Vail Daily column: It’s the only self you’ve got
History’s most brutal dictators, even if they combined forces, could not be harder on me than I am on myself. Glossing over successes, I concentrate predominantly on my shortcomings and failures. While this internal motivation has pushed me through schooling and a legal career, its benefits are significantly counterbalanced by the daily tortures of being within my own head. I am careful to treat my body right by exercising, eating well and getting a good night’s sleep. Yet I am not as conscientious about the attention that I pay to my psyche. I suspect that I am not alone in this imbalance. It is time that we start treating ourselves as well as we strive to treat others.
All conflicts begin with the individual. A person who is not at peace with themselves is much more likely to become embroiled in a conflagration with others. Our capacity to withstand adversity and our patience are both finite resources. If those reserves are depleted by our intrapersonal actions, then our ability to calmly interface with other people is severely diminished. To forestall disputes, we must begin at the source.
If we expect too much of ourselves, we are likely to expect a lot from others. This is neither fair to us nor to those with whom we deal, whether it be spouses, children, business partners or a cashier at the market. To reform ourselves, we must check the presumptions we have for our performance. It is beneficial to have ambition, but our medium and long-term goals cannot be accomplished in a day. Therefore, chastising one’s self for a minor mistake is not going to do anything to affect the large arc of one’s life, other than applying undue pressure. The more times this happens, the more the pressure builds and the more likely you are to burst when faced with conflict. When we have equanimity, we can rationally evaluate our place in the world and our interactions with others. If we are internally in turmoil, that critical distance is sorely lacking. We are then prone to make irrational decisions that can cost us relationships, money or worse.
The connections of the modern world expose us daily to people who seem to have it all. In comparison, we feel insignificant and our insecurities metastasize. We kill ourselves to look that cute, or to have that boat or to otherwise keep up with the Joneses. When we cannot, we question our very being. Those self-doubts create friction that can ignite the kindling of conflict. But those Facebook posts or magazine ads are nothing more than marketing, whether individual or corporate. They are not reality. Comparing our real selves to fiction is odious, at best. If you are going to view yourself in a distorted mirror, at least do so in the type that appears in most boutiques: those things always make you look good.
Although these societal pressures have always existed, it feels like an increasingly competitive, aggressive world. The question of causality is an interesting one: did it become more hostile because we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards or are we pushing ourselves too hard because the world is shrinking and we are competing for increasingly scarce commodities? The answer does not much matter: stepping out of the ring and being true to yourself is the only way to really maintain your sanity.
There are many strategies for dialing back the throttle of our personal engine. For example, if you are the type who derives pleasure from being involved on many different fronts, take the Coco Chanel approach and subtract one activity. The absence of that passion may be missed at first, but will allow you to devote more time to your other activities, or hopefully, to yourself. Most workplaces have frighteningly few opportunities to take a personal day. This is so amazingly short-sighted. We need time to pamper ourselves to be our best selves. Those personal iterations are more efficient, more creative and better at relating to others. Spa treatments are so spendy, but yoga and meditation similarly allow the mind to relax for relatively little or no money. Even a simple afternoon stroll in the middle of a hectic day can give us the needed respite. In the end, it is an attitude change. It is amazing how small shifts in perspective can have outsized impacts in how we live our lives.
Not being felines and most of us not being schizophrenic, we have but one life and one self. That essence should be coddled and not tormented, as it is the only one we have.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.