All of us are made up of collections of traits and behaviors. If you try to objectively evaluate yourself on a half dozen attributes – for example, intelligence, compassion, technical skill, reading speed, social comfort, and persistence – you would likely rank yourself differently for each different attribute. And we are only talking about six out of a universe of possible traits and behaviors.
Unfortunately, some people will take one part of them, such as academic ability or a medical condition, and define themselves totally by that aspect of their lives. Because the focus of this definition is often on something that is perceived to be negative, that type of self-definition winds up being a total putdown of the self.
If you put yourself down totally, you may build your life around the perception of yourself as “a patient” or a “social misfit” or a “klutz”. There are a lot of problems associated with defining yourself that way. First of all, it ignores the fact that abilities and other attributes are not distributed equally in each person. If you think about yourself honestly, you can probably find some things where you are above average – whether it be good looks, fairness, sense of humor, ability to comfortably spend time with yourself, or something else. If you devalue your strengths, you are being unfair to yourself.
It is also important to recognize that you are not above average in some things because you haven’t made them a priority. You may not have needed the social network or the earnings or the mechanical ability or the physical appearance that was a priority to others. If you’ve now changed the rules on yourself, it is important to be fair. Don’t criticize yourself for not accomplishing something that you didn’t set out to accomplish, but also be willing to change your behavior if you change your priorities.
Another problem with thinking in terms of total putdowns is the fact that you are not likely to apply this only to yourself. You may be inclined to put others down totally based upon one certain attribute – thus being both unfair to others and also limiting your ability to appreciate their strengths and their potential to contribute positively to your life.
Let’s work on being fair to ourselves by not putting ourselves down totally on the basis of one trait or behavior. In so doing, we will also see and treat others more fairly.