When you’re feeling stingy
Recently, I was in a class for an exam review. I was typing up some notes, when I felt someone looking at my laptop screen. Instead of looking toward the person, I looked with my peripheral vision. It was a girl next to me, staring at my notes and copying off them.
I know this might sound super stingy, but for some reason I got a little annoyed. I know it’s not even cheating, but something about someone peeking at something “private” of mine without my consent bothered me. I just pretended it wasn’t happening and just decided to keep on typing.
10 minutes later, I feel a tap on my shoulder. She asks me if I could send my notes to her e-mail. I get a little irritated but I agree because it would have been rather awkward if I rejected her. Also… She wasn’t really paying attention to the professor and was scrolling through Instagram and it was kind of her fault that she missed the notes... Okay that’s really petty but STILL… I couldn’t help but feel that way.
Now before you burn me at the stake, try to empathize with me here. I go to a business school with a lot of people adopting the mindset of dog-eat-dog world, and a lot of my classes are ranked so that only top performers can receive good grades. It really encourages an individualistic mindset when you’re surrounded by people who are to be considered your competitors… especially when your grades will be a big factor to employers’ eyes. You think about yourself first and how you can do better than them.
I asked my other friends about it. Maybe it was the way I told the story, but they all agreed and even suggested that I should have rejected her. We all tend to be biased when we recount a situation, and we seem to be victims in every scenario. It also surprised me that my friends had similar thoughts that I was ashamed of having.
After I sent her my notes, (as she was still peeking at my laptop) she whispered a “Thank you” and a smile. I felt a little bit of shame after this whole ordeal and I really tried to dig into why I was making a big deal out of something so trivial.
Maybe it was the way I grew up, where I believed that my work was valuable to me because I had put in the time and effort to craft it.
Maybe it was the competitive spirit that I had learned to deal with in my high school and college made me feel this way.
Maybe it was me just being selfish and not wanting others to succeed or do as well as me.
I can try to justify my thoughts with all kinds of reasons, but I think the fact that I was aware of what was going on and tried to understand why is the important part. I think with this time of introspection, I was able to see a lot of the reasons why I was feeling annoyed when someone simply asked for some notes. We should all try to help each other to succeed collectively. Isn’t it better when everyone wins?
I’ve been trying to adopt a mindset that succeeding together is much more beneficial than succeeding by yourself. I’m not going to make excuses, but it’s very hard to think that way when America is all about individualism. The model of capitalism encourages profit for the individual.
an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations
Whatever happened to helping your neighbors? Aren’t they the same as you at the core? If you have enough for yourself, don’t you want to share the wealth with others? How much could you possibly need?
Why did I have to feel like I had to withhold information from my classmate? What if they were having a rough week in their life, and they had other priorities that didn’t allow them to focus during class? Maybe they wanted to get their mind off things and that’s why they were on Instagram. Maybe they were out of the loop and needed some help to get back into the rhythm of things.
I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t do any of these things to spite me, or get ahead of me. She just needed some help from a fellow individual. Why do we separate strangers, acquaintances, and friends into different categories? We’re all on the same boat. We shouldn’t be trying to sink one another.
I’m not saying I will be able to switch my mindset starting tonight. It’s going to take a long time to deconstruct the way I thought my whole life.
But what is more important is our self-awareness. We should catch ourselves thinking in selfish ways and address them every time it bothers us.
We should ask ourselves: Why? Why am I annoyed/mad/bothered by this? Is it for selfish reasons? If it is, how can I put the other person first and seek to help them?
Go out of your way to help people sometimes. It is proven that humans feel better when they give than when they receive. You will feel happier when you help someone other than yourself.