Why Are We Prone To Destroying Ourselves?
All of us want to become someone. And that is not an exaggeration — literally everyone has some kind of goal, something they want to achieve, whether it is to become an SEO of a company, to get a promotion, find a better job, start a relationship or finish a bad one, change poor habits, and so on and so forth.
However, reaching that goal is much more difficult than it seems, because the path that leads there isn’t straight. It is a winding road, difficult to cross, with thorny bushes, twining lianas and wild animals waiting to eat you alive after a wrong step. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you can turn the situation to your favor. Pick up things alongside the road that can benefit you. With the right mindset, you can remove those obstacles, and instead of turning back, speed up and get to the finish line. A lot of people prefers to stay in the safe zone, or put in other words, pick up their belongings and run back home, achieving nothing.
This isn’t another cheesy motivational post that will tell you that you can become whoever you want to be. There are plenty of those around. Instead of that, I want to discuss what it is about people that makes them so scared of success. Why are the majority of intelligent and capable individuals choosing to “go down that road”, some even to the point of no return? What is so attractive, even poetic, about self-destruction that makes us all do it?
It is easier to be a victim
“I am smarter than everyone else, but they think I lack skills for that position, while that is clearly not the case.” “The teacher hates me, that why I cannot get an A”, “The professor doesn’t let anyone pass the exam, it is impossible to do it”. “It is not my fault.”
Victimizing yourself is a horrible habit that will get you nowhere in life. I used to do it (still do it sometimes). Now, however, when I start blaming someone else, I catch that thought and throw it out of the window. Making yourself a victim is equal to buying a business class ticket to self-destruction. “I am perfect the way I am, I always know more than others, but the reason I didn’t get anywhere in life is because…”
Some people are going to pitty you. And your best friends can be your biggest enemies in situations such as these. They will support all your claims and you will feel good about yourself. Eventually, after you get confirmation from everyone around that indeed there’s nothing wrong with you, or there’s nothing wrong you’ve done, you will believe it with all your heart.
Inactivity and laziness
I love to relax. Sometimes, I watch a movie or binge-watch a TV series. “I will start writing tomorrow,” is what I often tell myself. Why? Because writing is hard. And watching a video of someone live-streaming games is easy. And there’s that keyword — instant gratification!
You are satisfied because you are doing what you love, but the feeling is shallow. It is not fulfilling. If you take a day off, knowing that you earned it, you will be able to enjoy it, but if you keep rewarding yourself after what’s been a lazy day, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Procrastinating, or simply being lazy will make your life easier. (Perhaps, the best one to talk about procrastination is Tim Urban and you can read his magnificent post on procrastination here).
But only for that moment. And every moment when you feel like doing nothing. Suddenly you will come to a realization, probably after 30, or wherever it hits you that you are stuck at the job you don’t love, that you didn’t achieve your biggest goals, and that you are only existing — you're not living — and that can be a scary thought.
I find it soothing to pour a drink in the evening. Why? Because I love the feeling of relaxation. You cannot get drunk from a quick one, but day after day, and you become stuck in the rut, creating habits which jeopardize your health, blur your mind, affect your sleep, etc. And this is only one example, with some others being smoking, overeating, eating junk food, going to sleep late while you need to get up early, being untidy…
And as those bad habits pile up, you need to do it over and over again, because let’s face it, but we are all hedonistic to some extent. We love to indulge ourselves in these pleasures but eventually, they will take a toll. But the questions here, which hangs in the air is why are we so prone to bad habits and not to good ones?
For example, if you eat junk food, you will not feel as good, and you will be sleepy, inefficient. Now, we can agree that this is not easy to cope with. It is hard. It is also hard to exercise, but the benefits are numerous. You will also feel outstanding after the workout, but you have to go through a tough period of sweating and pain. So both of these have pluses and minuses — you will satisfy your cravings, but you will have to suffer one way or another and yet we always tend to choose what is detrimental to us.
The Dark Side
This leads us to one aspect which Tim Grover calls the dark sides. Tim Grover is a basketball coach who trained Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and many other athletes and helped them unleash their greatness. In his book, titled Relentless, Grover argues that each person has the dark side and that those who are the best use it to excel and keep it to themselves. What you need to do is embrace it and use it to your benefit. The point is that not everyone can rid of poor habits, but maybe that is not even necessary, after all.
Justifying it all
“I lost my job because my boss didn’t want to give me a raise and he was always giving me extra work. I couldn’t stand such arrogant behavior and I was trying to get this all done, but he ended up firing me?!?”
“I lost my job because I started slacking off at work and it started to pile up. I was not satisfied with my salary but I was not eager to learn what I could from all the extra things I had to do. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity I decided not to care”.
The part after ‘because’ is what matters. We can be realistic and try to look for the problems and possible solutions inside us first. Or we can always justify the things that happen to us. Our brain is so powerful. Justifying can be your true enemy and get you side-tracked without even realizing what has happened to you.
Last but not least, we tend to self-destruct because we are afraid. We think success is not meant for us. We restrain ourselves, influenced by everything around us, we choose to fail.
Speaking of fear, it brings me to a perfect quote by Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.
All of these are aides of self-destruction. They are silent killers. If you don’t study yourself and don’t realize what is happening on time, or if you don’t act, it is highly likely that you will be living an unfulfilling life, not achieving your full potential. On the other hand, these things are something we all face and it is up to us to do with them as we please.
Where’s Beauty, Though?
Hm, this is a million-dollar question and it is definitely hard to answer. But I will give it a shot. The beauty lies in simplicity. It is much more simple to choose shallowness over depth. We are choosing the path of least resistance. Although both actions — living a proactive and fulfilling life or purposely destroying oneself — bring a certain amount of pain we choose the latter. Why?
I believe that the answer lies in the sense of belonging. It is undeniable that humans are social species and they need to interact with others, which makes them feel good. When we were cavemen we had to be cautious because expelling someone from the tribe was a life or death question. Fast-forwarding to present, that is not the case.
However, holding a different view, one that is uncommon for your environment, your friends, family, and society may label you as an outcast, a recluse or an outlier. So it is better to be messed up and trying to patch the pieces of your life together. Cause, let’s face it, the people around you are doing the same thing.
But there’s more. The beauty lies in culture. Poets talk about it, writers, playwrights, movie-makers, painters, singers, composers. Basically everyone who’s scratched the surface of what we call art touched upon the topic of “star-crossed lovers”, love, death, and misfortune. But no-one took the liberty to say that these characters brought that to themselves. Could that be the case? Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights, or to be more up-to-date, Rose and Jack from Titanic.
All cliche love stories (brilliant nonetheless), I know, but there is a smudge of self-destruction in each of these characters. They were flawed from the start. And we love these characters. What’s more important, we relate to them. We can see ourselves being at the brink of a successful relationship, and sabotaging ourselves, with something like “I am not looking for anything serious now” because we are afraid of success. And the same goes for any other field, your career, hobbies, family relations, you name it. The entire culture as remarkable as it is is flawed and we see it every day, so, no wonder we behave the way we do.
The beauty can certainly be found in self-destruction, but genuine happiness hides in morality and success and that is a path we all must take, and every day, we need to start over and correct our course as we get side-tracked.