Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "12 Rules for Life" by Jordan Peterson. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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In 12 Rules for Life, Rule #2 is “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping.” What does this mean?

Why would you not treat yourself like you’re helping yourself? Why do you treat other people better? This is what Jordan Peterson’s Rule 2 covers.

Overview of Jordan Peterson’s Rule 2

People are better at filling prescriptions for their dogs than for themselves, even though taking drugs is literally life-saving. Why?

12 Rules for Life argues the root of this is self-loathing – that we understand our faults completely, better than any outside observer, and believe we aren’t worth helping. No one else has more reason to see you as pathetic. By withholding something that does you good, you punish yourself for your failings

Why do we hate ourselves?

  • He uses the Biblical story of Adam and Eve as the origination of seeing good and evil, and how this original sin carries into us today. After their fall from heaven, they are naked, ugly, ashamed, resentful – why would anyone care for a descendant of Adam and Eve?
  • Also, we know that humans have great capacity for evil, as evidenced by historical atrocities. This increases loathing for mankind and self.

In contrast, our pets and our children are faultless – they don’t know any better, they’re innocent, so they deserve all the help we can give.

How to Treat Yourself Better

According to Jordan Peterson’s Rule 2, the solution is to believe that you are worth helping. You have a vital mission in this world, you are important in this world to others, and you are morally obligated to take care of yourself. 

You are not your own possession to torture and mistreat, because your being is tied up with that of others. Therefore, mistreating yourself will harm others.

Follow Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping.

Look at all the wonders and comforts of the modern world (electricity, running water, plentiful food), put together by people like you for the benefit of others.

You deserve sympathy for merely being alive and shouldering the burden of existence.

According to Jordan Peterson’s Rule 2, reject virtuous self-sacrifice – don’t suffer silently when someone demands more from you than is offered in return. Then you are supporting tyranny.

In other words, see yourself like you see your pet or someone else. You don’t see their faults, and you want to care for them. Treat yourself like the same.

Putting Rule 2 in Practice

This means taking care of yourself, getting healthier (physically and mentally), expanding your knowledge, pursuing goals you want, articulating your principles.

  • You must keep the promises you make to yourself.
  • Think – “what might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly?”
  • Having a vision for your life forces you through obstacles toward your goals. Nietzsche: “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.
  • You know what your personal Hell is like. Decide against going there or creating that.

Minor points from Jordan Peterson’s Rule 2 in 12 Rules for Life:

  • In the past our cultural leaders were more concerned with survival than with objective truth, which is why they captured wisdom and subjective experience in stories.
  • Why are people ashamed of nakedness? 
    • This might be a cultural custom to protect our bodies from harm. Yet we get injured rarely these days – why does it persist?
    • It might also be to desist straying from your relationship. There is more temptation when a person’s body is exposed, and covering it up invites more stability.

So lighten up. Be kinder to yourself. “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping.”

Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

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  • Why standing up straight will make people treat you differently
  • How to find meaning in your life and work
  • Why you're lying to yourself without realizing it

Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

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