It might seem like I’m on your back, but I am going to ask again. Have you written your people tag, or did you just read the article and think, “It might be an interesting thing to do, but I don’t have the time. I’ve still got to finish the year-end work at the office and take care of everything for the holidays. Anyway, it’s just an exercise in futility. Everyone knows who I am, and I know who I am. So, why should I put out all the effort and energy for an endeavor that’s so low on my list of priorities?”
Let me tell you why. You’ve heard me say it over and over again: You have to be selfish, not in terms of only thinking about yourself, but in order to develop a rational self-interest. Writing this tag is a first step in that direction. It can be your way of giving yourself a gift that will make your life better for years to come. It is a step solely devoted to helping you see yourself as you truly are. Not as the person you see in the bathroom mirror every morning, i.e., the one that distorts reality and causes you either to feel that you’re more than, better than, or worst and less than what you sometimes feel or fear you may be. I’d have you look at your people tag as the most valuable Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza gift that you’ll ever receive, this or any other year: One that will eventually contribute to your seeing who you really are, valuing that person and truly loving you, because of this newly acquired acceptance of self.
This present is one that you can’t buy, that only you can give yourself, but few of you will ever receive it, because it’s emotionally very painful to obtain, because it requires that you be totally vulnerable. Most of you, and at one time, even myself, would have said, “Then, why do it if it’s going to be hurtful or depressing and make you feel naked and exposed. I don’t need to be reminded of how old I am, how fat I am, and how needy, dependent and how lacking I feel. All my shortcomings, the goals I didn’t complete, the resolutions I’ve broken and the failures I’ve experienced will be there out in the open. Why not just leave the past behind, forget all the negatives and look to a new positive future?”
I’ll tell you why. That bright future would only serve as another coat of paint applied on the surface to create the illusion that things are better than they actually are. You’d only be lying to yourself. What I’d prefer you to do is strip off all the old paint and, possibly for the first time in your life, reveal you for who you are. I’d like for you to honestly see how you feel, what you think and why you behave the way you do. Then, I’d hope that you would create a new way to cope and to live at peace with the person you discover inside you.
That’s why you’ve got to write a people tag, despite how difficult and hurtful it may be to admit your shortcomings, failures, negative feelings and thoughts. Try to think of it this way: Everyone has said and done things that they regret and lament. No one is perfect. All of you, no matter how successful you may be, have inner feelings of insecurity, fear, neediness dependency, insufficiency and hurt. The only difference is to what degree they’re there, and how successful you’ve been at hiding them from others and yourself, as well. Some of you try sweeping them under the rug, which only makes the rug lumpy, and your failings all the more obvious. But, no matter how adept you’ve been at hiding these feelings, you never cleansed your soul or changed the gut-wrenching feelings and anxiety you’ve harbored inside. No matter how much you drank, drugged, slept or worked, they were still there. What can change those feelings, however, is bringing them to the surface, airing them out, so to speak, and then learning to forgive, accept and live with them without guilt, shame or the need to punish yourself.
A patient once said to me, “Of course, there are some parts of me that are damaged or I wish were different, but I’ll probably die with them. They’ll never change.” My retort was, “I totally agree. Every human being has damaged, malfunctioning or missing pieces inside them. That doesn’t concern me. What is of concern to me is how you learn to live with those missing or dysfunctional pieces? The gift I’d have you give yourself is the ability to say, “I own who I am, I recognize and accept my shortcomings, and I forgive them. I suspect they’ll probably always be there, but I know that I can learn to behave in spite of them. As a result, I will no longer have to live my life constantly hiding or denying them.”
One way to better understand what I’m saying is to ask yourself what you would say to your own child, grandchild, niece or nephew after they’ve really goofed up and admitted their guilt or expressed to you how inadequate they feel inside. In most instances, it would be exactly what I’m suggesting you say to yourself. You see, the key to finding inner peace is learning to be kind to yourself. The difficulty, however, is that it requires that you learn to accept and forgive those traits you find most abhorrent in you, can’t own or abide about you, or wish weren’t present in you. Once you’re able to do so, your energies no longer will need to be directed toward distorting, rationalizing or hiding you. Similarly, you’ll discover that no amount of success or accomplishment you ever achieve will compensate, mitigate or mask the shortcomings in you.
So, this coming year, I pray that you will redirect the energies that you previously devoted to hiding and improving you, toward valuing and accepting you for what you are and how you feel, because who you are deserves to be loved.
Happy holiday season to all of you from me and the Reitman family.