I’ll be 100% honest, I don’t know if any of this article is going to be useful for anyone except myself, but this is what I felt like writing about this morning, so tough luck.
I have a really lame superpower- I’m capable of being at least forty times harder on myself than any other person has ever been on me. Now, this may go in the face of whatever nonsense your guru told you about affirmations and visualization and all that, but I don’t really care.
Here’s the trick- I can simultaneously hold an extremely high self-concept and be absolutely brutal to myself at the same time, and that’s not a contradiction.
I’ve spent a long time thinking about this sort of thing, and what I came up with was essentially this-
A: You should be prepared for everything, including all sorts of criticism. The way to prepare for this is to be your own greatest critic, and if you can do this genuinely, you’ll rarely hear a criticism that you didn’t anticipate.
B: You need to have higher standards than everyone else in the room. Other people may have expectations for you, or in many more cases, they may not. However, you’ll gain a degree of protective insulation from the opinions of others (which are generally bad or ill-informed, anyway) if your expectations are so high that, by being the person you know you should be, you’re already exceeding everyone else’s expectations.
C: This is a very powerful defense against narcissism and narcissistic tendencies, because narcissists cannot do this correctly. Narcissists hold unreasonably high self-concepts to mask their internal extremely low regard for themselves, so if you become comfortable facing that inner darkness, you’ll never get caught lying to yourself and denying your lesser qualities.
D: This will make you stronger than 99% of people. The average person cannot tolerate any sort of criticism, because the nonsense “self-esteem” shit they teach in school these days is just a breeding ground for unearned (and thus fragile) self-regard, which does not have the callouses that come with repeated testing.
E: As long as you can treat the criticism as opportunity to improve and not just useless self-flagellation, after some length of time you will likely be better off than almost everyone you meet, whether internally or externally. There are definitely people who just rag on themselves constantly in an unproductive fashion, but at the end of the day, that’s going to be pure defeatism. Think of this as weight training for the mind, or some kind of exercise that you can’t complete yet, but will be good at in a year.
Iron strengthens iron.
Why does this work?
Let’s tie this back into something I wrote about in an earlier email, Only For The Weak. Imagine you’re playing a game and you don’t know the rules, and you get beginner’s luck and win. You didn’t learn anything about the rules, and eventually, if the losing team practices, they’re going to beat your dumb luck with skill every time.
In the same sense, if you go with your positive psychology nonsense, and you believe in whatever kind of hippie magic the “law of attraction is,” and you get lucky and somehow get what you’re going after, you didn’t learn anything.
On the other hand, if you are relentless in pushing yourself to be better, if you do not hold any punches, then when you lose (and you inevitably will, trust me), you’ll be able to figure out why. Otherwise, you’re going to sit there and cry when your “good things happen to me because I’m a nice person” m̶a̶g̶i̶c̶ ̶s̶p̶e̶l̶l̶ , er… affirmation doesn’t come true and you have to deal with the fact that anything of value comes from struggle.
“What’s the deeper meaning here, Garrett?” you ask, “isn’t there normally a deeper meaning to these things, don’t you do that a lot?”
Yes, and normally, I do, but in this case, it’s literally just that- you need to break the conditioning that our Disney-tinted modern world has embedded into your thick skull.
Life is hard, you are not a born winner, you are not good enough, you are not ready.
I got you, turns out there is a deeper meaning here.
You have to balance out the criticism with the unshakeable foundation in true self-confidence. However, it is absolutely critical to understand that you cannot have just one half, whether it’s the criticism or the confidence. The two together are a system, and they create a feedback loop that generates excellence if you commit to doing it correctly.
Here is an example.
Life is hard, but I will be harder.
You are not a born winner, so you’re going to have to make yourself one.
You are not good enough, but you can get better every day.
You are not ready… yet.
When you can withstand yourself, you will realize that no one other than you knows you well enough to criticize you better than you can. Then, other people fade into the background like static on the TV, and you realize that their criticisms are all actually criticisms they’re too afraid to apply to themselves, and that’s where you beat them.
That is where you will beat everyone, but only if you can beat yourself.