I spend more than enough time tearing others a new one. However, I really criticize myself more than anyone else. I spend way too much time reflecting on my own faults, bad decisions and shortcomings. Time for a self-therapy session.
This past fall, I was on my way back to my home state of Colorado when I decided to make a little detour in Iowa. I stopped for 2 reasons:
- There were billboards all down I-80 advertising a bank designed by Louis Sullivan. I love architecture and Sullivan was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright. He is also known as a contributor to the Prairie School of design.
- I love little, Midwestern small towns. Wandering around the quaint downtowns, I feel like I’m in a different age; little mom-and-pop shops, friendly people and old buildings. Sitting on a bench and absorbing it all for half an hour is a good way to take a break from the road.
While wandering around downtown, out of the corner of my eye, I kept noticing a flyer on storefronts with a woman’s face on it. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I stopped to look at one. The flyer was advertising a fundraiser for a young mother (3 children) who had been recently diagnosed with an advanced form of lymphoma. The 10 year survival rate for this type of thing is about 50%. While it’s not a certain death sentence, I can’t imagine being a parent and having this kind of thing hanging over my head. I’m not afraid of death, but the thought of not being around to support my children terrifies me. If death must come early, let it come after my children turn 18.
I didn’t post Monday or Tuesday because we’ve just been too busy with work on the remodel. On Sunday, I woke up at 5:30am and finally stopped working at 7:30pm. I spent a good deal of time with bad thoughts going through my head:
- This sucks!
- I’m cold!!
- I have to go to Home Depot for the 4th time today for plumbing fittings!!!
I was not in a good mood, lamenting the amount of time I was spending de-uglifying Uglyhouse. My mindset was plain foul.
Back to Iowa
On Tuesday, I decided to check out the young mothers’s cancer facebook page. She is still battling the disease, but is not in good shape. Her posts are ominous.
I noticed she had recently posted the picture you see here. Wow, what a good swift kick to the man-bits to put my mind in the right place. As I complain about the work I have to do on my home, this woman is thrilled to wake up another day just to see her kids from the hospital bed. I suck.
I am often too negative and I really don’t like this part of myself. I work very hard, but life is good. Why do I have to see someone in a bad place to make me appreciate it? Perhaps, this is just human nature. We get accustomed to our place in life and then when a wrench is tossed into our gears, even if it’s a small one, we are unhappy. Dunno. I must try to be better though.
And Becky, I hope you make it.
UPDATE: In the comments below, Adam makes a pretty valid point. I think that a truly enlightened individual doesn’t compare themselves to others. Having to see people who are less fortunate to be happy isn’t good. Similarly, lusting after what other people have isn’t healthy either. Work hard and be happy with where you are in life regardless of others.
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Aunt Beulah says
Carl, I think you described all of us. When not faced with serious problems, we become more aware of, and preoccupied by, the smaller ones. I was going on and on to a friend about some minor difficulties that had upset my day when he responded, “Sounds to me like you have white, middle-class people problems.” That response caused some serious reflection on my part.
Ha yes, there is even a name for this: WPP! Ha!
The point is further hammered home when I read the news and learn about people dying for their freedoms in Kiev or living in North Korean prison camps. Uggh.
Alicia @ Financial Diffraction says
I get this way sometimes, where everything takes on a negative spin. My fiancé calls me on it to try to snap me out of it, but sometimes it’s so deep-rooted that it is difficult to just shake off.
Then every once and awhile I have an epiphany of sorts, and get positive again. Until the next negative streak comes along. It’s sort of cyclical…
I’m working on it. I hope you have success figuring it out for yourself too. 🙂
Ahh yes, I notice it’s cyclical with me as well. A couple good weeks and a couple bad weeks. Maybe that is human nature too? We need tough times to appreciate the good ones?
Wow, a total kick to the man-bits indeed. What a timely reminder to what is important in life. Not the house, not the money, and certainly not the plumbing.
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Ha yes, the plumbing sucks, especially when I nail myself in the man bits! However, soon it will all be done and life will return to its regular pace.
Glad you got the kick in your man bits..lol! It usually does take a tragedy to make us appreciate the simple things in life. Waking up everyday is a gift, and l appreciate it more and more. I’m not sure if it’s because l am getting older or losing a loved one. My husband is more like you , usually negative..but l never stop trying to Pollyanna him. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re just..gasp .. Human!
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Ha, thanks Kemkem. My wife is probably more like you; much more positive and worry free than I. That is probably why the marriage is successful. Balance.
I’ve been struggling with being negative for a long time. I’ve gotten a lot better at being positive, but when it comes to the small things, sometimes it feels like they just keep piling on, and it’s hard not to get frustrated or upset. Having a different perspective really helps, which is why I’ve tried to focus on being grateful for things, however small, throughout the day.
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I think it’s human nature to focus on the negative. I was reading about negativity bias lately and its just how our brains are programmed to work. However, if we’re aware of it, we can turn our thinking around. It takes work, lots of it, but I do believe that its possible.
Adam Kamerer says
Why do we use people with disabilities or diseases as inspiration? It’s always struck me as a little slimy, even when I’ve done it myself. There’s obviously something inspiring about success or a positive outlook in the face of adversity, but sometimes I think it strays too far into reducing a person down to their condition.
I have a mentally handicapped sister who loves to dance. My parents take her to dance classes with them, and when people in the class are struggling, my parents have said “If she can do it, you can do it,” to them. But that’s not because people with mental handicaps can’t dance or shouldn’t know how and my sister somehow magically overcomes that — it’s just because my sister works and practices hard to learn the steps and motions, even if she has a few extra hurdles to overcome before she masters it.
Maybe it’s just important to favor “this person is inspiring because they’re a determined, resourceful person,” instead “this person is sick and therefore inspiring.”
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“Why do we use people with disabilities or diseases as inspiration? It’s always struck me as a little slimy, even when I’ve done it myself.”
I agree, but I think it’s human nature. We like to compare ourselves to others. It also goes in both directions. We aspire to have more money or be like the people we see on the magazine covers in supermarkets.
I think one of goals we should all strive for is to be happy with ourselves and stop comparing.
“If she can do it, you can do it…”
Wow, that is downright rude. If I were your parents, I’d have a tough time not going off on them.
Done by Forty says
I tend to agree with you, Mr. 1500. It is the enlightened position to block out all social comparisons, but I feel it’s an unrealistic goal. We are social creatures hard wired to seek out status via social comparisons. It would be like telling a group of chickens not to establish a pecking order, and just to be happy with who they are.
I don’t fight the unevolved part of me. At best, I’ll try to use it to my advantage, and to at least take away the perspective and empathy when I encounter someone who is sick, who is poor, or just has a better perspective on life than I do.
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Perspective is the key. In my current manager role, I’ve had the following happen to my team in the last 6 months:
1) A 23 year old whose mother was diagnosed with brain cancer
2) Another recent college grad whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer
3) A third team member whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer
4) Another direct report who had a miscarriage
5) Another team member who found out her husband was cheating (ahhh, gotta love Facebook??) – she has 4 kids – all young (under 8) – including twins
So, I’ve had a lot of time to be thankful, and put things in perspective. I find that everyday if I can remind myself to have gratitude (I try to pick out 3-4 things each morning and each night that I am thankful for in my life). The little things tend not to matter as much. It’s hard to not get complacent as I think that is human nature. . .but give it a try, you might find it to be a useful tool to use as you start sensing the grumpy pants mentality coming on!
Wow, that is insanity. Yikes.
“I try to pick out 3-4 things each morning and each night that I am thankful for in my life.”
I think this is a great tip. I think that I need to write a mobile app around this.
Big Guy Money says
I think you hit the nail on the head. We’re human, and humans inherently suck LOL. The great thing is some people are able to put things like this in perspective and realize that when you look back on life, the tough times that you might be going through aren’t even a blip on the radar.
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Good point about the “blip on the radar.” A family member was going to counseling for anxiety and one piece of advice the counselor gave here was along these same line:
“In 6 months, will what you’re going through now matter?” It probably won’t, and therefore it’s not worth spending time worrying about.
Mrs Y says
Thank you for the comment. That made my cold rainy day a little less depressing. We all sometimes tend to be negative until we see something worse. I have to always remind myself that there might be a rainbow after that nasty storm.
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There will be a rainbow at the end. Sometimes, you’ll have to work hard to find it, but then you’ll appreciate it that much more. Keep your head up.
…and look how disappointed the USA women hockey team is and they just won the Silver medal. :-0
Oh, that was bleh.
Ree Klein says
You don’t suck…you’re human. Me, too…
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Thanks Ree, I’m good at focusing on the bad parts…
Jen @ Jen Spends says
I think there are probably very very few individuals in the world who couldn’t benefit from a little perspective now and then.
You said: “I suck.”
…and then right after that you said:
“I am often too negative and I really don’t like this part of myself.”
Beating yourself up is negativity, too. Be gentle with yourself! As a fellow introvert, I can relate — the more time I have to think, the more I feel like a fail. I’m learning to shake off the times I disappoint myself (very often) and just try again.
p.s. If you ever find yourself in Buffalo, NY, there are some architectural gems there you would enjoy. The Guaranty Building (Sullivan) is breathtaking. And I’ll never forget how surreal it was one early morning after an all-nighter in studio when my friends and I went out for breakfast and, oh, by the way, there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house right near the diner. He has a few around there.
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Ha, I know you aren’t, but are you a psychiatrist? Seems to me you could have been with this astute observation! Thank you.
Yes, I will make it to Buffalo to see that. Don’t you have a famous waterfall up there too?
Look at your little girls. That will put perspective on everything. It is for yourself, your wife, and for them, that you work on being a better man. I think that we would all agree that you’re doing a good job.
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Wow, great advice and I agree. Looking at then all of the silly things they say (4 year old: Happy Tine-Valen-Day) cracks me up.
I’m about to start tiling BTW. Want to come over and help? 🙂
Leonard @ The Wallet Doctor says
Time spent reflecting on oneself is never time wasted. It’s important for your personal development, but I agree with you that if this reflection turns into a practice of ego-inflation then it’s important to get some proper perspective on things, and that young mother is a perfect example. She’s facing her own mortality, something many of us ignore until the time comes for us, and it’s easy to lose sight of what is important. For me, like with yourself, I want to ensure my family is taken care of, that they’re happy, my friends are happy, and so am I.
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I have a friend who lived in Frank LLoyd Wright’s Ennuis House in Los Felix (LA) as the caretaker when we were 23! She was working for the LA Art Society (or something like that) so they let her live in the caretaker quarters (1 bedroom apt pretty much) for $500 a month! The view at night is over all of LA – just amazing not too mention you’re standing in the middle of a Mayan template. And at the time, she was bummed that she didn’t know where her life was going and didn’t go to grad school soon enough. All perspective!
P.S. – if you’re trying to be positive maybe you shouldn’t call it the Ugly house =/?
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Never hurts to remind ourselves that we suck from time to time. Don’t look on it as a negative but a positive that there is always room for improvement. Complacency is a negative so it helps avoid this!
I agree with Adams comments about not comparing to others, I just try to compare to myself and keep on getting better, whether that be in skills, finance, on a “spiritual level” (whatever that means!) or life in general.
Saying that it is almost impossible not to gain perspective when you see others who’ve been dealt a worse hand in life than yourself, and again I don’t see this as a bad thing in and of itself. I’m not saying you need to see those people to make you happy, that is the wrong terminology, maybe it can make you humbled and thankful, is a better way to phrase it?
Ryan @ Impersonal Finance says
It likely isn’t healthy, but it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. But it really can provide some much needed perspective. I’m working on it, but not elightened enough to not realize my great fortune from seeing the tragic situations others can find themselves in, or deriving motivation from seeing the success of others. I hope to find that inner peace one day, at least. If I’m will to dish out advice for others, I should at least take some of my own advice every now and again, right? Don’t be too hard on yourself brother.
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Nick Green says
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