Are you the type of person that gives so much love, compassion, and encouragement to others, but forget to give to yourself?
I definitely do and it frustrates me. I sometimes feel like a hypocrite or an impostor who can’t take his own advice. Then I would doubt my ability to give and help people because I was not good enough, smart enough, or wise enough. Why is it so hard to love myself? Turns out I’m not the only one who has this problem, according to University of Waterloo psychologist, Igor Grossman, who coined this phenomenon as Solomon’s Paradox.
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Solomon’s Paradox explained
King Solomon was the third leader of the Jewish Kingdom and was considered a wise sage who people flocked to for advice. But his personal life was a mess. He made poor decisions, got caught up with money and women, and neglected his son. Hence, the paradox. Grossman used this story as his basis for his research to see if this was just unique to King Solomon, or if it was a common behavior. He did a series of experiments and found that people do, in fact, reason more wisely for someone else’s situation compared to their own. You can read the paper here.
Well, of course!
This social behavior explains why I find myself trying to fix other people’s problems before my own. Because it’s a lot easier when it isn’t so personal.
I now feel more able to empathize with everyone when it comes to making decisions for their own lives vs someone else’s. A lot of us are givers, which does make it much harder for us to take care of ourselves first, especially when faced with a deeply personal, emotionally-charged situation. We may even be in such great positions on the outside, giving great advice, coaching, love, and encouragement, but struggle to internalize it for ourselves.
I’ve noticed that, in high-pressure situations (e.g. work environment, dating, profound, vulnerable conversations, etc.), we tend to react with an instinct or personal obligation to fill the silence or to show aptitude and intelligence. We feel like we have to think fast, move quickly, impress early. But what do you think would happen when we become comfortable with the silence, to allow our minds a few seconds to process our emotions and what is making us feel that way? How can we respond better?
This is what fuels my excitement to continue doing emotional intelligence work because it is the perfect tonic for our poison. We might think wisdom only comes with old age or experience, but there are ways we can make use of the wisdom we know we already have inside of us, as long as you work on these 3 things.
1. Slow down
It’s easy to tell people to slow down when I’m sitting behind a computer screen, but I have actually put this into practice myself. Though it’s still difficult at times, when it does work, it’s critical to my well-being. I get it, in the heat of the moment, everything is on fire, your heart is pumping, your chest is boiling, your mind is racing, and you burst out with actions or words that you didn’t mean or wanted to express in that way.
How can you possibly slow down from that? I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, or that it even works for everybody, but if you are able to recognize when you start feeling a shift in your body, count to 6, three seconds to breathe in, three to breathe out. This prevents you from reacting rashly and allows you to spend time to respond appropriately.
2. Distance yourself from the situation
Grossman found that King Solomon (and many otherwise sages, thought leaders, or coaches for that matter) didn’t have to be doomed to a frustrating personal life, feeling like an impostor.
If you can practice removing yourself from yourself, or pretend to be a fly-on-the-wall watching yourself behave in the moment, then you can also find the capacity to make reasonable decisions about your own life. Again, easier said than done, I know. But all it takes is practice. When something happens to you personally, or when you’re stuck on something and don’t know what to do next, imagine you’re watching a movie about yourself. How would you like them to behave? What would you do to care for and support that person?
“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.” – Thomas Cooley
It’s weird, it’s scary, it’s definitely unnatural to force yourself into an out-of-body experience, but ironically, separating yourself from yourself is a great way to become self-aware. I was able to see myself from the perspective of someone else and view them (myself) in a less judgmental way and with more compassion. It was comforting.
Which leads me to…
3. Treat yourself with compassion
I know you’ve heard it plenty before, you got to love yourself. And I totally agree! But I think it might be helpful for you to also show compassion to yourself as well.
Think about it, we care so much about showing compassion for others, but how often do we do so for ourselves? My guess is if you’re somewhat of a goal-oriented perfectionist, who has to be the smart one, you would never treat others as poorly as you treat yourself, right? Imagine that part of you that wants everything to go according to plan, to have everything in order, to avoid flaws, risk, or uncertainty. Imagine if they were someone else, berating you every time you did something slightly wrong. Imagine the pressure they force upon you. How would you feel?
The saying goes, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” What it’s missing is that the “others” also include ourselves.
You are wise
What I’ve learned from reading about Solomon’s Paradox is that great advice can come from anyone, anywhere, including yourself. You just have to be willing to give them space and just listen. And they don’t have to come from top CEOs or billionaires. As in the case with one of my good friends who met a homeless person at random, he learned an acronym that served as a good reminder for himself:
“Live Independently and Free Every Day.”
We are social beings. We care about social-proof. And that means we think wisdom only comes from the people who are living our idea of success. Yes, if you want logistics on exactly what to do or what systems to put in place, definitely seek the mentor who’s “been there, done that.” But as we know from Solomon’s Paradox, even those with status and clout are human and make mistakes, which also means we can’t be quick to judge or wave off those who aren’t seemingly successful in our eyes.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” – Bill Nye
Which also works the other way around. You can offer a unique perspective to someone else. There’s no reason to feel like a fraud or impostor for passing on information that is true for you. You are wise. You have it in you. Just remember to slow down, distance yourself from the situation, and treat yourself with compassion and you will shine.
How to use EQ to become wiser
As an emotional intelligence coach, I love helping people get out of your head and into your heart, so you can access your intuition to help you make better decisions.