How Do You Measure Up?

  “How have you been feeling about yourself lately?” When you ask this question most folks initially give a report on how things are going at work, how things are going at home and how they feel the state of the world is going …. and they’re usually dissatisfied because what they think should be happening isn’t. If you restate the question and prompt them to be more personal what follows is often a set of ratings as to how they feel they are performing at work and at home, and more often than not this rating is comparative to others or a ‘standard’ they hold themselves to. These ratings and comparisons are usually ‘automatic’, meaning they haven’t been consciously chosen but have been adopted because of education, observation and experience. 

  For most, this personally generated basis of self-esteem isn’t a choice but a matter of happenstance. If brought up with a different set of cultural / experiential circumstances a different set of standards would apply. This is important because our drive towards a positive self-esteem guides our behavior powerfully. If we’re driving to locations we don’t really want to go to we may end up somewhere we have no interest in being, feeling adrift and unsatisfied. 

  Step back from yourself for a moment and ask yourself what comprises the internal model of what you’re supposed to be. Write it down or draw it out if that helps, take your time. How do you compare with this model of your ideal self? Would you weigh less? Would you be richer? Would everybody love you? Would you be famous? Now ask yourself if you really think these things are important? Are they part of your idea of a human life well lived? Are they realistic? Are you in agreement with the values implicit in this model? If not change it to one that agrees with your values and is realistic and again feel free to write it or draw it out. Sure it’s easier said than done but having an aware and self generated set of expectations can do a lot to increase your satisfaction with yourself and your life, in a very short time. 

  Being a shrink for the last 25+ years, a lot of my job has been helping people feel better about themselves. Being generally happy really is a win-win situation as happy people tend to not only be more satisfied with life, they’re more fun to be around, perform better at work, get sick less, live longer, etc., etc. Making the internal model of what you’re supposed to be a personally meaningful and realistic set of parameters, is a surprisingly easy bit of work that can have vividly positive results. The main problem is remembering your new model and not getting back into old, habit based automatic reaction patterns. 

  Remembering new patterns is a huge issue when it comes to changing one’s life, and the easier the technique the easier it is to forget. Some find journaling a big help, others get into a regime of daily self reflection and mentally go over their new patterns per diem. My personal favorite is to find a cool painting or knick-knack for around the house that reminds me of the new ‘thought habit’ I’m working on. It only takes about twenty repetitions of a new pattern, either behavioral or mental, to create a new habit pattern. That’s not a lot to be a bit happier and a bit more you.

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