4.12. Defend Yourself

We live in a society that can’t simply let people be who they are, and give what they can give.

In today’s world, demands, pressures, and expectations come at us from all sides.

To live a happy, healthy life…you’ve got to defend yourself.

Defend your boundaries.

Defend your limited time and energy.

And perhaps most of all…you’ve got to defend yourself from yourself—from the unreasonable pressures that come from within.

We all have limits.

We’re all just feeble, finite, fallible human beings, living on a spinning rock in space.

We can’t expect perfection. We can only aim for optimization.

For using the limited resources we have to accomplish as much good as we can.

We constantly get the message—even from people who genuinely love us—that our best isn’t good enough.

That we “should” be able to do more.

That we “should” be able to do everything better.

That every misfortune that happens on our watch is our fault—as if we have perfect control over how things turn out, or the ability to never make a mistake.

This relentless, vicious expectation takes an enormous toll on us.

It comes at us from inside and outside. Through gentle exhortations and angry demands.

It makes every moment of rest and leisure seem like laziness. Every “no” seem like selfishness. Every imperfection seem like a personal failing.

It’s truly brutal.

And it’s kind of appalling that we live in a society that can’t simply let people be who they are, and give what they can give—without shaming them and telling them it isn’t good enough, no matter how awesome they are.

The fix for this has to be two-pronged.

We can’t simply deal with this on a personal level.

There has to be a shift in our social attitudes. There has to be a political effort to implement more humane policies. We have to stop vilifying people for simply being human.

But in the meantime, we need to do what we can to resist these pressures in our own lives.

Take an honest inventory of what your limits are right now.

Don’t sell yourself short. But don’t try to be a hero either. They are what they are. It doesn’t do any good to over- or underexaggerate your limits.

Then…just do the best you can, within those limits…without losing any sleep over them.

Enforce your own boundaries. Say “no” when you need to. Let yourself have guilt-free time for rest and restoration.

And don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t let other people shame you for being reasonable and knowing your limits. Don’t blame yourself for these insane—yet omnipresent—social pressures.

And at the same time…don’t blame other people for doing the same things.

They’re limited too. They deserve boundaries too. Just as you have the right to say “no” to them, when you know you don’t have anything to spare…they have the right to do the same to you.

It’s not enough to have compassion and understanding for yourself. You have to have it for others too.

None of us are without limits. The specific limits differ, from person to person. But we all have them. It’s the human condition.

Accept your own limits. Accept others’ limits.

And maybe, one day, we as a society will collectively do the same.


This is the 72nd in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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