“I am as I say, not as I do”

I am sure many have experienced this: you are in the presence of a greedy person, and they start talking about how selfless they are.  Then you start thinking: “Is this guy for real?”  That question comes out of frustration.  But there is a more important question: Is this person lying to others or lying to himself?  Some might answer: “Both!”  Here is why:

We convince ourselves of our piety by telling ourselves and others how “good” we are.  If people are as good as they say they are, then the world would have been a much better place.  However, even though almost all of us are able to choose to do the right thing, many times we do not.  Instead, we choose to convince ourselves that: “What I am doing is not really wrong, because I have an excuse.”

This contradiction between who we say we are and who we really are takes place in our interactions with our families, children, colleagues, subordinates and bosses.  We even feel insulted when anyone objects to our behavior; they should understand why we are doing what we are doing. Or at least this is what we try to convince ourselves with.

Many parents get amazed how their children pick up on some of their bad habits.  Sometimes we feel translucent to others, especially kids.  The truth is that people are actually able to detect hidden emotions and intentions.  They can feel how others are.  This is why some can tell when someone is lying to them or not, or if someone is friendly or not.  They “see” beyond what you say/.  They are affected by how you think, and what you think.  Many times, they can see much of who you really are, not how you pretend to be.  This is why they pick up on the “real you,” and if you are the role model to them, they are for sure to imitate some of your behavior.

Some might be troubled by this because they worry about people finding out who they truly are and their weaknesses.  I think this fear itself is indicative of a problem.  The problem is worrying too much about how people perceive them and how they are judged.  If one is at peace with self, then what others think is secondary.  The more one worries  about how people think the less self respect one has.  Let us take this test to prove it:  Think of something you do not want others to know about you.  Most likely it is something you do not appreciate in yourself and you do not accept.  Once their is acceptance, worrying about how others think and their judgment becomes less.

Seeing self clearly and observing behavior objectively is very hard to do, yet essential.  It is important to do that as a patient coach would  do, not as a criticizer.  As a criticizer, one might end up hurting self from negative feelings about self.  As a coach, one can be willing to judge the action, not self, and try to do better.

Prayer, contemplation, acceptance, and surrender all help being more true to self.  I do not believe it is about some people got it and others do not.  I believe this is a journey and sometimes we are on the right path and sometimes we wander.   Going back to the right path is a choice.  Of course the sooner you do your self checks the sooner you can catch yourself when off the path and more easily be able to take corrective action.  the less often you do the self checks the more prone one is to being more distant from where one knows he or she needs to be.  But their is always a choice to go back and do the right thing.  Even if one has strayed for long, many are amazed that they are closer than they thought they were.  It takes the right choice and the sincere will.  The rest is almost too easy.

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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.