It occurred to me lately how strange it is that we can “dislike ourselves,” because it means we have a vision of how we should be and have actively chosen to disappoint ourselves, that we can know what the right thing is to do and consciously act against it.
It means, on a day-to-day basis, we make decisions that adversely affect our self-image. I suppose it’s like pigging out on burgers when you’re supposed to be watching your weight, then feeling guilty and defeated the next day. But the bizarre part of it all, is that we had 100 percent control over the situation.
A friend of mine was feeling guilty about a relationship decision she made, but when she confided in those around her, she found no sympathy. One girl even blatantly remarked, “Well, it was your decision to make.”
It all comes down to the fact that what we should do is not always what we want to do. Now why on earth would we want to do something that would make us hate ourselves? That sounds masochistic if not at the very least counterproductive. Then I realized, it’s because somehow, deep inside, there might be a delusion that this ostensibly “wrong” decision could make you happy.
After some further probing comparable to a thousand-dollar therapy session, my friend found that in some way her relationship decision was a delayed reaction to her absentee father. She was subconsciously trying to exert her agency (though erroneously placed) to compensate for the lack of her ability to do so in her familial relationship. She thought it would make her happy.
But what about our conscious tendencies to err? If we are aware of our adverse inclinations and we choose to give into them, does that make us worse off than if we had no idea in the first place? So many of us are afraid of becoming our parents (nothing is more offensive to my mom than saying she’s starting to resemble my grandmother. Comes in handy when you’re trying to get her to stop doing something, but let’s keep that our little secret). Yet, as we all know, we always end up more like them than we’d like to be. So if you know that your mom has a bad habit of interrupting people when they talk, and you find yourself doing the same as you age, but you don’t make a concerted effort to curb it, does this make you a bad person? Or can we just blame genetic predisposition?
As I hear more and more of my aunts, uncles, doctors, and even shopkeepers remark on my growing resemblance to my mother, I stop and take a third-person look at myself. I remember just yesterday venting to my best friend about how my mother is stubborn, pessimistic, high strung and then I realized, those are some of the characteristics I possess, some of which have led to my proudest successes. So yes not only do we often desire to do that which harms us, sometimes the “bad” can lead to a good outcome. So you’re welcome for bringing to light yet another one of life’s enigmas without any conceivable solution, but know this: you’re not alone if you feel like sometimes it’s hard to make the right decision, because after all, if it were so easy, the world would be a perfect place, wouldn’t it?