Think Well of Yourself
Release Date: 08/23/2021
Andrew Petty is Dying
Do you have a plan for when you die? Do you have a plan for when your loved ones die? In 2001, Michelle Mathai was just two years into her first foreign service post as vice consul in Auckland, NZ. She and her parents were on a farewell trip around the island in anticipation of Michelle's imminent departure for a new post in El Salvador. In the blink of an eye, the trip turned tragic when their car, with her dad at the wheel and her mom in the back seat, careened off the road and into the mercilessly icy current of a glacial river. As water rushed in, Michelle was able to kick out the...info_outline Suffering, Surrender, and the Leap of Faith: How to Find Freedom on the Other Side of Letting Go, with Carrie Chown
Andrew Petty is Dying
What do you need to let go of? In her teens, alcohol became Carrie Chown's refuge from emotional pain. By her early college years, she was firmly in the grips of alcoholism. Carrie worked hard to keep everything looking shiny on the outside, but inside she wanted to die. Then, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension as a college junior and was told she had two years to live. Ironically, it felt like an answer to her prayer to die. In June of 1999, Carrie summoned the will and the courage to get sober so she could begin an IV treatment the following month. Remarkably, she survived...info_outline What Do You Do?: A Tool for Understanding Yourself Better and Finding Your Unique Path in Life
Andrew Petty is Dying
“What do you do?” We’re all familiar with that question. It comes up naturally when we meet someone for the first time in a social setting. Its usual purpose is to learn what someone does for a living to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. In this episode, however, we’ll REpurpose this old question in a new way to help you know yourself better and discern even more clearly the paths in life for which you’re uniquely made. It will become a new tool in your ongoing quest to live YOUR life with guts, gusto, and abandon. My Answer to “What do you...info_outline Have Time, or Time Will Have You: Escape Regret and Create a Life You’re Proud Of
Andrew Petty is Dying
This episode is a wake-up call, a call to get back in the driver’s seat of your life, a call to become the boss of your most precious nonrenewable resource: Time. Because if you don’t have time, Time will ultimately have you. And you won’t like the results. Guilty as Charged How many times have we heard someone say, “I don’t have time,” or “If only I had more time,” or said something like that ourselves? I imagine we’ve all done it. I sure have. If we’re honest, sometimes we trot out statements like these like badges of honor in an attempt to show...info_outline Rites of Passage: How Reviving Neglected Rituals Can Set You Free, with Amy Musson
Andrew Petty is Dying
What place do rites of passage have in your life? In this episode, my special guest is MY coach Amy Musson, and we explore why rites of passage matter and the surprisingly harmful consequences of neglecting them. It turns out that there's more at stake than you might have thought--if you've ever given rites of passage much thought at all. If you haven't given them much thought, then you're not alone. I think most of us in the materially affluent Western world today have largely neglected meaningful rites of passage. Emphasis on "materially affluent," by the way, because, as Amy and...info_outline The Making of The Alpinist's Marc-André Leclerc: A Transformational Conversation with Marc-André's Mom, Michelle Kuipers
Andrew Petty is Dying
"If I've learned anything in the last three years, it's that life and death are so much bigger than us. You embraced life and love with all your amazing energy, which still reverberates. You are still with us on walks in the forest, on windy ridges, in a sunlit moment after the rain, in the love, laughter, and music of your friends and family. You are there in dreams that seem more real than waking moments. Everyday I think of you on your timeless flight. I love you with all my heart, and miss you more than words can say." Michelle Kuipers wrote this heartrending caption for an Instagram post...info_outline How To Make the Most of Today: A Simple Framework
Andrew Petty is Dying
How do we make the most of today? This episode is short and sweet, banged out somewhat hastily during the current season of curveballs I mentioned in the previous episode–but banged out with love and goodwill toward you, my fellow traveler along life’s winding path, you who are waking up to the reality of your Mortality and courageously embracing it to live with guts, gusto, and abandon. So today I’m gonna give you what I’ve got and pray that it reaches the hearts of those who need it most. And what I’ve got is a simple framework for making the most of today–the only day...info_outline What to Do When Life Throws You a Curveball: Notes from the Field
Andrew Petty is Dying
What do we do when life throws us a curveball? On this podcast, we’re equipping ourselves with the mindset and the means to live with guts, gusto, and abandon. Growing in our ability to respond to life’s inevitable curveballs requires both evolving our mindset and upgrading our means. And as we get better at responding to life’s curveballs, we increase our capacity to live with even more guts, gusto, and abandon. In this episode, I’ll draw from my own recent experience to share with you what I’m learning in real-time about what to do when life throws us a curveball. ...info_outline Ignore at Your Own Risk: How Your Relationship with Death Affects Your Quality of Life, with Dr. Frederic Tate
Andrew Petty is Dying
What is your relationship with Death? It may seem like an odd question, but your answer to it has everything to do with your quality of life. My guest on this episode shares actionable insight into this relationship so that we can optimize our quality of life. Introducing Dr. Frederic Tate Dr. Frederic Tate is a fascinating human with a perspective on Life and Death forged in the crucible of end-of-life care. A trusted friend connected us, so I knew Frederic was someone I should get to know. And I took an immediate shine to him from afar when I learned that he grew up in the...info_outline What Do You Want?: A Path to Purpose and Fulfillment, with Chris Slota
Andrew Petty is Dying
What do you want? It's a simple enough question at face value, but it can be far from easy to answer. Many of us have never truly tried to answer it. Many of us have never been aware that it was important to do so. And many of us are a lot better at knowing what we DON'T want. Failing to answer this question can lead to surprisingly harmful consequences--but answering it can put us on a path to unprecedented purpose and fulfillment. Don't just take my word for it, though. In this episode, my guest, Chris Slota, gives us unfiltered access to the remarkable personal...info_outline
It’s no small feat to consistently think well of yourself--to regard yourself with warmth and compassion and respect, the same way you would regard someone else you care about. A lot of us wrestle deeply and daily with this challenge. And if you do, then you know how painful it can be. Therapists’ full calendars and the existence of jobs like mine attest to this reality.
The implications of not thinking well of ourselves can be grave. But the impact of the opposite can be transformational.
In this episode, I’ll share a recent chapter from my own story to illustrate the point, and I’ll give you a tool to help you begin thinking well of yourself today.
Ski Day Downer
My wife was in the passenger seat next to me and our boys were bundled up, helmeted, and goggled in the backseat. In most ways, it was a normal snowy Saturday morning for our family as we made our way to the ski mountain for a few hours of fun together. In one way, though, this morning was a bit different than others, and it was about to take a turn for the worse.
For a day or so, a dark cloud had been hanging over me. It’s been long enough now that I don’t remember why, specifically, but I do remember that I was unusually dark and brooding that morning, struggling to stay afloat in a stormy sea of self-doubt and self-condemnation.
Earlier, I’d asked my wife if she’d be up for me processing verbally with her, but we hadn’t found a good time in the midst of getting out the door. Now, as I drove us to the mountain, my internal pressure was mounting, and I made a decision I almost instantly regretted.
I turned to my wife and just started unloading all of the crap that had been building up inside of me. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do know that it was full of “I can’ts” and “I’m nots” and “I’ll nevers.” And I do know that after a couple of minutes of spewing unfiltered negativity, I felt worse, not better, and clearly the same was true for my wife. My dark cloud had spread and now hung over her head, too. She had become a victim of the same toxic negativity I was subjecting myself to.
Those brief couple of minutes put a damper on the rest of the day.
The Upside of the Ski Day Downer
I regret the darkness that I brought into my wife’s day on that occasion. AND...in hindsight, I’m also super grateful for what that moment revealed to me.
I’ve known for a long time that it’s easier for me to think poorly of myself than it is to think well of myself. It’s more instinctive to doubt myself than to trust myself and more familiar, sadly, to condemn myself than to affirm myself. I even have some awareness of where those unfortunate tendencies originated and why they persist. It’s something I’ve wanted to change and something I’ve worked on. But WOW. Until that moment in the car, it wasn’t clear to me just how invasive, pervasive, and destructive my negativity was. Frankly, it was appalling to realize.
That negativity hurts me, yes, AND it hurts others.
So with fresh resolve fueled by this new awareness, I set about to improve the situation. Insight + Action = Transformation. The approach I’ve taken is the tool I want to share with you today. We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s talk baseball.
Which Base are You On?
If life was a baseball diamond--and I’m not a baseball guy, so apologies in advance if I bungle this metaphor--but if life was a baseball diamond, then all of us entered adulthood at different places on the diamond in terms of our ability to think well of ourselves. Some of us entered adulthood rounding third base on the way to home. Some of us haven’t even gotten up to bat yet. And let’s be honest, some of us are still toying with whether we even want to play this “adulthood” game at all. We’re still outside in the parking lot looking for a cheap scalped ticket to get into the stadium or trying to prolong a tailgate party that has long since been over.
No matter which of those descriptions fits you best, both Nature and Nurture are at work. I touch on Nature and Nurture in more depth in Episode 035, Build Your Personal Owner’s Manual: Understand Yourself Better, Enjoy Yourself More, and Live the Life You Were Made to Live. So for now I’ll just define them briefly en route to showing how they apply to thinking well of ourselves.
Nature refers to innate qualities and abilities that influence how we operate in the world on a fundamental, hard-wired level. They’re the default or factory settings that we’re born with. With the help of the Myers-Briggs assessment, for example, I know that one element of my Nature, namely my personality, predisposes me to idealism. Sometimes, idealism is really helpful--enabling me to appeal to a higher standard and point the way to an even better future. But idealism can also lead to a pretty withering self-critique, if where I am is always and only seen as short of the ideal.
Some of you listening right now are picking up what I’m putting down as you recognize both the blessing and the curse of your idealism.
My innate idealism is just one example of how Nature has played a role in the negativity that developed within me over the years. There are other examples, of course, but for now we’ll move on to the influence of Nurture upon our ability to think well of ourselves as adults.
Nurture, in the sense that I use the term, is essentially your Story. And for our purposes today, it’s especially the part of your Story that occurred in your childhood and teen years. If Nature is the unformed lump of clay, then Nurture is the potter’s hands--profoundly shaping how our Nature gets expressed. Our family, our friends, and our experiences--especially traumatic ones--have the most influence in this area. Were you in a supportive home environment, where you were loved for who you were more than for what you achieved? Or were your achievements or lack thereof a primary measure of your worth? Were both parents in the picture? Where were you in the sibling birth order? What social circles did you inhabit and move between? Did you feel smart or dumb in school? What labels did others give you? Respectful? Troublemaker? Promising? Hopeless? What mistakes did you make, and how did they impact your perception of yourself?
In short, as it relates to thinking well of ourselves, what messages about yourself did you receive from your Story? How adequately did the interaction of Nature and Nurture equip you to think well of yourself as an adult?
Which base are you on?
Now, lest we’re inclined to begin sliding down the slippery slope of victimhood--blaming our Nature and Nurture for any difficulty we have thinking well of ourselves--let’s turn our attention to our responsibility in this area and what we can do to change things for the better.
As adults, it’s up to us to get this “think well of yourself” thing sorted out. It’s up to us to “parent” ourselves to maturity in this area. We are 100% responsible for thinking well of ourselves.
BTW, I’ve said it before, and I want to emphasize it again: Perhaps the greatest challenge of adulthood is assuming complete responsibility for ourselves and appropriate responsibility for others. I think many of the world’s greatest ills stem from failures of personal responsibility. And the degree to which each of us is succeeding in this area is also the degree to which the world is changing for the better. It’s no small thing.
So, if we want to think well of ourselves, and we’re willing to take our responsibility to figure it out seriously, then what’s next?
A Tool for Thinking Well of Yourself
That brings us to the tool I want to share with you today, the one I began to use more intently and intentionally after coming face-to-face with the darkness within on that snowy car ride to the mountain. It’s elegant in its simplicity and tragic in its scarcity. No matter your Nature and no matter your Nurture, you can begin using this tool right now to begin thinking well of yourself.
The tool is Encouragement. To be encouraged is to be infused with courage. It’s the way forward when we doubt ourselves. It’s the way forward when we don’t think we have what it takes. It’s the way forward when we find ourselves spewing out “I can’ts” and “I’m nots” and “I’ll nevers.”
A friend of mine says that everyone is under-encouraged. I think he’s right.
Two Ways to Use the Tool of Encouragement
There are two key ways to get Encouragement when we need it:
One--we can get it from others.
Taking responsibility to think well of ourselves doesn’t mean doing it on our own all the time. It doesn’t mean trying to be completely self-sufficient. It does mean, though, that we take responsibility for acknowledging what we need and, when we can’t meet those needs on our own, enlist people and resources to support us in meeting them.
When you’re thinking poorly of yourself and finding it hard to right the ship, let your need for encouragement be known to those who already care about you or who are trained to help you. Reach out to a friend, a family member, a mentor, a therapist, a coach. Sometimes, the origin of our difficulty--especially in the case of past trauma--really does need a professional’s touch. Sometimes, we simply need someone who cares about us to help us see ourselves more clearly and break the grip of the negativity.
For example, I get encouragement on a regular basis from my wife, my parents (yep, even at 47), my coach, and the guys in the original Graveyard Group, where I’m a player-coach. They help me see myself more clearly and think well of myself again when I’m faltering in that area. They pick me up, dust me off, and send me back into the fray of life ready to go another round.
I know. It’s not easy to let others know that we need encouragement, but it’s essential if we’re to take responsibility for thinking well of ourselves--for our own and others’ benefit. And thinking well of ourselves sure is a more pleasant way to live.
The other way to get encouragement is to encourage ourselves.
Doing this involves both a shift in perspective and a change in behavior. I’m going to borrow heavily from clinical psychologist and author, Jordan Peterson, here, because his counsel is the best I’ve come across recently on the topic of encouraging ourselves.
First, let’s look at the shift in perspective needed in order to think well of ourselves. One of the rules for life in Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is “treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.” In the ski day story I shared earlier, I said things about myself that I would never have uttered to my wife or boys about them. I wasn’t treating myself like someone I’m responsible for helping. Quite the opposite. If I wouldn’t say those things to my wife or boys or someone else I was responsible for helping, then why in the world would I feel free to say those things to myself?
So, to encourage yourself, first begin treating yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
Then, change your behavior. Namely, borrowing from another rule in Jordan Peterson’s book, compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. Let me repeat that: compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
This is the behavior that became most important following the ski day debacle and my realization that something had to change. It’s a discipline, really, because the familiar well-worn path for me is that of self-critique and self-condemnation. So to do the opposite takes conscious intention and, frankly, a fair amount of work. It’s like developing a new muscle to counterbalance the over-developed negativity muscle. It takes time, it takes practice, and it feels kind of wonky at first. It can feel uncomfortable or undeserved or just really strange. That’s ok, and that’s normal if thinking well of yourself is a new concept.
The specific self-encouragement practice I’ve embraced is the one I offer to you, too. I simply take inventory of the ways in which I’ve demonstrated a virtue--like humility, kindness, or courage, of the things that have gone well recently--no matter how small they may seem, of the things about myself and my life that I’m proud of or thankful for. I do this in writing, in my journal, and the end result of any one instance of this practice of self-encouragement is a bulleted list of reasons to think well of myself. Sometimes the list is just a few items long, and sometimes there are 10 or more. The length of the list is less important than the intent behind it, the will to take responsibility for thinking well of yourself.
A particular benefit of doing this in writing is that you can go back and look at old entries to encourage yourself anew and track progress over time. The focus is on how far I’ve come as opposed to how far I still have to go. And that focus provides fuel for the road ahead.
Thinking well of ourselves is something that many of us struggle to do and I’d wager ALL of us struggle with some of the time. We’re often much better at thinking poorly of ourselves. That’s personally painful and also harmful to others, because our negativity infects those around us.
Nature and Nurture heavily influence which base we start out on in adulthood in terms of our ability to think well of ourselves.
The way forward is first to take full responsibility for thinking well of ourselves, then to infuse ourselves with courage by seeking encouragement from others and learning to encourage ourselves. With practice, you really can learn to think well of yourself.
It’s good for you, and it’s good for the rest of us, too.
You are the One and Only You. There’s never been anyone else just like you, and there never will be again. You’re here to fulfill purposes that are absolutely unique to you.
So remember, you are going to die. But you’re not dead yet. Get after it, and start thinking well of yourself today!
I Can Help
I know firsthand the pain of thinking poorly of yourself, and it’s my sincere hope that this episode has encouraged you and equipped you to begin thinking well of yourself--maybe for the very first time.
I’m so glad you tuned in today. Don’t forget to follow this show, and I’ll see you next time on Andrew Petty is Dying.
Follow Andrew Petty is Dying & Leave a Review
If You Liked This Episode, These Might be Useful, Too
- Ep. 019 | The Cockpit is Yours: From Passenger to Pilot
- Ep. 022 | Tune Out to Tune In: Hearing & Heeding Your Inner Voice in a World Full of Noise
- Ep. 003 | How to Turn Your Imperfections Into Superpowers: The Key to Unlocking Your Unique Purpose
Check out Jordan Peterson: