A Re-booting Fundamental: Being A Friend to Yourself

Ok, kids, buckle up for this one. Are you your own best friend? I hope so. If not, I’m sorry, and we’re going to work on this together because this is a problem that has plagued me for most of my life and I want to get past it. I don’t know where you came from, but I grew up in a family and a city that is all about bloviating. Do you know what bloviating means? It means being a blowhard of sorts, always blustering around and usually involves some sort of grandiosity, to boot. You know, a braggart. Unfortunately we’re subjected to this all the time, whether it’s politicians who get caught in a lie, athletic superstars who’ve cheated their way to victory, or people who embellish their resumes claiming they achieved x, y, and z when “none of the above” is actually the truth.

No, I became sensitized to this practice very early on. In my day, I’ve seen a lot of folks make grandiose statements, puff and preen, swaggering about town, laying claim to all sorts of things that are either utterly false or grossly distorted. (Think Bernie Madoff, Bill Belicheck, Rosie Ruiz of Boston Marathon fame, Lance Armstrong, Brian Williams, Samantha Erdley.) It’s not everyone does this and its not that they’re all equally unredeemable, but this behavior creates impressions that are far removed from the truth and can have very serious consequences. What aggravates an already bad situation is when others confront, challenge, and humiliate with glee and viciousness those caught out in their lies. It’s not enough to shine a light on the wrongdoing, sometimes a sort of mob “pile on” mentality that takes hold. (I like to see the bad guys lose, too, but the sort of feral intensity that can follow by outraged mobs shocks me.)

As a result of seeing so many examples of this both in the media and (more impactfully) in my own circles, long ago I made the decision to do the reverse: not only would I downplay the achievements and talents I have, but I would energetically ferret out any possible weakness or angle of attack that might get sent my way. I did this as a form of self-protection, but what happened was it morphed into me becoming the first, sharpest, and most unfair critic of myself. Fear of criticism and judgment has driven many of my choices and curbed my risk taking. Quelling this unkind internal voice isn’t easy, but is probably the very most important thing I can do to re-boot my life. Does any of this ring a bell? How harsh a judge are you of yourself?

I’m thinking about all of this because a friend gently confronted me about my proclivity for running myself and my efforts down—and I’m grateful she did. She’s not the first person to do so, but maybe it’s the first time I’m willing to listen because I’m so tired of living my life this way. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot about my life that is very, very good and there is A LOT I feel confident about! It just could be a whole lot better and I am the one getting in my own way. I’m afraid to take the steps I want to take, so I invent all sorts of reasons why it wouldn’t work, why I’m really not as talented as I think I am, why I’d be subjecting myself to certain humiliation if I was so blind and foolhardy as to try. The odds against my success are astronomical and have a long trail of broken bodies along the way to serve as cautionary reminders of what can happen. (Yeah, I’m really good at this counter argument business.) My friend wrote to me, “You are holding yourself back with imagined concerns that only you see. It seems as though you don’t want to be happy. I don’t know how to get you to see reality in its proper form…Instead of an unrealistic goal and inflated sense of your chances, you have super talent to use but don’t see that you can get it engaged.”

Trust me, these were HARD words to read.

Now, having fileted myself open for you to see, I want you to think about a couple of things: If I were your invisible friend, what would you say to me to encourage me? Do you agree that it’s critical that we be our own best cheering section? How good a friend are you to yourself? What’s holding you back?

Because, the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter how loud and large our cheering sections are, if we don’t trust it, we won’t do it. The only person who can take steps in our lives is us. We’re the ones to lose or gain the weight. We’re the ones who open those books and learn what’s in them. We’re the ones who live inside our heads all day everyday. We are our own captive audience and we’re the only ones who can do anything about it.

Unlearning years and years of past negative self talk isn’t easy, but it is doable. I mean, we’ve all seen friends who continuously run themselves down and it’s painful to witness; we start to avoid them because it’s uncomfortable and unjust. There’s nothing we can do to change their mind. But, we can change our own minds. We can bring balance back into the “assessment of self” equation. And, don’t forget, it’s always nicer to live with a happy, optimistic person than it is Debbie or Douggie Downer. Where do you fall on this scale? How good a friend are you to yourself?

What occurs to me as a silly strategy is to pretend to hold a private election where you vote yourself Prom King and President of yourself. If not you, who? I write all the time about taking risks and rebounds and re-booting. It’s what this blog is about! So, I’m talking to myself every bit as much as I’m talking to you. If we don’t vote ourselves, in our heads and our hearts, as the best thing since sliced bread, is anyone else going to want to pony up? If we won’t pick up our own stick and run with it, why should anyone else? How much can we love others if we can’t love ourselves? So, get on out there and be your own best friend—what happens in your life depends on your decision.

Ok, well, writing this has exhausted me, so its time for my union negotiated break. That’s all I got…

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2 Responses to “A Re-booting Fundamental: Being A Friend to Yourself”

  1. Julie Says:

    You are brave and wonderful, Rett! Thanks for a very thought provoking piece!

  2. Jim Patterson Says:

    Chrisanna.

    Your blog is a good example of our inner critic—that part of us that says we are never good enough or smart enough etc. It plays its music and we dance to it by telling ourselves we are no good. We need to turn it off and a good place to start is by giving ourselves suitable praise of the many gifts and skills we have developed. This takes time and regular effort.

    There can be a more insidious part of us lurking about that is somewhat related to our inner critic. This is a very immature part that is more like the spoiled brat that says, “if I can’t have it my way, then I do not want it at all.” It sabotages us by declining all options other than the perfect one. It is like the little kid that says I want chocolate ice cream and I want it now and if he does not get it, then he comes back and says “Now I do not want it anymore and goes off and sulks and feels sorry for himself that he has been wronged.” This is born out of our immature unrealistic expectations that wants everything NOW and in the exact way we want it. It fails to take into account that we must first sow the seeds of our desire and carefully cultivate them before we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. It takes time and patience and the right nutrients. Sometimes we are lacking in various nutrients like patience, tolerance and flexibility (AKA sulfur, nitrogen and potash) and thus our ideas do not grow well. We need to look for the right ingredients to grow what we plant.

    JIm

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