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Self Help Strategies: Maybe thereís nothing wrong with you

by Carl Weisman

Direct questions or comments about this article to
Carl Weisman
PO Box 1941, Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Email: Carl@WhyNeverMarried.com

I recall fondly my first job after college. I was a junior engineer working for a large aerospace firm in Southern California. It was the early eighties, I was making $21,000 a year and I was on top of the world. In fact, the only drawback at that time was there were so many young engineers like myself working in the aerospace industry that they often had to cram two, and sometimes even three, engineers into a small office. And these were the days before the personal computer, so we could not occupy our time with Solitaire and the Internet. We had to do real work, like read and think and talk on the phone. All things very difficult to do with two office mates in a ten foot by ten foot room.

But as it is with most things in life, with each challenge comes an opportunityóespecially the opportunity to learn. And for me, that opportunity came in the form of a five foot, two inch tall young man from Vietnam named Minh, who was also a junior engineer and one of my two office mates. Minh emigrated to the United States in the early seventies right around the fall of Saigon. Because of his slight build, his voice was so high pitched, I would swear at times I was talking to a girl. He was difficult to understand because his elocution never progressed passed a certain level of proficiency, but he had a fabulous sense of humor and an infectious laugh. And he was darn glad to be an American.

One day while he and I were carrying on one of our endless conversations about nothing in particular, he relayed a story to me about how even though he wrote right-handed, he was actually born left-handed. It seems that when he was growing up in Vietnam, a very conformist society at that time, it was considered unacceptable to write left-handed. It was expected that everyone would do it right-handed. They even went so far as to strike a student across his or her left hand, should they forget and attempt to do what came naturally to them. I cannot imagine what was going on in Minhís mind back then. I know if it were me, I would have asked myself why I have this uncontrollable urge to do something so unacceptable. Why am I so different? Whatís wrong with me? He probably did not know it, but at that time there were roughly 350 million other people on the planet who were naturally left-handed. You see, there was nothing wrong with Minh, he just happened to be in the minority and he was never given the chance to accept himself the way he was. Fast forwarding to today got me thinking about all the self-help books, seminars and talk shows that exist. All the experts seem to follow the same paradigm: there is something wrong with you and I can fix it. Iím sure that had there been a self-help industry in Vietnam back in the seventies there would have been a book entitled Left-handednessóStrategies for Coping with this Lifelong Affliction.

Now donít get me wrong, Iíve got nothing against self improvement. In fact Iím a lifelong learn-a-holic and Iíve read more self help books than anyone I know. I just think itís about time we started to balance the self help with a little self acceptance. Okay, so Iím left-handed, Iíll just have to learn to live with it.

As I get older I notice my motivation toward self-help has waned. The return on investment from each nugget of wisdom I uncover becomes less and less valuable, and it just seems a lot easier to accept myself the way I am. Consequently I have discovered another form of enlightenment which has replaced some of the self help education I used to seek when I saw a flaw in myself. Itís called empathy: the identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives. In this circumstance the person I am identifying with is me. Thatís the challenge going forward as I prepare to enter my fifties. Finding the right balance of improving who I am and accepting who I have become. And learning to accept the notion that sometimes thereís nothing wrong with me.

Direct questions or comments about this article to
Carl Weisman
PO Box 1941, Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Email: Carl@WhyNeverMarried.com