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Thread: Becoming a better person

  1. #11
    Member Cynid's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bluecastle
    My thought, in reading your initial post, is: how exciting!

    The challenge, for you, might be sharing that excitement, as it sounds like you're prone, at the moment, to find a kind of comfort in punishing yourself rather than celebrating yourself. That is really the most dangerous stuff—far more than lying and ghosting and job-hopping, which are just symptoms of knotty wiring—since we are hardwired, as animals, to seek comfort; so long as your comfort zone is something to the effect of "I suck" you will find ways to reinforce that, consciously and subconsciously.

    Zoom out just a bit—meaning taking a less self-centric and self-punishing view of all this, but instead viewing your "self" in a larger context as something forever in flux—and there's another story you can tell. Let's start with the guy. That story, in a sentence? You had a relationship that sadly didn't work because you ultimately weren't compatible. That story plays out a million times a day around the world—bad timing, more or less, with various variables of drama and hurt—particularly among people in their 20s. You were one of those people. The story with the friendships is similar: relationships that ran their course, with some jagged interludes. Another universal story. Ditto the job stuff: some wayward years in early adulthood.

    That's not giving you a hall pass for your lying, for your own role in the demise of these relationships, for your flightiness in the workplace, for the places where your own sharp edges hurt other people. Hardly. It's just about not making it all about you, and the damaged broken monster that is you in your mind, since that is, in a way, disrespecting the agency of other people—and giving yourself, and your "damage," far more power than it deserves. The more power you give it, the more it becomes you, becomes your agency, and the more you will act in ways to reinforce that identity.

    Leeching all that of power and mystery, on the other hand, is to shed it, the way snakes shed husks. This is where therapy can be a godsend. You get intimate with your demons so they stop getting intimate with you. They don't "vanish," but they lose their power, to the point where you can kind of go, "Hey, little part of me that hates myself—what up? I see you, but I've got other things to do." Commit to a year of it and, I suspect, you'll be astounded by what you see when you turn on the bathroom light and look in the mirror. Rather than being hungry to see a monster staring back you, you'll see what's always been there: a tender, complex woman with a heart that yearns to love and be loved, like all human hearts.

    I've got 11 years on you—and, believe me, I can relate to your story from some angles. Won't stir in the sob story or the checklist of unfortunate choices I've made, since it's all pretty generic and basic in the scheme of humanity. Just took me a good long time to come to terms with it in that context, so I could hold myself fully accountable, but with gentle hands rather than with a whip or a ruler to the knuckles. Time, therapy, and a genuine openness to be excited about self-growth, rather than to view self-growth as some kind of atonement for past sins. As long as you think of yourself a sinner, rather than a person—well, you will be a sinner. Nobody loves a sinner, including sinners. They love humans.

    Humans make mistakes, some graver than others. Mistakes can be forgiven. Mistakes are also, of course, choices. So, for instance, lying was both a mistake you made and a choice you made. Once you really understand the root of that choice, you'll be able to forgive the mistake, rather than being defined by it, since you will be defined by new choices. Those new choices carry you into 30, into 35, into 50, and in making them you shed this husk that's presently haunting you. In doing so, to twist a metaphor a touch to far, you will no longer feel like a snake but like the human you are.

    Not sure that makes sense. A lot of words to say: try to go easy on yourself, while being hard on yourself, if that makes sense. That's therapy, in a nutshell. That's evolving. The past is the past, and the only reason it can haunt you is if you let it, by repeating it in the present. Because the present is all there ever is, and our futures are determined by what we do in the present, not what we did in the past.

    A story of my oldest friend, to put it less abstractly. Great guy, known him since I was 4. He hit the skids a bit in his 20s. Got back together with a high school sweetheart, wasn't a great boyfriend. Relationship crumbled, some infidelity. Couldn't hold down jobs, earned money behind a bar, spent it on the other side. As 30 dawned he had a little self-reckoning of the sort you seem to be confronting. Got himself into therapy, started interning at an arts organization. Who is he today, at 40? He's the number 2 of that organization, an incredible man married to an incredible woman, with a child on the way. Best part of that story? He's still the same person, just evolved, and still evolving.
    Thank you so much! What you said here really does help put it all in perspective. You're absolutely right that I'm too comfortable with beating myself up. As though being even slightly encouraging toward myself would be letting me off the hook.
    The moment I can afford therapy, I'll jump at the chance.

  2. #12
    Member Cynid's Avatar
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    In the country I live in, therapy isn't exactly common, making my choices limited but it's better than nothing.

  3. #13
    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Cynid
    You're absolutely right that I'm too comfortable with beating myself up. As though being even slightly encouraging toward myself would be letting me off the hook.
    That's the big thorn to remove, right there.

    Pocket theory: our capacity to love another—be it a friend, lover, or stranger at a bus stop—is directly proportional to how much we can love ourselves, warts and all, noble choices and dumb choices. So if you're only just beating yourself up, which is to say treating yourself lovelessly—well, your pendulum will just swing between two poles: seeking connections (personally, professionally) that reinforce that broken self through punishment, or those you valorize as "holy" and can atone though, as if your self-hate can be cured through the light of another or the light of professional achievement.

    Both of those extremes are just slivers of connection, with others, with ourselves, dim shades of this thing we call love. Discovering the full spectrum is seriously something to be stoked about, because it is a forever journey, not a bell you need to ring before 30.

  4. #14
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    You seem to know the difference between right and wrong but choose the low road as a default. So it doesn't seem as bad as psychopathy. You seem more self-involved than other-involved, meaning lacking empathy. Some people simply identify with the bad-boy/bad-girl persona and then that gets old. You may be at that point. Can you take some classes/courses in spirituality or philosophy if therapy isn't affordable? A regular doctor could help you also if therapy isn't a thing where you are.
    Originally Posted by Cynid
    The moment I can afford therapy, I'll jump at the chance.

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  6. #15
    Member Cynid's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    You seem to know the difference between right and wrong but choose the low road as a default. So it doesn't seem as bad as psychopathy. You seem more self-involved than other-involved, meaning lacking empathy. Some people simply identify with the bad-boy/bad-girl persona and then that gets old. You may be at that point. Can you take some classes/courses in spirituality or philosophy if therapy isn't affordable? A regular doctor could help you also if therapy isn't a thing where you are.
    I can take some classes online, yes. Both these topics, along with psychology have always been interesting.
    Thank you for highlighting that there is self-involvement. I agree and intend to take the steps out of that. Or find a healthy balance between that and other-oriented.

  7. #16
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    Congrats on your decision to adopt self improvement as a goal. I found it helpful to make my first step toward progress a choice to avoid self sabotage by redirecting the voice I run in my own head. For instance, this:

    But I feel like there is so much broken with me, no matter how hard I try to improve, that just makes me unable to love and be loved and undeserving of love. Like karma is telling me that because of what I've done, i can't expect anything good to happen in any type of relationship.
    It's a story you're conditioning yourself to believe, so it will derail you.

    We all have failures. Look up every successful person you admire, and there will be a string of failures behind them. Failures are part of our learning process, so it's up to us to decide whether we will use them to learn what NOT to do, or whether we will use them to drill ourselves into a deeper hole to climb out of.

    Changing habits is tough enough without anchoring beliefs that our past MUST hinder us from successes going forward. Skip that idea. A coach on my job taught that change is best tackled one habit at a time, and each change takes about 21 days to anchor in the brain. So write a list of habits to change and pick ONE to start for 21 days. This prevents us from glomming habits into a giant abstraction--nobody can tackle those.

    So the specific habit I picked was to change the default voice I run in my own head from a judgmental judge and jury to an inspiring and encouraging coach. I'd catch myself defaulting to a negative position on every challenge, and i'd switch that voice to be on my own side. My ask, "If I were to pay money for a life coach, what would I want them to say to me in this instance?" Then I'd say it to myself. Or, "If I could counsel my younger self to be more accepting and less ashamed, what would I have told her in that instance?"

    This inspired a lot of self-forgiveness, which translated into a compassionate view of others and their mistakes, which spun back around and allowed me more self forgiveness for my own mess-ups. This cycle changed my perceptions of my past AND my present.

    We're all a bunch of frightened human animals flailing around, trying to do the best we know how at every given moment. When we learn better, we do better--so what could be a better teacher of self support than learning how to reframe our view of ourselves, focusing AWAY from harsh condemnation and TOWARD a comforting, compassionate and encouraging push forward?

    Head high, and celebrate each small, incremental baby step toward where you want to go. Allow for evolution instead of instant expectations. Compare only to where you were before, and embrace imperfection as part of growing.

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