12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – Rule 2

Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

Do I treat myself with just as much compassion and care as I do with my friends? According to this chapter, we don’t even treat ourselves as good as we do our pets.

Peterson is careful to specify that treating yourself like someone you are responsible for helping doesn’t mean doing what makes you happy. After all, happiness is ephemeral. It comes and goes. And what makes you happy today may not make you happy tomorrow. Instead, the idea is to “do what is good for you”. That which is good for you today, tomorrow, next year, and five years from now is more likely to provide lasting peace.

The most interesting idea in this chapter is presented in the following quote:

“. . . you do not simply belong to yourself. You are not simply in your own possession to torture and mistreat. This is partly because your Being is inexorably tied up with that of others, and your mistreatment of yourself can have catastrophic consequences for others.” pg. 60

I’ve always held myself to some militant discipline. I thought if I’m hard enough on myself, I’ll perform better. I behaved as if punishment was the best motivator. This isn’t even somewhat true. Punishment is our preferred method, and wrongly so, when trying to discipline others (especially children). Then we mistakenly apply that same method to ourselves. In my experience, punishment usually is carrying out via withholding reward, contempt,

One cause if this is how we view ourselves. In my own life, I can somehow vacillate between self-disgust and self-reverence. The solution to this is to approach myself with the same understanding I would approach a friend. I’m not a total piece of shit. I’m not an amazing person either. But if I work on myself everyday, I can realize my potential of becoming a functioning adult in society who does more good than bad.

Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping, because when you get yourself together, you are in a better position to help others. And in a way, you help them when you help yourself. If you get your career together, you can better help your family. Or if you don’t have a family, you can at least do the things you enjoy now with your friends. If you get your health together, you have more energy and better mood.

Peterson always says that we don’t know the limits of our potential. If we keep pushing ourselves, we keep going forward. We have nothing better to do but see where some dedication and proper aiming can lead.

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