Being Yourself is Practical

by | Jul 1, 2011

Dr. Hurd: I have a question for you. I really admire how outspoken and honest you are about your political, philosophical, and psychological views, such as in the Daily Dose of Reason. I have enjoyed and learned from your writings for years, and have immense respect for your courage and honesty in expressing your views […]

Dr. Hurd: I have a question for you. I really admire how outspoken and honest you are about your political, philosophical, and psychological views, such as in the Daily Dose of Reason. I have enjoyed and learned from your writings for years, and have immense respect for your courage and honesty in expressing your views so explicitly, eloquently, and without compromising on your principles.

I would like to start expressing my views more explicitly. However, I am concerned about how this will impact my business. I live in a very liberal area (in the SF Bay area), and I know what I write will turn off and anger a lot of people. Personally, I don’t care if they disagree with me or hate me for what I write. What I’m concerned about is not having enough clients to sustain my business.

I wonder if you would be willing to share with me how expressing your views so openly has impacted your career/business as a psychologist. I think you’ve mentioned in your writing that you also live in a very liberal area. How does this impact your business? Are there benefits business-wise to being open about your views?

Dr. Hurd replies: The implication of the question you’re asking is: Should I live with integrity, and risk my practical income; or should I have a good income, but compromise on my integrity?

If you think about it, you cannot have one without the other. You have viewpoints which some (or perhaps many) don’t share. So what? The biggest problem in our society is not that most people have the wrong ideas, but that most people don’t even think ideas are important.

The bad side to this is that it gives disproportionate influence to those with wrong, stupid and irrational ideas. (For examples, just turn on the daily news in the era of Obama or your daily dose of Oprah.) The good side, if there is one, is that most people have few coherently articulated ideas in the first place, and when they encounter someone intelligent who has — well, a different point-of-view, but still a highly intellectual one — they might feel some respect or, at a minimum express something like, “That’s interesting.”

People come to me for therapy or life coaching via my online presence all the time, and many of them are not committed to my particular points of view. Nevertheless, what I usually hear is: “Your website is interesting and impressive. You sound like someone who thinks clearly and could help me with a personal problem.”

The only people who hate me are people who would hate me anyway, once they got to know me as a therapist or life coach. These are the people who are not merely liberal Democrats, but really subscribe to core viewpoints that are the opposite of my own: The primacy of emotions; the victim mentality; and the alleged importance of giving up one’s self for the sake of others. People who subscribe to these views don’t like me, and they tend to run for their lives after a conversation or two with me whether they have read my viewpoints at DrHurd.com or not.

The most important point here is that there is no conflict between integrity and practicality. If ideas are important to you, then you cannot divorce the power of ideas from your own life or the people with whom you deal, especially in an ideas profession such as my own. If you pretend to have no ideas, or ideas completely different from your own, then you’re no different from any other kind of liar. And lying isn’t practical. Lying eventually catches up with you, and makes you less effective while you’re engaging in it.

People tend to be afraid of being their own true selves because they’re worried about being rejected. What’s so bad about being rejected? If someone rejects you because of who you are, then they’re not your kind of person, anyway. Sooner or later they would have stopped spending money with you, and having any kind of association with you at all. But when you’re true to yourself, you attract the right people — that is to say, people who share your basic values, interests, and viewpoints. If you are passionate about ideas, then you’ll attract people who are likewise passionate about ideas, particularly the same ideas you hold.

The more your ideas are in the minority, the more others who share those ideas and attitudes are in the same boat. That creates a greater chance of their finding you, and spending money or time with you, than if there were millions like you. They value you precisely because there are so few of you.

I have never been afraid or worried about this kind of thing, although I understand that most people are. My lack of fear in this area has led to a considerable degree of success at doing what I do, making money at what I love and attaining good feedback. It has also led to a considerable degree of serenity. When I first read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, I recognized Howard Roark (and Rand’s other heroes) as the obvious way to be. It was not a radical concept to me at all, although I recognized it is to most people. “Of course Howard Roark is like that.

How else would anyone be?”

The most hostile and hateful feedback I have received have been people whose viewpoints and beliefs have turned them into more dreadful caricatures of human beings than I ever could conceive in my most critical of moments. Good riddance to them. They never wanted me, and I would surely never want them, either.

My own little corner of southeastern Delaware is very liberal, not as big but no less “progressive” than the S.F. Bay Area. All I can say is that being not-a-liberal in a liberal area is kind of like being a gay among rednecks, or an atheist among fundamentalist Christians. To not believe in liberalism as the undisputed Truth is absolutely unthinkable.

Liberals are very mean and intolerant people about their politics — not necessarily about other things, but definitely about their politics. The only difference between a liberal and a redneck/racist type is that at least the redneck doesn’t think he’s tolerant and enlightened, nor does he claim to be. The funny thing about this liberal area of Delaware is that I am often approached by people who tell me that they are not liberal either, but please don’t tell anybody. Even I have been surprised by how often this happens. It’s a source of endless amusement to me, and a little bit of insight as well. These closeted non-liberals are afraid of liberals finding out they’re not liberal, because they know how intolerant, nasty and degrading liberals can be about their politics.

With respect to your own business, you have to ask yourself: Do I want MY kind of customers? Or do I want just any customer at all? If it’s the second, then you’ll have to be all things to all people, changing personalities, views and attitudes based on the person you’re with at the moment. I can only wish you good luck with that. To me, it makes more sense — not only from an integrity point-of-view, but from an economic one as well — to excel at being who you truly are. That leads to the most happiness and the most effectiveness, over the long run. I cannot imagine being one penny more successful, or one bit more serene, by compromising my own true self one step of the way these last twenty years.

Remember, we drive over bridges with structural integrity. If there’s any question about the integrity of the bridge, or the ship, or the airplane, we’d never get on board. It’s no different with people. In business particularly, people want to associate with someone they can respect. You don’t always agree with someone you respect, but you’ll always trust them.  If you live up to that in your own eyes, you’ll have plenty of customers who see you the same way.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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