As I Do

As I Do

You’ve heard the adage “do as I say and not as I do”. It’s a simple way of saying “I have good advice that you should follow but I’m not going to follow it myself because it’s no fun or really hard. Besides, you matter more than I do.” In those terms, we expect others to value themselves more than we value ourselves. You know how ludicrous this is and yet I’ll guarantee that many of you (and I) have said it and meant it.

It should also come as no surprise that there has been some research done on this idea and with equally unsurprising results. The question is about congruence and messages that are sent incongruently. That is, when words and actions don’t match up, what are the outcomes? This could be anything from saying nice words in a hateful voice to saying one thing while doing another. The results, as you might expect were that when there is incongruence between words and actions, the actions speak with a far louder voice and are what the hearers believe or hear the most strongly.

Sometimes in therapy, this is the leverage I am reduced to using because there are so many people out there whose lives are built around caring for, advising, and protecting others while ignoring many of their own needs. Many times I see this in parents. I can’t tell you the numbers of dads and probably even more so moms who are seriously concerned about the health, well being, and actions of their children while generally not taking very good care of themselves. My angle is sometimes reduced to something like “When you are telling your children to make good choices and while you are making poor choices, they are much more likely to follow your example over your advice. If you want to influence them, take your own advice and work on your choices.”

What I wish I noticed was all my people valuing themselves by taking good care of themselves and working hard to do what is best for them. Sadly, that is so often not the case. So please believe me when I say that if you want those you love to make good choices about money, health, relationships, and so on, make sure you are making good financial, health, relationship, and other choices in your own life. If you want them to love themselves more, then love yourself more. If you want their self-esteem to be more balanced and healthy, work on getting your self-esteem in a good place. Your best chance of getting through to them is to show them.