Blaming Ourselves for Poor Design

Do you want to change the world? It starts with stopping. You have to stop complaining. You have to stop looking for answers outside of yourself. You have to listen and pay attention to what you want and what you’re capable of. Too often we feel simultaneously helpless to enact change and act too hard on ourselves. “Most people are lazy. Most people are duped. Most people don’t understand their actions or don’t consider them. They don’t see what effect their having.”

If you have said words like these before, it’s worth turning them back on yourself. Are you lazy? Are you duped? Do you understand your actions and how they affect others? It’s easy to offhandedly say “yes” to these questions and not really take the time to consider them so let me ask you to do this. Read one sentence at a time. Give yourself a minute. A literal full minute to consider your answer. Turn off your phone. Close that tab in your browser that’s pinging you with notifications. Be in the moment. For one minute at a time.

We take naturally the everyday stresses of modern life because we choose to see bigger systems out of our control as the result of other’s selfishness.

The truth is we’re all lazy at times. Many of us are also very hard on ourselves. We expect a lot by generating a mile long to do list that even Superman with super strength, speed, and agility couldn’t accomplish. A friend asked me recently, “What if I don’t have a calling?” This person explained that if they had the time to themselves, they wouldn’t paint, they wouldn’t write, they would simply play video games. I could feel the weight the person brought down in the room on us. “So what?” I asked. “Maybe you should play video games. You’ve worked hard. You deserve a break.”

The realities of modern life is that we’re all overachievers. Society makes us feel all kinds of personal anxiety like we are letting ourselves down. Sometimes though, it’s just not paying attention to our bodies, our minds, or whatever placeholder term you have for soul/heart etc.

I was walking down a hill recently in California and I saw a sign spraypainted on the ground “Stay on Sidewalk.” It was seemingly innocuous. The street had a problem where pedestrians would step out into the roadway and interfere with car traffic. Obviously this could be dangerous if one or the other isn’t paying attention. Obviously if you’re in a vehicle which could go several hundred miles per hour, it’s frustrating when a pedestrian moving 5 miles an hour is blocking your way to get home and finally rest and see your family after a long day.

This street was highly utilized by pedestrians. Everyone will tell you no one walks in LA and if you do walk in areas, you’ll see this is just a fixed mindset speaking. There were several dozens of people wandering around that area on the Saturday I happened to be there. Though LA is very car-centric. I’ve seen pedestrians bow to the will of the car left and right and so it should be rather elementary that one would obey the command “STAY ON SIDEWALK.” But I was annoyed. Annoyed at the lack of empathy. Annoyed by the fact that pedestrians and motorists don’t understand the real problem which is this: The sidewalk was too damn narrow.

For the amount of foot traffic in that neighborhood, where a bike and walking path wind around a gorgeous panorama view of the surrounding communities, that sidewalk was designed poorly. Pedestrians walking either direction have to stop to let others by. Sometimes runners are going at a fast pace and they get stuck behind slower, middle-aged people going on an evening walk. All of this coexistence happens quite naturally, for sure, but that little bit of anxiety in the sidewalk: “STAY. ON. SIDEWALK!!” It’s just taken in course.

And so we take naturally the everyday stresses of modern life. Not because we always have to, but because we choose to see bigger systems out of our control as results of other’s selfishness. We start with blame and worst of all we blame ourselves. “That was stupid of me stepping out into the road. I should have known better. I’m at fault.”

We tolerate these moments of anxiety which bring pressure to us. Then we hold others accountable for their “selfish” actions. We complain to our friends on Social Media about how stupid people must be for believing one thing or the next without seeing the bigger picture: that the system is poorly designed.