I've been guilty of it.
A day or two before my dentist's appointment, I will spend twice the amount of time brushing my teeth and triple the time flossing (I'm normally a fast flosser).
I even make the effort to brush my teeth again and use Listerine right before my appointment.
If I really think about it ... it's absurd.
Here I am paying my dentist to clean my teeth and I am doing most of the work for her (although she probably begs to differ).
How about you?
Are you guilty of this as well?
Are you the type to clean up the house before the cleaning lady comes?
If you are or know someone who is, read on.
So, why do we do this to ourselves?
There is really one reason:
We care about what other people think.
We are afraid our dentist and the dental assistants will silently look at each other with furrowed brows and annoyed looks when working on our teeth. We can already see them talking about us the next day, commenting on how lazy and unhygienic we are. We can readily imagine our cleaning lady shaking her head disapprovingly as she cleans up our mess (a gesture she usually reserves for college dorm rooms and seedy motels).
No matter how we try to spin it, we just don't like to be judged negatively by other people (especially people we don't know).
Cleaning up before the maid. Brushing our teeth more vigilantly. These are harmless examples but it is when it becomes a habit and you automatically start to go against your natural inclinations because you are afraid of what other people will think, that's when it becomes dangerous.
A good warning sign is when you begin to rationalize your behavior instead of taking responsibility. You tell yourself that by cleaning up you are being considerate to others. You argue that the more "easy" work you do, the better they can focus on the "hard" work you paid them to do. I learned somewhere that there are always two reasons for doing something: the reason that sounds good and the real reason.
The reasons that sound good are all too familiar so what is real reason you brush your teeth before going to the dentist is?
You care more about what other people think of you than what you think of yourself.
This is a formula for disaster for one big reason:
You have no power over the actions and thinking of other people.
So if your self-image is based on what other people think about you, you're going to be in for some pretty big up and down days. You are disempowering yourself by changing your self-worth anytime someone changes their opinion of you.
Now that's a pretty horrible way to live and it doesn't have to be that way.
Care more about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
All I did was change the order of the words and the impact is huge. The best way to put this to use in the real world is by separating your self-image from your behavior and outcome. Your self-image should not fluctuate. If anything it should only be going up because you completely control your self-image. Changing your self-image is instant. What are you waiting for?
Once you can separate your behavior from your self-image, failures becomes a reflection on your behavior, not who you are as a person. You haven't changed and you don't need to change. You were perfect from the minute you were born. What does have to change is your behavior. Remember that and your failures won't disempower you.
Are you someone who gets upset when people criticize or blame you?
Do you discount your ideas when it's contrary to popular belief?
Is your mood tied to what people think about you?
If so, I strongly recommend that you take the first step in the right direction and stop brushing your teeth right before you see the dentist. If you're feeling really good, eat some gooey chocolate beforehand. It may feel uncomfortable at first but when you come out with your teeth all cleaned and realizing how little it matters what the dentist thinks about you, it'll be well worth it.
If you're a dentist, sorry!Photo by bark
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.