I’m not the world’s worst judge of character, but I’m no good at trusting my intuition about people. I’m always stepping onto human landmines having known all along that they were going to throw up shrapnel eventually. I doubt my own interpretations no matter how much evidence there is that someone is dangerous.
I ignore red flags because I think that acknowledging red flags is paranoid.
I ignore my fear because I don’t trust my instincts.
I ignore my good sense because I think it’s irrational to think someone will harm me without a motive.
Most of all, I ignore red flags because I think I have to be nice.
Like most of my generation, I was brought up to be polite, but I was never taught that manners could get me hurt. I grew up thinking that protecting my safety was less important than protecting predators’ sense of comfort. My mother wouldn’t have put it in those words, of course, but she never said a word about treating myself compassionately. Some lessons are learned in absentia. Lessons about ignoring your gut, for instance, because there’s only one thing more important than making sure all the world’s assholes feel comfortable: ignoring your crazy-ass instincts.
And so I’ve always given predators a foothold—that small sliver of time they need to get me under their feet.
Over the last year, I’ve been learning that I deserve kindness, and that sometimes, treating myself well requires me to treat someone else uncharitably. I cut off the man who lies once. I walk past the woman who inspires my fear. I don’t waste time being pleasant with the person who makes my intuition bubble over. I invest in those I love and trust before I offer my energy to strangers.
The trouble with trusting your intuition is that you don’t stick around long enough to find out that your instincts were right on the mark. Still, my life has become remarkably easier since I stopped being universally polite.
That’s come with an unexpected lesson: that treating myself kindly has a beautiful effect on my quality of life.