Self Critical Mind Games

Almost on a daily basis, my mind plays games with me. It’s almost as if a voice comes out of no where and “challenges” me to do something. If I succeed, I will feel happy and disciplined; if I fail, I will feel weak and unworthy of facing any future challenges.

Usually these “challenges” take the form of little physical games, self control, or coordination tests.

Examples:

  • Countdown from 65 seconds while NOT blinking and swishing mouth wash at the same time This one comes to mind at night when I am getting ready for bed. It sort of created itself from my oral hygiene routine: I gargle/swish with mouthwash and count to 65 as directed by the instructions. Somewhere along the line, my self critical alter ego decided that I had to swish, count to 65, and also not blink all at the same time as a sort of “test” of will and fortitude.
  • Tossing objects into the trashcan from varying distances. This one enters my brain when I’m cleaning up the apartment or happen to have a piece of debris in my hand. I will typically “dare” myself to make a basket from a challenging distance. If I don’t make it, I feel stupid, worthless, and uncoordinated. I feel as if missing the basket means I lack the ability to “rise to the ocassion”, or “be a gamer” (one who can muster his/her best effort when it counts, aside from practice or rehersal).
  • Climbing stairs in sets of two, not one, to go faster and make it more challenging. I think this is an obsessive compulsive habit. For some reason, I feel that by climbing steps in sets of two, I am somehow “in shape” or more “efficient” opposed to walking up stairs normally. This habit must look ridiculous to those around me, but to me it seems to take on importance. I feel more physically fit and able if I can continue to step up two stairs at a time, and therefore could always fallback on single steps in times of distress or old age.
  • Impromptu “If you can’t do this, your’re that” mini challenges. In times of uncertainty, I feel that I can somehow sway myself and the future into balance by completing a small challenge. For example, I will say to myself: “You’ll be rich one day, if you can put a quarter in your right hand, toss it, and catch it with your left; then toss it with your left and catch it with your right”. Obviously this puts a lot of pressure on me, and this task suddenly takes on enormous ramifications, since dropping the quarter means I’ll be poor. I have no clue why I do this.

Overall, I think these little games are attempts at proving my own worth to myself, or validating feelings of inferiority. Also, as I have mentioned in other posts, I always feel like when it’s the “real time to perform” (ie. playing an instrument on stage, running a serious race, or taking the SATs) I choke and fall short of “rising to the ocassion”.

In the wake of a mediocre or worse performance, I fall back on these little games as a way to build myself back up, thinking: If I can do this simple challenge, the next time a real performance event comes around, I’ll have the strength, poise, and will to out-do myself.

Sadly, I think playing all these small games actually hurts my performance abilities. By constantly trying to validate myself on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, I feel like I lose my competitive “edge” or that extra “push” that regular people can set aside for times when performing the best you can really counts.

I’ve tried to stop these self abusive habits, but it is hard because I feel worthless without some quantifiable means to evaluate myself. Looking forward, I need to work on being relaxed and composed when I’m not performing (or when I don’t require exceptional concentration, energy, or thinking skills) and saving all my energies for when I do really need them.

That way, practicing for an event is more enjoyable, less self-toturing, and truly more beneficial in terms of saving crucial energies for when it comes to testing my true abilities.

Most importantly, even if I do drop these silly routines, and do manage to perform better in activities, I must always remember to measure myself by my own values, feelings of worth, and level of happiness. Having a million dollars, owning a world record, or doing 1000 push-ups are notable achievements, but in the reality they are not the true measure of a person.

BPD on Business and Internet

I haven’t been keeping up with my posting schedule lately, in part because I have been very busy with work.

It seems every June one of my webhosting companies folds, and leaves me in the lurch for not only finding a new web host, but also groveling for a refund. Last year at this time, a host in Canada simply closed shop and refused to refund me $3,000 worth of pre-payments. I dug up his phone number and called his house a couple times at 2 AM in the morning Canadian time, and he told me “You have the wrong number, I work in Real Estate”, as if he already knew that I was going to ask him about his career. Plus, nearly everyone works in Real Estate 🙂 .

This year I’m in a better boat, because the my current web host company is fair and honest. They are a reseller of a much larger corporate hosting company, and recently announced to me that prices were going up 50% due to budget demands. Quite simply, I can not afford such an increase, no matter how much I liked the company.

As a result, I’ve had to dig around and find a cheaper host, format new servers, transfer my data, and then point DNS/nameservers at the new server IPs. This takes a few days to do and can be a royal pain in the ass.

Today I’m finishing up the entire project, in plenty of time to let my current web hosting company de-commission my old servers and liquidate them so I can get my refund. At my calculation, they owe me $3,900 USD for yearly server pre-payments and also for a $1000 over-payment on my part. Yes, can you believe it? I’m honest enough that I overpaid someone $1,000 USD.

If you learn anything about business, learn this: Just pay people on time, and if you can’t advise them and be honest. Don’t jerk them around, stonewall, or screw them. Don’t promise payment if you can’t give it. Nothing (…well almost nothing…) is for free.

Likewise, if you’re providing a service, bill your patrons on time, advise them about price changes, and refund them for any over-payments or service time they will not use.

These simple principles will get you VERY far in the business world. It’s taken me a few years to figure this out, but in the end, you’ll find that people are happy to work with you and will, in some cases, refer you to others so that you get more business.

Good luck with your pursuits! 8)

When your Mom cheers louder for other people’s kids

My mother is a teacher at the high school I attended. Her tenure began about 11 years ago when my English teacher unexpectedly died. At the time, my mom was working in the school library, and the principal felt that offering her the job to replace the deceased teacher would help ease the transition process, since the students at school already knew her.

As a result, my mom has become involved in the school community, from selling hot dogs at football games, editing the school paper, to writing recommendations for college bound students. She also is a big fan of the annual high school musical, in part because as an English major in college, she studied theatre. In general, she has always been impressed by stage actors and musical performers, and took my brother and I to see Les Miserables once.

Just after I left high school for college, one particular student caught her eye (and ear). He was junior year, and had a very good singing voice. As a member of the school chorus and select choir, he auditioned for many state and regional honor ensembles. He also participated in a statewide male vocal contest, and was coronated “the best voice in the state” one year.

While in college, my mom invited me back one night to watch Theo* (name changed) as the lead in the high school’s rendition of the musical “Pippin”. My little brother, who had a decent voice and good stage presence earned a spot as a supporting actor, in part because he was an underclassman at the time.

So, I attended to see my brother perform, and also because I participated in my school’s musical pit orchestra as a trumpet and piano player while I was in High School.

Theo performed very well, and his voice was definitely worthy of all its accolades. The problem, however, was not with him, but with my mother.

As I watched the musical (sitting next to my mother), every time Theo had a solo or intricate duet with another actor, my mom would swoon and applaud wildly at the conclusion of the song. It was as if she was a teenager at a boy band concert, barely contained in her seat and practically yelling “Whooo….. Good Job….Amazing…”. When my brother performed, she was generally happy as well, but even more so if Theo and my brother sang, in which case she was ecstatic once again.

At the conclusion of the show, the usual parade of the show’s actors took place. When Theo presented himself for recognition at the end of the show, my mom was one of the first on her feet to offer a standing ovation. Meanwhile, my Dad and I, somewhat complacent because she was part of our family, casually stood up and gave a “golf clap” round of applause. Once the theatre cleared and parents and children had gathered in the lobby, my mom made a special effort to compliment Theo on a job well done.

At the time I thought that my mom was just having a good time. Time would tell a different story.

Theo continued to participate in a number of select choirs and vocal contests as his high years wore on. During his Senior year, he was encouraged by his vocal teacher to audition for a part in a local theatre’s first run musical. He would be competing against professional actors and vocalists who made a living perfomring, much different from amateur high school students.

Sure enough, Theo landed the lead role, and my mother was absolutely amazed. When I called her from college, she would often talk about how impressed she was that her (and my) high school had produced a talent like Theo, good enough to take part in a pre-broadway musical.

Meanwhile my little brother was still finding his own vocal and performing abilities at the high school level, and was not at Theo’s level. When I was home for the summer from college, he told me one day that my mother called Theo to the school stage in front of the entire school during an assembly. After introducing him, she declared, “Let the world know that Theo is from our school”. When I heard this from my brother I was a little upset: in part because this made him feel bad, and also in part because my mother was so star struck and proud of another parent’s child.

That summer, Theo and the musical opened at the local theatre, and my mom organized a group of teachers to attend the show. She also was first in line for a special post-production meeting where the audience had the chance to have Q an A with the cast.

As luck would have it, Theo’s musical eventually wound up on Broadway, which is no small achievement by any stretch. This was a major accomplishment and well deserved. But my mother, however, felt as if it was the most astounding, amazing thing she had ever witnessed in her life. One moment she was cheering at the high school musical for Theo, the next moment Theo was performing on Broadway.

Needless to say, she organized another group of teachers to travel all the way to New York City to watch Theo. Once again, they also got a special meeting with Theo and the cast, and my mother showered him with praise and pride. I knew all this happened because during a phone call home from college, my mom proudly recounted her trip to a Broadway theatre to watch one of her former students perform. Funny enough, my Dad didn’t really have much to say on this point. He really didn’t care about musical theatre that much, and thought it better to stick to cheering for his own kids.

To be perfectly clear, there’s nothing stopping anyone’s mother from going to see a Broadway show; but, the thing that anyone’s mother SHOULD NOT DO is go on and on about another parent’s child as if he is God’s gift to the planet, especially when around her own children.

In other posts, I write about how I become easily jealous and envious of others. In this case, I was jealous of my mother’s sense of amazement and dedication to Theo’s accomplishments. Swooning and cheering wildly at his performances, organizing trips to see him perform on broadway, and continuously bringing up his perceived greatness when around my brothers and I was more than I could bear. It made me completely furious. I was also equally mad that my mom decided to push my little brother into more formal vocal studies, while at the same time minimizing his own achievements as a vocalist. On one hand, she wanted her own son to become like Theo, but on the other, she forsaked her own children to become the founding member Theo’s fan club.

All this was about 7 years ago. My mom has moved on (a little) and has refocused her life on other things. To be fair, she is now very proud that she and my Dad were able to put 4 kids through college, only the second generation in my Irish immigrant family to do so.

After Theo’s musical fell off broadway I didn’t know what happened to him. I think he and other cast members made a CD with hits from the show a year later, but as far as I know he is not actively performing in any major/on broadway musical. For all I know, he could be seating people in the mezzanine or working the lobby cocktail bar. 🙂

Seriously, though, I want to remind all parents that they should ALWAYS put their own children first. Don’t compare your own children to what other children have done, this is unfair and cruel. Respect your children and your role as their parent and honor them. Secondly, don’t carry on like a starstruck teenager at a boy band concert when around someone else’s child. There’s nothing wrong with being amazed by a performance, but to physically and vocally act as if the other child is a gift from heaven is really completely inappropriate. Furthermore, if this other child goes on National tour (or a Broadway musical) don’t be the main organizer of the trip to see him/her perform. This hurts the feelings of your own children and makes them feel as if they have to achieve at a similar level, in spite of challenges in their own life that they must overcome.

My mom used to say, “you only have two parents, so respect them”. My natural retort was, “you only have four children, honor them and the family first.”