Who Is A Hater?

If you are of Nigerian descent and believe you have haters, you are not paranoid just reflecting your true feelings about other peoples success… yeah I said it.

STOP! Don’t close this post because you are already pissed at the first paragraph; it is not your fault, you are after all a product of our environment. There is a really good and unavoidable reason for how you are feeling and don’t worry, you are in the majority.

A post explaining why, precedes this and you can pause on this one, read it Here and then come back.

If you have read the preceding post, come on in, today is the day of liberation. Freedom from the shackles of envy is yours for the taking.

Do haters exist? Well… why not, I have lived with and met some people that have given me the heebie Jeebies ( an idiom I have been dying to use it). People that could not even pretend to be happy at my success. You can just imagine how truly unhappy they must have been not to pull of pretense; we after all have made a culture of  pretending.

However, my thing is an individual is innocent until proven guilty. And if someone doesn’t walk up to you, use their words and express their hate, then you cannot assume they are a hater. If their silent actions make you really uncomfortable then my friend, you run and you run fast far away from them.

Fortunately, not unlike being envious, believing you have haters who are sitting in their dark cupboards staring at your Facebook updates and trying to light those ‘God bless me plenty’ photos on fire with the green light of envy blazing from their pupils, also has its importance in the scheme of things.

These are:

a) To help distract you from that true sense of failure you would otherwise be feeling: Common, admit it, when you were a child did you dream about a Hyundai whatsits-name or did you dream of being an astronaut? But since that dream hasn’t come true on account of all the challenges thrown your way that you haven’t been able to overcome; a banker is what you settled for. Now you need to show the world some kind of success and silence that inner voice still trying to speak  on behalf of your hopes and dreams.

Denial that crafty snake, sliders by and whispers in your ears, assuring you that you have achieved… something. And this is evident by those imaginary Hyundai-less people squeezing their face at your acquisition while silently weeping over their lack.

The Bad News: Unfortunately, Bonnie Ware an Australian Nurse who spent several years in Palliative care looking after patients in the last twelve weeks of their life says, the top expressed regret is, ” I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This means in the end, no true comfort will be received from ‘stuff’ unless they were gotten while living out your dreams.

The Good News! Now you know. What are you going to do about it?

b) To feed the darkness in you: There is no human incapable of great evil. The most notorious recorded criminals in history are all human beings. This basically means we all have tendencies. And the reason some of us don’t succumb, I personally feel is not out of fear of jail or death; it is just that we just haven’t allowed the desire to consume us beyond reason.

As a Christian, I lean on the grace of God and walk solely in the light of Christ. And this light fills me with love. Love is a powerful tool, don’t believe me, ask the little guy below.

TwImg-20141208-023045

Seriously the trap is, the moment you start thinking of your haters, you need to create reasons for their alleged hatred. And since they haven’t verbally given you one, guess where you begin to search? In the inner recess of your own evil tendencies; by creating reasons and scenarios why their hate must have been triggered. And this is a never ending well.

The Bad News: When digging a well, previously buried sands and other things will be brought up to the surface; and you will never know what will be uncovered.

The Good News! Buried sand and other things remain buried when not dug up. If restlessness and itchy fingers are your worry and you need to dig something, dig into your capacity for love and expand that hole, it is the better alternative.

c) It indicates you are totally sold to the societal machine, conditioning and whatever expectations are put on individuals in that decade (it keeps changing and that alone should tell us something) :

Personally, and my friends know this, I do not have a dream car or plan on personally owning one. I do know the ease and comfort having one brings. And whenever it is raining and I get to borrow my Mom’s car, it is with deep gratitude that she owns one. And in the event I end up having a car, it will definitely not be for daily use.

As a writer, I have gotten tons of my material from the goldmine of public transportation. This is one mine I will not readily relinquish. Whatever society’s expectation is for someone my age, unless ‘they’ will become Scheherazade, visit me daily and tell great tales I could never come up with no matter my effort, there is zero interest in me to please that expectation.

You may hate driving or feel inadequate to be someone’s life partner; but you do it either way because it is expected. And this hater accusations just perpetuates the circle of misery as you are inadvertently reinforcing the so called standard.

The Bad News: Our culture is one of relentless probing. People that can barely spell your name will look you in the eye and list all the wrong things in your life; and this is not to mention the liberties taken by family members. Its tough out on these streets.

The Somewhat Good News! Valid rebellion is your only course of action. It eventually earns you respect and reluctant support. It is doubly tough to make your rebellion work but the victory is delicious.

I will stop for now.

You can argue for the validity of the existence of haters but I support my stand; they only exist because of us. There is a potential hater in everyone except when we always choose to respond in love and kindness; not easy but doable.

So choose love always.

I love you with the love of the Lord; my own human love is work in constant progress.

 

Featured Image Via Flick (Pink Marina)

The Importance of Envy.

If you grew up in a Nigerian home and do not have what I will call ‘Foundational Envy’, then go find your parents wherever they are, hug them tight and say a loud ‘thank you!’ And if unfortunately, they are no longer here with us, fill your heart with mountain sized gratitude and offer it up to them. You are one of the saved.

A typical Nigerian upbringing ensures from day one you are aware that friends, family, neighbors and generally anyone in close proximity (within your age group) is a potential foe. This is because you are constantly being compared to one or the other. If you ‘lack’ manners, you are compared to your well mannered cousin. If you do not do well in school, you are compared to a neighbor or parents friend’s child who did well. And I pity you if they are financially less fortunate and do not have the opportunities/privileges given to you.  Sometimes this comparison doesn’t even have true merit. And by this I mean,  you maybe came 5th out of 45 and the neighbor’s child maybe came 2nd out of 30. No one does the math to asses that based on numbers, you are pretty much on the same spot, 2nd sounds better than 5th and that’s all there is to it. So your holidays are pretty much spent doing time in your room surrounded by books.

Okay, so let’s say you survived Foundational envy by virtue of your upbringing, but do you think you have survived Environmental envy?

Environmental envy is the one you encounter on the daily constant by those struggling with Foundational envy. If you’ve lived in this environment then all your interactions are done within it. And there is no way, you haven’t at some point worked with, lived with and probably been in a relationship with someone suffering with Foundational envy; you do have relatives right?

Unfortunately, constantly brushing up against this thing heightens your sense of awareness of it. And unless some force field is shielding you or  you are drenched in the love of Christ, slight traces of envy-like behavior might show up every now and then in your behavior. Like refusing to compliment an individual who refuses to compliment you (just a mild example).

Like all things conceptually meant for good, this ‘getting an individual to do better as a result of comparison with their successful peers’ has turned out to be one of the most damaging and unproductive techniques. And its uselessness is increased by the confusing message that one is meant to always be there for their family, kin and the entire village.

The ‘wise’ forefather that came up with this concept obviously did not think it through.

How do I support someone whose success means my life is immediately going under a microscope, and misery might ensue shortly thereafter? How is that suppose to work I wonder? Most importantly, how do I honestly love, encourage and help validate another’s life purpose when them succeeding at it according to some measure automatically means I am failing at mine?

These are questions those of us who want to do better probably grapple with daily.

In questioning myself, I have come to understand that understanding the function of envy is the best way to get over it and eventually be unaffected by it. Paradoxically, it starts with measuring things against themselves.

So therefore, Envy helps us measure:

Our true conditioning. By this I mean our propensity to love or even our understanding of it. I will be bold to say that envy shows just how much you have encountered love in your life. Have you slightly brushed up against it or truly felt its incredible powers? It is true books, philosophers and scientists have characterized love into different forms; but for the purpose of understanding envy, we will sum them all up into one and plainly call it LOVE.

There is a wide range of ways we display envy but I will simplify it into low end and high end which are:

a) Twinge envy: This is just a slight twinge when you see someone that has something you really want for yourself. It does not linger or last and can almost pass for wishful thinking. This is on the low end and inversely means you do have a lot of love in your heart and life but you can only claim this when it is measured against someone you know getting something you really want.

What to do: Further squash that tiny twinge by practicing magnanimity. You can call that person up or send them a message congratulating them. Take it a bit further and wish them more success. Admit also that you would love to encounter their good fortune as well. Can be difficult if you think to hard about doing it but trust me, it is great for wearing the edges off envy.

b) Volcanic envy: It is on the all consuming high end. You are obsessed by what is going on in this persons’s life. Thoughts of something wrong happening to them excites you; and sometimes you go out of your way to make sure something bad happens. My friend, I’m sorry to say this but the love in you can probably be measured with a teaspoon. And no, while we can say some people are a bit difficult to love and I should not generalize; this measure is solely based on your ability to acknowledge another person’s success.

What to do: As a Christian, I will say, if you believe in God, pray hard and confess it ALL. What usually happens is, you open the door to peace that brings knowledge and understanding. This helps you give out love that you were once incapable of and the more you give, the more you receive. And envy will soon become…” what envy?”

If you do not believe in God, the only thing I can say is you may have to fake it till you make it. Painfully acknowledge the envious feeling and immediately work in the opposite direction before it catches up and consumes you. With time your natural response might just be to be happy and gracious in acknowledging someone else’s success. Sorry if this is not too helpful, my filter and response to situations is the bible, anything outside of it is my human intuition and knowledge.

Who runs our lives: us or society?  The truth is every society has it rules and guidelines and they can be pronounced, nuanced or imagined. And there are these guardians that try to tell us what is right or wrong and in this case, who is successful or not. This is only a problem if you allow it to become one.

We all have the ability to question whatever society puts on us and whether it aligns with our core beliefs. But because of the normalization of society’s expectations, we somehow forget we can and sometimes we must question them.

We envy people that a little look into their lives will makes us feel nothing but pity. A dishonest politician’s child might make you envious because society claims being able to effortlessly afford stuff is success. But would you really sleep well knowing you are the sole cause of another’s hunger filled sleepless nights? probably not. Moreover, some of our most satisfying achievements were the ones we worked hard and had to overcome many obstacles to get.

What to do: Question every expectation put on you. Think for yourself and define your own measure of success. Make sure this measure is not a low-key escape from working out your true potential because you will not escape the regrets this will cause you at the end of your life.

Envy helps us tell the difference between Aspiration and Admiration.

The difference: To put it simply, admiration just likes what it is inspired to like in another person. If its a skill, talent or ability, admiration is more than okay with its existence because it provides something to be valued.

Aspiration on the other hand comes packed with motivation and ambition to be like the individual inspiring it.Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

With admiration, we might borrow a mannerism, life philosophy or sense of style from the individual but with aspiration, we see ourselves becoming like the individual, achieving what they have achieved and secretly wanting to surpass them.

Unfortunately for us, thanks to the first mentioned Nigerian bred foundational envy, we do not have the emotional construct to aspire to anyone especially our peers without some very negative side effects.

It is easy to aspire, even with this upbringing, to be like a Scarlet Johanson for example. This is because the physical, cultural and psychological distance between us helps our construct. Your life will never be compared with hers in the same merciless way even though she is your peer.

But to aspire to be like your successful next door neighbor, forget about it. Within a short time, no matter how hard you try to keep it clean, resentment along with envy will start brewing. You both grew up in the same soil and sandbox, and even if you are not told, you somehow wonder about your own short comings. Then you resent that somehow your neighbor was spared, then the blame game begins and in the end, you will be lucky if anyone takes any responsibility.

What to do: If you can tell that you do not want their life but appreciate its existence, then this is admiration. And the best way to build on it envy-free is to show the person you admire them and go further to wish them the best. But be careful that  you do not start veering into the creepy shadowy territory of being a mindless copy cat.

When you badly want to be at the spot they are in, that is aspiration. This is generally not a bad thing but take some time to examine your true motives. Is it just because of the success it brings to them or does it align with your own life’s purpose. Hint: When you picture your success throwing dust in the face of theirs as oppose to the sense of fulfillment it brings you; it time to take a step back.  You will have to do the work in finding your own true purpose. Hint: It is usually located in your natural abilities and your life story (the experiences both good and bad) 

At the end of the day, Envy is something that should bring us to self examination not self sabotage. Because the more we focus on bettering ourselves, the less likely we are to worry about another person’s success.

Instead, we might just have the clarity to see it for what it is and in time we may be able to change this false script of silently competing with each other.

It will be a great day indeed when our peers stop being potential enemies but fellow comrade in arms. A great day indeed.

 

Featured Image via Flickr

 

What does ‘nice’ really mean?

There is a popular Nigerian saying, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. I don’t know if this saying has it origins here but we use it quite a lot. And it has never really held any true meaning for me until recently.

Apparently in this part of the world, nice means different things to different people. When someone tells you a person is nice, take it with a grain of salt and do not assume to know what that entails. If you think there is a blanket meaning for ‘nice’, you would end up being totally disappointed; like I have been on many occasions. Allow me to tell you about two of those occasions.

The first time was when someone told me, “you should get to know him, he is a nice guy.”

This “nice guy” on our very first day conversing, spoke to me like I was some property he bought at the market. He didn’t bother to introduce himself when I picked up the phone. He just plunged into questioning and wondering why my phone was engaged for as long as it was when he tried calling me earlier. I stared at my phone in confusion as I wondered if it was one of my friends playing a prank on me. This must be Muhammad I thought, he is always putting on fake accents and mannerism just to get me. Alas, it wasn’t him.

Naturally, that was to be our second to the last conversation, for which I was attacked.

“You should have given him a chance, he is a really nice guy.”

Nothing about his manner of approach was nice but I felt, I may have missed something. So I asked and explored, what made him nice, in the other person’s opinion and it turned out, nice, disappointingly meant generous with money.

The second time happened quite recently.

Another guy was given my number (unfortunately I have do-gooder friends who seem not to know me at all) and I was told we would really click. Five days into trying to get to know each other, he says to me on the phone, like I am an unintelligent being, “You sound like you may be petite, send me your picture. Don’t send any face shot o! Send me a full bodied picture”.

My very first instinct was to say no. As a matter of fact, I thought to say a huge “No, I will not put myself up for your assessment.” but instead I said, I would check. As I was going through the little pictures I had, a lot of angry thoughts were going through my mind. Squashing them was hard but finding that I didn’t have a picture that showed me from head to toe, provided some relief. So I sent one that showed me from the waist up, at least I behaved ‘normal’ and didn’t give a lecture like I wanted to.

This relief was temporary as I instantly got a reply, ‘This is just a face picture, I want full bodied o!’. This was accompanied by four baffling crying emoticons and my reaction was  immediate disgust. My reply was an adamant ‘that is not going to happen’ and I refused to give any explanation. I wasn’t going to waste my time on someone of that character.

This is what I told my friend ‘the connector’ who said I was thinking too hard about it because it wasn’t that bad.

Honestly, I do not have any thing against a person who owns their truth and shows they are only attracted to certain people. Lord knows, I would rather be friends with that person than a hypocrite who claims to be attracted to just about anyone and also sees beauty equally, yet seems to have only one type.

BUT, what I won’t make ‘normal’, is the presenting of myself to another human being to judge and assess whether I am worth their time, resources and energy simply by the way I look or by my body size.

So I decided to break down my thoughts and analysis of the situation to my friend. Then I gave her the messages the guy sent to read the kind of words he used, as he insisted on seeing a picture as though his next breath depend on it. She was more pissed and disgusted than I was which was so funny because moments earlier, she had said, “Eya fa, you are being too hard, he is truly a nice guy”.

This basically means he doesn’t behave like the typical Lagos guy; I won’t even go into what this means.

For me, a nice person is a very thoughtful individual who puts another’s interest, comfort and happiness before their own. The people I consider to be nice, do not assume they know what another person needs based on their own assessment of what they would need in any situation. I also consider nice people to be wise and mature. They do shockingly good not irritating things.

Maybe there is a new nice and a new normal and I missed the memo. Either way, I would rather remain uncivilized than acclimatized.

Tell me, what does nice mean to you?