I’ve been having a certain type of conversation with some of my friends over the past year.

Maybe this is a problem with my peer/age group and I’m not sure where the problem arose from.

The fundamental issue is a distinct lack of self-empathy.

The Golden Rule

Treat others the way you would want them to treat you

Or one of the several variants/earlier versions of this is quite popular and omnipresent across cultures and religions of the world.
And while this is a noble sentiment and is worth following based on your discretion, I do feel that the inverse of this also needs to exist in the world,

Treat yourself the way you would treat other people

or

Say harsh things to yourself only if you would say the same harsh things to other people

and while this does lack specificity and could be bettered, I think it summarizes the intent.

During my conversations with some of my friends I’ve found this recurring theme of people being intensely self-critical and saying things about themselves which were not factually true, hence, were sharing an opinion about themselves, that would never say to another person.

Phrases like “I wasn’t able to do X because I’m not smart enough” are a little too self-critical for my liking and they are not things that a person, who is in general ‘nice’ would say to another person.

When this sort of reciprocity is missing I think we tend to do a lot of self-harm to ourselves.

I’ve read similar concepts in books by Dan Pink and most recently in 12 rules for life by Jordan Peterson.
While I wasn’t particularly blown away by 12 rules for life, I thought it did speak to this point.

We say things to ourselves at times that we wouldn’t say to another person in the same situation.

We say things about ourselves to ourselves that are not factually true and yet we take them to be fundamental truths about ourselves even when they are based on unfounded opinions about ourselves more than anything else.

A simple test I suggest as soon as you start saying something harsh about yourself to yourself,

  • Recognize that you are doing this
  • Visualize someone you’re close to in the exact situation you are in
  • Think about whether you would say what you were about to say to that person
  • If you wouldn’t, don’t say it yourself

If you would, by all means, please go ahead, but, I think you’ll find more often than not, you wouldn’t.

Be nice to yourself.

Thank you for reading

Sainath