respect yourself

Laws of Modern Man 233I posted this on Twitter earlier this week, because I believe it’s good advice, but about 1 in 20 or so replies accused me of being selfish or narcissistic, or — worst of all — an Objectivist.

I’m not a big fan of getting into “Someone is wrong on the Interent,” but I wanted to clarify a little bit in a way that Twitter does not allow.

What I get out of this quote is this: if there is a toxic person in your life who does nothing but bring you down and hurt you, then you should respect yourself enough to remove that person from your life. Life is too short to maintain toxic and negative relationships.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t make an effort to work on building and maintaining positive, healthy, fulfilling relationships. It doesn’t mean that you don’t make an effort to be kind and generous and just take take take. It means that if you’re constantly “making up” or something like that with a person, you’re not in a healthy, fulfilling relationship. You’re in a toxic relationship, and time you spend maintaining toxic relationships is time wasted that could be spent — invested — into relationships that bring you joy and make you a better person.

Know and recognize the difference between healthy and toxic relationships, positive and negative people, and respect — and love — yourself enough to choose the ones that make you happy and inspire you to grow as much as you possibly can. People who drag you down because it makes them feel better about themselves are not worth your time.

Where I think people may have interpreted this as selfish or narcissistic is in the clumsy wording of people or activities “serving” you. I’d take people out of that portion of the advice and apply it directly to the forehead.

Or, you know, just apply it to the “activities” part and think about where you’re investing your time and energy — your most precious and limited resource — and what yo’ure getting back from it.

Mostly, though, this quote encapsulates advice I’ve given my children and applied to my own life: respect yourself enough to leave a romantic or platonic or business relationship that is causing you more harm than good. To borrow a quote from Green Day: “You can’t go forcing something if it’s just not right.”

31 thoughts on “respect yourself”

  1. I found this meaningful when you posted it on Twitter, and your explanation has only made it more powerful and salient for me. I just wish it wasn’t such difficult advice to actually take!

  2. Wil Wheaton selfish and narcissistic? What an absurd, Wil seems to be a very down to earth and nice person.
    I understood perfectly the meaning of the message, but unfortunatelly the internet is surrounded by trolls that like to distort things.

    Greeting from Brazil. 😀

  3. I had a job some years ago that stressed me out, but I didn’t realize how much until I left there. I left under some not-so-good circumstances, and it really sucked, but when all was said and done, I was just so glad to be out of there. I had no idea it was such a nasty place that was wrapping me up so tightly. I learned a lot from that experience. Mostly that it’s not worth it to keep toxic things in your life. So, me personally? I think this is good advice. Don’t let the haters get you down, man.

    1. After I left my last tech job, I had nights I would wake up, thinking that the on-call phone was ringing. This continued for about three months even after I had left and was working in a much better job. It is good advice, I should have left that jobs years ago, because the toll that the on-call schedule put onto me and my family really was not worth it, as I was not paid anything for all the missed events and lost sleep, and my kids came to hate me wearing taht phone, declaring that the weeks I was on call would be boring.

  4. I think it’s good advice Wil…the only snarky comment I would make is something along the lines of JPEG artifacts.

  5. Absolutely great advise. Those 1 in 20 who found is offensive or narcissistic are obviously the ones who feel the need to be co-dependent and obsessive in the relationship or it is not real.

    I believe that is great advise. The same advise I took from someone else a year ago to fix myself.

  6. You know, people use words like “selfish” or “stubborn” like they’re bad things. And surely, greed is not good for a friendship or a state of being. But sometimes “selfish” means “establishing boundaries”; drawing the line at how much self-sacrifice one is able to afford before becoming drained. And “stubborn” is often a synonym for “driven”, “tenacious”, “committed”. I like stubborn and unreasonable people; they tend to succeed where others do not, because they don’t allow anybody to convince them that they can’t.
    Is it narcissistic to invest the majority of one’s time to oneself, especially if the returns of that investment are spent tending to one’s healthy relationships? I got grocery money says a million millionaires answer NO.
    And not the greedy bastard-type millionaires either. I mean the ones who hit it big, and then go buy everybody who was ever kind to them a house.

  7. I mentioned something like that on Livejournal a while back. My model is everyone gets a little slack to start with. If they use up all their slack, and do nothing to replenish it, they don’t get any more. Some people think this makes me harsh, but it does seem to keep life-sucking people from sucking my life. And most people are good folks, so don’t run any danger of running out of slack!

  8. I have applied this principle in my life and have found that it “serves” me well. The way I think of it is this: the people/activities that I choose to spend time with (and energy on) are the ones that bring forth the highest vision of myself. These people help me be more than I am today. When I surround myself with these people/things/activities, I give myself the opportunity to move towards that higher vision of me.

  9. When you posted this to twitter, I read it, agreed, but quickly forgot about it, because it’s something I’ve always done by instinct and nature. I have loads of friends that I love dearly, so when someone consistently makes me unhappy, i can quickly live without them.

    But today I was reminded of this again when someone I used to be friends with posted a blog, during which she made an obvious, and painful, dig at me. Why do I even follow her blog? Because, my guiding belief in life is that everyone has the capacity for change, and occasionally she posted interesting things from home (my wife and I moved to the other side of the world 2 years ago). Also, she’s in a serious relationship with someone I do like to be friends with, and have been for much longer than I’ve known this woman.

    But now I’m done with her. She has treated me and my friends like shit, and seems to believe that it’s “her way or the highway” in life. I honestly don’t know what my friend sees in her, but he seems to be happy with her, so who am I to judge on affairs of the heart? They’ve been together several years at this point, so it’s not a new or short -term thing.

    My question is: Do I have to be done with my friend too? I honestly have no interest in being around her, but I do enjoy his company. It hurts me to possibly lose a friend because of someone else, but I’ve never been confrontational, and I have no interest in getting into a conversation with this woman ever again. Suggestions?

    It should be noted that living on the far side of the world makes ignoring her monsterously easy!

  10. There is one thing I know for sure – there are people who are so dedicated to their drama that they snap back at anyone who might threaten it. I knew exactly what you meant when you said it because Oprah has said something similar all the years that she has been on. You have to love yourself enough to realize whether your relationship is toxic or empowering. A lot of people, especially women, are so desperate to keep from being lonely they will put up with almost anything and then blame the other person for their unhappy lives. In the end, we are ALL responsible for the personal relationships in our lives. We may not be able to change our financial situation or the amount of opportunities we are able to make something out of, but in the end our personal happiness depends on whether we love ourselves enough to be ok by ourselves. If you can’t stand your own company, why would you expect anyone else to?

  11. It took me a long time to really learn this, not just as words but on a deeper level.

    But for the last several years, I’ve kept this thought in mind when the occasional friendship or other relationship simply becomes toxic and is causing me pain or stress or simply a too high level of inconvenience.

    Whilst friendships are always give and take, and sometimes on side takes more and the other gives more, there has to be some element of balance in the long term to make it a healthy relationship. So the consistently one-sided relationship is one of those I’d list under toxic or, perhaps simply not good for you.

    I hate giving up on friendships, so putting this realisation into practice hasn’t been easy, but on the very rare times I’ve decided to do so, I’ve felt a huge relief and knowledge that it was the right decision, even though part of me continues to care for the people I cut out and wonder after their own health and happiness. Feeling that way doesn’t mean I accept any responsibility for their health and happiness though, and that’s the key.

    It’s always much easier with the black and white cases, people who are so difficult that it’s a no brainer. It’s the ones we love that make it hard.

    But whilst it’s important to give to others, I think we owe it to ourselves and to our nearest and dearest, to prioritise our own health and happiness too. If cutting out the toxic means more time, energy and happiness to give to ourselves and those we love most, it is definitely a good thing.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble quite so much.

  12. I left my wife, a while back. We’re married nearly 30 years and I still love her for all that she’s done for me. But – yeah – that was one of those toxic relationships… in an almost literal way. Nearly every day I was sick to my stomach, sometimes throwing up. I guess that was a sign, huh.

  13. I have heard that quote before and I have never liked it. I feel like its an excuse to escape things that are difficult and I do read it as selfish as its written. If you were to preface it with “Know when to” then I really like it and agree with it.

    You will endure a lousy job to provide for your family and move on to a better one when the time is right. In the meantime you make the most out of what you have. If it truly is too much to bear, you talk with your partner and make a decision. But you don’t do it at the first sign of difficulty and you don’t do it without thinking of the impact your decision will have on others.

    Adding “Know when to” does not diminish the other very good points you and other comments have made. If you are in an abusive relationship, get out. If you are in a toxic relationship, maybe get out. But therapy may be a viable option too, again, “know when to.”

    If your job is awful start taking steps to move on whether it is looking for work, enhancing your skills, or considering moving. But don’t quit just because you are unhappy. Consider how that decision will affect the people in your life in making that decision.

  14. Well, yes to all points, Wil.

    I’d like to add this piece as well; we surround ourselves with what we find comfortable, from our past, from our imagination, no matter how healthy or unhealthy it is for us.

    If we’re oriented on being the best we can be, say, recognizing toxicity becomes a very valuable skill. Having integrity at that point also becomes valuable because you also have the ability to call yourself on your own crap with a reasonable chance of acting on it.

    This means recognizing when you have allowed someone into your life who enables your own toxic behaviour. If you change, most of the time, if they’re invested in that toxicity as part of their ecology, they’ll resist. If they’re after self-improvement or value the relationship more than what the toxic behaviours give them, they’ll respond to your challenge and change with you and the entire relationship will evolve. Otherwise, yes, drop them.

    There is not a single thing narcissistic about this. It is a decision about your future. It is one of the hardest choices we can make in our personal relationships with others. Glad to see you’re spreading the wisdom.

  15. I cried when I read this. I’ve been trying to break away from a toxic relationship for a while and can’t seem to do it although I clearly see it’s harmful and destroys my old self. I had a wonderful friendship with this person for over a decade which eventually turned into a romantic relationship. Apparently people can change into power-game-playing and unreliable control-maniacs even if you think you knew them.

    Why do I not break away? Maybe because I’m still hoping for the person I once knew to reappear. Or simply because I’m a terrible coward.

    Wish someone had taught me what you told your kids. Hope so much I will be able to leave this behind one day and focus on the healthy relationships with family and friends instead. Love to everyone who has experienced something like this. Listen to uncle Wil, he’s damn right.

  16. I 100% agree with you on this! I was arguing this point with someone to too terribly long ago. This person was going through some things, so naturally they were pretty miserable. And they contended that they never could understand how people could just cut people (mostly exes) out of their lives and not be an “adult” about things and just be friendly. My answer was “Do you know why I’m a generally happy person? Because I refuse to surround myself with miserable people. And because I’m not afraid to cut toxic people out of my life eventually.”

  17. This post came at a terribly (in every sense) appropriate time for me. After hearing of the shooting in Connecticut, I asked my Facebook friends to do me a favor and not use the tragedy to make political statements until after the funerals, or at least to not talk to me about the gun debate in the United States until that time.

    Sadly, unsurprisingly, people pushed back within minutes. I thought of Laws of Modern Man Number 233. Unfollows… followed.

    Thanks, Wil!

  18. Right on brother. I completely agree with the sentiment of the ‘poster’. Not to sound cliche’, but life is too short. I appreciate people who challenge me and / or share a different perspective than I do about topics of life. But constant arguing or bickering or nitpicking or .. is not healthy.

    That is to say you completely discount a person, but you set yourself apart and focus on those who keep you moving and positive. That said, sometimes one must break or even ‘ RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY ‘ from those situations.

  19. Will you’re right about the theory of self-respect word for word, but you’re expressing it defensively and it’s become self-sabotage. You have every quality you describe, but self-confidence and self-worth make it impossible for others to offend you. No matter how you express yourself, no two people will react the same, or see your exact point of view. That’s inevitable, you don’t need to apologize or defend over their comments -try responding by restating their comments in your own words, then admire their ability to try to say it like they think you would and tell them not to give up trying because it’s hard for them to get it close to your level… It’s a reverse compliment that keeps you in pride and ego and allows you to shut them up in awe of you.
    It’s my personal writing prose, it gets reactions of amusement -for the public and myself, no matter what I think of them.
    Celebrity is intense -I can’t hide at all. Which is why I’m only going to identify myself as a female teen-idol peer you met years ago, I get fans who get so hysterical they want to keep me as a live collectable. It’s to stupid to be anything but funny, keep your chin up intentionally -and take a break from the web now and then, play with the kids and have fun.
    -it works for me.

  20. These phrase has bad wording, the meaning comes across as something different from what you ment/explained. It is totally nasty what it means based on words alone, don’t you see it? It would’ve been better to say what you ment in more clear language, choosing words that would not evoke negative meaning.

  21. Unfortunetly, that does not work in school. If I did that….. GOODBYE SCHOLARSHIP!!

    I finally got aroud to watching your Meme in Memoir blog/vlog/rambling discussion and saw that you lack commenters. LOOK AT MY COMMENT. SEE MY FOLLOW ON TWITTER, FOR I AM REAL!

    Also, good quote, nice blog, more pictures of dogs.

    That’s all.


  22. Some people have nothing better to do than make obnoxious, ignorant comments. They need to get a grip. It’s fabulous advice, but really hard to do. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  23. Wil, your advice is so true. I have battled with this very notion for many years. Recently I have had to cut a number of people out of my life as I realized they were not really friends and were just causing more grief to me and others. It was probably the hardest thing I have had to do. But I really had to come to face it because I have given similar advice to other people whose lives were being drained by poor influences or just toxic relationships. After I made the hard decisions, I can honestly say my life has improved 200%.

    This is especially helpful advice for those that deal with some form of mental illness, especially anxiety and depression. People who see this as selfish, I believe are just looking at the situation from the wrong viewpoint. Also sometimes this can be just as good for the other person as well. Some friendships and relationships just don’t work well.

    This advice can also be used for activities that can cause you grief. A close group of friends and I recently had a long discussion about drinking. We like to enjoy alcoholic beverages, but we have also noted many instances in the area where it has been detrimental. We aren’t going as far as saying one shouldn’t drink, but we are trying to encourage and practice more awareness and moderation at least within our group and at functions we sponsor. The purpose of this portion here in response is to note that sometimes limiting some things that may have or could have a detrimental affect can help.

    The key is learning to be more self-aware of how things affect you, and how that in turn may affect others. Limit the things which in larger doses may drag you down, and cut out the things that even in small doses affect you. Realize that things which affect your happiness will also have a side affect on the happiness of those around you.

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