Over the years of our addictions, many of us developed some pretty sophisticated ways of dealing with low self-esteem. Most of us were pretty good at them before we even became active in our addictions. We may have learned the behavior from caretakers, without even being conscious of it.
One of the most common of these coping tools (that’s what they are: tools for coping with our childhood insecurities–we’ve just outgrown them) is the habit of finding fault with others. That certainly doesn’t require much in the way of explanation. Who among us hasn’t looked at someone else and consciously thought something along the lines of, “Well, at least I’m not that bad.” Fault-finding is simply extending that kind of thinking. If we know how other people ought to be doing things and they’re screwing it up, we can criticize them instead of looking at ourselves.
Think about the people you know. Of those who habitually criticize others (always with the best of intentions, mind you) how many of them would you say are happy people? Does that give us a hint? Happy, emotionally healthy folks don’t have to play games with their own heads at the expense of others.
Often, even after we’ve dealt with a lot of the self-esteem issues that lead to such behavior, we find it difficult to break the habit. I don’t know if there’s an app for that, but there are a few tricks we use in some of the process addictions that will get the job done if we are willing to work at it.
- First of all, we need to get in the habit of reminding ourselves that every human being out there is a unique individual, just like we are. They have different upbringings, different life stories, different priorities and their own–perhaps skewed–ways of looking at life. It’s inevitable that many if not most of the things that are important to us will carry no weight at all with them. The bottom line is that we really have no idea what proper behavior means for them, only for us, and that begs the question, “Who am I to expect others to live by my standards. Do I even live up to my standards?”
- Next, we have to learn to ask ourselves what it is about our current situation that is making us uneasy. Am I projecting my dissatisfaction with myself on some other guy? What’s that about?
- The third thing and perhaps the most important is to learn to remind ourselves, without fail, that
- That person has their own life and struggles, liabilities and priorities
- I don’t know what they are
- They are people; they have families, hopes and dreams and their own directions, just like me
- I have no reason to feel superior to them; the very fact that I am trying to makes that a dead-end
- Unless it materially harms me in some way–and hurt feelings or indignation don’t count–what they think and do is none of my business. Period.
The other people in this world deserve to be treated as our equals because they are. Some are great carpenters; some are poets. I probably know more about anthropology than you do. Does that make me better? That’s silly! Naturally, that holds true for others as well; they’ve no right to judge us either. But that’s their problem, not ours, and the solution has to be theirs as well.
I come from a family where criticizing and belittling others was a full-fledged sport, and I came by a faux superior attitude honestly. Combined with poor self-esteem from other issues in my life, I became a pretty asinine addict. A superior drunk. A superior addict. Who but one of us can even understand the concept? We not only understand we can laugh at it–knowing full well that it’s another case of, as Pogo the Possum used to say in the comics, “We has met the enemy and he is us!” (Thanks, Walt Kelly.)
A wise man once said, “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Let’s put down our rocks and call our sponsors, shall we?