If there’s one truth we can all agree on it is that there is only one person we each spend every day for the rest of our lives with: our very own selves.
Our first commitment should therefore be to ourselves. And I am not promoting self-centredness, egotism or even narcissism.
Any commitment should be a healthy one, this includes the one we must make to ourselves. I say ‘must’ with good reason because so many of us have a tendency to not just neglect ourselves but to also give ourselves an overly hard time.
We tend to be gentler and more forgiving with those around us than we are with our own selves. Why is that?
Of course, I have higher expectations in myself than I have in anyone else. But I also know that I can expect certain things from myself, which I can’t expect from anyone else. It wouldn’t be fair to them. That is true for many of us.
But how do we treat ourselves when we fail those expectations? Is it truly okay for me to beat myself up for failing in an endeavour of whatever kind?
No, it isn’t. It’s not okay to beat myself up over anything. I can be disappointed in myself, sure. I can be disgruntled. I can chastise myself. That’s all okay. But then I move on. I smack myself and let it go.
I have a bad day and waste it with doing nothing? Happens. Is it going to be any better if I also feel bad about taking some time out when I clearly need it? No.
We achieve nothing by being mad at ourselves. Except feeling worse than before.
So, how do we make a commitment to ourselves then?
Many things that apply to a relationship between two people and how they wish to commit to each other also apply to the relationship we have with our own selves.
Indeed, a strong case can be made that the better our relationship to ourselves, the better our relationships will be with our friends, family and partners in life.
First, we need to understand who we truly are. That means we need to commit to getting to know ourselves as fully as possible. Understand where we come from, what our damages are, how we cope with just about anything, why we have certain coping mechanisms.
That is the biggest task we have on this journey. You may think yourself emotionally stable and mentally healthy, but the truth is that we are all damaged goods. Some have it much worse than others, mind you, which means some need outside help whilst others get along with much introspection and reading various books or listening to Alain de Botton on The School of Life.
I do consider myself emotionally stable and mentally healthy and I am fully aware that I am damaged goods. I’ve been through a world of pain, felt worthless, doubted myself before doubting anyone else, asked myself what could possibly be wrong with me or why I am not good enough.
Which brings us to the second aspect of committing to ourselves: acceptance.
Once you truly understand yourself, your flaws, strengths, weaknesses, triggers and everything beyond, you need to accept each aspect of your being. This is who you are in this moment, for better or worse. These are your hopes, your fears, your past mistakes, your goals.
You must accept your brokenness and that it doesn’t define you. You must accept that you can behave erratically, irrationally, idiotically and like the most altruistic person on the planet. Every weird thought, stray desire, off-putting sexual fantasy is part of who you are, and all of it is okay.
It is important to accept that our thoughts are not the only thing that matter. You can have taboo sexual fantasies and never ever consider living them because those stray thoughts are just our brain going through its motions. Confronted with doing something about those weird thoughts or ideas you may have about murdering your neighbour for once again turning up the volume of their TV, you will likely find that you are not in fact a sociopath and don’t want to go to jail for murdering someone over something that can be handeled in a more mature way. And if you simply send a petty little note, you are still a far better person than the one who decides to take a knife upstairs and get to it.
Having weird thoughts or elaborate murder fantasies does not seem to overrule our core values of not actually murdering people.
So, yes, you may wonder what’s wrong with you for having these thoughts but ask any psychiatrist or psychologist and they will tell you that everyone has these same thoughts.
Accept that they are also a part of you and move on.
The third commitment we must make to ourselves is this: growth.
When you’ve understood who you are at this point in time and have accepted that this is you, you can begin to truly grow. Understanding and acceptance are already part of that journey. How you continue is entirely up you.
There is no direction we must take, there is also no final destination. We all remain a work in progress for as long as we live.
And the goal is not to attain perfection. That is impossible. It’s also really not a desirable goal to have. Flaws are what make most things interesting and unique, including us.
The things you may wish to work on are likely the things that annoy you about yourself. But remember to be gentle and that it takes a while to break old habits and develop new ones.
If your social media consumption annoys you, begin by reducing it in small steps. Make an effort to not check your phone every five minutes but perhaps only once every twenty minutes.
Whichever goal you have, it will require mindfulness and it is certainly an effort.
Develop strategies to reach your goal. Our brains are inherently lazy, going for the least amount of effort. Given how much they have to do every minute of every day, it’s understandable that additional effort is not desired.
But if we make achieving our goals fun, the reward mechanisms in our brains will kick in and make it easier.
Also, I once heard about this interesting approach of not just envisioning our goal and taking steps to get there but instead assuming we have already achieved that goal and start immediately behaving as we would if that were the case.
For instance, if you want to stop smoking, don’t think of the steps you want to take to become a non-smoker. Instead think of yourself as a non-smoker who really doesn’t like the taste of cigarettes and therefore won’t touch them.
That doesn’t mean you’ll stop smoking instantly, but you may actually find that even the thought of another smoke may be quite disgusting, and you won’t enjoy having a smoke at all.
Of course, it doesn’t quite work if your goal is to become rich because you hate being broke. You can’t simply think of yourself as rich (in terms of money), but perhaps it helps to stop thinking of yourself as broke. Something worth trying.
As for me, I’ve gone through the understanding and accepting of myself. I am working on growing, every single day. And I don’t beat myself up for my shortcomings. I also accept them and vow to do better.
The most important commitment I am currently making, the promise to myself I wish to uphold, is to write more. It’s one of my biggest struggles right now, which is also why you’re getting these roughly 1,300 words from me.
Thanks for checking in 🙂