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Friday, January 18, 2008

How Are You Treating Your Jaguar?

Toledo, Spain
How are you treating that $ 80K Jaguar in your garage? Oh, you don't have one? Well then, how about your $ 15K Rolex? I bet you take good care of that. Don't have that either? The Armani suit? The Gucci bag? The Ferragamo gown? The Vuitton briefcase?

Whether you own any of these items or not, I imagine that if you did, you would take very good care of them ... treat them well, in other words. I don't see you throwing a hammer down on the immaculate paintwork of the Jag, nor do I see you carelessly leaving the Rolex in the sand as you go for a swim. The suit and the gown would definitely get hung up properly after wearing them, and you wouldn't leave the Gucci bag out in your garden for the humid night air to do its work on it.

So if you take such good care of your special possessions (even if yours are not the ones I've described with tongue-in-cheek sassiness), why don't you take the same kind of good care of yourself? Particularly, why do you treat yourself in ways you would in all likelihood never treat a special possession?

We place great value on some of the objects that populate our lives, even if they are not as costly as the ones indicated. Perhaps you are a book lover, and cherish each of those volumes. Perhaps you play the piano and the one standing in your living room is lovingly tuned on a regular basis. You get my point. What is it about us that we do not tend to cherish ourselves? In yesterday's post Do You Like The Person You Are Alone With?, much of this topic of self-love was touched upon, but I'd like to take it a step further.

One thing is how we do or do not love ourselves, but quite another thing is how we treat ourselves. This involves the care we give our bodies (quality of food, air, exercise, relaxation, and rest, quality of the company we keep, and what we feed ourselves with with our eyes, our brain; i.e., what do we watch, what do we read, what sort of conversations do we have), as well as the care we take in speaking to ourselves.

Imagine you are out on the golf course and came in way over par. What words do you sling into yourself, as you berate yourself for the idiot you were for not being able to play better? Would you speak like that to your young son or daughter whom you are teaching how to play? Would you not - instead - encourage him or her to try again, saying it's because next time they have a good chance of doing it a whole lot better? Would you not speak words of positive and proactive support, in order to ensure that they would indeed try again on the most constructive and helpful note possible?

Imagine you have just tried a new recipe and somehow it did not result in quite the mouth-watering dish you expected. Are you angry at your lack of culinary expertise? Do you insult yourself for being less than perfect? Or do you have an internal conversation that encourages you to try it in another way, or to consult with someone who has greater knowledge than you about the subject, recognizing that this is the way one learns, by trial and error.

What are your mistakes and failures, but attempts at doing something that are not yet quite part of your repertoire. See also previous posts about failure and risk. How did you learn how to drive? Were you perfect from the start? How, for that matter, did you learn how to walk? I love using this example with my clients. We've all learned how to walk, even though we may not remember it, and many of us either have children that we have observed learning how to walk, or we know children of other people that we have observed in that same process. What happens? Doesn't the burgeoning walker get up from a crawling position by holding on to furniture or a conveniently placed adult and take a few steps? Doesn't that child then totter forwards, with a big grin on its face in view of this new world he is discovering? And doesn't he then almost always fall? What happens then? Does he make faces at himself, and shake his fist, and shout (assuming he was not hurt in the fall)? No. The child simply lifts himself up again, and tries again, supremely convinced that this time it will work. And if it still does not, the scene is repeated. And repeated and repeated again. Not once does the child think I'm so bad at this, I guess I had just better leave it, because I will never succeed. I am such a failure. And what does the adult that is observing the child do? The moment the child falls, he shouts at him, telling him how stupid he is for not knowing how to walk yet. How on earth could he not have done it perfectly the first time? Don't you see what an idiot you are, he continues to berate the child? Of course not. The loving or caring adult open his arms to the child, encouraging him to get back up on his feet, encouraging him to try it again, showing him how much he, the adult, believes in the capacity of the child to master this process.

This is love. This is constructive encouragement. This is bringing out the best in another. And this is how we must treat our most valuable asset...ourselves.

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