Forgive Yourself

Be yourself. Be your own person. Don’t live your life around other people’s opinions of you.

All of the self help books say this. I say this as well. However, I want to acknowledge the drive within us to try to please others. As it turns out, we’re actually hardwired to do so. I want to explore this because unless you understand this, you’ll always condemn yourself for this trait. Lets face it, you really don’t need another reason to put yourself down. Negative self talk is already a problem with the majority of us.

500,000 years ago, an early death was a real possibility. You were lucky if you lived to the ripe old age of 30. There were no doctors, grocery stores, police, or even clothes. If you didn’t freeze or starve to death then a neighbouring tribe can force you from your cave, campfire, or territory. Self-defence was paramount. The ones that survived were the ones that were the most averse about continually scanning for possible threats.

There’s safety in numbers. A school of fish clings together for protection. Think about how this affected mankind in the prehistoric times. Getting expelled from the tribe meant certain death! It paid to be on guard to jockey for status. If you were low on the hierarchy, you only get to eat the scraps that were left over from the hunting expedition. Death by starvation was already a possibility. However, if you’re pushed further down on the ranking order within the tribe, this becomes an even bigger possibility! If you were high up in the hierarchy, you had to be on guard against anyone that challenged your position. A raised eyebrow, an audible sigh, or any hint of a confrontation against your place in the tribe could become a fight to the death! Therefore, if you struck first, you had the advantage. If you didn’t die in battle then an infection from the fight could become fatal! If neither of these occurred, it could be the start of your sliding down in status and eventually expulsion from the tribe! Constant vigilance against anything negative was foremost on everyone’s mind. The one that were filled with negative thinking were the ones that survived. The human race has the same brain that it had thousands of years ago. Even though today’s world isn’t as hostile, the neurons that were on high alert for the way others feel about us are still hardwired into the brain of today.

Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution have fine tuned our negative bias so much that we’ve become experts at it!

We ‘should’ on ourselves all the time. (as opposed to shitting on ourselves even though they are sort of the same thing) We do this when we say, “I SHOULD stop worrying so much about what others think about me”. However, this backfires. This only helps you focus more intently on your shortcomings. Essentially, this is like trying to cure a rash by scratching it. It inflames the problem and makes it much harder to do what you ‘should’ do.

The better strategy would be to outgrow the desire to worry about how other people think of you. The best way to do this is to forgive yourself for this undesirable behaviour. This is why I want to delve into the subject about why this unwanted demeanour is hardwired into the human brain.

Another thing that I want to cover is loss aversion. This is also has deep roots in our psyche. Loss aversion refers to an individual’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses rather than to acquire equivalent gains. Simply put, it’s better not to lose $100, than it is to find $100. The pain of loss can cause twice as much (or more) as emotional pain as to the pleasure of gaining the same thing.

This phenomenon was also born into us from the dangerous living conditions of the cave-man days. Any loss put us closer to the possibility of dying. Perhaps you’ve read lots of self help books about the benefits of positive thinking. You also know how a predominately negative attitude will destroy a life. In spite of this knowledge, you still focus on the negative and you mentally beat yourself up for doing this.

The next time that you want to do this, let yourself off the hook by thinking about loss aversion. Forgive yourself for being human. Evolution has made the human race predominantly negative. That’s because those that were constantly on the lookout for anything negative had a better chance of surviving. This was true for hundreds of thousands of years. However, in the modern world of today, this constant scanning for anything negative breeds anxiety, depression, and a sense of hopelessness.

This is why I encourage you to pursue a positive mental attitude. I just want to warn you about the internal resistance to this in the human physique. If/when it happens, I don’t want it to come to you as a surprise but most importantly, I don’t want you to berate yourself for this shortcoming. This is the trap that most people fall into. They berate themselves for not becoming positive. They mentally say nasty things to themselves such as, “GET CONFIDENT YOU IDIOT!” OK, they may not say that but they say other things that are just as self defeating.

I often compare physical exercise with mental exercise. They both produce a feeling of exhaustion. Nobody escapes this regardless on how fit they are. Even a marathon runner gets tired. There will be days where she can’t complete her daily training. On those days, she didn’t suddenly turn into a person that is physically out of shape! This is easy to understand. However, many people have a hard time forgiving themselves when they fall off the positivity wagon. In their pursuit of a positive outlook, they occasionally backslide and revert back to a defeatist attitude. Rather than beating themselves up for this I implore them to instead notice their progress. Rather than concentrating on the results, they would be better off to shift their gaze on noticing change.

If you focus on results then you will never change. If you focus on change then you will get results.

-Author unknown

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