Throughout my mission to change the world, I’ve focused primarily on how we treat each other. Just recently it occurred to me that I should point out a few things about how we treat ourselves.
Rule of thumb: it all comes down to kindness. Not niceness. Kindness. A guide for kindness which I like is, “don’t do anything that would tarnish someone’s honor.” Don’t speak in a way that makes someone look bad. If they look dishonorable in your eyes, keep it to yourself. Don’t call them a moron. They might indeed be a moron, but you don’t need to say so. It’s not your place to put them down.
The same applies to ourselves. I can’t think of a situation where the way we treat others should be different from the way we treat ourselves. If you make a mistake, is it really necessary to insult yourself and say you’re a moron? Not any more necessary than to someone else. Give everyone the benefit of a second chance.
We punish ourselves (myself included) because we want to avoid the punishment of others. We want to avoid looking unabashed or unrepentant. We want to seem like we recognized our mistake and want to get the punishment out of the way so we can start making amends. This is risky business. It’s a gamble against how others would really punish us. When we imagine the punishment of others, it’s often inflated and magnified. The Bogey Man under the bed is always a hulking monster because we have no idea how big it is.
There are two kinds of pain: dull and sharp. Dull pain means fatigue and damage. It’s a signal to the brain to slow down. When you’re lifting weights, your muscles will burn. Sharp pain means STOP! It means your hand is on the stove. However, we’ve been “hacked” to send that signal for social rejection; even our imagination of it. We use that pain to whip ourselves into a degrading servitude. That sharp pain means stop doing “something”. That something could be loving, dreaming, crying, exploring, or trying.
When we punish ourselves prematurely, we internalize the pain and extrapolate the lesson. What we learn from failure is what to try different the next time. What we learn from self punishment is to stop trying. It’s OK to fail and make mistakes. Put a little love in yourself (and the world will be a better place).