4 Signs You’re Unintentionally Making This World A Worse Place

Photo: Svitlana Ozirna / Shutterstock
woman sitting alone wiping hair away from face

The title stings. I know.

But that’s the thing about truth. It pisses you off at first. But then, it sets you free.

Over the past year, as I learned more and more about life, I realized that I was unintentionally making this world a worse place in some ways.

And if someone had told me how I’d be pissed too. I would have defended myself. But someday, I’d have to accept it and change my ways, because my sole purpose in life is to help people around me and make this world a better place. So I did.

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If we talk about you, dear reader, I’m sure that you’re making this world a better place in so many ways. I won’t deny that. But I also believe that you might be unintentionally doing the opposite, too. It’s only human for us to be imperfect.

And hence, there’s always room for improvement. You can always be better. You can always do more. That’s what this article is about. I want to share these hard truths with you, which might sting at first, but they’ll also be good for you in the long term.

Here are 4 signs you’re unintentionally making this world a worse place:

1. You’re afraid of speaking hard truths

When we talk to people, we either:

  • Tell them what they want to hear.
  • Tell them what they need to hear.

We’re more likely to be friends with people who tell us what we want to hear than with people who tell us what we need to hear.

Having someone tell us that we’re screwing up in some way (what we need to hear) is uncomfortable. We avoid such conversations. We even avoid people who indulge in such conversations.

Not only do we not want such people around us, but we also don’t want to be such people. We don’t like sharing hard truths. We hate confrontation. We hate hurting the people we love, so we tell them what they want to hear instead.

  • We tell our friend — who is clearly screwing up his life — that it’s okay to keep going that way.
  • We lie to someone who’s troubled with his surplus fat, that he doesn’t look that fat.
  • We tell our friend who wants to give up — that it’s okay to give up when things get hard.

But this is a mistake.

We do this because we don’t want to hurt the person in front of us. I get it. Our intention might not be wrong, but the result often is. What we’re doing, when we tell someone what they want to hear, and not what they need to hear, is protecting their short-term feelings — but at the cost of their long-term well-being.

And if I’ve learned one thing about life, it’s always to choose the long term over the short term.

If you keep choosing to tell people sugarcoated lies that they want to hear, and not the hard truths they need to hear, they’ll keep on living in ignorance and denial, and do nothing to change their lives.

And I hate to break it to you, but some of that burden — of them living a less-than life — will be on you.

Here’s my advice: Tell people what they need to hear. Let it sting. Let it hurt. Because only when it hurts, do people begin to change their ways. If someone’s screwing up their lives, tell them that they are. If someone’s living in denial, show them how.

It will sting. And they’ll not like you at the moment. But that’s okay. Long term, they’ll realize that it was your hard truths that led to true positive changes in their lives. And they’ll be grateful.

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2. You have a truly fancy social media profile

Picture this.

One of your acquaintances is having a horrible day. He feels hopeless. He feels lost. Nothing about his life feels good. What does one do in situations like these? Well, often we just lay in our beds scrolling through social media.

And while this guy is doing that, he somehow ends up on your profile. And then he witnesses how great your life is. He sees pictures from your expensive trip to Greece. He sees how great your relationship is with your partner. He sees you crushing your goals.

And then he compares his worst day, to the best of your days. And that kicks him down further. And it’s not just your feed. It’s everyone. He thinks to himself — "Everyone is so happy. They have the most perfect lives. But my life is a worthless pile of crap."

This, of course, is far from the truth, but it feels painfully real at the moment.

What happens is that humans tend to fill in the gaps to make sense of something. When someone sees your social media profile, all they see are your best and happiest moments. But there’s a lot of data they don’t see.

They don’t see what your fears and insecurities are. They don’t see if you’re able to sleep at night or not. They don’t see whether you’re truly happy or not.

But their minds, in an attempt to make sense of things, fill in these gaps. But based on the available data, the gaps get filled in wrong. They assume that your life is perfect and glorious. And compared to that, their own life is crap.

To summarize —a person having a bad day feels worse after visiting your social media profile.

It stings, I know. And I also know that that was not your intention in any way. But that’s the reality.

The solution?

I guess we can start by being more real online. We can stop bragging on social media. We can start sharing our imperfections. We can tell the world our fears and insecurities. We can be a bit more vulnerable.

My point is every day, millions of sad people scroll through their feeds for millions of hours. Don’t let them stop at your feed and feel worse about themselves. Please. Don’t let your feed be a nidus for unnecessary comparisons. Instead, try to be more real on the internet. If we all do that, I think it will make a big difference.

3. You have a small container to hold your suffering

Thích Nhất Hạnh said, "When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over."

We’re all suffering in some way or another. Maybe you’re suffering right now, and at times, it spills over onto others. Here are some ways that can happen:

  • Pessimism: You just have an overall negative perception about life because something went wrong in yours.
  • Judgment: You judge and ridicule others way too much because you’re insecure yourself.
  • Anger or irritability: You might be having a bad day, and you take it out on the people around you.

I get that it might be a lot to ask here. I mean, if someone is suffering themselves, do they have to care about making the world a better place? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on who you are, how much you’re suffering, and how big your suffering containers are.

But if you truly care about making this world a better place above anything else, then I’d say that you should start expanding the size of your suffering container. Meaning, you should be able to tolerate more suffering, without having to worry about it spilling over and affecting others.

Earlier, I used to have only the equivalent of a small tumbler to carry my suffering. Whenever I suffered, the people around me did too. I’d be irritated at them. I’d judge people to relieve the pain of my own insecurities. And my pessimism was highly contagious.

But then, I took a long hard look in the mirror. I realized that I don’t want to make people’s lives worse in any way, even when I’m suffering deeply myself. And then I told myself that I don’t want a small tumbler to hold my suffering. I wanted a freakin’ tank. So I went and got one.

Now, even if I’m suffering, it almost never spills over. Well, sometimes it does. And I’m working to reduce that too. If you care enough, I suggest you do the same. Don’t let your suffering be someone else’s suffering.

I know it’s easy for me to say this. But it needs to be said, so I’m saying it.

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4. You’re not living up to your full potential

This, in addition to stinging you, might also come as a surprise. Let me explain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote "You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Well, why don’t we flip it over? "The five people who spend the most time with you, are also the average of you."

What does that mean? It means:

  • If you smoke, your friend smokes.
  • If you eat a deep-fried hamburger with a Coke, your friend eats a deep-fried hamburger with a Coke.
  • If you live a lesser life, your friend lives a lesser life.

Reverse all of this and see what happens.

  • If you quit smoking, your friend will be inspired to do the same.
  • If you start eating healthier and join a gym, your friend might want to accompany you.
  • If you live a great, extraordinary life, your friend might learn from you.

The way you live life affects the way others live theirs. Not 100%. But at least in some way. I realized this when my 55-year-old father with a BMI of over 30 started exercising every day after he saw me get all wet after my home workouts.

This might add to the pressure you already put on yourself, but try to see it as motivation.

You love the people around you, right? You love your family. You love your friends. You want them to live good lives, don’t you? How can you help? Simple.

Get your crap together and start living up to your potential. The people around you will follow.

We’re all making the world a better place in some way or another. But the inverse is true as well. We’re also making this world a worse place. Here are 4 ways you might be unintentionally making this world a worse place.

  • You tell people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.
  • You have a very fancy portrayal of your life online that serves as a nidus for comparison.
  • You have a small container to hold your suffering.
  • You’re living a life that is less than your full potential.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.