Ijeoma Okoli - 2020

They don’t want you to make it: Sabotaging your own happiness with the “haters” mentality

One may argue that some people will find fulfillment by doing or achieving things that was said to be beyond their reach; but what happens when it becomes the bane of your existence?
They don’t want you to make it: Sabotaging your own happiness with the “haters” mentality

I was managing one of the biggest projects of my career when something unexpected happened and I needed to run contingency. To get back on track, I had to take on about thirty supposedly unqualified staff to handle a crucial part of my project and at very short notice. You can’t even imagine the stress.

In my effort to unite my new team of strangers, I decided to give them my “power speech”. In the speech, I had to infuse the “they don’t want you to succeed” chant. Don’t judge me, I was desperate.

Amongst other things, I told them that “……opportunities like these are given to you so that you can prove to yourself that you are ready. You are ready to change your life and you can change your life…. people will look at you and say that you are unqualified. They* are looking at you to fail, but I am sure that you won’t. If I didn’t believe you can deliver this, we won’t be standing here today. Don’t let them win…”

To be honest, at the end of the speech, everyone was poised and ready to win together. We became comrades (please notice my reference to Old Major’s speech in George Orwell’s Animal Farm). However, I have always wondered why the “they don’t want you to…” psych always has such massive impact, both positive and negative.

I’ve always been careful of external motivations and doing things just to prove to people or fit into a bucket or culture that doesn’t necessarily contribute to my personal fulfillment. One may argue that some people will find fulfillment by doing or achieving things that was said to be beyond their reach; but how happy can you really be by trying constantly to fulfill other people’s expectations and opinions? I mean have you seen comments on celebrities’ social media pages? These people are achieving great milestones every day and the comments on their pages are still as vile as can be!

However, I’m not a know-it-all and if you do have a different opinion on this matter, I’ll be excited to read your point of view in the comments.

Before I get down to the topic of self-sabotage, I’ll like to shed light on two types of motivations.

  • Intrinsic or Internal Motivation: This type of motivation encourages the individual to act or pursue purposes that are internally rewarding and not due to the need to receive accolades or avoid punishments. With intrinsic motivation, the individual pursues self-actualization and enjoys their chosen task or purpose.
  • Extrinsic or External Motivation:  With extrinsic motivation, the individual engages in the activity either to receive accolades or avoid punishments. They may not necessarily enjoy the activity if there wasn’t any reward to be received or a punishment to be avoided.

Extrinsic motivation is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be useful especially to help people complete useful/beneficial tasks that they may not want to undertake. But what happens when it becomes the bane of one’s existence? When it becomes a master tool for self-sabotage?

Factors that may be responsible for over the top pursuit for external motivation and validation?

  • Nurture: As with most behavioral traits, this behavior can be learned when parents are too strict and overly protective. The child receives the message that the world is dangerous and/or binary and therefore are not encouraged to take risks and pursue activities for self-interest. The child will eventually learn to ignore own interests and curiosity and only pursue goals or purposes that has been approved by parents or other external factors.

 In this case, the individual’s only motivation is to be approved of by the ones they admire and not of any internal fulfillment.

  • Religion: No I’m not trying to be controversial but the religious community can be quite an influence on an individual’s psychology. With all the rules and the slated punishments if the rules are not adhered to, some people who attempt to abide by these rules find themselves only trying to achieve the set reward as opposed to just enjoying doing the right thing.
  • Religious paranoia: Again, I’m not trying to be controversial. We can all attest to the uproar of new religious activities, where rather deceptive religious leaders can mess with the mind of individuals by telling them someone is out to get them for nefarious reasons. This becomes so ingrained into some person’s minds that they pursue certain purposes because of these people that are supposedly after them.
  • The Haters trend: Haters has been a cool word for a few years now. It is trending in the hip-hop culture and everyone is doing it for the haters. I know that it is indeed true that some people may not want you achieve your full potentials or help you towards it; but to be honest I don’t believe people think about you as much as you think they do. It is possible that they may be selfish and try to get ahead and may even employ not-so-genuine methods which may affect you negatively, but that’s mostly it. They are just trying to get ahead. They are not about you; at least not all the time.

Now I’m not saying there are no haters, my submission is that basing your decisions on proving something to haters is counter-productive and self-sabotaging. If they are indeed haters, wouldn’t it be silly to draw motivation from trying to impress them.

Someone I know once secured a contract that was going to make him reasonably richer and his first reaction was “……wait until these people see that I’ve made it”. I wasn’t sure how to react to that. It wasn’t even an after-thought, it was the first thing that came to mind for him.

What’s your opinion about this sort of outlook? 

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