I spent an entire year tiptoeing around my own home.
It was my senior year of college. We’d rented a gorgeous apartment on the edge of the historic district. It was in a small 3-story building with just 6 apartments.
Our apartment was on the top floor. It was spacious and had its own balcony. And in the kitchen, there was a huge window that let in lots of sunlight and gave us a perfect view of the state capital building. I loved it!
There was only one other apartment on that floor. In it, lived a young married couple who were always friendly to us. I even once borrowed a cup of flour from them. Well, maybe not “borrowed” as I never returned it. 😉
Sounds great, right?
The Not-So-Neighborly Neighbor
There was just one problem…
In the apartment directly below ours, lived a woman who seemed continually angry. We’ll call her Mrs. H.
From the moment we moved in, we heard from Mrs. H. nearly every. single. day.
When my roommate or I walked through the apartment, she’d bang (what sounded like) a broom handle against her ceiling, yelling for us to be quiet.
When we walked up or down the stairs past her door, she’d throw open the door and stare and scowl, sometimes cussing at us.
Whispering, In Our Own Apartment
We tiptoed around, and our conversations with each other barely got above a whisper for fear of the repercussions.
During that year, my roommate and I didn’t throw a single party. And we grew accustomed to going out, as opposed to having anyone over.
We took Mrs. H’s unhappiness at living in an old, creaky apartment building — and whatever else was bothering her — as a reason we couldn’t fully enjoy our time there.
Looking back now, we had it all wrong.
It Wasn’t About Us
Now, I realize a few things:
1. It was a creaky, squeaky, old building. 100% silence wasn’t possible unless maybe the place was completely vacant.
2. Mrs. H. was going to be unhappy with whoever lived in the apartment above hers. Her unhappiness had nothing to do with us. And it went way beyond us. Even at the time, I saw signs of that. She’d occasionally tend to some flowers out front. And when people passed by and smiled or spoke to her — she’d scowl at them, too.
I don’t pretend to know Mrs. H’s situation beyond what I saw.
But, that’s not really the point of this story …
Spoiler Alert: Some People Will Never Like Me (or You)
What I’ve come to realize is that there is a section of the population who will never be happy with anything I (or you!) do.
Back in my college days, I hadn’t yet figured that out. I thought if I could be friendlier, happier, or quieter I could win over the haters.
Now, I know that’s not true.
And that knowledge is freeing.
How often are you trying to win over your haters?
Isn’t it exhausting?
The Game is Rigged
What if you instead concentrated on developing and deepening your relationships with those whose company you enjoy, and who like the real, non-watered-down version of you? Or, who will at least give you a chance.
Because, even in all your magnificence, you’re always going to be simultaneously, too tall/too short, too light/too heavy, too young/too old, or too loud/too quiet for a certain group of people. It’s a game you can’t win. In fact, you weren’t meant to. It’s rigged. Your job is to show up as you. Learn to accept and love yourself for who you are.
And by being you, your people can recognize and find you.