We’ve probably all heard of The Golden Rule. It’s something we’ve likely all been taught, taught our children, and an idea that has propagated throughout society as a whole. Well, today I’m taking issue with it.
As a refresher for any of you who have forgotten, The Golden Rule states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I think it would be useful to rethink this rule a bit for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it’s commonly interpreted, especially by children, or our toddler brains, as do unto others as you would have them do unto you to manipulate them into treating you a certain way, so you can feel a certain way.
This looks like being respectful so that you can feel respected or giving compliments so you will get complimented. Often, it manifests as selfishness disguised as selflessness.
I don’t think it’s intended that way, but our brains can make anything nefarious, right?
I take issue with this not because I don’t believe that there’s a time and a place for being concerned with one’s pleasure. I don’t like it because I’m against making other people do things so we can feel the way we want to.
Other people doing or not doing things does not make us feel things. It’s our brain’s interpretation of their actions that makes us feel things.
I think this idea that we treat people a certain way so they will treat us a certain way, then we’ll get to feel the way we want to is misguided.
Treating others how THEY want to be treated
Another issue I have with this maxim is that we are treating people as WE want to be treated, not as THEY want to be treated.
We assume that they want what we want. They like what we like. They expect what we expect. This is not always the case.
I love this Dale Carnegie quote: “Personally, I am very fond of strawberries and cream. But I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream.”
It seems like pretty common sense. This different version, “Treat people how they want to be treated,” prompts you to inquire what that might be. How might they want to be treated?
It has you being conscientious, curious, compassionate. I’m all in for that.
Do unto others as YOU do unto you
All of this, do unto others stuff, focuses our energy on how we treat others, and it ignores the most pivotal relationship — the one with ourselves.
This made me think, what if The Golden Rule was to do unto others as you do unto you? How would that go?
Think about the way you talk to yourself, regard yourself, judge yourself, and feed yourself. What if you had to go out into your families and the world and start treating everyone the way you treat yourself?
What if you had to say the things you say to yourself when you look in the mirror out loud to people on the street, to your partner, or to your kids?
What if you had to tell your best friend or your work colleague when they make a mistake the exact same things you tell yourself when you eat off your plan?
What if when your kids were stressed, bored, sad, or wanting to celebrate, you fed them the same stuff you feed yourself when you feel those things and want to chase it away?
What if when your daughter said she was full, you were like, “So what? It tastes so good. Just ignore that and keep going until you can’t fit any more in?”
It seems ludicrous. And yet, we somehow don’t think anything of it when it’s ourselves in that situation.
Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
I’m listening to Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and rule two expresses what I think is The Reverse Golden Rule. I think it’s the one we should use to guide our weight loss journey: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
Think about what that might look like for a minute.
Imagine you are super stressed and working to meet a deadline. When you come home at the end of the night, all you want is as much wine, chocolate, and pizza as you can get your hands on.
If you were someone you were responsible for helping at this moment, what might you do? What would be helpful? What is it you are actually needing and wanting?
Likely at the end of a long, intense day, you need some rest. Some nourishment. Some acknowledgment of what you accomplished and a little inner celebration of the hard work you put in and what you’re capable of.
But instead, we ignore that. We head to the quick fixes.
We skip giving ourselves love, listening to what we need, and honoring what our body wants.
Imagine you just started going back to the gym and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.
If you were someone you were responsible for helping at this moment, what would you do?
I know what you probably wouldn’t do. Push yourself through an intense painful workout as punishment. You would also probably not spend time criticizing how tight your pants look or the new rolls you developed over the last nine months.
You would celebrate your commitment to health. You would feel proud of yourself for simply showing up.
None of that has anything to do with how you look in your workout clothes. And all of it’s going to be much more helpful than what you currently do, I would guess.
Think about the people you are responsible for helping — maybe it’s your kids, customers, aging parents, people in your community, employees, friends, siblings, or pets — and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you show up for them?
- How do you interact with them?
- How do you speak to them?
- How do you regard them?
- How do you help them?
- How do you know how to help them?
Ask questions to know how to help yourself
I think one really good question to require yourself to answer is that last one: How do you know how to help other people?
How do you know what is helpful to you? How do you know what help you want and need?
I think the best way to find out is by asking questions. You would ask someone you were responsible for helping how you could help them, what they needed help with, what would be most helpful to them.
Have you ever asked yourself that?
Think about the honest answer to this question in some of your most challenging situations. For example, when you see the number on the scale and it isn’t moving the direction you want it to, your brain wants you to believe that this is a major problem, a predictor of all of your capability and future success.
What would happen if you paused here, treated yourself like someone you’re responsible for helping, and asked, “How can I best help me here?”
I think when it comes to the scale, treating it as a neutral piece of data is the most helpful thing to do. When the number goes up, put it in proper perspective and get curious. The scale will always fluctuate a little from day to day. It’s just how it is.
There are so many factors that affect it. It won’t stay the same all of the time, even in maintenance. So you want to make sure you are noticing what kind of fluctuation it is.
Is this a day-to-day fluctuation? Has it gone up and stayed up for days or weeks? If yes, why? What did I eat or not eat? What did I do or not do? What could I shift or adjust?
What is unhelpful? Telling yourself that scale fluctuations mean something negative about your value or what’s possible for you in the future.
What is unhelpful? Using the scale going up as an excuse to throw it all out the window and eat to punish yourself.
“How can I best help me here?”
Think about situations like when you don’t get promoted, or have a disagreement with your partner, or your mother-in-law shares her opinion about you with you. In response to these stressors, your brain tells you to eat.
What would happen if you paused here, treated yourself like someone you are responsible for helping, and asked, “How can I best help me here?”
Usually, eating is not the most helpful solution or even a solution at all.
Sometimes the most helpful thing is feeling what you feel. If you are used to eating to escape feelings, that might sound pretty terrible.
But sometimes, what’s most helpful is not necessarily what’s most comfortable.
Feeling disappointment, anger, or hurt helps us build our emotional vocabulary so that we don’t need to escape with food.
It can also be helpful to look at the thinking creating the feeling.
What are we making not getting promoted mean about us? What’s the problem with having a disagreement? Why is your mother-in-law’s opinion of you a problem for you?
Eating to escape shuts down learning and leads to guilt, shame, discomfort, and usually more eating.
Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. That’s a rule I can totally get on board with.
If you are ready to start your permanent weight loss journey, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.