November 11, 2021 • Ambition

Don’t You Feel Like You Deserve It?

Why We All Need a Little Kindness, Especially in Time For World Kindness Day.

It often feels like the only thing we’ve talked about for the last twenty months is scarcity. The absence of people; of touch; of travel; of community; of support. The absence of resources. The failure of the supply chain, however that might be affecting you (though admittedly, it was sort of delightful to see all the homemade costumes this Halloween). The leadership vacuum. 

Thanks to the pandemic, this experience has been widespread and widely felt. We have all been living in the scarcity mindset, even if, in America at least, the reality is actually far from it for many. For a lot of us, however, the scarcity mindset is not exactly new. If you grew up in a home with a lot of financial instability; if you’ve spent most of your life working in a job or an industry without reliable income, then the experience that everything, all the time, is in short supply is a familiar one. 

I think sometimes what happens when you are used to being the only person supporting yourself is that you eventually acquire an overdeveloped sense of control as a coping mechanism. When you’ve never had anyone to rely on, be it family, or employment, or government, you tend to operate with the assumption that all there is, is all you can see. And the safest way forward is to only count on that. Never calculate what might come into your equations, just what’s there, this way you can’t be caught out. 

In some ways this is useful. It can keep you, for instance, from a life of shopping (ahem, caftan) induced credit card debt. There is something to be said for only paying cash! And yet, like anything else, there is too much of a good thing (even, sometimes, cash).

In America we like to refer to this inability to count on anything or anyone else as self-reliance, or independence, or the triumph of the individual. But really, I think, like with so much we’ve be taught to celebrate, it’s just learned dysfunction. If you teach yourself never to count on anything or one other than yourself, you are not just leaving out the possibility of someone else stepping in to help, you are leaving out in many cases their obligation to. 

Let’s talk about the former though, since the battle over the latter is pretty much everywhere you look. Accepting generosity is a skill. A learned skill. Letting someone be kind, show generosity, can feel like the absence of control. Even when it’s helping. Even when it’s the very thing you need in your life. I don’t mean demanding to be paid what you deserve, though the two are definitely connected, I just mean accepting nice things. Just letting people be nice to you because they want to and they can. With the understanding that one day, when you are in the same position, possibly because you let someone help you along, you will do the same. Even if you are never in that position though, practice accepting kindness.

Nice things are nice. We are programmed to talk about deserving things through hard work, or sacrifice. But what if we all just deserve a little kindness (or a lot)? Just take it when it’s offered. 

Speaking of generosity, today’s piece is brought to you by Ruth Ann Harnisch, who doesn’t just believe writers should be paid for what they do, but actually makes sure they are. 

Related Stories