Being the Best Version of Myself: Part Two February 27, 2013Posted by Gina in Skepticism and atheism.
Part Two: Be Honest With Yourself and Others
Really, this needs to be part of Step One. You must be honest if you’re going to get anywhere. But what I’m talking about here is being willing to admit things about yourself and say them out loud. This is something that you have to do forever until you die, in every situation. You must have humility when it comes to your own short comings. And you must admit them if your outlook is ever to change.
You see, belief in something doesn’t make it true. As we have heard these days, depression lies and, as Jessie said recently, it is an expert liar that tells you exactly the lies you are primed to believe. If you refuse to say your fears and insecurities out loud, no one will be able to be the voice of reason that you so often need.
If you are depressed and miserable and insecure, you simply can’t trust yourself to be in touch with reality. We look for evidence to back up our biggest fears and it’s everywhere because the filter you have colors it that way. It creates a haze on the truth and makes it easy to fill in the gaps with what you know must be the case. “Nobody loves me.” “If they knew who I really was, they would leave.” “I am not worth anyone’s trouble.”
So you need to trust the people you have allowed to be close to you, because there will be times when you can’t trust yourself. If you can’t trust them, they should not be close to you. I am very lucky as I trust those close to me to tell me what’s what. I have trusted untrustworthy people in the past to do the same and it was very harmful…of course, I learned a lot, but harmful it was.
Once you trust them, you must be willing to say the ridiculous things in your head out loud. Sometimes hearing them articulated in the air is enough to make you aware of their ridiculousness. Sometimes you need someone to tell you. Eventually you will learn to hear this yourself most of the time.
And sometimes, your fears will not be ridiculous and people will be able to confirm that to help you. But you must also be willing to fight back and delve deeper when you are not satisfied that your fears are unfounded.
The point here is to always be communicating and processing. But communication and process are useless if they are based on false premises. You might honestly believe something that is wrong. Admit it, then think about and understand why it is wrong and figure out how to incorporate that into your world view.
I have had to do this SO MUCH. I have had to challenge everything EVERYTHING I think is true about me and the rest of world in order to get anywhere. I started with having to admit all the negative things that I thought. But then I even had to question and analyze all the positive things about myself. I labeled things as “good” that of course have downsides that take away from happiness if done to excess.
For instance, I am not particularly self absorbed. I think of everyone else first before taking care of myself. I am selfless. This is generally considered a good thing because the word selfish has an inherent negative connotation. And yes, I also generally consider it a good thing. I treat people well. I am considerate of their needs and do what I can to accommodate people. I am reliable. All these things make me quite likeable. However, I am “selfless” because it makes me happy to take care of people and because I worry that I think of myself first that people will love me less and ultimately leave me. So, my motivations for selfless acts have a selfish side to them. And I take this to a level that is sometimes harmful to me. I ignore what is good for me in order to do what someone else wants, even if what they want is unreasonable. So we need to be honest about these things. Everyone is selfish all the time because the choices we make affect how we feel. Sometimes we make choices that make us feel bad. We do this because we have a warped view of ourselves and think we deserve to feel bad. It’s an indulgence. That might seem counter intuitive, but we, like molecules, yearn to be in our lowest energy state. It is hard work to be happy and positive and to make healthy choices. We make unhealthy choices because, even in a perverse way, they make us feel good or “right”. You might freak out about something even though you could have made the choice to process it more calmly. I used to do this because I wanted attention and took the negative attention route to get it.
We have to admit when we are making a choice. Sometimes you have to just say, “I just want to be angry right now”. For me, this is key, because being angry or upset is not often particularly helpful in finding a solution to the root cause. My goal is to find solutions for the things that plague me, not to simply indulge in feeling bad. That doesn’t mean that when I feel that my anger is justified I don’t desire the chance to indulge in feeling righteous. I am human, after all, but I acknowledge that this is an indulgence…and that it ultimately does more harm than good.
It is true that we feel the way that we feel. It’s just that it doesn’t end there and us feeling the way we feel does not require others to be responsible for these feelings. Feelings are irrational in that people react differently to different stimuli based on their own set of circumstances and brain chemistry. When you have a negative emotional reaction to a certain type of situation over and over again, you must be willing to ask yourself why. Why do I always feel this way when this happens? What am I afraid of? What do I believe is going on here and why do I view it as something bad happening to me?
For those of you playing along, this is how I deal with jealousy. That’s it, plain and simple. When you are feeling jealous about your partner and another person, you’ve got to accept that you feel jealous (it’s likely nothing higher minded than that…I had to learn that too. I have a reptilian brain like everyone else), and then ask these questions…and then say the answers out loud to your partner. Do I manage to not ever feel jealous or have it manifest in a less than fortunate way? No. It still happens. It will be with me forever, but it is not who I am. I deal with it when it comes up as productively as I can. These days I am more often successful than not and that’s great.
I may have neglected one thing here: Sometimes your fears will be based on reality and you have to be prepared to hear that and process it. The name of the game here is seeking the truth and making choices based on that truth. It doesn’t mean that the truth is always pretty.
I dated someone for a while who always confirmed my fears and insecurities. I would ask the questions about what I was worried about and would often find out that I was right about what was going on. It sucked, but I was glad to at least know the score and not feel delusional. This is a gift in its own rite.
I say this unequivocally: Honesty is the best policy. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean that it isn’t the way you should live. Life is suffering. It is also joy. Both should be experienced with knowledge of the truth. Joy based on lies is ultimately suffering. Suffering based on lies is suffering that didn’t need to be.
Life 101: Open up your god damn mouth and speak the truth you think you know. It will be challenged. Listen. Accept or reject. Incorporate or fight until the truth is found.
You are not living fully if you refuse to do this. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t want to waste my time anymore.