Be Harsh With Yourself At Times

“A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.” This remark of Epicurus is to me a very good one. For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right. You have to catch yourself doing it before you can reform . . . So–to the best of your ability–demonstrate your own guilt, conduct inquiries of your own into all the evidence against yourself. Play the part first of the prosecutor, then of judge, and finally of pleader in mitigation.

Be harsh with yourself at times.”

Letters from a Stoic; Letter XXVIIII, by Seneca

I have a fascination with greatness. An obsession with refusing to be average. Refusing to be another statistic. Another norm. Another typical, predictable human. I don’t know what greatness tastes like, really. I’ve read about it, I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it in my heroes. But I’ve not properly felt it before.

I believe that greatness comes from visualization and self-talk. Reality, for the most part, is your perception of what is real. What you tell yourself you are is what you will become.

Want to be a ballerina? Visualize the stage and hear the polite clapping of the high-cheekboned audience members as the lights swim around you. Get excited for the aesthetic, pump yourself up from the inside. Tell yourself you are a ballerina even before you step into your first pair of ballet shoes.

Tell yourself you are a great ballerina. Convince yourself that is so.

What happens next?

You begin to do things that just “make sense” for this new identity you have crafted. What do ballerinas do? They take ballet classes. They practice. They perform. So you do these things too, because you have told yourself you are a ballerina. It just makes sense.

And what happens when you do what ballerinas do?

You definitely become a ballerina. On all fronts. And others believe that you are a ballerina, because at this point, you really are. Key to greatness: visualization, which develops intrinsic motivation amongst other things, and self-talk. This is not a new concept. In fact, I most likely stole it form a podcast host.

But there is something more complex feeding the function. There are two types of self-talk, right?

“You’re doing so well, Jos, you really are a star!”

Positive.

“That is a pretty sucky first draft, isn’t it, Jos?”

Negative.

What I observe, both within myself and in our society, is the tendency to cast aside the negative self-talk. We take the thought: “you’re so lazy, Josie,” and we reply: “no you’re not! You’re just chill, you’re just zoned out. It’s okay to be lazy once in a while, you’re doing nothing wrong!”

We almost have a fear of negative self-talk. We are taught that it is a sign of insecurity or of weakness, of something unhealthy because we should be loving ourselves, right?

Having thoughts of: “you are super arrogant!”; “you’re just being selfish”; “you’re materialistic”, is judging oneself not loving oneself, right?

Except that negative self-talk is a vital piece of the greatness function.

How are supposed to improve ourselves if we are too scared to acknowledge our flaws? Acknowledge our flaws and not try to transform them into some quasi-strength. My weaknesses are weaknesses. I am not going to justify them, because doing so strips me of motivation to change them.

I’m a pretty selfish individual. That selfishness has two branches. Branch A–self-preservation, ambition, motivation–is a strength. Branch B–egoism, self-promotion, putting my own goals above those of others–is a weakness.

When I operate off Branch B, I miss the important cultivation of empathy which should be the driving force of our society.

When this happens and I feel the dissonance, I hear: “Jos, you suck. You’re being super selfish.”

Sometimes I find myself justifying that:

“No, it’s not really selfish, it’s me being driven and me being independent and it’s actually okay, brain, stop worrying!” I dismiss the weakness and go about my business with a cleared conscious. It feels a lot better, but it doesn’t make me better.

I have to rest with the comment. I have to think, “let’s make this objective instead of personal. This is something I need to remain aware of, because it isn’t serving me.”

This is my most recent nugget in my quest for greatness. The notion of not fearing self-talk, and not taking it personally. Simply taking it.

Peace and Blessings,

Josie

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About Josie

I run slowly through forests, eat spoonfuls of Jif's Natural creamy peanut butter, and perpetually wear a fuzzy Patagonia sweater I found for $1.50 at a charity shop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I deal in trees, breeze, and threes. I'm not interested in being normal. I'm not looking to pass GO. I'm not looking for anything other than breathable freedom.