Approving of self, our faulty self image, and emotional vampires

One of the toughest challenges for anyone is to not take things personally.  It is so difficult.  Of course It is easy to claim: “I never take things personally; whatever people say or do it does not affect me personally,”  but that would be a lie.

Everyone, to different degrees, take work and what others do personally.  The more passionate one is about the work at hand and about the people involved, the more vulnerable one to signs of disapproval or lack of grattitude.  “I am trying so hard because I really care about them getting the best possible service and this is what I get in return?”  This is usually followed by feelings of sorrow, disgust, and anger.  Then comes the self pitty:”This is what you get for staying here and putting up with this.  I should have left to a place where Iget some appreciation.” More pain and agony.  This goes on and on in the head in what I like to call the”self pitty party.”

Another wrinkle to this is that sometimes we beat ourselves on the head for taking things so personally.  Then we get even more frustrated and emotional. Here is an example of a line that goes through my head when I take things personally: “Come on Ammar; you of all people.  You teach others to be objective, professional, and deal with things in a cool manner, then you get frustrated over something so silly? shame on you…” Then I remember how people usually commend me on my subtle and poised demeanor in dealing with work or personal related issues.  Then I get angy over being angry.  It is so funny when I write about it, but to feel it is a totally different matter.

I think people should not take things personally ever.  However, that is impossible.  Otherwise one would not be human.  I think what causes all this anguish is the lack of self approval, which is the self portrait that defines in one’s eyes: “who I am.”  That portrait can change and vary depending on the mood.  For examnple, when “I” approve of who “I am”; the imperfect, erring, yet beautiful creation of God, “I am” in peace with self and accept self as is.  Then, nothing anyone does or say is taken personally at all.  However, this state of mind does not last, under the pressures of the day.  As this state of mind shifts, one gets prone to disapprove of self, or parts of self (because I want me better, stronger, richer, more perfect, etc.) In that state of mind, it is easy to disapprove of self and hence take things personally.

Some see in the disapproval of self a way to encourage self to be better.  I think that would be fooling ourselves.  Nothing good can come from beating ourselves on the head.  We need to bravely accept who we are first, then improve on self, not out of disgust and disapproval of who we are, but out of love, compassion, and forgiveness of our imperfection.

Here is a word of caution: Emotional vampires out there can sense your area of weakness and attack you from that specific area.  Here is a funny but sad story.  A friend of mine had a theory that many of us were raised to take orders from our teachers and elderly in a demeaning fasion:”pick up that book,” or “go to sleep,” or “stop whining,” etc.  So, he believes that giving orders to others in the same tone of voice as their abusive teachers or parents will result in the person doing the command you give him without thinking about it, having the same feelings of intimidation he had as a child when these commands were given to him.  He showed me examples where he did that and it worked.  He of course does not do it with anyone.  He selects the “right” person to do this with.  I do not approve of what he did, and it was very sad to see his demonstration and it seemed totally inhumane.  However, in real life many do this and they will take advantage of your weakness to manipulate you.

Our negative self portrait, highlighting parts of ourselves that we disapprove, are never accurate.  Usually they are far from the truth.  So where do these negative ideas about who we are come from?  I do not know but one thing I did notice: Most things that you disapprove of yourself are things someone in the past disapproved of you. Like a father who always told you that you are lazy, or an uncle who always teased you about being thin, etc.

Another way we build our disapproval of self is from disapproval of others from our past.  For example, if a relative was too harsh on his kids and that affected you when you were a child, part of you might say “I will never be like that person” then you will be very careful not to be harsh on your kids, and maybe too critical or disapproving of yourself for the slightest harshness in dealing with your own children.

Our mind plays tricks and games on us where we are oblivious to our worst weaknesses while we convince ourselves that we have problems in our personality that we do not even have.  Many people who say “I am too tough,” when they are very lenient.  Others say “I am fat” when they are really very thin.  All are games our minds play on us.  When we tell ourselves that we are a certain way, we need to remember that most probably that perception is false.  It is a figment of our imagination.   We are who we are, and the best that we can do is accept, then improvement can come to us as human beings.

Vin-Dic-Tive

I wrote it the way it sounds to me.  Choppy and aggressive like the people who are stuck with it.  Some people are vindictive chronically and they cannot help but be that way.  Some people are vindictive occasionally.  Some play are vindictive to make gains in negotiations.  Regardless of the reason, if  you are vindictive,  Please stop it.  It does not work.  If you are pretending, it is easy to stop, but if you are like that, you probably do not know that you are.  So, I will help you in this article identify vindictive behavior whether you are the sender or the receiver of it.

Vindictive in Merriam Webster online is defined as “vengeful, who tries to cause hurt or anguish.”  But there is more.  I felt the definition does not do the word justice and can easily cause it to be confused with other behaviors.  So I went into to the online thesaurus to find its antonym (opposite).  The antonym for vindictive is “Forgiving”.  I think between the definition and the antonym it is easy to understand the meaning of the word.

To remove any ambiguity, I would like to use an example I went through yesterday.  I will use words of a relative of mine, bless his heart.  This person has good intent and wants what is better for me, but he was very vindictive.  Here is where it gets complicated.  I do not think he is vindictive because he wants what is good for me.  He is vindictive because it is his nature, the poor guy.  So, something inside makes him want to be vindictive.  And so, he will dish out his vindictiveness whenever he gets a chance; when he loves someone he is vindictive:”You know I love you and I want what is best for you, this is why I might say things that make you angry.  But really, how come you are not a multi millionnaire yet? after years of working hard, and still you do not have anything to show for it?  Someone like you would have been a tycoon by now.” See? vindictive big time.  He loves you and he uses this loving opportunity to be vindictive and satisfy himself.  Ahh the beauty of the complex human psyche.  I just love it (I dont love vindictive, but I love the design of the psyche).  So everything gets twisted to help the vindictive be vindictive.  Let us give another example.  Someone made a minor mistake in the car in front of him: “Idiot.  Does not know how to drive.  The country is full of idiots driving.  How do they give them license?  This country is full of worthless bums.  Animals.”  Sorry for the harsh words but I wanted to choose excerpts from actual lines I have heard during vindictive behavior.  I bet you heard these lines too.  This does not mean that whoever uses them is vindictive.  It means that at that moment his behavior is that of a vindictive.  Now if he is like that all the time, he is a vindictive fella.  If this happens once in a blue moon, is one thing.  But if this is a pattern of behavior then this is definitely a vinedictive person.

I cannot but draw attention to a related personality disorder when talking about vindictiveness.  Which is narcissism.  Usually vindictive behavior can be seen from narcissists.  I do not have scientific proof, but this is from my observation.

Vindictiveness can be very disguised.  Even harsh blame is vindictiveness.  “Didnt I tell you to do this properly? when will you learn to do better? Why are you like that all the time?”  See? very easy to fall into vindictiveness mode.  Sometimes, it is not even words.  It is a look that you give your child or a sigh of disapproval, or a smurk on your face.  All vindictive.

How not to be vindictive? the antonym I mentioned above gives it away easily: Be a forgiving person.  Be a loving person.  Be tolerant.  This does not mean you let people walk all over you.  And it does not mean that you do not ask people to stop when they bother you, or prevent people from hurting you.  It means that you do not do it with vindictiveness.

Aikido is an antonym to vindictiveness, in my opinion.  Aikido is a japanese martial art.  It only starts with defensive moves.  Meaning, if the person in front of you does not initiate attack, you cannot use it.  So it starts by disarming the person in front of you, then applying some pain just to show him that his aggressiveness has consequences.  But you do it in the utmost respect to the humanity of your opponent.  I believe Aikido summarizes how we need to behave and react without vindictiveness.

If you are surrounded by vindictive people, try to stay away from them and not pay attention too much to what they say.  They can hurt you.  Remember they usually make wrong assumptions and give false proofs to prove to you that you deserve to be hurt.  For example:”Look at Ahmed.  He sold a land for hundred percent profit in a year.  So, why can’t you be like him?” The vindictive person is making the assumption that everyone is making money by the millions except you.  False assumption.  If you fall for it you start hurting “Oh yeah.  He is right! how come I am not like Ahmed.” Please.  Spare yourself andthe people around you the drama.  You are beautiful the way you are and have excellent strengths.  Let us start with that and improve upon it.  Remember? Love and forgiveness? Start with loving and forgiving self and do not pay attention to the Vin-Dic-Tives.

The negative person

This is one of the toughest to deal with, especially that most are good at heart and have good traits, but are stuck in a negative vibe that they seem unable to shake.  It is not a fault or something to blame them for but it is what it is.  They act in a negative fashion.

Being negative is a state of mind more than anything.  This is a cause for hope as well as a cause for alarm.  If one is plagued with these negative feelings, knowing that they are just a state of mind will help one get over these feelings by countering them with positive thoughts and images, or by at least observing these feelings and accepting them, and then moving on.

The alarming part is that negativity has a dominoe effect.  If one is drawn into negative feelings often, they become the norm, and the mind adapts to thinking negative.  The body even starts getting used to making negative feeling hormones.  This is the reason why some seem negative all the time, and often for no apparent reason.  The body gets used to becoming negative.

It is noble to try and help a negative person come around, by helping them think and act positively.  However, one has to be careful as their mood can be contagious, if you are around them for  extended periods.  So, it is OK to try to help them, but you do not want to get sucked into their world.  If you feel negative after being around someone negative, try to take a break from them, remember the blessings God gave you for at least not being like them, and go do something that makes you feel good.

If you are a nice person and listen to these negative people, when many others would not, the negative person might try to seek you more often.  That is OK if you can help, but if you feel affected by their negative energy, keep the necessary distance to stay mentally healthy and stable.  Do not feel guilty for doing that, as you are doing it for your sake and his or hers.  Remember, you getting negative will not help anyone.

If you are having negative thoughts and we all do once in a while, remember that first of all you are normal.  The worst thing to do is to be unsatisfied with self for being negative.  Instead accept your feelings and observe how they affect your body and breathing.  Try to smile.  I sometimes break out laughing to help my body slow down the negative hormones and start making positive homrones.  I try to keep my mind busy with positive thoughts.  If that does not work, try doing a sport or something that you are good at.  Walking is excellent.

If you are a very sensitive person, expressing yourself artistically helps a lot.  Try to draw, writing, poetry, humming even, singing, all can make you feel better.

In general, surround yourself with positive people who smile a lot and encourage you a lot.  It is not selfish to pick company that makes you feel good.  You can volunteer some of your time to help those who are feeling negative, but you need to also protect your well being so you can help more.

One of the best picker uppers is prayer.  Not mechanically, but spiritually.  When praying, I believe the key to getting the benefit is being honestly seeking God’s help.  Pray slowly, feel every word you say, connect with the One.

Another great feel-good activity is doing good deeds.  Serving someone, a relative, a stranger, or any creature is a sure way to make you feel good.  Cleaning chores, routine, taking care of self, all will help you feel good.

There is no single formula for feeling good.  Luckily there are multiple ways and some work sometimes, other times other techniques work and so on.  This is part of the fun and understanding our humanity.

Finally, a smile on your face can convince your mind that you are happy.  So, keep smiling :) and tell me how that works.