Recently, I've had to battle some existential despair. I don't feel like I know who I am anymore and I don't feel like I know anything. I catch myself muttering angry things to myself, correcting myself, and then getting angry at myself further. It's a slow descent, a windedness I don't think I've ever felt before, like being compressed under a pile of rocks, stone by pebble by stone.
A recent episode of Hidden Brain talks about "The Power and Problem of Grit" highlighted how grit--a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective—helps us build resilience, but it also makes us stick with lost causes.
As I've been trying to work through my own issues, the idea of "grit," of sticking through things in order to get the best outcome, has been interesting. I kind feel as if the grit I've adopted for my life has been generally positive, but sometimes negative. Recently, I've had trouble identifying the positives and negatives, however. It's as if I've gone grit-blind.
Two days ago, I wrote about my habit of people-pleasing. I discussed a little about how my desire to please people often gets in the way of my self-image and well-being, how my "niceness" impedes me. Today, I saw this little video on YouTube:
The video appears to advocate for the sort of honesty I wrote about a month or so ago, but also seems to act in an apologetics-styled manner towards said "nice guys," even to the point of potential victim-blaming. Although I don't agree with the video, it makes me a little uncomfortable. I'd like to share my innermost feelings, but I don't want to side with MRAs in the process.
But I'll admit that I have my share of inner tug-o'war. I've said before that I suffer from a Sylvia Plath-styled neurosis, where I can't help but feel like two worlds are in constant stress inside me. I cannot imagine an angst-free internal moment of my life; my insides are a constant tug-of-war between libertine and responsible citizen, between "nice guy" and... well... again, how would I know?
Which brings me back to grit. I will stick with being a nice guy it keeps on hurting me. Although I may attribute it to an endless capacity for hope, it might instead be a matter of single-minded stubbornness. I have grit, and perhaps even resilience, but that doesn't mean I point that grit in a good direction.
As the summary of the "Grit" podcast suggests,
But other research has also pointed to a potential downside to grit. Like stubborness, too much grit can keep us sticking to goals, ideas, or relationships that should be abandoned. Psychologist Gale Lucas and her colleagues found in one experiment that gritty individuals will persist in trying to solve unsolvable puzzles at a financial cost. And that's a limitation of grit: it doesn't give you insight into when it will help you prevail and when it will keep you stuck in a dead-end.
I don't trust myself enough right now to assume that I can assess when my grit "will help [me] prevail and when it will keep [me] stuck in a dead-end," but I look forward to getting myself to a point where I can.
That means that I'm going to have to "know myself," however, and I don't think I can do that right now.
So I'll work for an epiphany or settle for a manufactured one.
YouTube: ephemeral ideas
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