You’re Probably Not The Exception To The Rule (And That’s Totally Okay)

It seems depressing, but I swear this is actually a great mindset to reduce anxiety and stop overthinking. If something usually happens or someone usually treats people a certain way ... well, that will probably happen with you, too. What a relief! You can turn off your brain and stop be stressed about it!

When I first graduated from college, I interviewed at a Terribly Fancy, Incredibly Impressive Company for an internship position. I’d been warned by no less than three people that the person I’d be interning for was Devil-Wears-Prada awful.

During our interview, she questioned my time spent teaching English in Brazil, saying

“Why would you want to go somewhere so poor and dirty?”

She rolled her eyes at least three times.

She scolded her receptionist for bringing her a Diet Pepsi instead of a Diet Coke.

And when she offered me the internship, I joyfully accepted it.

Why? Because I was convinced that unlike everyone else who worked with her, I’d be the exception to the rule.

I’d be so insanely competent there would be no cause for eye-rolling.

I’d be so immeasurably talented she wouldn’t ask me to fetch her sodas.

I’d be so cool and calm and professional she’d instinctively sense my boundaries and treat me with respect.

Spoiler alert! None of this happened. On my first day she said “Are you trying to not answer the phone?”

On several occasions, I worked 30+ hours. Like, straight. Like, through the night.

She would frequently get so angry she’d refuse to look at me or talk to me and my instructions would have to be passed on through a third party.

Eventually – after months of Sunday night anxiety stomach aches – I left said job.

And because I am was a somewhat naive individual, I spent several more years believing that I would be an exception to pretty much every rule that’s ever existed.

Be ye not so stupid as me.

I’m probably not the exception to the rule. Neither are you & that's totally okay. Click To Tweet

This discovery is both depressing and totally freeing.

It allows you to relax, turn off that annoying part of your brain devoted to over-analyzing, and probably enjoy your life a lot more.

If that friend is usually on time to pick people up from the airport, they’ll probably be waiting for you at the gate.

If your boss generally rewards creative ideas and competence, there’s a good chance you’ll get that bonus.

If your co-worker pulls their weight most of the time, you might actually enjoy that group project.

If your date speaks highly of his mom, he’s probably a passably decent human being.

If your buddy owes money to a bunch of people, he’s probably not going to pay you back. Even if you’ve known him since third grade.

If that cutie cheated on their other partners, they’ll probably cheat on you, too. No matter how loving and supportive and sexy you are.

If your building manager never fixes anything on time for anybody else, they might just ignore your request about the leaking window.

Of course, there are ways to make it slightly more likely that you’re the one shining anomaly. (Be extra kind to your building manager all year round! Make your buddy sign a loan agreement! Probably just don’t date cheaters!)

But you know what’s way easier than that? Making peace with the law of averages and making your choices accordingly.

When have you been the exception to the rule? When have you disappointingly NOT been the exception?

P.S. My problems aren’t your responsibility (and, ahem, probably vice versa)

photo by stefan stafancik // cc

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  1. Amber-Rose Thomas

    I'm currently the exception to the rule in a Devil-Wears-Prada boss situation. We've had five different employees start and quit in the last 7 months despite living in an area where jobs are few because he's such a nightmare. I'm the exception because whilst he's still the same to me, I know when to just nod and smile and when to shout back and demand the respect that all employees should get. For some reason being rude back hasn't gotten me fired yet, it actually got me a pay rise. Weird.

    Disappointingly not the exception? Cheating boyfriends. Ahuh, I've been here.

  2. Amanda

    I guess I'm such a pessimist that I've never thought I would be the exception to that many rules — and I am generally surprise on the off-chance that I happened to be. I definitely agree about the advice about cheating boyfriends though — I don't understand how anyone in their right mind would be able to trust someone who is known to be a cheater, or who had started their relationship with you whilst cheating! Some people can be so gullible and too hopeful!

  3. Bethany

    I had a teacher that would always tell us "To be truly exceptional, you must realize you are never the exception". I didn't get it at the time, but now I SO do!

  4. Anonymous

    Brilliant! You are wise beyond your years.

  5. Katie Lee

    This is so awesome Sarah! I think everyone needs to read and soak up this idea. It could change so many complicated situations because in the end they're not that complicated.

    The only times when I am the exception to the rule is in my reactions. I have a tendency to "kill em with kindness" but really I deflate them with kindness. I am the exception when I am able to take a hairy situation and diffuse it with patience and kindness. Usually the other person is used to someone blowing up or storming away. I'm pretty proud of this ability. 😉

  6. Kaitlin Marie

    Definitely wasted 6 months pseudo-dating/friends w benefits-ing this dude who had never had a relationship that lasted longer than 8 months. I was absolutely CONVINCED that I could make him pick me, if I was just sexy enough, kind enough, and giving enough.

    And guess what happened? He invited me to a bbq and introduced everyone to his "new girlfriend" who was nearly 10 years younger than him (and around 5 years younger than me). He paraded said girlfriend in front of me, made out with her, and took her back to his room in the middle of the party.

    Possibly the most mortifying event I've ever attended. And yet, I was STILL somehow convinced I could handle being his friend, and even attempted to rekindle the romance with this ass after he dumped his 18 year old girlfriend for "being too clingy."

    Eventually I cut ties with him entirely, and then got the satisfaction of watching Karma punch him in the nuts. But seriously, I was NOT the exception to the rule.

    Uggggggh. The lessons you learn the hard way, right?

  7. rachelannpierce

    I was the exception to the rule when I got an on campus job in college. It was a producing job for the college tv station and they supposedly only hired juniors and seniors, but I got the job as a sophomore. I got it because I had made friends with the station managers and they knew me when I applied.

    Not the exception: applying for internships in LA. That stuff is hard yo.

  8. Annie

    Love this. Fantastic post, and the writing is great!

  9. Corin

    My non-exemption realization: you always have to put in the work. Sure, you may pick up the initial skill quicker than other people, but if you want to do anything with it, you have to put in the work. This goes for writing, exercising, relationships … pretty much everything.

  10. Akirah

    This is great. Thank you. This might sound cheesy, but I love that final scene in "He's Just Not That Into You" when Jason whatshisface says to Gigi, "You're MY exception."

    I like the idea of living life as if I'm not the exception, but being pleasantly surprised and blessed that one time when I AM the exception. That's just me, though.

    • Akirah

      I had to come back and write something else. My husband and I are watching Catfish right now. This show is filled with people who think they are the exception. When you sign up to be on Catfish, you can't possibly think things are going to go well, unless you think you are the exception. Which you aren't. Because MTV wants to air drama and lies. Not happy, honest online couples. But everyone wants to watch this show because we want to see if someone ever ends up being the exception. Even though we know they won't be. CA– USE NO ONE IS THE EXCEPTION. (Full circle. Thank you.)

  11. ThinkAboutIt25

    I just found your blog last week and have since read most of your blog posts and shared it with several of my friends. Love it!

  12. Kaisa

    Sometimes I am just not sure what the rule is… confusing. But all in all – indeed, I agree. No-one's the exception, almost no-one. xx

  13. Alisha - the.wineglass.manifesto

    This is so very true! I used to be mega-besties with a girl who never paid people back, cheated on all her boyfriends, and was super unreliable. But she was a raging babe and funny and people loved being around her, so she mostly got away with it. She used to say to me 'it's so nice that you don't judge me' (after cheating on her boyfriends) and I'd say 'well I'm not here to judge my friends' and then I'd take pride in the fact that I was such a loyal, non-judgemental friend.

    But then I realised that actually she SHOULDN'T get away with these things and I SHOULDN'T be friends with someone who does those things. So now we are not friends, because I expect more from my friends than that.

    Your words have made me realise that SHE is the exception to everyone's rule, because she is still very popular and has loads of friends, even ones with high moral standards – but I'm glad I don't lower my expectations just for popularity's sake.

  14. Pearl

    I so identified with your internship story! A couple of years ago I got this job offer from a lady that had a really bad reputation in the industry for treating her employees badly. Some of my friends who had worked for her told me to stay away and do you think I listened? Nope. Of course I was convinced that she would be different with me and that I'd do such a good job she'd leave me alone. She turned out to be such an evil b# that I left the job after a month. Live and learn…

    That being said I also agree with Akirah. Sometimes people surprise you by making you their exception and it's a lovely feeling -)

  15. pennpalrunner

    I thought I would be the exception to the rule as a band student. In high school, my band director talked about how people always went off to college and dropped their instruments because they were "too busy." He told us to at least practice a few times a week on our own, just to keep the skill we'd worked so hard for. In my head I thought I would never let 7 years of practice go to waste. And… I quit after one semester. I was too busy and completely lacked the motivation to continue.

  16. Anonymous

    Thank you Sara Von for posting this article. I found it really conforting and inspiring. I've just been offered a permanent position in my company after working months as a contract staff. My boss can be very difficult, to the point of me being so scared that I eat lunch in five minutes to get my ass back to work. I think it's my constant obsession with wanting to be the exception and the star that's made me overtly cautious with how I work,And this has been a thing ever since I was in school, possibly the constant fear of being scolded has instilled this determination in me that I Must be the exception to every general rule. This only made me too much of a perfectionist and I constantly end up tiring myself out as it is exhausting when you are constantly trying to please and be the Exception to the rule. I've learned that none of this is healthy, it hurts the self esteem a little when you screw up (when you're desperately trying to please) and it won't kill to get some telling off to improve your own work performance. So I've decided to take a chill pill and just do the best of my abilities and enjoy my learning and working experience. 🙂


  17. Chantelle

    This is so true!!! It's another reason why it's so good to take people's advice that have been or experienced the same situation (job/dating partner/shareholder, etc). When people offer help, be nice and take it into consideration.

  18. Alicia Johnston

    Everything here is so, so true. I just lived this by getting so giddy over an apartment that I forgot about the basic rule of rentals/contracts: get it in writing. Our move-in was marred by the landlord reneging on promises about maintenance as well as refusing to fix various things broken by the previous tenants. Live and learn.


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