Some of the toughest battles we fight are with ourselves.
Whether it’s having that second piece of pie or getting the last word in a disagreement, we often act impulsively instead of deliberately with careful thought.
Everyday life is filled with external stress that comes from our relationships, jobs and a multitude of other places. While it’s impossible to control these outside circumstances, we do have the power to control our attitudes about them.
I’ve written before about the need for self-reflection when it comes to building a better life and relationships. Understanding ourselves fully will explain why we react to certain people and situations in the ways that we do.
In turn, this understanding teaches us to harness automatic emotions and use careful thought and reasoning when making decisions. Foresight makes hindsight unnecessary.
But, where do these automatic emotions come from?
If a given experience or person causes us to have a negative reaction then we’ll associate the next similar experience with suspicion and distrust. Sometimes simply thinking about the person/experience is enough to trigger bad feelings. This is called generalization of learning and can reinforce the self-defeating behaviors that often result.
However, we must consciously want to develop this skill and that requires changing how we think.
None of us is 100% right all the time. Our different worldviews and histories shape our opinions and beliefs. We certainly have our unique perceptions of things, but that doesn’t mean the other person is wrong.
It simply means that your experience and his/hers are different, as well as the impressions that go along with those experiences.
When we think of being victorious it’s usually in the context of winning a competition with someone else.
But, many hard-fought victories involve ourselves. Understanding our habit of viewing other people and ideas in a certain way will help us identify the areas we need to work on.
If we remain rigid in our opinions and unwilling to listen to another’s POV, then we’re destined to remain stuck. No personal growth is possible.
But, why do people choose ignorance over enlightenment? I believe it’s due to familiarity and fear. We’re more comfortable with things that are familiar and we’re fearful of looking incompetent.
Stepping outside our comfort zone and being vulnerable requires a lot of courage. We want to feel safe and that’s more easily achieved in a familiar environment. Being vulnerable means admitting we’re “less than perfect.”
Research professor Brene Brown warns that perfectionism shouldn’t be confused with self-improvement. In this interview with Forbes magazine she comments that healthy striving is self-focused: how can I improve. Perfectionism is other-focused: what will they think?
To be conquered by our own negativity and narrow-mindedness is truly a shame. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Conquering those demons requires honesty about our fears and failings, which is never easy. We must acknowledge our weaknesses and work to overcome them. Realizing that other people struggle with their own doubts and limitations can help us change our perspective. Once we’re able to see through a more neutral lens our feelings and attitudes will change for the better!