As a child, I had problems respecting authority.
What kind of problems, you ask?
Well, I couldn’t quite understand the concept of Authority. It didn’t exist to me, I couldn’t see it, recognize it, or accept it in any shape or form. Frankly, even today, I’m 32 years old and this concept still escapes my grasp.
As far back as I can remember, I have (mistakenly) developed sort of a personal connection with my superiors and authority figures. I never saw people as superiors, but only as friends… or enemies.
I saw my job as an exchange, and I sought fairness and balance. I wouldn’t lie on my resume, and I worked hard to deserve my paycheck. I even felt bad when I didn’t have enough work to do and I’d unintentionally wasted time.
I was also seeking a balanced exchange with my superiors. I believed that work is some kind of a fair exchange between two people who care about each other and are looking to achieve something greater together.
For some reason, this didn’t work well, and I got fired quite frequently. I think that something about being over-stressed, ultra-serious, and sometimes aggressive about doing my job right didn’t go very well with my colleagues.
Who would have thought that perfectionism could be a bad thing?!
Back at school, I wasn’t really the teacher’s pet. Respecting authority such as teachers and principals was a foreign concept for me. I was never quite able to recognize it, nor act by it.
Being mean to my teachers when they were boring, and being nice to them when they were interesting seemed like a normal behavior to me. Just like any other kind of relationship. I would authentically express how I feel, and when I wasn’t happy, I acted on it.
I think it all comes back to my parents.
Back when I was even younger, my dad would demand respect. He wanted me to be polite and formal when addressing him, which was a source of great confusion and anxiety for my child self.
As hard as I would try, I just couldn’t figure out why a person that’s supposed to be close to me and care about me wants me to be so formal. Why doesn’t he think of me as a friend or a family member? You know, someone you want to help and want to make them feel better, just because it makes you feel better.
If I would know that a friend of mine needed something, I would help them get it. Making them phrase a request in a certain way and conditioning my help on the demand that they would use the word Please would’ve never even crossed my mind.
Why is it that my relationship with my own parent is managed by rules?
Why is there a right and a wrong way to ask for something, and why can’t we just care about each other?! Is he not my parent? Is he serious or just playing? Did I do something wrong?
I think that was the experience that messed me up. This little game of ours went on for years. Every time the same thing.
Me: “Dad, can you pass me the salt?” Dad: “Say Please!”
The second I heard that all of the confusion just came crashing back, and I could no longer say a word.
What is going on? Why is this happening again? Does he still don’t care? Why doesn’t he care? How is this possible? Is it really happening again?
Every time I’d fall into this endless cycle of anxiety, this spiral of endless contradicting thoughts. Completely unable to figure out what is happening.
What is he thinking, why is he doing this, when will he stop!?
This went on for about 20 years, and I never managed to say the word please, not to my dad anyway. Kind of ridiculous, I know, it’s a funny form of retardation.
It seems pretty mundane, but I think that was the one that got my wires crossed. This mash-up of personal relationships with formal relationship just short-circuit my brain and left me anxious, confused, and quite irritated anytime I encountered similar demands.
I was never able to understand respect, status, authority, or social roles. All I really knew is that people should be nice to one another. People should want to help each other feel good, just like I want to make others feel good. Because… well… why the hell not?! What’s better than having everybody just being happy? And for the love of god, I still can’t understand why no one around me seems to get this.
Why should I be nice to teachers, parents, or other adults regardless of how they treat me?! What the hell is the meaning of giving respect? That they were nice before and now they no longer need to?!
And most importantly, why don’t my parents understand the concept of Fairness?! What happened to fairness? What happened to the clearest and most basic moral principle – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
When did this world become a world of roles instead of a world of people, and where was I when it happened?!