Wednesday, September 01, 2010

How to Confront Yourself Without Condemning Yourself, Part 2

As if you weren’t already assailed with enough negativity, criticism and confrontation from outside sources, I am now going to ask you to start confronting yourself.

Ugh. Who wants to do that? People hate confronting themselves.

They’re afraid that they’ll hate what they see.
They’re scared that they’ll have to take responsibility.
They’re terrified that they’ll have to make some changes.

Nah. It’s much easier to turn my eyes outward. I’ll just stick with that, you think.

BUT HERE’S THE SECRET: This isn’t about narcissistic self-obsession.

It’s about confident self-acceptance.
It’s about cementing self-connection.
It’s about conscious self-exploration.
It’s about continuous self-improvement.

As long as you’re wiling to attend to yourself coolly, courageously and compassionately; and as long as you’re willing to do some inner work, self-confrontation is one of the smartest, healthiest practices you could ever embed into your daily life.

Whether you’re an individual – or an organization – here’s a list of six more ways (read the first six here!) to confront yourself without condemning yourself:
1. Understand the distinction. My friend Jeremy recently told me, “Confrontation is taking stock without judgment; condemnation is judging and finding the whole inventory useless. And it’s difficult to separate those things out when conducting self-analysis. Judging and justifying are much easier.”

That’s a key distinction. The word “confront” comes from the Latin confrontare, which means; “to stand in front of,” while the word “condemn” comes from the Latin condemnare, which means, “to blame.” I wonder what approach you take.

“When I have started on this process,” Jeremy continued, “I think I can actually hear a voice that sounds like a cop from Law and Order saying, ‘Nothing to see here, folks.’ I think that’s pride (or too much Law and Order).”

As you can see, there’s a fine line between checking yourself out and checking yourself off. Make sure you know the distinction. Which one are you doing to yourself?

2. Book blank time. I don’t care how stressed out you are. What I want to know is how you occupy your stillness when the world works overtime to make you tremble.

Ah, stillness. The great untapped reservoir of self-knowledge. If you truly want to become a master of self-confrontation without self-condemnation, practice meeting yourself in empty moments. Physically book time in your schedule for nothing.

Don’t worry. The world won’t fall apart without you. Remind yourself that there are no emergencies let the silence swallow you whole for five minutes. Even if no great revelations arrive initially, practicing regular intervals of silence will eventually get addictive.

Before you know it, you’ll be setting aside juicy chunks of your busy week to quiet down and confront yourself. How much blank time do you have booked for next week?

3. Reduce your speed. Some people stay so busy all the time because they know that if they stop – event for a moment – they might actually have to confront their problems and realize how mediocre their lives really are.

And the irony is, if they would actually take the time to pause and breathe, they’d come to face to face with their own suckiness and discover how to convert those liabilities into a legacy that matters.

To reduce your speed, consider asking yourself the following question throughout the day:

“Why are you rushing?”

Odds are, you won’t be able to come up with a legitimate answer. Especially if you’re like me: The kind of person who constantly tries to impress himself with how quickly he can make it to the post office and back.

Five minutes my ass. Watch this! Take that, Old Lady I Almost Hit That Probably Was Going to Die Next Week Anyway.

That’s the advantage of reducing your speed: You finally get a chance catch up with yourself. Lust like the old friend you haven’t seen since last November, it’s amazing what you realize you’ve been missing. And to think: All you had to do was slow the hell down. Who knew?

4. Be willing to meet yourself and not turn away. “Look at yourself in the mirror non-judgmentally. As a reflection and nothing else.” That’s what Erin, my yoga instructor, constantly reminds the class. That we need to learn to be open to all we are.

Now, if you’re not a yogi, I understand. My best suggestion for laying your world bear is to meet yourself at the page, for at least fifteen minutes a day.

Take out your pen and bleed all over the page. Saddle up to the keyboard and start pounding. Bust out your boss’s flip chart if you have to. Whatever writing style works for you.

And don’t feed me that whole, “But I’m not a writer,” excuse. Everyone is a writer. Writing is an extension of thinking. If you’re not a writer then you’re not a thinker. And if you’re not a thinker, you shouldn’t even be reading this.

Writing is the great clarifier and the great confronter. Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself can be learned through writing. But only if you do it honestly. Only if you use blood, not ink. Do you see yourself as you are or as you want to be?

5. Ritualize your confrontation. Ritual, in the words of Joseph Campbell, introduces you to the meaning of what’s going on. It properly puts your mind in touch with what you’re really doing.

What’s more, by ritualizing self-confrontation, you create a cushion of compassion for the devastating blows to land. Because let’s face it:

People don’t confront themselves because it’s scary.
People don’t confront themselves because it’s a gateway drug to change.
People don’t confront themselves because it’s ten thousand times harder than slogging along in mediocrity.

That’s why ritualizing self-confrontation is so essential: Because the circumferencelessness of human potential is terrifying. And needs to be attended to with a certain amount of namaste. “The spirit in me honors the spirit in you.”

For example, here’s my daily ritual:

Wake up early. Listen to one song from my custom playlist. Shower. Dress. Pour a cup of herbal tea. Sit down at my computer. Open a blank document. Puke out three-pages of stream of consciousness free writing. Recite my incantation. Go to work.

That’s how I compel myself to confront myself. And the reason is, without some kind ritual, your ego tells your body to clock out early. “Don’t worry, you can skip the self-confrontation just this once.”

But as we all know, it’s never just once. It’s like a Lays potato chip: Your ego can never eat just one. And that’s when you start to forget who you are. Remember: Rituals prevent you from saying, “Why the hell am I doing this?” What are yours?

6. Don’t disregard discoveries that are unjellable with your beliefs. I don’t care what you have faith in. What I want to know is if you’re willing to admit the truth of something you don’t have the courage to believe.

That’s the great commission of anyone who walks down the self-confrontational path: To attend to whatever experience surfaces with a posture of deep democracy. Knowing that everything matters equally. And to reassess any maladaptive assumptions that might be holding you back.

Because the reality is: Somewhere down the self-confrontational line, you’re going to learn something about yourself that’s inconsistent with the way you (thought) you saw yourself.

And that’s when you have a choice: Do I pretend that I didn’t just see that, or should I call bullshit on myself?

Remember: Self-confrontation is, if anything, a form of finding yourself. The cool part is: The more you practice finding yourself by yourself, the less you lose yourself with others.

As Brian Wilson said, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Not a bad trade-off. Are you pretending (not) to see what’s too difficult to confront?

LOOK, MAN: I know self-confrontation is like pulling teeth – your own teeth. And without Novocain, either.

But if you can’t be honest with yourself, what else is there?

We turn to Joseph Campbell’s book, Reflections on the Art of Living, in which he wrote:

“Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.”

Go meet yourself.
Attend to your truth coolly, courageously and compassionately.
Even if you don’t like what you see.

You’ll thank you.

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How do you confront yourself?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

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