Good Self, Bad Self
Do you walk your talk? Most of us like to think that we mean what we say and say what we mean.
Then why do we keep saying we will quit doing this, or start doing that, and we find we keep on doing the same old things? Most New Year’s resolutions end up abandoned shortly after they were made.
We are not liars. We are sincere at the time. But soon or later, we find ourselves faced with conflicting emotions, convictions and our real actions.
Most of the time we kid ourselves with a system of delusions and denial. We say we are one kind of person, while doing things that are contrary to our desired image.
Psychologists call it “cognitive dissonance,” a state of discomfort when we say one thing but do another. We will go to any lengths to avoid that feeling, hence we construct an elaborate system of delusions, denial, and some behaviors we don’t even notice.
To face the fact that we aren’t acting like the person we believe we should be is painful and unpleasant. We don’t have time for that. Negative emotions get in the way of our being productive and focusing on the tasks and goals at hand.
So we live with incongruencies and denial, and our battling inner selves seem to be just part of who we are. We find a way to excuse ourselves. We are forgiving of our inconsistencies. We’re only human, after all.
The problem is that all that conflicting undercurrent saps our energy and spirit. The price we pay by not facing these paradoxes is fatigue, irritability, and lack of energy. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to maintain the different sides of our personality in some sort of harmony.
Most people don’t recognize the extent of their inner complexity. We run into trouble when we set goals that do not take into account the differing sides of our personalities.
We have competing selves and competing commitments. On the one hand, we may truly be health conscious and want to maintain a set of healthy standards. On the other hand, we are also committed to having fun and enjoying life. These two values may compete for our attention, and usually the goal of immediate pleasure will win out over delayed satisfaction.
We may value family life and work hard to give our family things that provide pleasure and comfort. But what happens when our commitment to work and financial success interferes with spending time with children and spouses?
What about our sense of orderliness? What happens when the focus on just getting things done overrides getting the most important things done?
Human beings are complex animals, with competing drives and a multitude of values. It is not easy to know oneself well. How do you gain self-awareness so that appropriate goals and priorities can be set?
Try to identify 3-5 values and priorities that motivate you strongly. Then identify any competing values that also must be satisfied. Many times something we value has an opposite that we also value. These competing values must be reconciled in your mind.
Once you identify your strongest desires, and the competing drives that vie for your attention and focus, revise your goals and priorities to honor both sides of your personality. Try setting realistic goals that will allow for both sides of your competing values.
Both sides of you will love you for it!