How should we treat people? Well, if you look at the Zen habits of living by the golden rules here are some practical tips:
Practice empathy, practice compassion, be friendly, be helpful, be courteous, listen to others, overcome prejudice, stop criticizing, don't control others.
But there's another question that I bet you never asked yourself.
How should you treat you?
On this topic we hear a lot of conflicting stuff. Some say confidence is critical and we should always be pumping ourselves up. Others say humility is the answer and we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. And some think we should be hard on ourselves in order to become the best we can be.
But I read something recently that really clicked with me. It actually made me stop and say, "Wow."
It was some solutions proposed by Canadian author of the 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson, coined as one of the foremost thinkers of our age. Here are some strategies he explains in his book.
Treat yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping.
How often do you really approach yourself with the care and concern that you do for a friend in need, a much-loved family member, an endearing pet, or a youngster in your care?
We'll tell others they need to ask for help; we're here for them - but not reach out when we need support. We'll be there for friends during hard times - but not be as nice with ourselves when the troubles are our own. And all too often we believe more in others than we believe in ourselves.
These viewpoints resonated with me so strongly and I researched the subject further.
Fascinating research by Dr. Kristin Neff, world’s leading experts on self-compassion, has shown that we are regularly far harder on ourselves than others.
Why is that?
Part of it comes down to our reptilian brain. Your brain is wired to be concerned for friends in need. But that same system doesn’t naturally kick in when you thrash yourself. Dr. Neff, explains this phenomenon this way.
When your friend fails, you don’t feel threatened. But when you feel threatened by a problem, or a confrontation, your usual response is fight, flight or feed. This evolutionary stress response generated from the Sympathetic Nervous System is the most primal drive to protect our bodily self, but the dilemma is that when we are face with problems, our self-concept gets threatened and our body reacts exactly the same way.
Our natural reaction is the fight or flight response. We fight the problem — which is ourselves. We attack ourselves, we judge ourselves, and then we isolate ourselves and feel lonely. In a way, it’s so much easier to be kind and supportive to others than ourselves, because we aren’t threatened by others’ problems.
So we can really benefit by treating ourselves like someone we're responsible for helping.
Let's look at three behaviors these smart researchers have uncovered that can lead to a happier, healthier life -- and to your best self.
1) To Make Better Choices, Think Of Your Best Friend
Ever felt like the advice you give to others is smarter and wittier than the things you actually choose to do for yourself? You're not crazy to feel this way.
In the book, The Path of No Resistance, author Garret Kramer, suggest that you’re more likely to do the right thing if you take the “inside-outside perspective” in other words, if you ask yourself, "What advice would I give to someone else in this situation? What would you do if you provided some advice for another person?
You wouldn't let your buddy do something rash and stupid. So give yourself the same recommendations you would a good friend - and then act on it.
So treating yourself like a friend can help you make better choices in your life.
But what about when it comes to your own health?
2) For Health, Think About Fido
No, you don't have to eat dog food. But the paradox here is studies show people buy healthier food for their dogs and worry more about their wellbeing than they do for themselves.
And they're more likely to be more careful when using prescription medicine when it's for their furry friends than for their own bodies.
And I think we all know people who take a lot more walks and hikes because of their dog than they would if they didn't have a four-legged furry friend.
So most of us would be a lot healthier if we treated our bodies like they belonged to the canine companions we're responsible for.
So this one theory can help you make you skinnier and help to make better health choices. What about happiness?
3) For Happiness, Think About your grandma
In her research, Dr. Kristin Neff uncovered something that surprised her: being compassionate toward others and being compassionate to yourself aren’t connected. There's zero correlation. Shocking? Think about it for a second...
How often are you very nice to friends but very mean to yourself? Pretty often. Kristin explains that when you are mean to others it frequently gets corrected quickly; people fight back. But when you beat yourself up, whose job is it to defend you?
Exactly. The only voice in your head is yours.
You need to start showing more self-compassion, and start treating yourself as a best friend. Being nice to you will automatically boosts your happiness and reduce your stress, make you less likely to procrastinate, improve your romantic relationships and even make you healthier.
So how do you do it? Next time that voice in your head starts saying stupid, mean things, self-attacking, feeling inferior and shame, replace the self-criticism with kind, forgiving and positive thoughts.
Imagine someone who loves you, like your grandma, saying kind and encouraging words. Research shows this delivers impactful results.
You need to challenge and reject negative thoughts and reframe them into something positive. Every time that critical voice starts yammering, instead imagine your grandma giving supportive advice.
YOU are the only person in your life who is available 24/7 to provide you with care and kindness.
So why don't we follow through on this self-improvement advice? Why can't we rally the motivation to do what we know will better our lives and make us happier?
Part of it is because we really don't like being told what to do.
Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, author of the bestseller Never Split the Difference says that people are much more likely to follow through on a plan when it's their idea.
And bestselling author Dan Pink suggests that the key to motivation is a feeling of autonomy; a feeling of directing your own life, rather than being bossed around.
These anecdotes are not only great advice but it also includes a simple tip to that problem: "Treat yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping."
Don't do anything because I told you to. Do it because YOU told you to.
So take a second and think: what do you do to help someone when you really love them?
Okay, now show that love to YOURSELF.
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