I Don’t Make the Rules
I’m a born and raised rule-follower. I used to think that was a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. It’s not that I mind following the rules, per se, I just don’t like it when other people don’t follow them too!
I’ve only recently noticed how I still want to be seen as compliant. It’s an approval-seeking thing that’s been with me for years. You know, how at work, when they make rules to maintain company standards and certain levels of safety? And you’re going along, following the rules and then someone or a group of someones just ignore the rules and do what they want?
Well, this drives me crazy. All I can think about is how to get the other people to conform, like me. I want to tell management, rat them out. However, no one likes a whistleblower or a tattletale. I don’t want to make enemies, but I keep thinking, part of my doing a good job is helping others do better too. But I’m not sure that’s right or even worth it.
This whole scenario fuels my controlling nature, the part of me that thinks I’m right and others are wrong.
Cuz, being right makes me look better and my ego loves that!! Whoa!! Time to take a big step back!
If following the rules at work is an important part of my doing a good job. Can I uphold my workplace’s standards without worrying whether anyone else does, or not? When it comes to rules and regulations, how do we determine the criteria under which we’ll live and work and be with other humans on this planet?
Well, I’ve decided I don’t make the rules, and it’s not my job to enforce them, even if that means that things are done wrong or company standards are compromised. My reasons for being a rule-follower have to be about more than looking good, (or being right). Right?
I learned this in my personal life a few years back, that I don’t make the rules. Everyone has their own criteria for living and they aren’t always the same as mine, (usually not). You see I grew up in a family with a lot of rules, manners, and restrictions all designed to make me a better person. And Indeed, I thought they made me “better than” other people who didn’t abide the same.
A “good” person, minds their manners, pays their bills, stays out of debt, keeps their house clean, obeys traffic laws, doesn’t get in trouble with the police, adheres to public rules of safety, pays attention to signs, doesn’t cuss, swear, smoke or have too much sex, follows the ten commandments, avoids negative attention, and never leaves a mess behind them. These are just a handful of ways my family defined “being good.” These standards portrayed an attitude of privilege designed to make us realize our importance in society. Our parents wanted us to fit in with others just like us–clean-cut, well-mannered, rule followers!!
So following the rules was how I earned approval. I adhered to their guidelines as much as I could. And as I became an adult, I also used those standards to judge other people harshly. At the same time, I held myself to pretty strict (and often unrealistic) guidelines for acceptability. I felt ashamed if I couldn’t keep up. The rules that were supposed to make me better instead made me controlling and unworthy inside. And they made me not a very nice person.
When I figured this out, that’s when I began to dismantle the rules I never made, to begin with. The regulations I’d been following my whole life were ones my parents passed down to me from their parents…and I’m sure I did some of the same. It took me a long time to figure out that I could be okay and even better without them.
When the rules we grow up with aren’t serving us to be happier, healthier people, then we need to re-evaluate their place in our lives. If we can soften some of the rules and our need to abide so strictly, then we can learn to become more tolerant, fair, and compassionate human beings. When we can let ourselves off the hook a little, we tend to treat other people a little more easily too.
I’ve been practicing for years now, not needing other people to live up to my expectations or follow my rules. They’re unrealistic and as I mentioned, handed down from my family. They’re not the law by any stretch. How I live isn’t “the right way,” and I’m glad of that. This knowledge is a practice I’m trying to apply more broadly across the entire spectrum of life, to allow however things are done to be okay, to permit diversity of lifestyle and ways of thinking right alongside my own.
For many people like myself, the rules we grow up with worm their way into our minds as beliefs, or things that are absolutely true and right. They can be tough to identify and even harder to break apart…but not impossible.
To do this I have to let go of my inherited right to be special. I have to take my place right in the middle of everyone as just another normal person who doesn’t have the answers to how life “should be.” I have to give up my need to earn approval by being right or good (even at work). And with all of this, I agree to be wrong and ordinary and fully human.
And after that, I’d like instead to pay attention to what’s wanted and/or needed for the health and happiness of myself and others. I want to be a team player concerned for the good of all. More than anything I want to be kinder with myself and relax into life. I want to be kinder and more relaxed with you.