aren’t even aware we’re doing it?
We do not deserve anything.
Life is neither fair nor unfair; it is a blank canvas to do with what we will, the end result being entirely dependent on how much effort we’re prepared to put in.
Life and the fellow humans in it do not owe us anything either.
We all have needs and wants but it is up to us to find ways to meet them instead of expecting others to provide. Enlisting help is always a smart move but never without being willing to help ourselves first.
“I will hold your hand but I will not carry you,” are the most empowering words I’ve ever heard and the greatest gift I’ve ever received, too.
Because others believed in me more than I did, their input unlocked a treasure trove of “can do” I didn’t even know I had.
We became a team, each of us pulling our weight and working toward individual and common goals, joining forces to tackle setbacks. Our partnership rests on mutual respect, the willingness to create, grow, and learn together.
We recommit every single day through our actions, through our work, through the attention we give one another, which we never take for granted.
No, it’s not always easy, and yes, it takes sustained effort, vision, compromise, and frequent communication based on blunt honesty. And all those are lessons failure and critical distance taught us and continue teaching us.
Empathy, gratitude, and an open mind are a conscious choice, one we can all make with a little self-awareness and good will.
Alternatively, here’s one sentence that cuts through the confusion and is guaranteed to flip the script when dealing with people:
“How can I help?”
There’s always something we can do for others.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.