Mean Old Me

Sometimes I try to be kind to myself in advance. I’ll think, “music always makes me feel great, so since I know next Friday is a busy workday, I’m going to pre-schedule a little music break in the middle and give myself a little boost. You’re welcome, Future Me!”

Then next Friday rolls around, the day is busy, and I’ll come to that event on my calendar. And I’ll scowl, and I’ll say “Past Me was an idiot, I’m too busy for this,” and I’ll skip it to work more.

I’m a mean old man sometimes.

I hasten to point out: only to myself. I consider “Kindness to Others” not only a moral imperative but also one of the sincerest expressions of strength and confidence there is. Only weak cowards are mean to others unjustly. And opportunities to be “justly” mean are few and far between. If someone is deserving of your contempt, then the correct course of action is almost always to simply remove your association, not to actually act contemptuously.

But I can’t remove my association with myself, so when I think of myself as deserving of it, I’m downright mean to myself. Because in those moments, I am weak and cowardly.

I’ve allowed the busyness of my day to weaken me. I’ve allowed the doubt about the successful completion of the day’s endeavors to turn into fear. And then I allowed both of those things to come together to create a mean reaction to the very person who was trying their best to help Present & Future Me: Past Me.

Self-kindness isn’t just about your immediate feelings. It’s about protecting what those feelings support, which is a psychologically sound foundation for all your works. Guess what? That Friday sucked. I did a bad job, overall. I should have taken the music break. Either it would have helped me do a better job because I’d have felt better, or I’d have done just as badly but gotten to listen to music. Either would have been better.

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