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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Maybe you are the problem.

DTH Photo Illustration. If you are the type of person that has a problem with everyone, then maybe you are the problem.

My middle and high school years were riddled with unstable friendships, constant drama, toxicity and an overall inability to keep a solid relationship for more than a few years. I would come home and wonder: Why am I losing friends? Why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me? Why is everyone turning against me? Why are people being cold toward me when I did nothing wrong?

I periodically went to therapy and had seen about three different therapists by the end of high school. I would spend all of my sessions pouring out all of my feelings, trying to process why the greatest friendship that I had crumbled away and how it happened to me. And I would leave every session wondering why I felt like I hadn’t made any progress.

It wasn’t until I had realized that therapy was no longer serving me and decided to stop going that I had an epiphany, the one thing that none of my therapists ever would have told me:

Maybe I’m the problem.

It seems like such a simple realization. One that Taylor Swift slyly sings about in her recent single, “Anti-Hero.” But it took a long time for me to realize that the common denominator in all of the problems of my social life was actually me.

Hearing all of this, I know it’s easy to think, “that’s not me, though,” or “my situation is different”  —  but I thought the exact same thing. 

I used to function under the idea that everything happened to me and that my life was just a series of unfortunate events. I had an eternal victim complex.

I’m not big on cheesy motivational-speaker life-coach quotes, but one thing that has always stuck with me is author John C. Maxwell’s principle, “The Bob Principle.” We all know a person who seems to have a problem with everyone, yet they are so sure that they are never the root of that problem.

The way that Maxwell puts it, when Bob has a problem with everyone, Bob is usually the problem.

Think about it objectively: do you really think that every single person around you is the issue and it’s not just your perspective?

If you find yourself frequently feeling like people are calling things out about your behavior that you don't see, take the route of thinking that it could be about you. Take whatever feedback people give to you, and instead of feeling insulted, use it as a way to grow. 

The minute that I finally came to the realization that I was a problem, after years of constantly placing myself on a pedestal thinking that only I could be the hero, I started to value self-awareness, thoughtfulness, emotional maturity and introspection more than I ever had before.

Once you take a moment to recognize that you very well could be the problem, it becomes significantly easier to build back bridges that you once burned, and form healthier relationships with people around you. 

So stop staring directly at the sun and take a look in the mirror. Think about how your actions and words affect other people, and stop acting out of self-interest. It’s less exhausting to be a true hero instead of an anti-hero.


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Kennedy Cox

Kennedy Cox is the 2023-24 photo editor at The Daily Tar Heel She has previously served as co-editor of the photo desk. Kennedy is a senior pursuing a political science degree.