Throughout my risk-taking career, I have not only taken risks that paid off or that I barely escaped, but I have also taken a number of risks that failed to deliver on both small and large scales. And I have made choices, especially with regard to work and associates, which some would consider extremely risky — and I lost the silent “bet” I made with myself that everything would work out great.
For some reason, I tend to gravitate towards people who I should steer clear of. Either they are so different from me, we don’t have much in common that will stand the test of time, or they are just plain no good for me. They aren’t on the same wavelength as me, they don’t agree with my philosophies, and even worse, they judge me for my beliefs, they are really hard on me, and the courtesy I extend to them is never returned, only repudiated. I have had a number of long-term friendships/relationships that grew increasingly hostile because my friend/lover was totally at odds with me, and as the relationship progressed and the divide between us continued to widen, they began to act out aggressively towards me when I didn’t fit with their world view. It’s a little daunting (and depressing) to think about it, but there it is.
For some reason (that has eluded me for decades), I don’t seem to gravitate towards people who are in synch with me. There’s just not much of an attraction there. I don’t get the same “charge” from people who are like me, and I don’t seem to find them very interesting. We may have plenty in common, but the more compatible with someone I am, the less interest I have in them. Rather, people who are on the opposite end of the spectrum, philosophically and ethically, attract me like a magnet attracts iron shavings.
The thing is, I often don’t even realize the chasm between my own personality and theirs, until I’ve developed a substantial relationship with them. This happens at work, as well as in my personal life. And once I realize how at-odds with them I am, our relationship has taken on a life of its own, and I’m “stuck” with them — and they with me. The problem is, I tend to be a lot more accommodating of others’ differences, than they are with mine. So I end up on the wrong end of the deal, getting the brunt of their neglect/abuse/maltreatment/judgment — you name it — while they happily romp all over me.
Ironically (for I am actually a very self-assured and assertive individual), I often feel very comfortable in those kinds of situations. In fact, I sometimes feel better in situations where I’m being mistreated, than when I’m totally accommodated and accepted. The problem is, the mistreatment takes a toll, and eventually, I buckle under the pressure and say/do something that puts me completely at odds with the folks I don’t synch with. And when I melt down, I look like the “bad guy” because all along, nobody had any clue that I wasn’t okay with their perspectives and/or behavior, and they had no reason to change, because I didn’t make an issue of it. They have no clue they are part of the problem, because I am able to stay cool as a cucumber up to a certain point, and I’ve never indicated I felt that way. The only indication they have that things are amiss, is when I blow up, melt down, pitch a fit, or say/do something that is not only unprofessional but insubordinate and uncollegial.
At the risk of totally depressing myself, I’ll outline just a few instances of this kind of behavior.
Professional Danger-Seeking Activity That Went South
I have held a disproportionately large number of jobs working for bosses or companies that were not a good fit. In the best of cases, they were mildly annoying and were an inconvenient way to make a living. In the worst of cases, they were abusive, neglectful or outright hostile to me. I have stuck it out with rake-you-over-the-coals-type employers with widespread reputations for being “burnout shops,” and I have put in many hours working with abusive sons of bitches who didn’t evidence a single kind bone in their bodies.
But despite all my bad experiences, I have persisted in choosing jobs that were bad fits for me, including jobs at companies with commutes that I knew were too long for me to make comfortable, twice a day, five days a week, and positions with companies that were so at-odds with my own moral code that I came to loathe myself for working for them within weeks of taking the job. And despite my discomfort, I have persevered at those jobs, irrationally successful in extremely harsh environments, despite my best intentions to protect myself… this time.
I also have a history of gravitating to employment situations that had very little security and substandard compensation. I would take work as a contractor with a company that had a history of summarily dismissing contract staff, or I would take a position that paid me less than I could easily command on the market with my skills and experience.
Typically, I would thrive in those kinds of environments for a number of months… until I began to exhaust myself — and started to say and do things that put my job and professional standing in danger. I would start to be disruptive in meetings, stop meeting my deadlines, become argumentative, even combative, with people whom I found increasingly distressing, and in some cases I would become downright insubordinate and start to foment dissent and agitation in the ranks. I would start to pick fights, stop being so long-suffering and accepting, and despite my better judgment and intelligence, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. What’s more, despite my decreasing job satisfaction, I would take on more and more responsibility, overburdening my already taxed system, and eventually I’d burn out or flame out or become physically ill (which impacted my ability to think rationally and act responsibly)… all the while being unable to halt my downward slide – or even accurately detect it till it was too late.
Looking back, I can see how I have really paid, time and time again, for my poor choices in ill-fitting work. But despite my best intentions, I end up working with people and companies, over and over, who are not good fits for me, doing work that is neither challenging nor as financially rewarding as it should be. But I can’t seem to resist the draw of those types of scenarios. In fact, I have often actively sought out those kinds of work environments — against my better judgment, my past experience, and the urgings of my friends, family and co-workers. Although I am well aware of the risks involved and I have had more than my fair share of wishful thinking failure-dramas, when it comes to seeking out new work, I have to actively discourage myself from being involved in pie-in-the-sky too-good-to-be-true job offerings, and I have to make a concerted effort to seek out stable employment.
- At Risk: Employment, job security, personal happiness
- Dangers: Unemployment, poor working conditions, professional backlash from jobs gone bad
- Rewards: Satisfaction of “being able to do it” and “hanging tough”, continued employment, acquired ability to function in a wide variety of work situations, respect of professional peers
- Outcome(s): Continuous employment, financial security, repeated screw-ups in job choices, intermittent and recurring job dissatisfaction
Personal Choices that Sucked
In my personal life, I’ve had a long history of bad choices, as well. I have gotten into a number of relationships (romantic and otherwise) which were not in my best interest. They weren’t good ideas when I was initially attracted to them, they weren’t good ideas when I started them, and they just went downhill, the longer I stayed with them. To the untrained eye, in some cases, the friendship/relationship looked like “the right thing to do.” The other person “looked good on paper” or was very popular, or they were the kind of person that other people said I should be with — but no doubt about it, it was a bad match. And I was drawn to the dynamic like a moth to the flame.
In a number of cases, my friend/partner was so completely different from me, so at odds with what I thought a decent person should be like, and quite aggressive about their take in life, that I ended up first getting swept up in their own life and perspectives, and then I got bullied into sticking with them, just because they had grown attached to me (and my wallet). How many times I’ve ended up being friends (or lovers) with someone whose main interest was in how much stuff I could buy them and how obedient I was to their whims, I’m embarrassed to say. But it has happened. Over and over again. And each time, I’ve been dismayed and horrified to re-realize that I was repeating old patterns. Over and over again.
- At Risk: Personal happiness and fulfillment, financial well-being, personal autonomy & safety
- Dangers: Being trapped in bad relationships, abuse, exploitation by friends/partners, self-loathing
- Rewards: I’m rarely alone, continuous relationships, popularity
- Outcome(s): String of “good things gone bad”, decreased self-esteem, long history of interpersonal lessons learned
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