“Help Yourself.”

I’ve taken to reading a few self-help books. My favorite so far is Dr. Phil McGraw’s Life Strategies, a one-two punch of a book that rips away your rose-colored glasses, as opposed to other books that come short of putting you on a pedestal.

Most of these self-help books have the same core message, yet each author tackles it from various angles. From Seven Habits of Highly Successful People to Thinking Big to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, these books encourage you to take a long hard look at yourself in the sphere of existence. Being social beings, we cannot escape the fact that we are dependent on each other. Yet in the process of societal interaction, we tend to let the outside take over till we almost lose who we fundamentally are, unique human beings who are special in our own ways.

These books are in no way cure-alls. There are points in some books that are too strong or too idealistic. The key I’ve found and am working on is to add a little personal challenge ever so often until it becomes a matter of, as they say in exercise machine home shopping ads, “customizing the workout that’s best for you.”

For instance, I recently found the courage to bitch in a mailing list because I had been insulted by a friend. Though no harm was intended, given the obnoxious nature of the friend, insult was added to injury (or the other way around) when the apology issued was insincerely worded. I put my foot down and yet everyone else told me to calm down and back off. I was thinking, “Why is everyone telling the offended party to calm down, and yet not tell the offender directly that he was wrong?” That issue is still unresolved as far as I’m concerned, but for the sake of half-baked pakikisama, I just clamped down and stopped reading the mailing list.

In the process of my dealings with other people, I found myself susceptible to being overwhelmed by them and the underlying challenge I have everyday is to keep reminding myself of who I am and what I’m about. Because in the end, I only have myself, and if I don’t take care of myself -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually -- how can I possibly take care of other people? “Love others as you love yourself.”

I’ve encountered people who feel bad about their lives, who feel they have no purpose or direction, who believe that the world is passing them by so fast that they can’t keep up, that everyone else is ahead of them. And believe me, I’ve had my share of those feelings as well. I still have them, in fact.

But I am dealt with a set of cards, and my hand is far different from everyone else’s, and with the help of these self-help “rulebooks,” I’m guided in the game play. Success can be a matter of Fate, but it’s also a matter of Choice. To say that life is a game need not sound fatalistic.


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