So usually the saying you teach kids is something along the lines of, “treat others as you’d like to be treated” or “do to others as you would have them do to you”. Well I realized that what I really needed to focus on was treating myself as I wished to treat others. Basically the same idea, hopefully the same results, but very different mindsets.
While it’s fine to hold yourself to higher standards than for those around you, I feel like there’s a fine line between that and just being outright spiteful to yourself. Sadly, I feel like I crossed that line years ago. I don’t know what it is. Whenever someone else makes a mistake, whether it be small or of catastrophic proportions, I’m usually more concerned with making sure the other person isn’t filled with guilt for what they’ve done. I’d tell them that it’s nothing to beat themselves up over and I do what I can to help them try to get past it. I’m usually pretty quick to move past mistakes that others make. Besides making sure the mistake doesn’t happen again, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason for a person to feel guilty about a mistake they made or if they performed below others’ expectations.
When it came to myself, however, it was an entirely different story. I realized that whenever I did something that wasn’t as I expected I mentally beat myself up. I can’t even give examples of the kind of verbal lashings I gave myself because, honestly, it was never words. I noticed that what I did instead was bring up the emotions and feelings from either times that I’ve been lectured or been in a position where I felt powerless or inadequate. All the emotional turmoils from years of living, fair game to come back as soon as I made even the smallest mistake or misstep. I would feel like I was the most useless person in the world for, let’s say, spilling a drink or scoring a couple points below expectations on an assignment. And it did nothing for me. Because I felt like crap, I was in no position to fix whatever mistake I made or to improve. I was always so hung up on what went wrong that I couldn’t focus on doing better the next time. I suppose I react to others’ mistakes the way that I do because ultimately I know how destructive this mindset can be and how pointless it all is.
A couple years ago I realized how negative of an impact that mentality had on me and so I sought to fix it. I don’t believe there was much that I actually did to try and change. I just made an effort to be more conscious of the act and tried to shut it down as soon as it started. So that’s how I made slow progress. At the end of that year I got to a point where I was able to stop the thoughts almost as soon as they came up and instead of beating myself up for making a mistake I simply sought to fix it. I started treating myself as I treated others and simply told myself to move on, to not dwell on the mistake, and to instead seek to fix it; “no harm, no foul” was the new mantra.
It wasn’t until this past year that I thought more about it and deemed that even that wasn’t enough. Sure I was able to shut down the thoughts as soon as they came up, but the fact is they still formed; I was quieting the symptoms while ignoring the actual problem. In the end, whatever I did wrong would still stick out in my memory like a sore thumb. I actually didn’t have this realization until I saw the same mindset in a friend. I remember one thing she repeatedly reminded me throughout the year was to not beat myself up just because things didn’t go as planned. At the time I thought that was crazy, “why is she telling me this, of all people, I stopped doing that a year ago”? Well the more time I spent with her the more I understood why. It’s not something she was very vocal about, but I could definitely see the all-too-familiar look of defeat and self-inflicted spite. I realized she cautioned me so much about it because she knew first-hand just how toxic that kind of mentality was and what it could turn into.
So that’s where I am at. I wish I could end this with the usual, “and so I wanted to fix it and thus I did”, but now it’s a matter of changing mindsets and that tends to be much more difficult as there’s no basis or instructions to help me do so. Sure you can see others be happy and joke about their mistakes and physically you can do the same, but the mentality will still remain. I know it’s toxic and I’ve already shut down the symptoms, but now I think I need to focus on the root cause. Maybe from there I’ll be able to change my outlook completely.