I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying “You can’t argue with the results,” which is basically another way of saying “the end justifies the means.” I started pondering it after reading this article about the rampant physical, emotional, and verbal abuse in USA gymnastics (in addition to the sexual abuse by Larry Nassar) that was allowed as the cost of Olympic greatness. Yes, medals are a good “end,” and 41 medals are pretty great “results.” But no end justifies abuse, and you can definitely argue with the results of women suffering from eating disorders, poor mental health, and damaged bodies from their training. That seems pretty obvious, although apparently not to USA gymnastics.
But I’ve also been realizing that I’ve still held this “can’t argue with the results” attitude to justify practices that, while nothing like the horrors the gymnasts faced, were still detrimental to my mental, emotional, and overall health. These definitely include staying up too late, drinking too much caffeine, and being too intense in general in the name of doing well in school, as well as not eating enough and stressing myself out in the name of treating my endometriosis, as I've already mentioned. Even more problematically, though, they include the practices of codependency.
One of the things that is so sinister about codependency is that the “ends,” like wanting other people to be happy or taken care of, are good things. But the part that codependents forget is that they are good only if they are done with healthy motivations, not out of compulsion or to control people, and if the well-being of the giver is also duly considered. Unaware codependent people often think that their needs (or wants) don’t matter, and they are a seemingly low cost to pay for the “results” of “peace,” everyone getting along, things not being awkward or uncomfortable, etc. In fact, in my case, that need for other people’s happiness becomes my need, so that while I think I’m serving others, I’m really serving my own discomfort with others’ negative feelings by trying to control them into being happy ones. One example: for my birthday one year, when asked what I wanted to do, I was more concerned if everyone else in my family would be happy with the activity I had planned than if I was, even though it was my birthday, because to me, other people maybe not being entirely enthused felt worse than doing something that I didn’t want to do. Sad, but true. And as I’ve already said, the cost of codependency is great, leading to everything from mental health problems and addictions to the feeling of never having lived your own life or doing what you wanted to do.
I’m glad I recognize now that, newsflash, my needs matter, but sometimes I feel silly that I didn’t before. I guess I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, though, because our culture doesn’t seem to value emotional and mental health that much either, or at least not as much as a packed college application, resume, or money. I was recently struck by this tweet from Anthony Bradley in response to the fact that more and more college students are requiring care for mental health needs:
It’s just another reminder to me to make sure I’m arguing with the seemingly-good results of my life if they come at great cost, even if that cost is deemed insignificant by many. I hope you’re not afraid to argue with them, too.