Why are other people so annoying?

Let’s begin with an example of character flaws that I don’t find annoying.

It’s fairly easy for me not to get annoyed with someone who is addicted to smoking, wants to stop, but can’t.  Addiction is difficult. Some people really hate it that other people smoke, and see it as a weakness when they can’t stop doing it, but not me.  I can empathize with how hard it can be to stop smoking.  I’ve got some habits that I’m trying to kick and that sucks, but still, for me, the overwhelming sentiment isn’t empathy, it’s apathy. I just don’t give it a whole lot of thought.

On the other hand, there are a host of other human weaknesses that I can barely tolerate.

Say someone is unreasonably demanding, unable to really hear my point of view, or easy to anger… those things can get me all worked up.  Or maybe someone just won’t go “all in” and get super-passionate about a relationship or a job or life in general.  I might wonder how that person has made it this far.  Someone really believes that they can’t or won’t ever be able to do something…   I consider how these traits will impact their ability to parent.  I notice any of these things and I begin to wonder if I can really have a meaningful relationship with this person.  And then I quietly console myself by acknowledging that we all have problems and thank goodness I practice yoga and don’t have to judge them.  A-hem.

There is something really interesting about this list of other people’s fatal character flaws.  The FCF’s that get me worked up, judgey, and concerned for the future of humanity are usually the same FCF’s that I cannot tolerate or accept in myself. They are the exact things that annoy me about myself and yet here I go pointing fingers at other people.  It can feel much easier to vent all that upset and dislike in someone else’s direction rather than actually feel that emotion directed towards myself.  At least it is easier for a little while. It’s easier until I realize that I can’t change someone else to make myself better. It doesn’t work and  it’s lonely. And I’m starting to see that when I’m having a hard time liking other people, it’s usually at about the same time that I’m not liking myself.

You know what they say about pointing a finger? Three point right back at YOU.

It’s lonely, sometimes I don’t like myself, but then there’s the fact that other people’s FCF’s are just so obvious.  My FCF’s on the other hand?  I have a really hard time seeing any FCF’s in myself.  I know that they are there, but what are they exactly? Where do they reside?  How do I address them? It’s a little like the elusive yeti in the forest.  I might see the footprints, and find the mauled carcasses of small animals after he’s done some damage, but the actual yeti?  Mister Yeti? It’s hard to get a good look into his eyes because he’s so sneaky and well hidden.  And then there’s the question of whether I’d even want to look into his eyes. I bet they are scary. If I actually got up the courage to really look into those eyes of the bambi-mauling yeti, would there be a moment of glimpsing into the eyes of one of God’s creatures? Would it be like the Hendersons eventually learning to love Harry? Could I befriend my yeti and welcome it in?

Photo Credit: Harry and the Hendersons, Universal Studios

I’m going to have to think about the yeti business, but I’m starting to recognize that when I’m busy judging and disliking and not looking at myself and the FCF’s  that I am working with, I feel disconnected from others and from myself.  These things that “other people struggle with” become the things that separate me from them instead of a source of connection, empathy and support.  Plus, it can be pretty gruesome seeing the wreckage left behind when my personal FCF-yeti strikes.   If I am always looking out and can’t find the courage to look inward and really see what is going on in my life then it’s hard to begin the work of self–reflection and personal transformation, and that’s the real work of yoga, after all.  Go ahead.  Be bold. Get to know those FCF’s and see what it feels like to love your family, love your friends, love yourself and the big mess of fatal character flaws that comes along with us all.

7 thoughts on “Why are other people so annoying?

  1. Hi Amanda, opened my email and got a job rejection for a job that I really wanted…..baaaah! Then read your blog and feeling better already! Not everyone blogs, and not everyone blogs on self development. In terms of a crime scene there are some pretty strong clues to an introspective person who is already very critical of themselves! Yes, when we see the FCFs in others its a pretty good indication that we spend a lot of our time already beating ourselves up about our own FCFs. I live with a pretty big Yeti, and he makes my own life pretty miserable a lot of the time. In developing mindfulness to become more aware of the Yeti who is following in our shadow, there is chance that rather than become more accepting of ourselves, we will become more obsessively critical of ourselves. How about a counterbalance, an antidote? I understand that the practise of recording five things that we are grateful for every day, in others and in ourself, is a wonderful cure for finding FCFs. A lovely post, it cheered me up anyway. Better include it as one of things that I’m grateful for today 🙂

    1. Oooooh, yes. Hyper-critical types (like myself) can get bogged down in the serious and hard work of self-transformation. I need outside references (friends, teachers, books) AND a physical practice to stay in balance and to keep a light-heartedness about it. I love the practice of gratitude you mention, too. Good luck with your job hunt, Jerry. Sending good vibes your way.

  2. scary stuff…some of the scariest! i loved that bit: “Mister Yeti?” hilarious. i’m personally terrified of mr. yeti, but i try to hone him every day in my journal…and never. ever. reread! great post…

    1. I never reread my journal either! Journal writing is such a good way to dump, clear and get rid of lurking yeti. Wait… I did reread my first journal from second grade once. That first journal entry of my life documented the bad sharing attitude of my classmate on the swings after school. Man, I was pissed.

  3. Oh man, I am aware of every one of my FCF’s to a fault. I obsess over what a terrible person I am. The yeti and I are practically married. I notice that when I’m judging others it’s really me just projecting my crap onto them. Even when teaching a yoga class, I’ll see people grimacing and think “they hate me.” Then, I realize that they’re in chair pose, of course they’re grimacing, and it’s my need to please everyone that’s causing me to freak out. Sometimes I think my cat hates me, because she refuses to deal with her yeti. But I don’t know how self-reflection works on felines. This post is great and you’ve converted me into a huge fan. You’re very honest and I think it’s awesome.

    1. Sometimes I get this huge surge of freedom-feeling when I imagine (perhaps not inaccurately) that everyone is so absorbed with themselves that I don’t really have to worry about what they might think of me. Even if I enter their thinking, it’s really still all about them. Thanks for reading and for broaching the “feline self-awareness and relationship to yetis” topic outloud in your reply. That made me laugh out loud for at least 3 minutes.

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