yours, tiramisu

hater's anthem

Wednesday (and occasionally Thursday) nights are for pickleball with friends. These particular friends happen to be friends of a friend of mine, and they're very nice, almost to a fault. They're so nice to me that it makes me wonder if they're always like this (they can't possibly be, right?). Don't get me wrong, it feels nice to be treated well, but beyond a certain point I start to get suspicious.

I have a love-hate relationship with pickleball. As a former tennis player, I hate how it is a bastardized version of the sport I used to play. It's stupidly easy, overwhelmingly popular, and obnoxiously loud. The only problem with my hatred for it is, well, the fact that I'm actually quite good. I'm not great at tennis, but pickleball takes all out all the hard parts of tennis and leaves the easy bits, and so I've been able to pick it up without much effort. It's hard (especially for me) to hate something you're good at.

This gets at what I think might be my biggest flaw: I have whatever the opposite of a 'growth mindset' is, which a quick search tells me is called a 'fixed mindset'. I like things I'm good at and dislike everything else, to an excessive degree. This is often a self-fulfilling prophecy—my natural talent for certain activities lends me a sense of self-belief and enjoyment that pushes me to actually get better at them, which further reinforces that self-belief and completes the positive reinforcement cycle. In the end, this means I prefer to spend my time getting better at the things I'm already good at, at the expense of neglecting everything else.

As you might expect, this mindset is a double-edged sword. When things doesn't come easily to me, I throw my hands in the air and give up. This happens at work, where it gets me into a lot of trouble, but even outside of the office it causes issues, like when I play games with friends. When we play things I'm not good at (most notably those darn social engineering games that require you to lie), I tend to give up rather than lose at something I know I'm not good at. I know nobody wants to play with a griefer1, but it's difficult for me to work through the discomfort and frustration of being bad at something. I'm working on it though, I promise, even if all it means is that our Secret Hitler games last one turn longer.

I write all this because I've been thinking about being a hater recently after Kayla's and (previously) Mei's posts on the topic and this great song that's been stuck in my head. Admittedly, I used to be a big hater. I think I got a lot of it from my mother, who I heard criticize everything that moved for the better part of two decades. Nothing was ever good enough for her; she'd make snide comments about everybody for being too slow, too spoiled, too stupid, and the worst of them all, too lazy.

I think it's understandable for a child to internalize the discourse they grew up in, but it took me many years to understand that I probably held onto it longer than I should have because it served my ego. Implicit in every internal "wow, they suck at x" is an "and I'm better than them," which feels insidiously good while it pads your ego. I've had to undo a lot of these unhealthy thought patterns, which is hard, because it's one thing to not say unkind things, and a far more difficult one entirely to not think them. Fortunately, I've made significant progress over the years. These days when I see people I might have scorned as a kid, I try to empathize with them instead. Life is more pleasant when you can put yourself into other peoples' shoes; it's hard to get angry or impatient when you realize everyone's just trying their best. And when you reform the way you think about others, you also use that kinder lens to judge yourself. And only one criterion really matters there: how you treat others.

  1. "Griefing refers to when a player forgoes any intention to win a game and instead focuses on annoying other players by manipulating aspects of the game in unintended ways."

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