People Like Us Don’t Do Things Like That
When I was a delivery driver I would visit all kinds of different places. I would visit huge old castles and fancy ocean-front properties, and also some of the most downtrodden council blocks and park home estates you could imagine.
The company I delivered for – the online supermarket Ocado – was considered relatively upmarket, although the job I did was no different to the job of any other delivery driver. Except, on occasion, when I would be delivering to some of the poorer areas of town I would overhear the comments of people walking past.
You see, when my van pulled up outside someone’s house, quite often curtains would twitch and the neighbours would notice. And while I was in the back of the van preparing the shopping, I would hear passers-by make comments like:
“They think they’re so special getting their shopping delivered, don’t they?”
“Ooh la-di-dah, check out lord and lady muck getting their shopping from Ocado – they think they’re so much better than the rest of us.”
The problem is, that kind of negative attitude keeps people trapped, and we’re all guilty of it. And as long as we think negatively of people who have the things in life that we want – no matter how small – we will never, ever have those things ourselves.
When we see someone with a nice house or a nice car or a nice life, or even someone with good looks, who is tall, slim, or has an affluent background, we quite often resent them for it. We say things like “it’s ok for them, they’re already wealthy,” or “some people just have it all laid out for them don’t they,” or “well, it’s alright if you’ve got the looks”. But these thoughts and comments say much more about us than they say about them.
What these thoughts and comments say is that we want those things that they have, but we don’t have them and that hurts us. They say that we are dissatisfied with our current situation, but rather than do anything about it we will instead projecting that feeling outwards in the form of resentment. We look for some sort of nobility in our sense of lack and dissatisfaction, in our inability to have those things, that life, that level of success, and we club together in little tribes to resent those people who have those things. Even better when things go wrong for them, and we can all join hands and revel in their fall from grace.
What we are saying is “people like us don’t do things like that.”
People like us don’t get our groceries delivered
People like us don’t have nice things
People like us don’t behave confidently
People like us don’t achieve success
People like us don’t realise our potential
And ultimately, all this boils down to, is that people like us will remain stuck, here, wallowing in our dissatisfaction, hoping and praying that some stroke of luck will come along and pull us out of it. A lottery win. The death of a wealthy unknown relatively who leaves us everything in their will. That old vase on the windowsill turning out to be a priceless antique.
We pray that our situation will somehow change around us, because we feel we deserve a break. That we’ve earned it. But heaven forbid we actually take any action ourselves to improve our situation. People like us don’t make things happen.
When I was out on the roads, delivering to houses of all shapes and sizes, I met a lot of people who were resigned to their situation, their potential unrealized, because they had become convinced that it was their lot in life. People like them don’t have dreams because that’s for other people. So people like them stay stuck where they are. It’s not fair but that’s life, so what else do we have but to resent anyone better off than we are?
And while it’s unlikely that any of us will start the next Amazon, or Uber, or eBay, or PayPal or Virgin, we can take steps to improve our situation. We can do things other than falling back on that excuse that people like us don’t do things like that. Because, you know what, we do.
People like us do apply for the jobs we feel just a little bit unqualified for. People like us do swallow our pride and take that unglamorous role for a little bit of extra money. People like us do save up a little bit of cash every week for two years so that we can have a nicer holiday. People like us do go for a run around the block to get a bit healthier. People like us do use our time to improve our situation. People like us do believe that we can realise our dreams. People like us do believe that life can be better, and we have the power to make it so.
But it won’t happen when we see success as a thing to resent, a thing quite alien to us, a thing that only happens to other people. Because we’ll keep trying to drag those people down, and we won’t ever try ourselves.
You don’t have to live in a run-down council block to want to improve yourself or your situation, but here’s something you can do. Next time someone you know has something good happen to them, achieves something wonderful, has a stroke of good luck, or does something you’d love to do, try being happy for them. Try congratulating them for enjoying the fruits of their hard work. Try feeling what they’re feeling and celebrating their success as if it were your own.
The next time you see someone in a fancy car, try feeling good for them that they’ve taken the action needed to have that nice bit of luxury. And the next time you see someone running around the block, trying to lose weight, throw them some support and maybe consider joining them. Let’s celebrate those people who take action to improve their situation, and celebrate those who achieve it, and lets encourage everyone around us to reach for their dreams.
Because people like us can do things like that. People like us DO do things like that. Like a snake sheds its skin, all we have to do is shed that resentful identity that we hide behind, that holds us back, and take one step in the right direction.