Those rewards (or punishments) of our efforts (or lack thereof). Now, this post only applies to people who have ever broken a rule. In other words, this post applies to you (and me, and everyone else who is currently or ever was alive).
What happens when you break a rule? We all know what happened when we were kids, right? You were grounded, lost a privilege/toy/sleepover, missed a dinner, or worse—missed dessert.
In school, you faced detention, lines on the chalkboard (to be honest, this was actually kind of fun for me, because writing isn't really punishment and I got to use chalk), suspension (gasp!) or expulsion—see below:
When we're kids, we live in fear of punishment and yet constantly edge our toes over the lines—lines drawn by the people who were the bosses of us—trying to push out the margins of our world. Remember the thrill? We became clever and sneaky and practiced at pushing just enough, tasting freedom and excitement, hopefully while dodging consequences and punishment. We thought to ourselves, When I'm a grown up, I'll be able to do anything I want and no one will be able to tell me no.
We were sort of right. I mean, adults do get to make choices and have more freedom (in some ways, less in others, I suppose you could say) about decisions that impact us. In some ways, though, we learned our lessons too well. Now, we threaten our desires with our fears, dampen our spirits with our insecurities and, rather than waiting for other people to dole out the punishment, we do it to ourselves.
For a lot of people, "being the boss of me" means we have really severe bosses: Ourselves.
We make the rules and we make the punishments we must accept when we break them. Some of these are utterly ridiculous. I know this because I punish myself all the time: Remember my reading fast? What did I show myself? I certainly didn't entice myself to read my textbooks, that's for sure. So what was the point? "Well," said my Survival Mechanism, "we got to feel righteous."
Righteous. Like a martyr, but without a cause. Certainly without a cause worthy of causing myself pain and suffering.
Awesome. I grounded myself. Because I so enjoyed being grounded when I was acting like a child (don't forget; I was one)? The boss of me (that's me, just in case I'm confusing you) isn't a very kind boss: She's quick to punish and slow to reward. She doesn't enrol me in what is possible or move me swiftly to where I want to be.
I don't need other people to punish me anymore: I'm a grown up. I can do it all by myself now.
Do you punish yourself? I think the answer you're looking for is "yes". It might be subtle, it might be obvious, but either way, you're making yourself pay for something you did, something you didn't do, something you should've, or shouldn't have done.
What if you deserved a reward without the threat of punishment? What happens if you take the punishment out of the deal? With the carrot and the stick (the one you dangle the carrot from is probably also the stick you beat yourself up with, by the way) out of the picture, then what are you left with?
[Tweet "What happens if you take the punishment out of the deal?"]
Exactly. It's time to choose something new. Something different. It'd better be good. Something you'd do without threat of punishment or temptation of a prize. Something that makes your heart sing and makes your life have meaning. It's going to be different for everyone.
Oh, and I don't mean to say you shouldn't reward yourself. You should. Probably a lot more than you currently do. Imagine if you rewarded yourself for things that you didn't hate to do, but things you loved to do. Things that moved you forward, as opposed to things that keep you stuck or out of trouble, as you see it.
How do you punish yourself? What's the outcome? Are you motivated by your fear of punishment or by your desire for rewards? Which one wins?
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