Are we all acting?

I recently had a pretty wild thought that has been staring me in the face for years on end, only I never knew what it meant. I’ll give you some context before I explain this crazy – but perhaps not so crazy notion.

I’ve always loved drama, theatre, music – any kind of performance or public demonstration and I’ve always wanted to perform. I applied to go to acting school back in 2016 and I didn’t get in – which was upsetting at the time because in my mind it was all I wanted. I think part of the reason I didn’t make it through is because I’m not actually very good at acting when it is my intention to act, because I’m constantly thinking: ok Sean, don’t think like you – be someone else. Immediately, I’m unconvincing. The best ‘performances’ I’ve ever done are when I’ve been totally myself , but joking around and assuming that people will know that I’m not serious – but I so frequently do get taken seriously. It’s almost like it’s easier to believe what’s false than what isn’t.

I’ve thought a lot about why I seem to have this ability to reverse-act and never managed to come to any tangible conclusion about it…until now. I’ve always wanted to be myself – to live and breathe as an individual and to have my own thoughts and opinions. As a child this caused me some trouble at times because I never understood why I felt that people didn’t value me. As I’ve grown up I’ve learnt how to better be myself, and also how to have a more relevant opinion – essentially one that isn’t just directly quoted from a book or parent or other role model. Something I’ve actually thought about.

Why is this relevant? Well I believe that people who spend a lot of time and effort trying to be an individual often become repressed by the social roof that we live under – in other words it becomes a lot easier to share the opinions and beliefs of the masses than to have our own genuine understanding of things. Through this repression we manufacture an identity – one that fits in with current social regimes and from a very young age we are all ‘acting’. There’s an incredibly big difference between wanting to help someone clean up their house after a party – because you want to – than to do so because you feel obligated. This is one of many examples where even though the act is the same – the emotion behind it and the emotional response you receive in return is totally different. We have simply been taught by society to feel obligated to behave in certain ways rather than to respond genuinely.

If you look at children, younger children especially, you so often see such a strong desire to give, participate and to be present in the moment. That’s not something they learn, it’s something they want – a reflection of how we are naturally, without large amounts of external influence pounded into us over the years. The older we get, the more we learn about how we are supposed to behave. It’s with this logic that I can only conclude that we are all acting, every day. And the best actors are the ones whose behaviour is impeccable…exemplary…

So perhaps many of the authentic actors that we love in Hollywood and Broadway are actually just very well-practiced at being themselves. They’re not trying to be anyone that they are not, they simply display themselves disingenuously – how they have learnt to display themselves for the role. They are so convincing because we seem to believe what is false more easily than we see the truth. We want to be fooled. If you create a false image on top of a false image – like if you were literally trying to embody a different person for a performance – this is where you become unconvincing. People don’t want to be lied to about lies – they see through it. They want to be lied to about the truth.

This is certainly something worth thinking about. Just how much of our personality is manufactured and how much of it is who we really are on the inside.

Thanks for reading!

Sean ❤

Why Do We Need to Socially Label Each Other?

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” – Chimamanda Adichie

Labels can be immensely helpful, they bring clarification and they help us to make judgements and decisions. For example, if wool has a tendency to irritate your skin, you’re unlikely to purchase clothing labeled as woollen, unless it is specifically designed with sensitive skin in mind, which will also be indicated on the label. Other labels I find useful are those that you might find on a jar of peanut butter stating that what you are consuming or purchasing, is in fact, peanut butter – perhaps with no added sugar and a 97% peanut content.

My point here, is that labelling something that isn’t going to change, makes a lot of sense, but we have developed this system of social labels which tend to be single words or small groups of words that make large generalisations about a person or activity. These statements often relate to diet, lifestyle, political stance, religious belief or gender identity – and many more I’m sure. I think that as a society we’ve become far too reliant on these labels and as a result have created a kind of ignorant toxicity that thrives so easily because of the internet, where it’s also a lot easier to create a false image for yourself or others.

So, whilst it’s very easy, and relatively obvious to say that a bottle of gin is a bottle of gin, or a one-legged man is a one-legged man, people often forget to label themselves correctly – for example, ‘I am a vegan’ is a label that indicates that one does not use or consume animal products. Many people who identify as vegan actually do use or consume animal products of some sort, so a more correct label might be ‘I am a vegan but I wear leather shoes and I’m also finding it really hard to give up cheese so I eat that occasionally too’. Now this creates a bit of a dilemma because for starters the initial label of ‘I am Vegan’ is now null and void, not only for the people using it incorrectly, but also for the people using it correctly, because it’s now become difficult for others to distinguish what a person actually means when they label themselves as something. Because of this, you’re likely to spend more time trying to work out the finer details of a label, like which parts of the bible a devout christian chooses to adhere to, than if they had briefly explained what matters to them – if it’s even relevant in the first place. To put an end to a social tide of ignorance, like the incorrect use of hashtags or other such labels, would be like trying to use sign language to convince an iguana that it was an Eskimo – so what’s the solution?

For starters I think it would be much simpler to explain our own personal values when making a point. For example, you have decided to share a post on the internet about cruelty to whales and in the description column you post #vegansagainstanimalcruelty. Instead of this, you might use words like #Icareaboutwhales which can only really mean what it says, so that when you later post a picture of the steak dinner that you made for you and your bestie, you don’t look like a complete tosser.

Now for the more serious stuff. Peoples everyday lives and emotional states are subject to such immense change over the course of a lifetime that it honestly seems silly to place specific labels on everything. While the fish I purchased from the pet shop is likely to remain a fish, the cisgender male I met last week may well be identifying as transgender now.  When we label ourselves, especially publicly, we subject ourselves to immense personal and social pressure to live up to the standards of these labels. This can very easily slow down or limit our personal progression, and whether it be spiritual or intellectual, change and growth is important to us as human beings. While I believe that it’s important to have values, and to uphold them – I think it’s also important to evaluate those values and subject them to positive change as we grow and learn individually, or in the case of organisations like the church, as a collective. I’d also like to point out that flippant use of labels regarding things like mental health or sexuality can have very serious emotional consequences, especially when talking about other people, because labels stick – and when they’re stuck to our back, we often don’t find them for a while.

A brief personal example could be that I am writing this post because I think that the way we label ourselves is creating a more narrow-minded public rather than an open-minded one. I could of course say that I’m writing this because I’m a #liberal4life but what that means to me, most certainly isn’t what it means to you – I can’t even begin to imagine what it might mean to other people if I said I was a liberal – given the amount of information there is on the internet about politics. So I’m just saying what I mean in a few words that are true to me, rather than putting a label on myself that could be interpreted as anything.

To conclude, I honestly think the best label you can have for anyone is that they are a ‘person’ – a person who believes in a God or Gods, a person who likes walks on the beach. Should any label for a person really matter more than our human connection? I think we could all benefit by simplifying labels back to their original dictionary definition and not attempting to use them as a means of understanding what a person is like as an individual – or to give an understanding of what you are like as an individual. I think we should un-simplify our use of language that we describe ourselves with, so as to stop confusion, prevent the feeding of internet trolls and most importantly prevent ourselves from ever feeling like we have to live up to a standard that we are not comfortable with.

Thoughts?

Sean

Why Do We Say ‘I Can’t’?

You’ve probably met people who frequently use the words ‘I can’t’ or ‘Ooo dang I couldn’t do something like that!’. ‘I can’t’ is a really common phrase I hear and I want to talk about the impact that an ‘I can’t’ attitude can have on your life – at least in my experience.

Let’s take a minute to look into what a person might mean when they say ‘I can’t’. They could mean that they’re too afraid, or that they don’t feel in a good enough physical condition. Perhaps they don’t feel clever or skilled enough to attempt it, or they could simply be impressed by someone else’s achievement and are attempting to make them feel good about it by belittling their own capabilities.

Some of you might argue that there are people in the world who physically can’t do certain things. I agree. I’m not saying that anyone can do everything if only they were to try. The point I’m making is that understanding the reasoning behind the ‘I can’t’ is empowering. Take a minute to consider your real feelings on the matter; are you really unable? Do you really not want to do it? Or are you simply afraid, insecure, or worried about what someone else might think? Think of someone who has worked in the same job for many years who is telling you they couldn’t ever be a manager, even though their knowledge and experience in the job more than qualifies them for the position. They do want to earn more money, they do want to experience new things, they are curious about their potential, but they’re very afraid of being in charge of other people in case they get it wrong. In other words, they are afraid of making a mistake. This fear drives them to believe that they can’t do the job, and thus, they never apply for the position.

It’s my belief that most people who say ‘No way, I couldn’t do that’, don’t necessarily believe what they say. It’s just a figure of speech that can mean many different things. However, I do believe that something very important happens underneath the surface when we say these words. Regardless of the reasons that we provide to ourselves and others for saying ‘I can’t’, (jokingly or not) we slowly begin to ingrain the idea in our minds that, actually we can’t live up to that standard and that we cannot achieve what others have managed to before us. We’re actually putting ourselves down, and that creates a kind of negative energy around the subject that will inevitably impact us somewhere down the line. There’s a very distinct difference between a lack of desire to do something and a fear of doing it. I don’t think the fear would be there in the first place if there wasn’t at least some form of innate curiosity. That being said, if we consistently tell ourselves and those around us that we ‘couldn’t possibly attempt a thing like that’, the words become a sly justification that allows us to safely avoid the things that we are afraid of doing.

It’s easy to convince yourself that you feel something even if it isn’t true. This is far easier than confronting the truth because it would mean admitting that you’re afraid or insecure. We’ve all lied to ourselves and I think we all know that it never seems to end well. I think the most important thing is to recognise this before the situation becomes harder to resolve – because lies build up, layer upon layer and become increasingly difficult to pull apart as time goes on. Before you know it, the lies have become truths to you, and so you miss out on many opportunities just because ‘I can’t do that’.

Why does all of this matter? Well, we want to be happy and fulfilled in life, right? Sounds like a good objective to me. However, if we label ourselves as incapable, we might experience feelings of inadequacy or jealousy when faced with other peoples accomplishments which can impact relationships and your overall sense of wellbeing.

So – I don’t think we should ever say ‘I can’t’ and instead we should say ‘I don’t want’ and really mean it. If we say the words ‘I don’t want to’ but don’t genuinely mean it, then maybe we’ve stumbled upon something worth pursuing. Only one way to find out!

What do you think?

 

Let’s Talk About Kindness

To me, kindness is a wonderful thing you can offer to an individual or group, it’s often not free (and I’m not just talking about money) but you can really change someone’s life by being kind to them, even for just a moment. Personally I think the world could do with a lot more of the stuff – the genuine kind anyway. I certainly think there would be a lot less anger and judgement in the world if this was the case.

First of all if you ask anyone if they like to be kind to others, like to do nice things for them – the answer will probably be ‘of course’. I mean who doesn’t like making someone else’s day. It feels good right? It is something I really want to talk about though, because I think that plenty of people consider themselves (or are considered) as kind or giving, but when their kindness is really needed by someone and it isn’t just an added bonus, often these people are nowhere to be seen.

I believe that kindness is subjective and therefore goes hand in hand with understanding. I think it’s very hard to be kind to others if you’re not able to empathise with their situation. Otherwise you’re just behaving in a way that you think would be kind and not in a way that is actually beneficial to the individual. I suppose you might be asking yourself, why does he have a problem with people’s kindness being taken the wrong way – surely it’s not my problem if my being kind results in upset? In most cases I guess you’d be right. If you have good intent in your heart then it would be hard to say that you’re entirely responsible for how your actions are perceived – I believe it’s often ignorance that leads us down that road. However it does beg the question; what’s the motive? Are we being kind because we genuinely want to help, do something nice or make someone else feel good? Or is it about you, and making you feel good? Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of the fact that doing good for others has a tendency to make you feel good too, and that’s pretty cool because it provides us with an excellent incentive to be do-gooders, so to speak. This being said, if the primary motive of your act of kindness is to make you feel good, (which in theory should only be a bi-product of your action) then the resulting act is actually that of a selfish nature, not a genuine giving one. Before anyone gets the idea that I’m saying that offering out a bag of muffins to your work colleagues and one of them being offended because they’re on a diet is wrong and that you were being selfish or inconsiderate..I’m not. Really what I’m talking about here is intent, and the kind of impact it can have on both yourself and others.

Consider that someone is yelling at you, a close friend, relative – heck, even someone on the street claiming you looked at them funny. In my experience, as human beings we’re prone to naturally defend ourselves from attack, verbal or physical which makes it awful difficult to take a moment to understand the situation and it’s often our ‘animal brains’ that respond, often with more aggression – like a puffer fish blowing up to make itself more intimidating so as to ward off further attack. I imagine this defensive response may well be necessary for the safety of all involved on rare occasions, but most of the time I don’t think it is. In my experience, people are actually pretty nice underneath it all. You’re a nice person right? But I would guess that you also have pretty bad days, probably said and done things that you wouldn’t like to be remembered for, just like the rest of us. Take the person yelling at you, I imagine it’s very easy to yell back, especially if  they’re being wildly accusatory and you believe them to be ‘off their rocker’, but if you’re able to take a moment to come to the conclusion that you’ve done nothing wrong and this person is mad (which we often do pretty quickly even if it turns out we are at fault), then it can’t take much longer to consider that if you’re not the problem then maybe this person has the wrong end of the stick, or perhaps another problem entirely unrelated to the situation at hand. Surely the kind thing to do would be to politely make them aware of your position and perhaps even offer to help, rather than telling them to bugger off. How many of you would do that though? It’s certainly not the easy thing to do, but then if it’s so easy to offer out a bag ‘o muffins, then I ask again, what’s the motive?

Thoughts?