Have you ever wondered why you’re always the first to apologize after an argument, even when you know you’ve done nothing wrong? Are you baffled by the fact that the manipulative guy who sits next to you at work got the promotion when you didn’t, even though you know you deserved it? Why are you the one who was always bullied at school? Why have you once again allowed your “friend” to borrow money knowing darn well they will never pay you back? I think we have all, at some point or another, asked ourselves these questions. The fact is, in our rapidly changing world, nice guys (and girls) really do finish last.
It’s been a hard realization for me to come to. The world isn’t a nice place. Sure, it’s lovely and certainly, it can be romantic, but nice? Hardly. As a self-proclaimed nice girl in my mid twenties, I’m just now learning to face this difficult reality and I sincerely believe it’s one of the most important truths we have to face coming into adulthood.
I’ve spent much of my life living out traditional values such as, work hard and be rewarded; be honest and loyal; be patient, caring, and giving; good things come to those who wait; trust in human nature and the goodness of your fellow man; give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure, these are all ways that the world should work, if everyone had a clear moral compass. But the fact is, many people do not, and this number is increasing daily.
Perhaps you’ve been like me, living with rose-colored glasses that are distorting your view of what’s really happening around you and to you. It’s time we take our blinders off. Without vigilant awareness of our surroundings, we will get mugged (metaphorically or literally). And so, we must be realists. Kind realists.
- Life is a game: be a player or get played. Whether it’s life experiences, mental illness, drugs, greed, or a score of other reasons, there are people in this world who operate from a place of exploitiveness. And you will undoubtedly cross paths with many of them. In fact, chances are, there are people in your life right now who will hurt you if you let them. The key is watching out for people like this. Don’t take everyone for face value. Search for what drives the people in your life. And surround yourself with those who share your moral compass.
- Competition at work, in relationships, and even in families is inevitable, so you better get your game face on. So much of life is a competition. We may wish that it wasn’t, but it is. If you step back and look at it, it’s clear. You’ve competed for your mate, your job, your friends, and social position. And now, you must fight to protect those things. Like it or not, we must continually and boldly confront our world head on, even the ugly and nasty sides of it.
- People are looking out for their own interests. And you should be too. Do you know what the most glorious word in the human language is to anyone alive today? According to relationship and life skills expert, Dale Carnegie, it’s their own name. People like themselves. And as a whole, humanity is selfish. While some people are wondering why life isn’t fair, others are seizing the moment. They’re not timid. They’re bold enough to step up and ask for what they want. And they ask again and again until they get it. The point is, if you don’t look out for your own best interests, who will?
- You train people how to treat you. In other words, people will treat you how you let them. In relationships, and life, you have to hold your own. You can do this while still being as sweet as a peach. Just remember, inside every peach there is a strong pit. And there is no way to hold your own while simultaneously accepting rude behavior. For example, there is no need to explain the obvious when someone is disrespectful towards you. In the words of Sherry Argov, “Truly powerful people don’t explain why they want respect. They simply don’t engage anyone who doesn’t give it to them.”
- Doing unto others as you wish they would do unto you doesn’t always get you what you want, need, or deserve. Again, this relates to seeing the world as it is and realizing that not everyone is as nice as you. Let’s replace the old adage with, “Do unto others, after they have proven they are worthy.”
- Only in a fairytale world does love conquer all. It’s a good story to tell, and it’s how we all wish the world was, but it is not the world we live in. A more accurate and relevant depiction might be, “Love conquers you, when you give all.”
- We are all taught to “love thy neighbor,” but perhaps, you ought to love yourself first. Then your neighbor will be much happier living beside you. You are no use to anyone unless you first help yourself. So remember this the next time you find yourself bending over backwards to meet others’ needs while neglecting your own.
- It is better to give and receive. Ever notice how nice people seem to give, give, and give yet they get nothing in return? This is because nice people invest in others, even when others aren’t investing in them. The result? They feel depleted, used, drained, and exhausted.
There are all kinds of people in this world, ranging from the sheltered and naïve, to the savvy and street smart. I want you to be the latter. And power begins by having a crystal clear view of how this world really works, while acknowledging that the world rewards action. We need to learn the actions that will help us to get what we want out of life and then, protect it.
Does this mean that you have to be a jerk in order to survive and thrive in our world? Of course not. But it does mean that you have to be selective with your time, energy, and kindness. The fault is not with you, nice folks, but with the world. To create the loving, respectful life that you desire, you have to know the rules of the game, and play by them. So let’s learn from the jerks without emulating them. They say, “All is well that ends well.” But reality is, all is well for those who cover their ends well. Happy playing!