Reality Check: If Only I Were…

It’s easy to find faults in others if one is inclined to do so. If you choose a mindset that compares others to your own internal standard of “how people should be,” you’ll readily see how they fall short. If you devote a lot of your energy to this activity, you may find yourself living a rather miserable life.

Others, however, devote energy to finding fault with themselves, and this, too, can lead to misery.

Now, if you’re a person who is not inclined to find fault with yourself, this column will make little sense to you. Unfortunately, there are plenty of folks who do know what I am talking about.

For example, they tell themselves, “I’m so stupid; I don’t matter; I don’t do anything important; I can’t do anything right,” etc. Combine that with comparisons, such as, “I’m not as accomplished as so-and-so; everyone else is doing better than me.” Then add some wishful thinking: “If only I were smarter; if only I were prettier; if only I were more important” and you’re subjecting yourself to devastating self-talk. Does any of that sound familiar?

If you don’t value or respect yourself and you want to change, what might you do?

Take an honest look—see yourself as others see you. That’s without all the internal fears, flaws, evil thoughts, anxieties. Just look at the actions you take. What impression would you have of a person who does the things that you do? Is that person worthy of respect? If yes, great! Value that person!

If not, ask, “What would it take for me to respect myself? To like myself? To be happy with me?”

Choose very specific responses. For example, in answer to, “What would it take for me to respect myself?” you might come up with, “If I had a more responsible job;” or “If I finished my education,” or “If I followed through with my commitments to my family.” The answers are yours alone; after all, the respect you are looking for has to come from you.

Watch out for responses that are out of your control, such as “If only my spouse respected me, then I would respect myself.” You don’t have control over what your spouse respects. You do, however, have control over what you respect. So figure out what it would take for you to respect yourself, and then work toward that.

Once you begin taking actions that make you more deserving of respect in your own eyes, you may find others showing more respect for you. That would be a bonus.

Are you worried that if you begin to respect and value yourself, you might be seen as conceited? For some—brought up to believe that one must never think highly of oneself—that’s an honest concern.

Honest self-evaluation helps us see our value as well as our flaws. One response to that self-evaluation is to berate oneself for one’s flaws. A different response would be to work on improvement and become even more valuable and worthy of respect.

Which response is more effective, both for you and for society?

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