Emotions are what give us life, allow us to experience. Most, even ones like grief, have their uses. But some do not.
My least favorite is arrogance. I suppose one could argue that arrogance is an attitude, not an emotion. But bear with me. Arrogance may give the bearer pleasure, feeling better than others. But it doesn’t make friends, open dialogue, or facilitate learning. It just makes other people feel bad. Or dislike you.
Arrogance causes some to look down on others and – even worse – to convey that judgment clearly. Most people learn over time that there are extremely capable people everywhere. Once, I worked in the most prestigious institution in the state – the only one with international name recognition. A few of my colleagues were inordinately proud of working there; they felt it gave them license to be rude and dismissive of others. Yet, in my work in a statewide organization, I found some of the best – and most likeable – people at one of the community colleges. Major universities certainly do not have a monopoly on talent. But they often harbor staff with an excess of self-regard.
Harder to avoid than arrogance is regret. Saying something thoughtless, missing an opportunity to praise, or forgetting an important commitment – these things happen. Feeling regretful does not undo them. But dwelling on them – beyond the little internal voice saying, “Don’t do that again!” – is time and energy wasted. We may look back and think we could have done better. But the healthy approach is to realize that we were doing the best we could at the time, and that has to be good enough. And, then move on.
Good people are self-critical and hold themselves to very high standards. Only in retrospect do they realize that their contributions outweighed their failures – or they would never have continued to advance. With some time and perspective, realization dawns that one was doing the best one could, and mostly it was good enough.