On Compromise

If you constantly compromise things in your life, how will you reach your true potential?

Yesterday was a particularly long, draining day at work. Get a bunch of people who are super smart, super driven, and super opinionated in a room, and you’re bound to have a “lively” discussion of ideas. Reaching a mutual agreement can be challenging, to say the least. The final decision lies with the order of command, which may or not align with the majority consensus. Most times, the decision is made palatable to the dissenters by logic and persuasion. But, there are the occasions when a decision seems arbitrary, and accepting the result can be difficult.

Compromise is a fact of life. No man (or woman) is an island, and we learn to coexist in what is hopefully a mutually beneficial way. There are times where there is a clear win-win pathway, but often, there are times when it’s a win-lose proposition. So, who wins, and who loses? How we decide that is a reflection of what we value in the situation, both in ourselves, and the people who are involved. Compromise can help us grow by learning to give and to take. But too much on either end of that spectrum can lead to an unhealthy balance, and skew our character.

Today was another trying day at work. This day, it was not about reaching a mutual compromise to drive a project forward, the compromise was something far less tangible and personal. Due to the nature of my work (I am an engineer), I tend to interact with mostly men. For me, in the best situation, interactions are based on mutual respect for the skills and talents of each individual, regardless of gender. However, we all know that many times the situation falls short. So, I tend to find myself in the old boy’s club, and often need to chose between being myself or playing along with the boys, which can run the gamut of not contributing (since I’m a female and can’t possibly have any technical insights), acting like “one of the boys,” to being the bright shiny penny (which can happen in a room full of engineers). It can become very tiring in an already demanding technical role to assume this additional mask, and one may think, why not be oneself?

When we compromise for that toxic relationship, the soul sucking job, the material goods we want, or to mollify others, we chip away at what we are. We add additional roadblocks to our path to finding or being our true selves. We may stall our growth, and in the worst cases, permanently prevent ourselves from ever reaching our true potential. Sometimes, the compromise is about a short term loss for a long term gain, and we may convince ourselves it is worth it. But over time, these small cuts can add up, and we may look in the mirror and see a person we don’t recognize staring back. Today was one of those days when I didn’t like the person I saw looking back at me.

2 thoughts on “On Compromise

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