Keep it awesome, keep it short.

Oi. Such a great word. It’s what linguists call an interjection, a filled pause, a continuative, a connective, an uninflected function word. It means “hey”, “what’s going on?”, “I need to start a sentence”, “I agree”, “I’m very excited about this”, or just about anything else that can it can be thought to.

So, oi.

These things are what people say when they have something to say, but they don’t know what it is. It’s a pervasive feeling amongst us all, especially adolescents. If only we could express what that thing was, figure out what it is that we’re trying to express and why we are trying to express it, we could figure ourselves out, explain ourselves to other people and be understood, finally.

This is an illusion.

It comes not from any particular ideas we want to express, but rather from a very simple premise: people who have an emotional imperative to express themselves will find outlets to. It’s both a very subtle social encouragement and a personal danger. To be understood, you have to interact; physically or otherwise. If a person were to mistake this constant desire to be understood as a lack of interpersonal understanding of those around them, it could very well produce an immobilizing despair and a completely crushing and lonely worldview that would do nothing but perpetuate itself. Example :

“I feel as if no one understands me as I’d like to be understood.”  —>

“No one understands me.”  —>

“Why doesn’t anyone understand me?” —>

“I’m not worthy of being understood.” or “People aren’t capable of understanding.” or “People don’t even try to understand other people.” or “People are basically evil.” —>

“I’m “bad”.” or “People are “bad”.” —>

“Interaction isn’t worth it, since I never feel understood.” —>

“I don’t want to interact.” —>

<Time passes>

“Why don’t people like me?” —>

“People like people who interact with them.” —>

“I don’t want to interact with people.” —>

“People will never like me.” —>

… and so on. Once a statement like “people don’t understand me” becomes part of a person’s identity, the only way to reverse the substantial damage is to remove that belief. Just get rid of it. Find a way to start believing that you’re a martian lobster or a time-traveling pimp from the 24th century. Anything. Or, most productively, make it your mission to understand others as they’d like to be understood, and you can give a person a gift that they’ll treasure unconditionally.

Or as a shorthand for all of that:

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Self-helpy? Definitely. It’s better than self-destructive.