Who will challenge you?

As children we had plenty of people telling us what is right and what is wrong with us. We were asked to work on our behaviour and were reprimanded if we didn’t. What happens to this once we grow up? Now that we have complete autonomy we don’t really need to put up with any feedback. Sooner or later, there is no one who can point out anything about us. In other words, we can not be challenged ….and we like it that way!

Feedback isn't really required. Most of it is unsolicited. Rest can be batted off with good reasoning. If you work sufficiently hard you can come up with many ways to ward off people who suggest areas of improvement— give them a cold look, pretend to be busy or just tell them to take a walk. All ways work just fine. Close friends will not challenge us as they might be scared of losing our friendship, enemies will not be taken seriously because they are ‘bad people’ and listening to the spouse/partner is out of question. So after all, who will challenge us? May be certain friends who have the courage to do so or a therapist. Despite these people who might be trying their best to point out our unhelpful behaviours, ultimately the best person to challenge us is ourselves!

Look around you. There is a lot of information available about yourself. In the form of people you like or dislike, the circumstances you might have attracted into your life or certain feelings that you usually experience.

Everything around you says something about you

Living in a certain way for way too long can create a bubble around a person. A solid one, which doesn’t burst till challenged. For instance, if from the very beginning I have observed that people who make mistakes get reprimanded harshly, I might not know that there is another way to deal with mistakes that people make. In turn, if I ever go wrong I could be hard on myself too. This becomes a way of life for me till someone comes along and wonders why I am the way I am. Out of curiosity, this person might check with me about how I became this way. If the processing happens in the right direction I could figure out that I am a result of my childhood conditioning.

There are infinite ways of dealing with anything that has gone wrong. My reaction is the one I chose for myself. May be because that was the best fit for me based on what I learnt when I was growing up. Learning, at that stage, happens through observation of the environment and by selecting strategies that help survive in it.

For a moment, let us stop and think about one behaviour of ours that isn’t helpful to us. Where is it coming from? How did it get there? If it isn’t helpful, why do we continue to indulge in it?

It’s usually to keep things familiar. As I mentioned in my previous post that familiarity is above all other human instincts. So, to keep things familiar we tend to keep falling back into old patterns, even if they don’t work!

This is where it helps to have a therapist who can not only pick out unhelpful behaviours but also challenge them for you. It often happens that people don’t like to be challenged. Yet, I see benefit in it as it sows a seed of doubt in the person’s subconscious mind. Next time the person indulges in that particular behaviour he will remember what was said about it. He might go ahead any way but the process has started.

People who continuously challenge themselves show marked improvement in physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Their newer versions are better than their older ones. That is the only comparison in life that is truly useful. How we compare to our own versions over a period of time because it wasn’t about others anyway.