It’s no secret that I subscribe to and apply the life and finance techniques prescribed by Ramit Sethi. Last week, he posted an article that just smacked me in the face. Really hard. Funnily, it had nothing to do with money.
It was a reminder as I walk into 2014, that my biggest critic is me, and the critics that do exist outside of my own mind are just people with small visions and shoulders laden with fear. I am an unknown when I do things that don’t fit into their worldview and it is human nature to approach the unknown with fear, cynicism and mistrust. I do not owe them any of my guilt nor should I allow those emotions to impact me, even when “them” is me, and “those emotions” are mine.
It’s taken about 10 years for me to be able to look back on my life and gain this perspective about what impedes progress. I hesitate to call it wisdom but it is, at the very least, an understanding of the truth. This little bit from the article sums it up.
Yes, you ARE responsible for being stuck. No, it’s not your mom, or society, or the heteronormative patriarchal bonds that hold you down. (Do they have an influence on all of us? Of course. Can we control them? No.)
But you can control one thing: yourself. This might be uncomfortable to hear, but it’s true.
I used to subscribe to the idea that where I was born, the culture I was from, the family I had, the friends I didn’t have, the “heteronormative patriarchal bonds” that the article was talking about were keeping me down. And there was so much guilt associated with it. I felt bad I was secretly dating my friend, the white guy, instead of naturally wanting to pursue a successful man from a “good”, in-culture family that my parents would like right away. I felt guilty when my core wanted to be completely financially independent of anyone when I felt like the opposite was expected of me. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to seek education for the social status it would bring me. I didn’t want a second degree until I knew that I really wanted to increase my knowledge and influence in a particular field that way instead of doing it as an no-thought addon to my undergrad. I felt guilty for wanting to live alone, to be completely independent, to want to know that kind of freedom. I felt guilty for pursuing a business on the side that wasn’t very technical with unimpressive beginner results and not something worth bragging about.
I did all the the things I intuitively wanted to, eventually, but I could have done them better, earlier, more happily if it weren’t for my guilt. And in fact, I wouldn’t have done any of those things if I really chose to believe everything I thought about myself and my circumstances. And none of that was anyone’s fault but my own.
I blamed my parents, my friends, my society, my upbringing, and everything else for a while for why I couldn’t do certain things. It was the easiest thing to do, required no action, and no introspection. I would then turn around and blame myself by deciding that I was bad at everything and I deserved what I got when I felt like I failed. They’re paradoxical, those feelings. You believe the world is against you, and that you don’t deserve to be in that position and then turn around and look in the mirror, disrespect yourself, downplay your abilities, and rationalize that the walls around you exist because you’re not worth more. This too is just unchecked emotion, no action or introspection required.
It was nice to be refreshed on the topic of personal responsibility. You have more power to change things for yourself than you think you have to align your world to your needs. Being aware of that truth is enough of a foundation to start scrutinizing why you believe the things you do about your “limits”. I’m not nearly as impacted by guilt as I used to be. When ‘expectations’, especially external ones, don’t match up with my personal desires, I give myself a moment to contemplate that disparity. I allow myself time and space to think about why I want certain things and why others want certain things from me, and for me. I make better decisions for it, and I gain peace regardless of the outcome. I don’t respond angrily, I don’t throw up walls and emotionally run away. I pick my battles now, and I don’t engage unless I have something at stake worth fighting for. It’s really empowered me in a way that 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have even thought possible.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I keep it in the forefront of my mind, that all my true enemies lie within myself, and that I can win if I remember who I am and who I am as my own enemy.
Anyway, shoutout to writers everywhere for stating the obvious for people like me, on a road like this. It’s important to maintain that internal locus of control, to give other people the chance to see it your way, to be patient with yourself and always look forward. And I sure am looking forward to 2014.
Anyway, happy really late 2014 outlook post!