The theme over the last few weeks has been that a lot of people in my life (myself included) are being hated on and disrespected at work. It’s a bizarrely specific trend, and what makes it so upsetting is that there’s no real reason for it. We’re hardworking and dependable. We show up on time and pull 60-70 hour weeks. We get along with almost everyone we work with. And yet here we are, commiserating over text messages and bottles of wine about the way we’re being treated.
Most of us have been talking about how mad we are, but the most heartbreaking moment for me was this afternoon, when one of my friends had the courage to describe what we’re feeling as devastation.
“And it’s such an impotent sadness, too,” I said. “Once people have made up their minds about you and/or how they’re going to treat you, there’s almost nothing you can do about it.”
It’s hard for me to even type that, because I still haven’t fully accepted it. There’s a Jay Gatsby in all of us: the voice in your head that tells you that if you just try harder– if you smile a little more, if you ask for a little less, if you could just be better— then eventually, you’ll win ‘them’ over. You’ll get the promotion, the raise, the girl. You’ll change their minds.
But you won’t. It’s an unpleasant reality, but once someone has made up their mind to dislike you, there is almost nothing you can do to change it.
I’m not saying you should just sit back and accept being treated poorly– for fuck’s sake, if someone is being an asshole to you and/or compromising your health and safety, you goddamn better speak up and defend yourself– but you can’t control how they feel about you.
And more importantly, it’s not worth your time to try.
Look, we’re all vain. We’re the heroes of our own stories, and most of us consider ourselves to be worthwhile human beings. So it’s always something of a shock to find out someone you know doesn’t like you. The closer you are to a friend, the more it hurts to discover they’ve betrayed you. The more dedicated you are to your company, the more devastating it is to be treated as disposable. The more you love your partner, the more gut-wrenching it is when they announce that they want to break up. For the most part, unless given evidence to the contrary, we tend to assume that other people feel about us the way we feel about them. And the longer we go on believing that, the more it hurts to find out we were wrong.
But listen, it’s probably not you. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and, without nitpicking every interaction you’ve had with your hater, confidently say that you’ve done nothing wrong, then their animosity is officially not your problem. Quit worrying about changing their minds, because you won’t. And yeah, it’s going to hurt, and yes, you’re going to have moments where you think that maybe if you’d just tried harder… But stop it. That’s not serving you, that’s serving them, and that’s not worth your time. The only standards that matter are the ones you set for yourself.
Just do your thing, and let the haters hate.
(This post brought to you by Jay Gatsby: equal parts naïve optimist and poster child for handling your business.)