Two days ago, I had a nervous breakdown. Alright, I’m exaggerating here — it takes a lot to freak me out. Still, I was overwhelmed and lost my nerve for a couple of minutes. I’m not proud of it, but these things happen, even to the best of us.
I’ve got very ambitious plans for the next years of my life and was putting together a list of all the things that still needed to happen for me to get there. And for a couple of minutes, I lost it. Forget it, you’re not good enough. You’ll never make it, look at all these other people who have way more experience than you. It’s too much work, you won’t find the time.
You know these kinds of thoughts. We all have them from time to time. We beat ourselves up although we should celebrate. If I look at it from an outside perspective, there’s no reason to worry — quite the contrary. I’m making good progress, always know what to do next and I’m taking consistent action to get where I want to be.
Let’s rewind back two weeks. I’ve got a friend who’s building an online business right now but is struggling at the moment. Me being a good friend, we sat down and talked for a while. I was able to help him with structuring his thinking, motivate him to keep going despite setbacks and show him how to be more consistent. I did what anyone would do for a good friend — I helped him out and lifted him up.
I’m not the only one whose behavior is paradoxical. Treating ourselves worse than our best friends is something we all do from time to time.
In his book 12 Rules for Life — An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson illustrates this phenomenon with the example of medication. If you have someone you care for, like a pet or small child, you’ll make damn sure they don’t miss a single dose. But when it comes to themselves, people sometimes even forget to take anti-rejection medication after getting an organ transplant.
During the whole 16 years that our dog lived with our family, my mum made sure that he never missed a single worming tablet. Yet, it took her more than a week to properly care for her own broken toe.
The case is pretty clear — we often treat ourselves like trash while we’re pampering those around us.
But why do we do that? And, even more important — how do we stop?
You Can’t See Yourself the Way You Should
We are biased towards ourselves for two reasons.
First, we know everything about ourselves. We know our every thought, every fault, every quirk, everything we ever did. We know about all the bullshit we tell ourselves and others. We know about every time we lied to someone. We know about every time we cut corners and made it only by pure luck. Even though we know all of that, we still can’t paint ourselves in an accurate way. Our conscience weighs tons — that’s why we’re so much harder on ourselves.
Second, we can’t see ourselves in an objective way, per definition. We always look at us and our world through self-colored glasses, which results in a distorted perception. Not only that, but we think we’re so different from everybody else — we’re individuals, after all. We have unique struggles, unique dreams, unique personalities, and stories. No offense, but as I am writing this, there are almost 8 billion people in the world. Do you really think you are that special? Of course you do. I do as well. Everybody does.
In other words: Our ego gets in the way. Our ego is the collection of all our experiences that shape our perception of the world and ourselves.
And it bites us in the ass no matter if we’re overly positive or negative, no matter if we see ourselves as The Incredible Hulk or Bruce Banner.
Let’s start with the obvious: If your perception of yourself is distorted towards the negative — aka you think you’re not worth shit — you’ll beat yourself up. You’ll make fun of yourself and call yourself a wacko for believing in your dreams. You’ll give yourself the shit talk and pull yourself down. Oh, you want to get that promotion? Ha, keep dreaming, you know that you flunked the last meeting. Our ego can be a real asshat sometimes.
But even if you’re overly positive, you’re still making life hard for yourself. You think you’re Superman and don’t need any form of care, rest, or regeneration. Sleep? Ha, that’s for the weak! You become so full of yourself that you think you’re able to do everything. No offense, but you’re not. Nobody is.
Shift your perspective
Giving yourself proper and constructive advice, assessing your performance, and being a good friend to yourself is damn near impossible if you don’t step out of this bubble.
That’s why the best piece of advice I can give you today is the following:
Treat yourself like you treat your best friends.
It might sound too simple or too cheesy for you. But it’s the only way to become a great coach, advice-giver, motivator, and honest observer of yourself.
It’s a simple shift in perspective, but it has got tremendous impact. By looking at yourself from the outside, you’ll be able to give yourself rational and constructive advice.
You’ll be able to tell yourself to do what’s best for you. Without your ego getting in the way. Without beating yourself up because you think you suck. And without thinking of yourself as invincible and depriving yourself of the care and support you sometimes need.
What Would You Tell Someone Else?
Our best friends are there to pick us up when we’re feeling down, guide us when we’re lost, and celebrate with us when we’re crushing it. But the problem is that even for them, it’s hard to read our minds.
From time to time, we all have thoughts in our heads that we’d never admit or share — positive and negative. And because we can’t share them and get an objective outsider’s view, they can make our lives incredibly hard.
The next time you’re stuck with yourself inside your head, take off your biased glasses. Step out of yourself and take an outsider’s perspective.
Ask yourself If my best friend was in this situation — what would I tell him?
Because in the end, that’s what we should be first and foremost: Our own best friend.