“I like offending people, because I think people who get offended should be offended.” ― Linus Torvalds
I’m certain that I probably pissed a person off just by walking into the room before.
I know there are people that will find my decision to abstain from wearing a bra, sometimes, highly offensive, and others that will judge me in a negative light for the way I talk, think, act, and behave — or not!
There are people I may upset with my occasional introversion and sometimes stand-offish demeanor, and I am equally confident that there will be times I get on the nerves of other people for almost the exact opposite — perhaps they’ll say I talk too much, too loud, and far too often.
While I’ve certainly (probably) never intended to rub anyone the wrong way, it’s a truth we all have to come to terms with.
Despite all our best efforts to live an unproblematic life, there have been, no doubt — and there will very likely always continue to be — people who take offense to the choices and behaviours that characterize our life.
Whether it’s our hair, our preferences, or our existence, in general, we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. Believe me when I say it’s not possible to make yourself loved by everyone; hell, it’s fairly difficult to even be liked by any significant majority — and at what cost exactly?
Let me put it to you this way:
Scenario A — Utterly commit yourself to authenticity and discover what it means to live your truth. The result will be that not everyone likes you this way.
Scenario B — Attempt to please others, and shape yourself to fit the mould that society that your colleagues, your family, or society, as a whole, believes is best. The result will be that not everyone likes you this way.
The difference between these options is that, while both result in the inevitable reality that you will not be liked be everyone you come to encounter over the duration of your long life, at least the people in the first scenario aren’t liking you for reasons that are actually based on you.
If you alter your own life preferences in order to accommodate the silly (and inevitable) offended people you interact with, then you risk adhering to someone else’s truth, entirely, and spending your life wondering why you feel so lost and un-you.
You can’t allow yourself to also join the bandwagon of individuals that dislike you, and when you compromise your authentic self, you open the door to an entire list of negative consequences like self-doubt, comparison, heightened insecurity, and over-criticality.
To be honest, I can’t quite think of anything worse.
By giving a damn what other people do, and do not, concern themselves with, when it comes to the choices you make in your personal life, you’re allowing the people in the room to win, before you’ve even had a chance to walk in and offend them with nothing but your existence.
Always go with scenario A and protect your happiness above the happiness of other people when it comes to living your truth — it’s not selfish, it’s self care.
Tell me, what does offense do anyway?
I mean, I know exactly how it feels — it’s abrasive, and unpleasant, and makes you wish you could control things that, in reality, it’s much wiser for you not to. I know exactly how offense feels, but I never completely figured out what it does.
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.” — Stephen Fry
It’s incredibly likely you might find the above quote to be offensive, and the irony there is absolutely golden to me.
What Stephen Fry puts so eloquently, is that being offended is just that: being offended. There is no action required to fight, overcome, or even prevent it from happening in the first place.
Being offended is a state of being, and there is an undeniable number of people who are committed to spending the majority of their existence in this state — no matter how trivial the subject of their taking of offense.
We live in a time and place where there are plenty of things to be genuinely offended by. I’m not trying to suggest that offense has no purpose, or that being offended by certain things is always a negative quality. I’m just here to remind you that someone taking offense to your tattoos, or the way you prefer to not shave underneath your arms, is not worth spending your emotional energy trying to address.
Living Your Truth
What is your truth, exactly? Well, it’s anything that makes you feel like you.It’s the wonderful and completely unique sum of all the things you like, the things you think, the things you do, the things you say, and the things you feel. It’s your reality, your life, your truth.
So, stop trying not to offend people with your truth. It’s yours, after all, and you should completely and absolutely own it.
If living your truth includes swearing a lot, not having children or never getting married, or dressing in a way that doesn’t fit society’s perfect little box of what a 30-something year old should wear, then you should commit to being okay with other people routinely taking offense to it.
Learn to view their disapproval, dismay, and the fact that they don’t like you, as a sign that you’re on the right track, even. By living your truth, you will begin to notice that the right people fall head over heels with you, and that it’s you leading the way.
It’s quite simply just not possible to make everyone else happy with your life, so you might as well live how you like and respond to the haters à la Stephen Fry, by saying so fucking what?
Alexandra Walker-Jones — November 2020