Cutting Myself Open in Front of My Enemies
It’s like opening your breasts in a tavern
There exists a certain breed of individuals who, no matter what you do, how kind you are, how much you praise them or appreciate them for their strengths, would never see you as anything more than a stepping tool to boost their ego.
When you make a mistake, and you apologize to them — not necessarily because they’re always right, but because you value your relationship more — they wouldn’t take it as it is and instead use that against you.
When someone apologizes, it could be because of either scenario or the combination of both: Either one person is undoubtedly correct, and the other person absolutely has no ground to stand on, or the other person doesn’t necessarily agree but just values the relationship more than fighting.
Likewise, when someone praises you, it could be because: Either you are undoubtedly a super admirable person, like a deity flowing through the wind, or the other person wants to make you feel nice, and that the other person is generous with praises.
If someone’s vulnerable, it could be because: You are so trustworthy, such a great person, so deserving of their vulnerability, or they trying to build a connection with people generally by being openly vulnerable, in hopes it can emotionally validate the interlocutor.
After all, what better pleasure is there knowing that you do not carry struggles on your own?
People tend to associate good things that happen to them as their personal merit instead of lucky blessings, or even worse, the merit of others. The instinct in these situations is not to assume the other person is kind for giving praises, but to think these praises are given to us because we are so admirable.
Essentially, my point is, whatever intention you have with your words, it is bound to go over a lot of people’s heads. You can self-flagellate in order to show relatability, yet some people miss the point and instead judge you poorly for your weaknesses.
You can praise someone to show appreciation, and it is possible that instead of showing you appreciation back, the person hearing the praises would feel superior to you and steps on you as a result.
When you are vulnerable, instead of extending empathy, there will be people who see you as easy prey. Even worse, your vulnerability might hurt their ego in some way, and they attack you on that basis.
Instead of acknowledging the universality of these struggles, some people like to collect your vulnerabilities, internalize them, and use them against you.
Using your vulnerabilities against you can range simply from enjoying the catharsis of seeing someone they dislike in a shitty situation or pinpointing your triggers and using it to make you more hurt than usual.
You know someone is your enemy when you cut yourself open to them, and instead of giving sympathy, they use it to boost their ego.
I used to think that I could develop a friendlier connection by being vulnerable to my enemies. Because we are all human and make mistakes, my intention was so that vulnerability could be a paradigm for bonding. I soon discovered that not everyone thinks the way I do.
Some people would see vulnerabilities as something that discredits your worth as a human being. If you admit to being emotional, you’re weak. If you acknowledge you aren’t always rational, you’re stupid. If you have a different way of viewing the world, you’re naïve.
Not everyone is friendly, and I try to learn how to hiss instead of smother and to hiss instead of bite. I gravitate between the two extremes — although I lean much on the former, with the latter only if provoked. It was hard compromising my value of being unapologetically vulnerable.
I genuinely believed that sharing personal confessionals could serve as emotional validation to people stuck in my shoes but are too embarrassed to admit them. I cut myself open publicly, like a spectacle for everyone to see.
Beware of those who seek every opportunity to pounce. Suppose a kid with mental illness posts about it on his social media, and he’s lucky enough to get a bunch of middle-aged conservatives in his followers. Expecting him to open up unscathed is like expecting leaves to not fall off the tree during fall.
But as Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations:
“Do not trouble yourself, keep yourself simple. Someone does you wrong? He does wrong to himself.”
“Man joins the category of things indifferent to me — no less than the sun, the wind, a wild animal. These can impede some activity, yes, but they form no impediments to my impulse or my disposition, because here there is conditional commitment and the power of adaptation.”
You are doing the world a favor by being boldly imperfect. You are a breath of fresh air amongst the picture-perfect cookie-cutter front face of everyone who desperately tries to hide the plain yet less appealing realities of life. You are emotionally validating those who are in your shoes but lack the courage to take the first step to admit them.
From Meditations again:
“A horse that has raced, a dog that has tracked, a bee that has made honey, and a man that has done good — none of these knows what they have done, but they pass on to the next action, just as the vine passes on to bear grapes again in due season. So you ought to be one of those who, in a sense, are unconscious of the good they do.”
Even if you receive a lot of hate and criticism for your vulnerabilities — no matter what form — as long as your work helps at least one person, that is all that matters.
One quote from the book that especially resonated with me was:
“All the time you should consider who are these people whose endorsement you wish, and what are the minds that direct them. When you look into the sources of their judgement and impulse, you will not blame their unwitting error, nor will you feel the need of their endorsement.”
My mistake was I felt hurt by condescension. I questioned why I did not receive friendly treatment back when I extended an olive branch. I asked why people made unrelated assumptions about my character without knowing me personally.
I used to want to scream: I am not dumb just because I have unorthodox opinions. I am not lazy just because I don’t post every achievement I get on social media. Who are you to make judgements about me? What makes you think you are entitled to an explanation about what I do with my own time and resources?
If you cut yourself open in front of an audience, some of them will resonate with you, and others will hurl stones at you. I soon learned that those who throw stones at you are not your target audience, and you do not need their endorsement.
As Marcus Aurelius wrote:
“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.”
Put your work out there — continue to be vulnerable. If openly admitting the chinks in your armor help at least one person, that is all that matters. Go on, take all the hits in the world.