The very mention of these words inspires confidence and energy within us. When we think of an ‘ideal life’, we usually imagine ourselves living by principles such as these, changing the way we live for the better.
But although this sounds nice and ‘idealistic’, the reality is that it’s hard to live by these ideals because the world around us tries to discourage us or tempt us into something that we don’t want. It seems that many people want us to abandon these ideals and live ‘normal’ lives, filled with doubt and regret.
As such, it seems like so much hard work to live by ideals that most people don’t even bother with. Instead, it’s much easier to do what everyone else is doing and ‘fit in’.
But why do we find it hard to stay true to our ideals? And why do people try to put us off?
Why People Try To Put You Off
It’s been said that people will try to ‘drag you down with them’.
Whenever someone who is unhappy sees someone else who is living a happy life, they may feel jealous of that happy person. They may feel resentment that they haven’t got what this person has got. So they may try to bring that person down to their level in order to ensure that they are as unhappy as them.
It sounds petty, but this is how many people behave. It’s the same situation as two toddlers who are playing together, and one of them builds a tower of toy bricks. The other toddler, being jealous of this accomplishment, knocks the tower down, and the first toddler cries.
Although we are no longer small children, the instinct to try to bring people down is still there.
People don’t like being presented with someone who has what they want. The term “keeping up with the Jones’” fits this situation well. We all desire a whole range of feelings and emotions, even if we don’t consciously express these desires.
If we see someone who is loved or seems happy with their life, then we’ll feel jealous because they have what we want. Like the toddler who wanted a tower but became jealous of the other toddler who built it, we may attempt to destroy that which has made us envious.
This is why it’s hard to live by their ideals – it’s actively discouraged rather than encouraged.
How To Stay True
So how can we stay true to our ideals? How can we continue to live the life that we deeply want? Here are 4 pieces of advice which can help you to stay true:
- Practice ‘firm love’
It can be hard to determine when to stand up to someone, and when to stay quiet for fear of upsetting them. This is especially true when dealing with someone we love. To deal with this, I suggest we practice a type of love called ‘firm love’.
‘Firm love’ is when we treat the other person with respect and kindness as well as firmness. It’s the art of telling them that they’re being unreasonable, but in a way that they identify as kindness.
For example, if you was to tell me that I was being too ‘soppy’ and I needed to ‘toughen up’, then I’d practice firm love by telling you that I didn’t like what you were saying, without expressing anger. If I was talk reasonably and kindly, then there’d be a much better chance of you listening to what I have to say.
The key is to be honest. With firm love, we are able to continue practicing the ideals that we wish to live by.
- If you react, understand why
Sometimes when the world drags us down, we react by criticising, mocking, venting, or lying. We react because our feelings have been hurt and we want to drag other people down in turn. It’s like the toddler who cries when his/her toy tower is knocked down.
If you do react, take time to learn why you reacted. What was it that caused you to ‘bite’ and lash out? Was it something that the other person said or implied, or was it an idea in your head that caused you to react? If you can learn what it was, then you can work on healing that wound and work towards living by your ideals.
In order to stay true to your principles, you must heal those wounds which cause you to react.
- Work out any underlying issues
Following on from the previous advice, underlying issues cause us to react in ways that we usually regret later. If we wish to stay true, then we need to work out any relevant underlying issues.
We all have various issues deep in our subconscious, that range from financial worries to fears for our health, and from anger towards a work colleague to a fear of public speaking. These issues cause us to react when something happens that reminds us of them, and when someone who wishes to drag us down brings an issue to our conscious.
For example, if we have an issue with standing up for ourselves and someone we know mocks us about our lack of courage, then we may react to this underlying issue by withdrawing into a shell, or try to deflect the topic.
If we work on any problems we have, we free ourselves up to live by our chosen ideals. Without doing this, we won’t give ourselves the chance to change.
- If nothing else, walk away
If nothing else works, and we still find that people persist in tormenting us, then it’s best to walk away.
Walking away doesn’t have to be seen as negative or a form of escape. Instead, we can make a respectful exit and not make the situation even worse. To do so ensures that, whilst the situation remains unresolved, we at least prevent ourselves from reacting.
One way we can do this is to tell the other person that we need time to think on what they’ve said. That way, we acknowledge that we’ve been listening to them even if we disagree. Another way is to say that we don’t want to talk about the topic any more for fear of upsetting the other person. These ways are honest, and show that we care about them enough to prevent ourselves from fighting back.
Walking away may be seen as difficult if we’re not used to it, but it’s a useful last resort when we have tried to live by our principles.
It’s Not Easy Being Idealistic
To live by your ideals and avoid the temptation of ‘easy living’ can be tricky. It’s especially hard when other people try to bring you down to their level of living. But even though it’s not easy to live a life of principle, it’s still worth it.
We wouldn’t be able to live the life that we do now without those individuals who inspire us through their actions and choices. We wouldn’t have individuals to look up to and heroes that we can learn from. I feel that there will always be those who wish to bring you down, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t free to live the way we choose to live.