We are our own worst enemy. Don’t ask me why; I don’t have a clue. Maybe it’s just an unfortunate consequence of the human condition. All I know is the problems we have to deal with at work and at home aren’t nearly as bad as those we create for ourselves.
We are forever coming up with new and creative ways of messing things up. I should know. I’ve shot myself in the foot so many times I’m surprised I have any feet left.
Think about it. How many times have you fought with your spouse and dug in your heels, only to realize you were wrong all along and just being a big jerk? Happens to me all the time. It’s the same thing at work, for example:
Do you push yourself too hard, tell yourself you’ve got to do something, then beat yourself up when your ridiculously lofty expectations don’t work out as you’d hoped? How much stress and anxiety do you think that creates?
Is that coworker you bitch about really an a-hole or is he just reacting to the way you treat him? We all whine about the jerks we have to deal with at work but here’s the thing. There’s a fifty-fifty chance the problem is you.
Are you really so overworked and overextended that you never have enough time to get things done? Maybe your deadlines and workload are self-imposed. Or maybe you’re just a neurotic, self-important whack-a-doodle who complains to get attention.
Is your boss a micromanaging dictator or are you a pain in the butt who never listens and hates being told what to do? Besides, if you don’t like your boss, you can always pick up and quit. It’s a free country.
And my personal favorite: you’re underpaid, underappreciated and nobody ever listens to you. Maybe that’s because you’re an entitled, self-centered, self-branded narcissist who thinks everything in the world revolves around his oversized ego.
Look, I know that sounds harsh, but the truth is we all go through stuff like that to some extent. I’ve seen and done most of those things myself and then some. And look at me. I’ve done okay for a neurotic mess.
So trust me when I tell you that nobody, and I mean nobody, ever wants to believe they’re the problem. The mirror is the last place we look for solutions to problems like stress and anxiety. It should be the first place we look.
Which brings us to what is undoubtedly the number one cause of self-inflicted pain: Opening our big fat mouths. That goes double for social media. It’s uncanny how effective we are at getting ourselves into hot water by spouting off when we shouldn’t or putting things in writing that will almost certainly come back to haunt us.
And get this. The higher you climb up the corporate ladder, the further you have to fall when you publicly self-destruct and the 24×7 media/social media hordes/camera-toting public are there to document every word for all the world to see. And remember, Google never forgets.
Here are three rules to help you stay on the right side of trouble. If you’re prone to that sort of thing, you may want to post them on your bathroom mirror:
Rule 1. Reread everything before you click “send.” If you wouldn’t want it plastered on the front page of Google News, delete it. If it’s in any way controversial or inflammatory, sleep on it. In most cases, you’ll end up not sending it.
Rule 2. When you’ve got an issue with someone, anyone, first look in the mirror, take a long walk, sit quietly and meditate, do whatever it is you do to gain some perspective. And remember: We’re all a-holes sometimes.
Rule 3. Keep your big mouth shut. It never hurts to be quiet and listen. Besides, you might actually learn something. Knowledge is power and talk isn’t cheap. Actually talk, tweets and posts can be very, very expensive.
A version of this originally appeared on FOXBusiness.com.