Don't Take it Personally: Why People Do What They Do

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Why do people do the things they do?

You know - the dumb shit, the unexplainable shit, the baffling shit, or just the general shit.

Why? WHY?

Why do people do what they do?

Before we go on - spoiler alert - I don't have an answer.

I do, however, have a theory: most people don’t truly know themselves, and don't understand their own motivations.

(This is not a criticism, simply an observation.)

Why though?

Because we live in an outer-focused world; our Western society encourages us - NEEDS US - to look outside ourselves for answers because when we do, we are primed to consume.

"Oh the answer to my lack of self-worth is this new... car / designer bag / watch / self-help program."

If we took the time to be still, to tune in, to understand ourselves and connect with our true nature, we might realize that we don't need any of the stuff and stop purchasing. Society as we know it would collapse.

But this post isn't about consumerism (this one is).

I only want to underline that deep introspection is discouraged in a consumer culture because it's only by going outside of ourselves for answers that we will consume.

Therefore: most people don't understand their own motivations because we live in a society that discourages introspection because it's just not good for the bottom line.

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Where am I going with all of this?

Because very few people understand the motivations behind their behaviour, spending time asking why somebody did or didn't do what they did is a waste of our time. They likely don’t know themselves, and you and I sitting around trying (crying?) to figure it out is pointless.

Personally, I've wasted a lot of my life - so, so much - trying to come up with explanations for people and their behaviour. But now I’m at a point where - because I realize that most people don’t understand themselves - when somebody does something that seems unexplainable, instead of trying to analyze / justify / explain, I simply put their actions into a mental box labelled "unknown."

That box sits in a dusty corner of my mind to be filled when the need arises; when other people behave in strange ways that I just can’t explain but don’t want to waste my time analyzing.

Sometimes in life, we just don’t get to know.

The thing about life is that it’s not like a movie; the beautiful thing about movies is that you get to see both sides of the story.

When the girl doesn't show up to meet the boy, and the boy is angry or disappointed, we as the audience get to see the fact that the girl has had an accident or that she's been held up somehow, and we want to reach out to tell the boy "It wasn’t about you, something happened. She wanted to come though."

In a movie - especially a Hollywood movie - that explanation always comes to light. (Unlike a lot of European movies, Hollywood loves to tie things up with a neat little bow.) The person who doesn’t know why at the start gets an explanation in the end.

Life isn’t like that though; Morgan Freeman isn't hanging around waiting for the opportunity to be a benevolent narrator and explain the illogical behaviour of the people in your life. (But wouldn't it be awesome if he was?)

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People behave in ways that, from our side of the story, simply doesn’t make sense and we take a lot of that behaviour to heart. We take it personally because we assume they understand themselves enough to have planned and calculated their behaviour with the intent to hurt us.

Listen to me my love, and listen good: do not break your own heart by giving people that much credit. Most people are acting from a genuine lack of awareness versus true evil intent.

It's like a toddler running with scissors; somebody is going to get hurt, but the child didn't plan this, he just didn't know better. (Am I implying that many adults are at the developmental level of a 3-year old? Yes I am.)

Maybe like the girl in the movie, something happened on their side, and for whatever reason they weren’t able to let us know.

In my own past experience, there have been many times where, after hearing someone's explanation, I was able to let go of my anger because I understood that their behaviour wasn't personal.

But sometimes, there just isn't going to be an explanation and that has to be ok if we want to continue interacting with people and remain sane. (Or we could go live on a desert island away from people and society, and spend all our time talking to a volleyball. Also an option.)

Image Credit: WIONEWS

Spending time trying to figure out why people do what they do is generally a waste of our time and mental energy.

When people do things you don’t understand, simply get out that dusty old box in the attic of your mind and put their behaviour in there where it doesn’t get to touch the other things - a.k.a. compartmentalize that shit and move on with your life.

My point: STOP ASKING WHY. (Unless you're a Philosophy professor, a toddler, or one of the Backstreet Boys.)

Image Credit: Mark Manson via Facebook

Maybe someday you’ll get an explanation, and then you can open that box, take out the memory and transform it. But the reality is there will be a lot of things that you'll never get explanations for, and that has to be okay because it is what it is; that's life.

Life is not a Hollywood movie, and we don’t always get to find out why things happened the way they did, we just have to know how to put those thoughts aside so that we can get on with our own lives. 

Why do people do what they do?

Who knows.

Most people don’t really know themselves, and for us to allow our inner peace to be disturbed by the strange and often inexplainable behaviour of others is just a darn shame. Focusing on the why will steal our happiness, and life is too damn short for that.

We do not have to allow people to live rent-free in our minds (but if they are there, might I suggest a dusty box in the corner?) ;)

Let go of the need for an explanation - a.k.a. closure - because if people behaved in a certain way in the first place, they likely can't explain it to themselves let alone you.


Image Credit: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash


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