Self-Reflection Means Self-Criticism
I’ve never really written about my girlfriend here. It’s strange because she is such a big part of my life.
Our relationship isn’t always the best which is unfortunate because she is a very sweet girl. It’s my fault mostly. I am a 21 one year old guy and I work all the time. My position forces me to make some really shitty decisions, ones with no real winner and enough of them added a bit of an edge to an otherwise wonderful relationship.
I don’t always agree with the things that upset her. There are times when I think she’s totally wrong. But looking back there are quite a few decisions I made that I am not proud of. Priorities and internal logic that were embarrassing at best and disturbing at worst.
I guess you need to think when you’re making a choice: is this an something I respect or is the logic just tenuous enough to settle your conscience?
There is a good line in Meditations where he says something like never do anything that you will worry about remaining ‘behind closed doors’. I think the same goes for how you treat the important people in your life. And when I look back on things, there’s a lot I could never justify to a third party. I regret that and it’s something I’d like to put an end to doing.
“Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust or lose your sense of shame or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.”
I don’t necessarily see that quotation as saying “Don’t do that.” More like.. “See the not-good consequences as well and make your decision accordingly.”
There’s a difference between closed doors and doors you’re trying to keep locked.
Really? You think Marcus Aurelius telling himself to make a purely academic distinction between good and bad which will have no bearing on his behavior?
He is explicitly saying don’t do things that make you betray trust, that make you feel ashamed, or you feel like your should hide. It’s advice that is at the core of stoic doctrine.
Interesting post Ryan.
I know how you feel. We always look back on our internal logic just wondering what the hell happened in some circumstances. I like your way of looking at it. It’s so hard to differentiate between justification and genuine reason unless it’s too late. If you learn to understand your motivations behind actions – the rudder steering the ship, so to speak – it makes it easier to make that change.
Another thing I have found is just to genuinely recognize weakness (for me, personal finance and people-pleasing) and combat it actively in my self-talk or learn to improve it by introducing accountability. My 2c.
You’ve mentioned this before, trying to live so there’s nothing you’d be ashamed or unable to justify to someone else. Do you think you’re getting better at it?
I read the Meditations on your recommendation and loved it, but it’s not something I can just recall when the need arises to keep me on the right track. How do you make the jump from knowing what the problem is to actually fixing it?
I didn’t have a revelation or epiphany when I first read Meditations. After it had time to sink in, I discovered that I was using a lot of what I learned from it in my daily life. I’m really glad I read it.
“He is explicitly saying don’t do things that make you betray trust, that make you feel ashamed, or you feel like your should hide. It’s advice that is at the core of stoic doctrine.”
No, he is not. Explicitly saying would have been something along the lines of “Don’t do these things..” Explicit means “clear”.
What he said was “Never regard as good..” It’s simultaneously a warning to choose decisions wisely and to know the implications of those decisions. Sometimes people choose lesser/greater evils – even Stoics. Seneca spoke in favor of Nero to the Senate, when he knew that was dishonest.
I challenge you to find one example – ONE – where the Stoics, let alone Marcus Aurelius, suggested it was ok to do something that you would not disregard as good. You won’t find it. Do you know why? Because the entire philosophy is centered on the belief that doing good is ALL their is. Just in Meditations there are dozens of examples of people choosing death before not doing good.
Are they saying that it’ll never happen? That you are never allowed to fail or fuck up? Of course not. But what Marcus is saying – EXPLICITLY SAYING – is the opposite of your lame little rationalization.
Hey – some of my best decisions have been illogical or irrational. You’re a young guy, I wouldn’t be too focused on always doing logical and rational things – no matter the 3rd party justification. You will miss out on risk taking, which is far more important for growth. If you are acknowledging feelings you didn’t have before, that’s another discussion.