Mark, one of the first things that has really intrigued me over the past decade, in particular for myself, is this whole notion of the relationship with my self. I have observed a lot of people, successful people, and the people who are on the verge of great success. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that most people have almost an abusive type relationship with themselves but try to have great relationships with others.
So, your title, The Curse Of The Self really intrigued me. I’d like to get your perspective on why does the self, for most people, continue to be a curse or continue to be more of an abusive type relationship as opposed to the opposite?
It really is ironic because sometimes we think of human beings as being really soft on themselves but you’re absolutely right, they are not. I had somebody tell me once that if they talk to other people the way they talk to themselves in their own head, they would be sued for harassment. There is a lot of very nice people out there that don’t treat themselves very nicely.
There are a lot of reasons I think why the self as a curse. One of them I think is our own insecurity in whether we’re doing okay or not. Because many of us feel that the way to keep ourselves in line is to really hold our feet to the fire and to beat ourselves up when things don’t go well.
Now, of course, you need to feel a little badly when you botch things up or you hurt other people but the question is, how badly do you need to feel. How self critical. How much do you need to push yourself. My sense is that the vast majority of us, particularly professional people, push themselves far harder than they need to. They are far more self critical than they need to be in order to be maximally effective.
I think that the first step is to develop a way to have a relationship with yourself that keeps you inline but without being punitive about it. It’s the way that a loving parent would be in some ways. Yes, you want to treat your kid in a way so they behave properly but you certainly wouldn’t be as abusive to them as many others are abusive to ourselves.