For fifteen years, I worked for a man who taught me many things. He taught me things about the software industry, he taught me things about marketing, and he taught me things about life. Rick had a way of sorting out people and how they would treat you. He would call people tearer-downers and bringer-uppers. A tearer-downer is a person that seeks to feel better or elevate themselves by making others appear smaller (or feel smaller) in a situation. We would encounter this a lot in business. A person would come to us wanting something. They felt that they needed to put us in a weaker position in order to get what they wanted. They would first devalue us, or tear us down a bit so they could (so they thought) be in a better position to get what they wanted.
This happens in our personal lives quite often. People in our lives that don’t feel great about themselves will often be the ones that are the meanest. They are the first to say the awful things or seek to bring down the happy and successful people around them. Misery loves company. We call them haters and on the Internet we call them trolls. They wander around spreading their misery to everyone. They pop up on blogs and twitter to say something poisonous, then vanish. What really hurts is when we have a tearer-downer close to us. When we try to rely on someone in our lives that we should be able to rely on, and all they do is make us miserable all of the time. People that we would hope would be positive and loving and instead make us feel like crap. I have had this habit with some members of my family. I would get really miserable with my illness, or my life, and get jealous of anyone’s happiness. I would get angsty, and not fun to be with. I was able to suck the joy out of just about any situation. I had to learn how to let shit go. I had to learn how to be happy with what I had. To be honest, once I realized I was doing that, it was easy to do. I just had to look around me and realize how very fortunate I am. I am so incredibly fortunate, I have no business being angsty and tearing anyone down. I should be bringing people up.
A bringer-upper, a person that elevates those around them and gets joy from that. Once I realized I was bringing misery, that made me miserable. The difference in how I felt bringing others up instead of down was the difference between day and night. I became happier, and my pain was even less. I started feeling the happy endorphins coursing through me. Suddenly I knew what being Chronically Awesome was. It’s more than just being the not whiny kind of sick, it was about helping others, and sharing the tools that helped me. Being Chronically Awesome about embracing the things that changed in me for the better when I got sick. Yes, I just said that! The more broken my body, the more whole became. The more I lost to illness, the more I gained in spirit. The more I have suffered financially, the more generous I have become. I have made more friends in the Chronically Awesome community than I ever thought imaginable. I love so many people I have never and may never meet in person. I learned a lot of other things from Rick. I learned that if golf was easy they would call it bowling, and “diphthong” is a really fun thing to call people when you can’t think of a better insult. I have learned to value people who bring others up and I have learned to move away from the tearing down type. And when I am unsure of an interaction, I have to take a pause and ask myself, “If it’s not positive, it’s not a valuable use of either of our time.”. I either need to stop and move away or re-frame and start again. My words and my breath are too valuable to be used to tear anyone down. I have too much respect for anyone’s time to waste it tearing them down.
So which are you?
Are you a tearer-downer, or are you a bringer upper?
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