Self-critique, your worst enemy, or your helpful ally?

I want to copy some text from a book and add with some of my own, as the original text struck a note with me because it was part of the way I got out of my depression and how I got my life back on track. It will be a bit long, but a worthwhile read for people who feel their life is stuck and see no way out. I was where you were once, stuck, depressed, suicidal, until I realised the following, and started taking action to better my life one step at a time.

“When we are very young we are neither individual nor informed. We have not had the time nor gained wisdom to develop our own standards. In consequence we must compare yourself to others around us, parents, teachers, influencers. As we mature we become increasingly individual and unique. The conditions of our lives become more and more personal and less and less comparable to those of others. As we grow we take not of our disarray between the two, and rediscover the values of our culture, veiled from us by our ignorance, and integrate them into our lives. This is what gives existence it’s full and necessary meaning.
But how hard can you force yourself, or anyone, to work while sustaining your desire to work? How much can you sacrifice to your partner before your generosity turns into resentment? What is it that you actually love? What is it you actually want? Before you can articulate your own standards of value, you must see yourself as a stranger, and then you must get to know yourself. What do you find valuable or pleasurable? How much leisure, enjoyment, and reward to you require so that you feel like more than just a beast of burden? How must you treat yourself, so you won’t kick up a fuss in resentment of your life?
You could learn how to entice yourself into a sustainable, productive activity. Just ask yourself what you want. Negotiate fairly with yourself. Determine the nature of your moral obligation to yourself. Should might enter into it, because you are nested within a network of social obligations. Should is your responsibility, and you should live up to it so that your surroundings can take care of you in their social obligation towards you. If you don’t do your part, then why should they? But also dare to be dangerous. Dare to be truthful. Dare to articulate what you really want for yourself, and express what would justify your life, justify what makes you happy, and make room in your life for that. Just being resentful of your life, what you want but can’t have, or just can’t reach, makes you bitter. It is out duty to speak up for ourselves, because nobody else can; nobody else knows what makes you happy, and if you don’t know, you should go and find out! When you have something to say, keeping silent about it is a lie. When you start nurturing secret fantasies of revenge, when your life is being poisoned and your imagination fills with the wish to devour and destroy, that is when you need to step away from what is hurting you.
A child doing this successfully will grow to a point where it can leave it’s parents, and make friends outside this first circle. It will leave the nest and become like the new group surrounding it. Once integrated, the successful young adult will learn how to be just the right amount of different from everyone else, and become unique, and with that, valuable, because in uniqueness lies value to others.
If in a supermarket there are twelve lanes free, all the cashiers at the ready to push through your shopping, it doesn’t matter much which lane you pick, but when it’s busy, and only five lanes are open, you look for the one working the fastest, the best one, so you can get out and go home the quickest. That cashier has skill, and that skill has value to customers. That cashier will be promoted, and earn more money. And all of life, not just business life, works that way. Cream floats to the top, dregs sink to the bottom. So be cream in what you do, no matter what you do, and you’ll be rewarded for it. Maybe not as fast as you want, but it will happen, because it is a natural, primal instinct of the human mind.
You see, our eyes always turn to something we’re interested in and disregard that which isn’t. To see means to aim at something, and then to take action accordingly towards the best result. We cannot navigate without something to aim at. We are always at point a, aiming for point b, and point b is always a better place to be. And better is a relative term, directed to you, personally. To see is to envision a how things can be better, but sometimes in life there is too much clutter in the way to see far, into the future, and you get stuck in the present, where it is better to just close your eyes, and do nothing, though deep inside we know we’re not really helping the situation.
So how can we help the situation? First of all, to take stock. Who are you?
When you buy a house, you hire an inspector to list all its faults, as it is, in reality, now, and not how you wish it would be. You’ll pay him to give you the bad news, as you need to know what is wrong. You need to know the house’s hidden flaws. You need to know because you cannot fix something you don’t know is broken. And we all are broken. We all need an inspector, but the problem is that none of us wants someone to point out our flaws. The only person who can in all honesty evaluate your flaws, is you, because you know yourself. You know your hidden flaws better than anyone else. But to be honest about yourself, to open your eyes, does hurt. A lot. But you can do it at your own tempo, which helps.
Now you might have an inner critic that is just plain mean, pointing out all your flaws all of the time. That inner critic, is you, having swallowed everything everyone else has said to you that has hurt you. You have swallowed their words and made them your own, your own personal bully. But that inner critic is someone you can negotiate with, because it is you saying things to yourself. And to do that you need to say to yourself ‘OK, I know we haven’t gotten along very well in the past. And I am likely to make more mistakes in the future, but where I am now is not a good place. I need you, inner critic, to help me, and not to hurt me. I need you, inner critic, to tell me one thing I can do today to make this evening a little better than this morning.’
And whatever your inner critic spews at you, you get to pick a thing to do that day to make life a little easier on yourself. And after that, you reward yourself, because with that you reward your inner critic for cooperating, for giving you an aim, something to do that makes life a little easier. It might be putting books back on the shelf. Or do the dishes so you have clean plates to eat from, and clean mans to cook in. Or putting clothes in the wash so you’ll have clean clothes to wear, all of which makes you feel just a little better.
It’s going to be a fight, but it’s a fight you can win, as you determine the rules, and how long the game lasts. And with rules like that, you cannot loose.”

Now there might be a little voice inside you going ‘Is this a trick?’ And I am telling you, yes. yes it is. What this text does is trick yourself into getting things done to better your life and get out of depression, get out of a bad life and into a better one. So it’s a good trick. Every day we humans make around five hundred little decisions that determine our life tomorrow. Get up or stay in bed, what to wear, what to eat, where to go. And we do that every day, day after day. And you don’t have to aim for all five hundred to be just right. Just aim for some to be helpful towards tomorrow, and try to avoid those which will make tomorrow worse. At best, in your worst days, aim for a stalemate. Because you are in control of this game. o you do those damn dishes. You put those filthy clothes in the wash. You put those damn books on the shelf. And then you go do something that makes you a little happier. And with that, you’ll find your way.

Just imagine where you can be in a year, having aimed to make each day to be a little better than yesterday?
I have, I found what I enjoy, and now I write books for a living, and get to visit all kinds of countries to talk to people who enjoy reading my work. And what I hope is that you find your way too. :slight_smile:

And by the way, the original book is 12 rules for life, by Jordan B. Peterson. And I know he is a bit of a hot topic these days with some people, but let’s be honest here. Is the social opinion of your peers really that important when reading his work can help get your life on track? You don’t have to agree with everything he says, for I certainly don’t, but I am telling you it is a worthwhile read, and I am only trying to help, as I know what it feels like to be stuck.

kind regards,

Martin / ThatOldDutchGuy

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I felt very challenged by this, thank you for sharing.

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I just hope that something resonates inside you to better each day a little. It really is the way out. :slight_smile: