The Bathroom Mirror Mandate
Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.
~Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of Judicial Process
There are all kinds of people in this world and as much as we would like to think of ourselves a wholly unique and different in a world full of snob, jerks and geniuses – of pests and partiers – the sad, the stupid and the simply off their rocker – of the kind, the weak, the magnanimous and mean – odds are you are sporting an identifiable personality quirk that may or may not be serving you well.
This rule asks you to stare into the eyes of your lesser self. It requires you to take a good hard look inside. It asks you to fight the urge to put your best foot forward and focus on the one dragging behind.
Think through all of your major mistakes. Take a peek at your minor ones too. Search out their causes, peruse them for patterns and then figure out what they reveal about you. This soul searching is not designed to make you feel bad rather its purpose is to heighten your state of awareness. Remember, your faults and weaknesses will never hurt anyone else as much as they hurt you. But if you know what they are and understand how they work, they will be less likely to do you harm.
This rule also requires you to take into consideration all of the things that Political Correctness does not allow. Gender, race, class, sexual orientation, education, family and exposure all influence how we feel. And when we’re under stress it’s how we feel and not what we profess that most often dictates what we do.
Your hormones have not read Gloria Steinem; nor has your up-bringing been de-briefed. So you have to make a conscious effort to find whatever prejudices you have (and you do, there is no way around it). And when I say look I mean hunt them down. Most of our prejudices rest so close to us they are almost impossible to see.
You personality, your peccadilloes, your Odd Things A -Z, they are what make you, you and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you have make sure what’s odd about you isn’t impeding your progress in any way.
I know it’s hard; we’re not used to doing it and it’s not something one would inherently find fun. But it’s not about beating yourself up because you have faults. Your imperfections are not indictments. They are just a part of what makes you human. The decision you have is whether or not you’re going to make a point of knowing what they are.
Because it’s not easy, I’ll go first. Here’s how it works:
I talk too much; I talk too fast and if I am talking to someone I think talks too slowly I will finish their sentences for them. I am fearful. I am relentless. I get disproportionality angry about odd things. I am lazy. I am a control freak and a bit of a slob. I’m not very good at friendship. I don’t call, text or reach out. I resent the fact that if I had a penis and made the kind of money I do no one would expect me to know how to cook.
I used to have an immediate guttural negative response to anyone who looked like this one particular person I really didn’t like. I worked on that for two years before I was able to finally sit that one down. But even before then I understood that was how I felt and made it a point never to let it sway me.
I don’t like people who I perceive as lazy even though I see that in myself.
I curse far more often than I’d like and I am impatient with people who don’t listen. Lastly, I am cheap … in the extreme. I can hang on to a dollar so tightly you can hear George Washington scream.
This is just the tip of a very large, endlessly morphing iceberg, but I think you get the drift. The point is I know all of these things about myself and I never use them as excuses. I keep these monsters well in my sights whenever I enter a situation that might implicate any of them because I know that the first battle in any war I have to fight is always with myself.
I think that’s true for everyone. We can be an inordinately lethal species for some very less than admirable reasons. I believe it would behoove all of us to do battle with the least of who we are.
My Mother’s Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius