The Taskmaster & the Rebel

Growing up, I was a good boy.  I earned good grades and acknowledgment from parents and teachers and I enjoyed that.  Eventually I became tired of always doing what I was supposed to do even if it was enjoyable and rewarding.  More importantly, I wanted to make the choices about what I valued and believed for myself rather than because it was dictated to me growing up.  And that was the beginning of my experimental and rebellious phase.  Suffice it to say, I had a rockin’ great time!  I learned a lot about the world, myself, emotions, and relationships.  I suspended coming to certain conclusions and often did the opposite of my upbringing to see what it was like.

Eventually, I grew tired of this too because I recognized how some of my choices were not optimal for my health, wealth, happiness, etc.  So I made some new choices – some of them resembled what I was taught growing up, and others were new.  And I had a whole new philosophy I could call my very own behind it all.  I was pleased with myself and felt ready to take on the world.  But then something surprising happened.  I found it challenging to make my new positive choices stick.  I thought I had it all figured out, so I was confused and frustrated when I found myself rebelling again.  Only this time, I wasn’t rebelling against my upbringing – I was rebelling against myself.

This seriously did not make any sense to me until I eventually discovered something new.  Growing up I had formed a habit of motivating myself through berating myself.  This sounds like a voice in my head saying stuff like, “You suck you idiot!  You’ll never be good enough, you just keep screwing up over and over again and this is just more evidence that you’ll never amount to anything…”  Sound familiar?  It didn’t matter what it was that I was trying to motivate myself to do, or any lofty reasons I had for doing it.  If I was motivating myself in this negative way, I was eventually going to rebel against myself.  I don’t like hearing all those nasty things about myself and if I hear any more of it, I’m just going to go wild and forget all about those wonderful positive new choices.

I found myself alternating between two sides:  on the one hand, a sick taskmaster; on the other hand, a wild rebel.  (I eventually learned various psychologies call one side “the top-dog” or “internalized parent” and the other side “the under-dog” or “internalized child”.)  This wasn’t fun.  It took me a while to come to understand that each side has my best interests at heart, but they just take different approaches.  The taskmaster really cares about my health, wealth, and fulfillment.  The rebel really cares about my relaxation, creativity, freedom, and spontaneity.  (Neither are concerned much about philosophy.)  As long as I am taking care of all of those needs, then both the taskmaster and the rebel are satisfied.  When I do this well, the taskmaster morphs into an inspirational guide and my rebel morphs into areally fun guy I love to hang out with and I’m happy all around.

In practical terms, here’s what this is like:

  • I choose to motivate myself towards positive choices with kindness and patience.
  • I choose to give myself unstructured free time for relaxation, fun, and creativity.
  • When the taskmaster shows up, I look for ways I’m not meeting my commitments to myself
  • When the rebel shows up, I look for ways I’m not taking time out, or ways I’m not motivating myself in a kind way.

I have simplified this – each situation has its own unique subtleties.  Yet time and again, I return to this lesson.  Remember, it’s not just what you do or why you do it – but how you relate to yourself while doing it!  Be kind to yourself and have fun!



  1. chelleangel says:

    Yay for loving yourself!

  2. chamabahama says:

    Love your feedback to your rebel and your taskmaster! Very wise and compassionate. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me :)

  3. Nancy D says:

    Beautiful and well said!

  4. Lori says:

    Very nice! Love it! Thanks fo simplifying it so eloquently and in an accessible way!

  5. Gail says:

    Thanks for being open about your inner world and for sharing your wisdom with us. I am inspired by the idea that both the taskmaster and the rebel have your best interest in mind and that you are the one responsible for their metamorphosis.

  6. Lindsay Trowbridge says:

    Beautiful! A dose of loving encouragment to be kind and gentle with myself! xo

  7. Rob says:

    Good read cousin. I am a big fan of self reflection.

    be well.

  8. Barb Parcells says:

    Great blog!
    Very insightful. Very educational to me, too, to see how someone else’s upbringing differed from mine.

    In my case, my two parents were the Kindly But Unemotional Straight Arrow, and the Passionate, Dissolute One. In one way, my life is based on rebellion, because I spent most of my adolescence and young adult years in raging battles with the Dissolute One. I vowed that I did not want in any way to be like that parent– so I adopted much of the teachings of my Straight Arrow parent.

    But in another way, I am very cautious– always wanting to be sure of the footing before taking my next step. I hate taking risks with my life– basically, risking poverty. I think I inherited my great fear of poverty from my Straight Arrow parent, who grew up in the Great Depression. I don’t want to take a risk, have it fall through, find myself out of a job and being forced to live in a particle-board-furniture flat in the Bad Side Of Town. I guess this sounds kind of funny coming from someone who used to fly helicopters! But physical risk doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s in a good cause and there’s a steady paycheck in it.

    I’m very glad you have arrived at a balance, and thanks again for sharing what you’ve learned.

  9. Mark Wagner says:

    Hey, Porch. This is a great foray into the highest form of blogging – reflective practice. I’m excited for you – and for your readers. 😉

  10. rob gruber says:

    nicely done! I look forward to reading more.

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