20 Paradoxes That Are True

20 Paradoxes That Are True

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Some of the most important truths in life are contradictory on the surface. They seem like impossibilities, yet experience proves them to be obvious over and over again. It isn’t until you look a bit deeper, beneath the surface contradictions, that the real grains of wisdom emerge.

Below are 20 paradoxes I’ve come across which are, paradoxically, still true:

1. The more you hate a trait in someone else, the more likely you are avoiding it in yourself. Carl Jung believed that characteristics in others that bother us are reflections of the parts of ourselves which we deny. Freud referred to it as “projection.” Most people call it “being an asshole.” For example, the woman who is insecure about her weight will call everyone else fat. The man who’s insecure about his money will criticize others for theirs.

2. People who can’t trust, can’t be trusted. People who are chronically insecure in their relationships are more likely to sabotage them. Call it the Good Will Hunting syndrome, but one way people protect themselves from getting hurt is by hurting others first.

3. The more you try to impress people, the less impressed they’ll be. Nobody likes a try-hard.

4. The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed. Insert inspirational famous person quote here. You’ve probably heard many of them. Edison tried over 10,000 prototypes before getting the lightbulb right. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school team. Success comes from improvement and improvement comes from failure. There’s no shortcut around it.

5. The more something scares you, the more you should probably do it. With the exception of genuinely life-threatening or physically harmful activities, our fight-or-flight response kicks in when we’re confronted with past traumas or actualizing the self we dream of being. For instance: speaking to an attractive woman, cold-calling someone to get a new job, public speaking, starting a business, saying something controversial, being painfully honest with somebody, etc., etc. These are all things that make you scared, and they make you scared because they are something which should be done.

6. The more afraid you are of death, the less you’ll be able to enjoy life. Or as one of my favorite quotes puts it, “Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

7. The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. The old Socrates adage. Every time you gain a greater understanding, it creates even more questions than it solves.

My man Socrates dropping some knowledge bombs about the uncertainty of knowledge. He knew what was up.

My man Socrates dropping some knowledge bombs about the uncertainty of knowledge. He knew what was up.

8. The less you care about others, the less you care about yourself. I know this may go against every perception you’ve ever had of a self-serving asshole. But people treat people the way they treat themselves. It may not be apparent on the outside, but people who are cruel to the people around them are cruel to themselves.

9. The more connected we get, the more isolated we feel. Despite being in more constant communication than ever, research finds an increase in narcissism, loneliness and depression in the developed world over the past few decades.

10. The more you’re afraid to fail, the more likely you are to fail. See: self-fulfilling prophecy.

11. The harder you push for something, the harder it will feel to achieve. When we expect something to be difficult, we often unconsciously make it more difficult. For instance, for years, I assumed starting a conversation with a stranger was something that was highly abnormal and therefore “difficult.” As a result, I spent a lot of time strategizing and studying ways to relate to people I didn’t know. Little did I realize all I had to do was say, “Hi” and then ask a simple question, and that would get me 90% of the way there. But because it felt hard, I proceeded to make it hard for myself.

12. The more available something is, the less you will want it. Humans have a strong scarcity bias. We unconsciously assume things that are scarce are valuable and things that are abundant are not. This is not the case.

13. The best way to meet someone else is to not need to be with someone else. The defining theme of my book on dating was non-neediness and how that plays out in our relationships. The fact remains that the best way to find a sexual relationship — committed or otherwise — is by not needing a sexual relationship to be happy and investing more in yourself.

14. The more honest you are about your faults, the more people will think you’re perfect. The amazing thing about vulnerability is the more comfortable you are about not being that great, the more people will think you are.

15. The more you try to keep someone close, the further away you’ll push them. This is the argument against jealousy in relationships: once actions or feelings become obligations they lose all meaning. If your girlfriend feels obligated to spend her weekends with you, then the time you spend together has become meaningless.

16. The more you try to argue with someone, the less likely you are to convince them of your perspective. The reason for this is that most arguments are emotional in nature. They come from someone’s values or self-perceptions being violated. Logic is only used to validate those pre-existing beliefs and values. It’s rarely about the objective or logical truth as much as it is repairing people’s worldviews. For any real debate to truly exist, both parties must be making an honest concession to put their egos aside and only deal with the data. This is rare, as anyone who’s spent any time on an internet forum could tell you.

17. The more choices you have, the less satisfied you are with each one. The old “paradox of choice.” Research shows that when we’re presented with MORE options, we become LESS satisfied with any particular one we go with. The theory is that when we have so many options, we have greater opportunity costs to selecting each particular one, therefore we’re less happy with our decision.

Pick one. C'mon, PICK ONE!!!

Pick one. C’mon, PICK ONE!!!

18. The more convinced someone is that they’re right, the less they probably know. There’s a direct correlation between how open a person is to differing perspectives and how much that person actually knows about any given subject. Or as the philosopher Bertrand Russell once said: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

19. The only certainty is that nothing is ever certain. This realization almost made my head explode when I was 17.

20. The only constant is change. One of those little banal statements that feels really profound but doesn’t actually mean anything. But it’s still true!

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41 Comments

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  • Reply

    dtzortzis42

    2 months ago

    “There is always a reason something happens, or does not happen”.
    This has helped me some times.

    • Reply

      tayloramurphy1

      2 months ago

      @dtzortzis42 I disagree with this statement quite vehemently. I think the underlying thought process for you here (and please, correct if I’m wrong) is that there is a positive bias to the world and that no matter if good or bad things happen all things will eventually end up positive and in their “rightful” place. It’s a highly illogical (and probably religious) line of thinking when someone argues that you get brain cancer “for a reason” with the implication that such a categorically horrible disease has a higher purpose. Brain cancer by itself isn’t bad or good. It just is. We ascribe to it our own feelings and thoughts and I presume everyone would agree that it’s a bad thing. But to argue that it happens for any reason other than random genetic predispositions is preposterous and almost malevolent. 
       
      And yes, I get I’m arguing on the internet. I’m not attacking you dtzortzis42, just stating my opinions which, like buttholes, everybody has and they all stink. Would love to hear your thoughts on

      • Reply

        dtzortzis42

        2 months ago

        @tayloramurphy1 Absolutely, I think you’re right. Truth is, I have not applied that thinking to cases like cancer that you mentioned. I was thinking other cases, simpler.
         
        For example, if a relationship with a girlfriend can’t work, maybe there’s a reason to that, maybe your boundaries don’t fit or something. I’m not saying we should just say “it’s ok, life’s like that” and quit. I’m suggesting we should probably distance ourselves at times and think, “wait a minute. maybe this isn’t supposed to happen” :)
        Right?

        • Reply

          tayloramurphy1

          2 months ago

          @dtzortzis42  @tayloramurphy1 Then you’re talking about reason in the evidentiary-based sense which is probably the best way to do it. It’s a very subtle rhetorical difference between “everything happens for a reason” versus “everything has a cause behind it”. A relationship with a girlfriend might not have worked out for any number of reasons (neediness, dishonesty, immaturity) but the failure of the relationship wasn’t part of some grand plan. That thinking absolves you from responsibility for what has happened and shirking responsibility for everything is a quick route to being one unhappy sonuvabitch. 
           
          It sounds like we’re on the same line of thinking. Thanks for your reply!

        • Reply

          dtzortzis42

          2 months ago

          @tayloramurphy1 Thank you too for the challenge!

          • Spencer

            20 weeks ago

            Wow, never have I seen such an awesome progression of an exchange of ideas on the INTERNET. Keep on keeping on, you both rock

      • Reply

        fractalsonfire

        2 months ago

        @tayloramurphy1  @dtzortzis42  “And yes, I get I’m arguing on the internet. I’m not attacking you dtzortzis42, just stating my opinions which, like buttholes, everybody has and they all stink.”
         
        I hate these statements, they’re redundant. I think as long as you’re civil about a disagreement, there should be no need for this statement. If people are going to get offended and butthurt over a reasonable disagreement, it says a lot more about them than you.
         
        I feel its like people are trying to have their cake and eat it too. I strongly disagree with you! But please don’t take offense and lash out at me! Any disagreement is bound to ‘offend’ someone sometime. No need to walk on eggshells for them.

        • Reply

          tayloramurphy1

          2 months ago

          @fractalsonfire  @dtzortzis42 Meh. If this were an in-person conversation I wouldn’t qualify my statements with the fact that I wasn’t attacking. But internet interactions can leave out the subtleties of spoken language and are often misconstrued as an attack. No harm in reassuring the other party that I’m not an A-hole. Would it be nice if we could all assume a starting point of civil instead of troll? Sure. But, in my experience, that’s not usually the case. Though maybe on a site like this it could be.

          • Flo

            8 weeks ago

            I’ll give you a tip mate: go have a nap, that’ll sort you out lol.

            That is what I say whenever I encounter difficult cunts online.

      • Reply

        Isima

        1 month ago

        Check out Bruce Lipton The power of Belief
        There is a highly informative lecture on youtube

      • Reply

        Helene Hansen

        20 weeks ago

        Agree! It’s the like notion that God only challenges strong people, people that can handle the situation.Now I “know” that he didn’t invent Cancer, but look at how many people don’t make it through to the other side. My mother passed away in January, of cancer, and I found it very provoking that about her hospice room doorway it had a phrase from the bible that said something along those lines. And as I watched her day by day dwindling away, I thought what BS!

      • Reply

        Avichal Tatu

        15 weeks ago

        @tayloramurphy1 On a much higher level brain cancer can be for a reason like population control or maybe if the person did not die, there could be much worse thing waiting for him than even death.

  • Reply

    keith12345

    2 months ago

    Ironically, that picture of Socrates actually depicts him committing suicide by poison. Great post by the way!

  • Reply

    JoelConley

    2 months ago

    The better quote you were looking for in #18 was”The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
    -Bertrand Russell

    • Reply

      postmasculine

      2 months ago

      @JoelConley Ah yes, I’m actually going to edit that in. Thanks.

  • Reply

    oatmeal33

    2 months ago

    #17 is one big reason why people like shopping at Trader Joe’s.

  • Reply

    SocialDoug

    2 months ago

    I like the article, but we need to stop using the Michael Jordan getting cut from the high school team as a metaphor for success after failure. MJ didn’t make his varsity team when he was 15 years old. He still played JV and during the next summer he grew six inches.

  • Reply

    BesskiLivius

    2 months ago

    Most of the times the bad situations in life lead to good outcomes later on. I strongly believe that “Everything happens for the better!” At least in my life, this principle has proved itself countless times. 
    Thanks for the post, truly a great compilation of paradoxes that are true. Keep the creativity going! Cheers!

  • Reply

    Joao Antunes

    2 months ago

    21 – the more you try to convince yourself you’re okay, the less okay you are.
    22 – The biggest problem is to think there is a problem.:)

    • Reply

      Original Jammer

      2 months ago

      @Joao Antunes Ping. You’re always OK. Convincing doesn’t work. If you aren’t OK with something you’ll just be remaining in a self-imposed prison.Some people thrive off problems because they love to solve them (I am one). But THEN, a whole set of new problems are created (hello #7). So if we believe something (anything) is no problem, will we focus on solving it or just enjoy life problem free?

  • Reply

    steadystanley

    2 months ago

    Fact no 19. if nothing is certain, then fact no 19 shouldn’t be certain which then means there are things that are certain after all… hmmmm I thought about this before too

    • Reply

      HederaSegnis

      1 month ago

      A true paradox and a fact are not the same things. No. 19 is not a fact, it is a paradox that has been observed to be semantically true. For it to be a fact, the diction and semantics would have to greatly expand the scope of meaning beyond the limited language in the paradox statement in English into a specific factual statement that maintains the same definitions and meaning in any language with no semantic weaknesses.

  • Reply

    pointlessgamingbores

    2 months ago

    m

  • Reply

    pointlessgamingbores

    2 months ago

    I feel like there are a lot of gems in this article that hold true, but it seems like your overgeneralizing Mark.
    Here’s my take on it.
     
    1. The more you hate a trait in someone else, the more likely you are avoiding it in yourself.
    Seems legit.
     
    2. People who can’t trust, can’t be trusted.
    Not sure about this one, but I highly doubt that his holds true every time.
    Especially if the untrusting person is only a little insecure about the relation.
     
    3. The more you try to impress people, the less impressed they’ll be.
    Agreed, but once you realize this you could apply it in the way you impress people.
    You could be somewhat nonchalant. I’m sure there is an art to this, I mean if your
    consistently making a bad impression. Then you could try doing it better.
     
    4. The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed.
    Depends on your mindset. Not if your not learning from the failures
    (you should learn from your victories as well btw) and if you can’t
    figure out the reason for, and then do something about it well then…
    seems hard to succeed.
     
    5. The more something scares you, the more you should probably do it.
    Sounds good.
     
    6. The more afraid you are of death, the less you’ll be able to enjoy life.
    Only if you spend your time thinking about death and/ or if it seems likely to happen within the near future.
    Dying scares the shit out of me but I don’t occupy my mind with it and I feel like life is good.
     
    7. The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
    Nope, I know that I don’t know much simply by seeing how we are evolving as a society
    and since the amount of people is rising and the rate of progress is too it seems to me
    that the more time goes on the less you know proportional to all current knowledge.
     
    8. The less you care about others, the less you care about yourself.
    No idea if it’s applies for everyone, but it seems to hold true for my life.
    Can someone tell me how to care more?
     
    9. The more connected we get, the more isolated we feel.
    Not me, but I guess you could say I’m not that connected.
    Since I’m not actively on any social networking site.
    I think you feel isolated when your connections are too superficial
    and if you mean getting connected to more people, that could superficialize
    ( I know that’s not a word, should be) our relationships.
     
    10. The more you’re afraid to fail, the more likely you are to fail.
    No, fear doesn’t cause that, but the more you think failure is inevitable, then the more likely you are to fail,
    but depending in which way that causes you to act, it could have no influence at all.
     
    Phew, I’m stopping here, but I’ll do the other ten or expand on these if anyone is interested.
    ps: Excuse any spelling mistakes. English is my third language. I’d be happy to stand corrected.

    • Reply

      pointlessgamingbores

      2 months ago

      Hell, rereading it, it seems like a whole article itself. Sorry if it’s too long.

      • Reply

        HederaSegnis

        1 month ago

        Lol I just read this comment and realized i was doing the same thing to you. I’m sorry hehe. I see that you disagree with a lot of points, then immediately offer a paraphrase of the original point haha. He says, “One man’s red hue is another man’s different yet similar red hue”. and you say, “No, its not red to me, but more like red-orange or orange-red, and i know this because Crayola red is not the same as the red you say is red. It could be because my crayola red crayon is old and dulled, but my red crayola crayon is just like a red crayon you would go out and buy and crayola is my concept of color fact, not some color theory.”

        And that only seems that way to me because I should be asleep right now. haha

    • Reply

      postmasculine

      2 months ago

      @pointlessgamingbores Yes, these are generalizations… But nothing really wrong with that.

    • Reply

      HederaSegnis

      1 month ago

      #7…Your nope should be a yep after looking at your reasoning. You don’t know you know because you know because you simply see. You have actually already independently realized and accepted that you know so little because you’ve “observed” (observation being a learned skill lightyears beyond simply seeing) what you witness in our western society’s progression, and perhaps even our species’ evolution socially (a more proper application of the specifically biological term within your intended social example). Learn – observe – know – analyze – understand.

      What is “all current knowledge”? Like current personal detailed knowledge of individual daily lives of each living human, or a collection and index of arts, sciences, disciplines, academia, skills, etc?

      The amount of people, or population, cannot rise, as that is a verb indicating a slope or a grade here, and you are referring to an amount (measured in people) which would increase instead of rise.

      Rates of progress are subject to specific measures. The rate of social progress is relative to where it happens and what is happening. Technological progress measurement varies by field. The ars technica would agree with you, but various liberal arts disciplines would not.

      And finally, you are implying that as one experiences the linear course of temporal existence…that the less you will know (the more knowledge you forget?). And that there is a non-arbitrary ratio of proportion to an unquantified value that represents “all current knowledge”…

      That part i don’t really have any problems with except that it is some kind of unrelated tangent.

  • Reply

    Almog

    2 months ago

    If someone is going abnormally out of their way to try and make you believe something about them (for example that they’re great with women), that’s just their way of convincing themselves of that thing by seeing other people are buying into their story.

  • Reply

    Original Jammer

    2 months ago

    Heheh, I pay out my girlfriend for being a collector of what I refer to as “crap”. I explained to her that this happened to me as a child, my parents would throw away lots of my stuff which at the time had lots of meaning to me (it doesn’t anymore). This led to me becoming very detached and reluctant to collect or acquire lots of small, material possessions or keep everything such as receipts, old notes, etc.

  • Reply

    Original Jammer

    2 months ago

    Some other realisations:
    - #9 I haven’t really encountered, aside from the worlds of Facebook and the like.- #11 I used to think that by working REALLY REALLY hard I’d gain the greatest reward when really all I really gained was frustration and self-righteousness.- #14 is huge. I often talk about small, minor fears and insecurities early on, particularly if I feel I can trust the person. Now I can do this, these insecurities seem very, very small when they used to seem quite large. 
    - #17 is the classic “high quality problem” scenario and the good ol’ opportunity cost.- #19 is wrong (prove me wrong here if you will). Once you have the gift of life, it must end eventually.

  • Reply

    m. scott

    1 month ago

    This isn’t really that relevant to the article but I recently saw an interview with Michael Jordan’s High School Coach and he debunked the whole Jordan got cut from the team myth; er, it’s technically true but the spirit of what actually happened was very different. Basically, Jordan’s team was a very good high school team and as a freshman it was very clear he was going to be a monster super-star. Never in the history of this team had they ever put a freshman on Varsity but because Jordan was so incredibly good, for the first time, they did. He was only 14, the rest of the team was all 17/18, and he hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet. Ultimately, they decided to leave him at JV for fear that his weight/height difference would get him injured. His superstar status wasn’t ever actually in doubt. So, yes, technically he was on Varsity then back on JV, but it isn’t quite the failure before success myth that people try to draw out of it. Doesn’t reduce the validity of this post in the least, but it was just too interesting to me to not pass on…

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      1 month ago

      Yeah, I’ve actually heard that as well. Thing about Jordan though is that he has like a maniacal ability to perceive everything as a slight against him. So in his mind, he was completely fucked over.

  • Reply

    Mary

    1 month ago

    I think #8 could refer to perfectionists because they tend to be people who are hard on others because they’re even harder on themselves.

  • Reply

    HederaSegnis

    1 month ago

    #20 Universal constants don’t change. Gravity will always attract bodies with mass, but the electromagnetic force will always prevent those bodies’ atoms from truly touching by repelling them with a force that is a billion billion billion billion times stronger than any black hole…in extremely short ranges.

    Change is only a constant where entropy occurs. “my penny isn’t the same penny i had one second before i began stating this – its older and therefore not the same.” Remove time as a variable, and the penny is the penny is the penny.

    Oh….there’s death. That’s a constant.

  • Reply

    zencowboy

    21 weeks ago

    Neat!

  • Reply

    roger leilich

    12 weeks ago

    There are NO PARADOXES in actuality. Paradoxes occur ONLY within the ‘world of words’ (i.e. descriptions of actuality).

  • Reply

    Isaac

    6 weeks ago

    “The only certainty is that nothing is ever certain”
    Actually, even this is not certain. Imagine a scenario where the all-powerful, all-knowing God decides that he doesn’t want to know everything for awhile. He wants some mystery or a challenge or whatever. And then he becomes you. Voila. I would say that a more accurate statement is, “in the current state of reality, it is not possible to know anything with absolute certainty, other than the fact that I am aware of my own existance” The last part camre from Renee DesCartes, “Cogito, ergo sum”

  • Reply

    Nissa

    2 days ago

    Hey Mark –
    Genius as usual. Too bad you are in Thailand [or some equally far place] and I’m in Southern California.
    We could have a party made up of the legions of your groupies…call us Markites! (I would say Mansonites…but…you know).

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