How does this quote make you feel?
Maybe you feel a bit guilty that you aren’t kinder to others?
Or maybe you feel that you are too hard on yourself at times?
This quote contains two distinct parts that I want to investigate further.
Most of us understand why we should be kind to others. It’s simply the right thing to do. It’s also something we should all do more of. To be kinder, we need to become less self-absorbed.
Self-absorbedness – To see things from our own perspective.
This perspective is skewed. To become less self-absorbed, we need to see things from another point of view. We need to ponder what could be happening in the other person’s life to cause them to behave in a certain way.
If we can be less self-absorbed, it will become clear that the world does not revolve around us.
Everyone in the world is going through some sort of life struggle. No one is immune to emotional pain. All the crap that we went through in our lives, others are going through the same thing, except many times their crap is worse than ours.
To be more open to kindness, we must pause and remind ourselves that our human experience is not unique - the pain, the struggle, the hurt, everyone goes through it.
Don’t make the same mistake I did as a young man. I used to believe that kindness from others came first before I had to reciprocate. I was a fool. We must lead with kindness and in return we may get kindness back. Or we may not, but that is outside our control.
I have two flaws that show up often. I would venture to guess that these flaws are common amongst us. I am either overly-critical or overly-easy on myself. Both have its pitfalls. It is hard to find the perfect middle ground between the two, where we can properly reflect and use the insight we gain to improve ourselves.
The Overly-Critical Version of Us
This is the repeat movie that plays in our head starring our own mistakes, our if I had a chance to redo this I would… scenarios, and our incorrect future projections. The overly-critical version of us destroys our own self-worth.
While replaying our mistakes, we reprimand ourselves. I am a fool. I am a loser, I am an imposter. We do this so often, we begin to believe what we say.
While imagining how things could be different, we replay our foolish errors knowing that the past cannot be changed, no matter how much we wish it would. I wish I would have said this instead. I wish I would have stood up for myself. If only I had more money, more power, more of… We can’t let go. We are stuck in a fantasy world. We are in a delusional state.
Once we are done blaming ourselves, we turn our attention to the outside world. We unfairly project our thoughts onto other people. He will never date me. She will always despise me. They would never hire me. We inadvertently close ourselves off from the world, and turn ourselves into victims. It’s me versus you. It’s my life is unfair. It’s my life is crappy.
The overly-critical version of ourselves causes us to feel unjust harm and anxiety.
The Overly Easy Version of Us
This is the version of us that doesn’t learn from our mistakes. We let go too easily and waste learning opportunities to improve ourselves. We throw our hands up into the air and say Oh Well. We move from mistake to mistake, never fine tuning ourselves to become better.
It’s the it wasn’t my fault so I won’t worry about it attitude. It’s the I am what I am and I can’t change mindset. It’s the I am not willing to face my own struggles, so I won’t bother mentality.
The overly-easy version of ourselves gets stuck and stays stuck.
The Perfect Mix
The overly-critical person lives in fear and anxiety. They are afraid to make mistakes because they know that emotional pain is coming. The overly-easy person delays their present-day suffering for future regret. Without challenging themselves to get better, they will realize far too late that they never gave themselves a chance to reach their full potential.
What we need to strive for is the perfect mixture between being too critical and being too apathetic.
For those who are too critical, give yourself a 24-hour time limit, where you have permission to think as much as you want about your behavior and things you would like to do differently in the future. It is especially important to capture your thoughts on paper as this gives you the ability to:
- Break the cycle of repeated thoughts
- Identify irrational patterns of thinking
- Extract the key learnings to avoid future mistakes.
For those who are too apathetic, get into the routine of doing nightly reflections that force you to face your own mistakes. Ask yourself:
- What did I do wrong today?
- How could I have been better?
- What did I not do, that I should have done?
- Which of my core values did I uphold? And which did I not?
Knowing what we know now, let’s close this blog off by updating the quote we started with to: