Working on yourself, part 1: Call your mother!

Life is a never-ending exploration of your identity, your capabilities, your talents. But life is also a study of your blind spots, your emotional issues, your foibles, and—let’s just say it out loud—your problems. To work on yourself is to deepen your talents and lessen your problems; it is to tame your fears and fulfill your destiny.

Working on yourself can take many forms, such as psychotherapy, exercise, and meditation. Each of these ways is a universe all by itself. Not only there are dozens of different ways of working on yourself; there are dozens of different forms of psychotherapy, exercise, meditation, and so on. In fact, your first duty when you set out to work on yourself is to determine how best to do it. One of my favorite proverbs says, “Reptilian heaven is mammalian hell.” The snake loves the swamp, the kitty cat hates it. Would you benefit from lying on a psychoanalyst’s couch four days a week for ten or fifteen years? For some people that’s heaven, for others, hell. If Freud isn’t for you, there’s always Lacan, Jung, Rogers, Klein, Erickson, Gonzales, and a stadium-full of others. (You’ve never heard of Gonzales? He’s an excellent therapist. Muy rápido, señor.)

Taking ballroom-dance lessons is a way of working on yourself. If, like many guys, you are deathly afraid of dancing, lessons become an arena in which you face and conquer your fears. Learning a foreign language can become a way of working on yourself too. Even the weekly phone call to your mother can be a way of working on yourself. “Taming your fears,” remember? That’s the name of the game.

Working on yourself may be painful at times, and perhaps inevitably so. But once you engage in the process to the full, you might come to see that working on yourself is the most satisfying thing there is, a never-ending festival of adventures and discoveries. Shedding fears, developing talents, affirming yourself: you can do it every day, all day long, and you can call it “life.”

In my next post I’ll explain why the same activity, depending on how you do it, can amount to “working on yourself” or “wasting your time.” This applies to all activities, including reading someone’s blog on the Internet.