Be Kind to Yourself
Have you ever heard the story, “The Monkey and The Cage?”
There was a monkey in a cage with colored tiles.
There were three colors: green, yellow and red. The monkey was part of a Psychology experiment.
The scientists first made the red tiles shock the monkey when the monkey touched them.
Sure enough, the monkey learned quickly not to go near the red tiles, otherwise he would get shocked.
Then they stepped it up, and made it so that the red and the yellow tiles would shock the monkey.
Now the monkey was in a panic. It was anxious all the time.
It was afraid to move at all, and learned that the green tile was the only safe tile to step on.
Then they made it so that all tiles shocked, and the monkey lost its mind.
Sometimes, we beat ourselves up for making a mistake, or not living according to our standards.
But, beating ourselves up over everything, is like setting all tile colors to shock: when you make it so that everything you do is punished, you are going to lose your mind, just like the monkey.
The difference between us and the poor monkey is that we have the choice to be kind to ourselves, or to shock ourselves.
What if I make a mistake?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” – William J. Clinton
Sometimes we mess up. Maybe we hurt someone and feel guilty. We all have.
Guilt is the emotion that our brain sends to us when it believes we acted against one of our values.
The best way to deal with guilt is to notice it.
Thank your brain for doing its job, and know it’s doing what it’s designed to do: alert you when you have gone against one of your values.
To resolve this situation, we notice the emotion, thank our brain for working properly, and we resolve to never let this happen again. The purpose of the emotion has been fulfilled, and the brain stops sending the guilt signal.
Sometimes, the pain of guilt can be useful, as can any emotion at the right time.
What is important is the ability to control our emotions.
When we feel guilty when we are at work, or need to be in a power/strong state, guilt may not be good.
Use this to help you get in the state you need to function best.
What is Guilt?
“If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” –Charles de Montesquieu
Guilt sometimes comes from failing to do our “should.” In Meg Jay’s, The Defining Decade, she has a chapter on belief about how our lives should look.
When we beat ourselves up it’s because we feel we are not living according to our blueprint. Our blueprint is what we think our life should look like.
And because we compare to other people, this blueprint might not be fair.
If you have a blueprint that you can’t possibly match, and your happiness is based on that blueprint, won’t you be unhappy?
I’m not saying don’t be ambitious, but take a look at your blueprint.
Maybe you’ve set standards for yourself that are too extreme, or unrealistic for where you are right now.
The argument that, “I need to have high standards or else I won’t have the drive to achieve” isn’t true.
When we are in a state of anxiety, stress, and pressure, we are actually worse off.
Don’t you agree?
Can’t you think of a time when you rushed something, and it didn’t come out as well as if you had taken your time?
It’s the same for pushing yourself to do things – it doesn’t work as well as if you had slowed down and been methodical.
Surprisingly, being kind to ourselves not only improves our mood and quality of life, but it also improves our results.
Let’s decide to be happy.
So take a deep breath, hold it, let it out slowly, and read on.
Achieve Default Happiness
Why be happy?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” -Omar Khayyam
Let me list some of the great benefits of being happy:
- You feel better 🙂
- You achieve more
- You are more sociable
- You are more giving
- You have increased self-respect
- You have increased problem solving skills
- You have a stronger immune system
What is the quickest way to be happy?
If you thought money, read on. Money makes you only a little bit happier, if you grew up in poverty.
Lottery winners go back to their normal level of happiness soon after they win.
Why is this the case?
We get used to our situation quickly.
No matter what the external world throws at us, we will fall into our regular emotional pattern if we aren’t focused.
If changing our situation doesn’t create long-term happiness, then what does?
Writing down your thoughts, whether good or bad, can help you make sense of them.
When problems came up I would talk it out with a friend.
But, talking it out with someone doesn’t actually help as much as we might think.
Conversations jump around and you aren’t left with anything to review.
Instead, when you write, you organize your thoughts.
You have it all in front of you to look at. It makes your problems tangible, and solvable.
When I had a problem I would ruminate: re-live it over and over.
But, when I write it down, I am able to let go of it, and return to it when I am ready.
It also presents the problem with all parts in front of me at the same time, making it easier to solve.
How do I avoid getting accustomed to my situations?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” -Charles Dickens
Often we take for granted a lot of the things that we were once grateful for.
A daily habit to increase your happiness is listing five things you are grateful for each day.
You can do this in your diary, or you can simply brainstorm in your head.
Those who express gratitude are happier, more optimistic, and healthier.
Write about someone you love. Write why this person means so much to you, and why you are so happy to have this person in your life.
Experiences or Possessions?
When it comes money and happiness, experiences beat possessions.
Use money for vacations, not vanity.
Buy gifts for others. When you give, you feel good, and it’s as easy as going to the store to buy a bag of chocolate to hand to strangers.
I Don’t Want to Feel Good Today.
Not feeling it today? Change how you are using your body.
The way you use your body influences how you feel.
If you slouch, frown, and look down, you will feel unhappy.
If you smile, sit up straight, look up, and smile, you will feel happy.
I have actually tried to become unhappy while smiling, sitting up straight, and looking up. It is very hard to avoid laughing.
Keep Good Mental Hygiene
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
“Everyone is walking around with an invisible sign around their head saying make me feel important.” –Mary K Ash
This quote stuck out to me. We all want to feel significant.
So my question is, how can I make other people feel important?
The answer that I came up with is, through helping them understand how they can make themselves feel important on a daily basis.
All the time I would fall into the trap of thinking that I was not valuable and that I needed other people to feel valuable.
I needed things, or accomplishments to feel significant.
But the reality is, you and I can make ourselves feel significant in seconds.
I keep a collection of my accomplishments handy, so that whenever I start to feel insignificant, I can go grab one of my accomplishments, and remind myself that I have done something.
It doesn’t need to be much. I use acceptance letters to clubs, college, or for a job.
Think about it, from the entire candidate pool, you were chosen.
I think that means you are significant.
Creating this portfolio is one way to remind yourself of everything you have accomplished and achieved, but there is another way if you don’t want to create a portfolio.
By controlling our focus, or what we are thinking about at any given time, we can make ourselves feel significant immediately.
When you feel insignificant, what are you thinking about?
Are you thinking about something that makes you feel insignificant?
More than likely, this is the case.
What you think about and focus on will make you feel a certain way.
So if you focus on an event or circumstance that makes you feel insignificant, powerless, or any other negative emotion, you will feel that emotion.
So the solution is to control our focus.
To find the memories that make us feel valuable, significant, and powerful.
Think of a time when you did something even though you didn’t think you would be able to.
Or a time when you exceeded everyone’s expectations, even your own.
How did you feel then?
Unbelievably good, valuable, and capable?
If you focus on that moment, you will begin to feel the way you had in that moment.
Think about it – the reason you feel insignificant or incredible at any given moment is in part due to what you are focusing on.
Through control of our focus, we can control how we feel and make ourselves break out of the illusion that we are insignificant.
We feel insignificant when we focus on a time when we felt insignificant.
Are we defined by something that happened in the past?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
“I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learning experiences… I’m human, not perfect, like anybody else.” -Queen Latifah
Are we forever insignificant because something happened once that made us feel insignificant?
I believe what happens in the past does not have any effect on the future unless we let it.
If I let the past affect what I do today, I wouldn’t do any of the things I do today.
Think about if you stopped trying to ride your bike the first time you fell off, or if you stopped writing because you misspelled one word.
I know these examples sound simple, but the concept applies to everything.
Don’t let your past dictate your future!
The fact of the matter is, we have total control over our focus, and even if something bad might have happened in the past, we have the ability to focus on something good in the past.
Focus on a time when you felt unstoppable.
Or a time when you won. You did it.
You went for it, and you got it!
What you focus on in the moment will bring you to how you felt in that moment.
What if I can’t control my focus like that?
Since we all have rules for what must happen to feel a certain way, let’s look at them.
Answer these questions:
- How do you know when you are successful?
- How do you know when you are loved?
- How do you know when you are confident?
- How do you know when you are skilled?
Next, answer this question:
- Are the answers to these questions appropriate?
Are you meeting those expectations daily?
Or have you made it hard to meet those expectations?
The solution, is the change your rules.
Here are my rules, if you need some inspiration:
- Anytime I move towards success, I am successful.
- Anytime I give love, I am loved.
- Anytime I take action, I am confident.
- Anytime I learn anything, I am skilled.
These rules give me the power to feel good easily.
We have the power to change our rules so that we have the power to feel good easily.
Thanks for reading, and if you liked what you read, I encourage you to sign up for my email list if you aren’t already.
Happy peace of mind!
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