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

Must & Want. What’s the difference?

I’ve realised that in life I never seem to enjoy or be satisfied by anything that I feel I MUST do, even if it appears essential. Events and situations can be subject to incredible and rapid change, so surely my potential expectations should be too. I think that the feeling of need or desperation to do something is often created by a fear of not being good enough, so I believe that even if something I am doing is necessary, I’m still doing it because I want to – at least in some way, because of where it will lead me in the future. I find thinking like this both empowering and productive!

If what I really want to achieve in the long term means that, in my current emotional state, I should spend an hr sitting on my ass watching T.V to collect my thoughts or take a break, then sit on my ass I shall.

I think the real insight here, comes from understanding the difference between what is helpful to us, and what is actually just an excuse we make to self sabotage. I’ve never felt more focussed, determined or capable than when I’m being kind and really listening to myself.

Thanks or reading.

Sean. ❤

Decision Making And External Influence. Are Your Feelings Always Your Own?

The short answer is yes, I think we’re all responsible for our feelings. We may not be responsible for the things that have been said or done to us which can affect our feelings, but we are certainly responsible for how we respond.

There have been times in my life where I have been sure of something deep down, but at the same time insecure about the decision that I want to make. Insecurity plays a big part here, typically with the involvement of others. People have a tendency to project their own insecurities at you, especially when you are talking about making decisions that they themselves would have trouble with. Unfortunately it’s very easy to allow these situations to get the better of you and affect your actions.

To give you an example – Harry was really concerned about going to university, in fact he didn’t really want to go because he was far too unsure about what he wanted to study and felt that it would be a waste of time and money. He was pretty certain about this and tried to communicate it to his parents. However, being high achievers themselves who always pushed their kids to do well, it was hard to get them to receive his feelings about higher education clearly. They only saw where he was coming from through their own filters – insecurity about not doing well in life and wandering off down a bad path you can never come back from. Insecurity about their child not having a good career or enough money for the future. Fear of failure in general – you get the picture. Naturally Harry had some of these concerns too – it’s pretty hard not to take on-board at least some of your parent’s feelings, especially when you’re young and impressionable. Harry hit a brick wall whenever he tried to broach the subject. His parents simply saw him as nervous, just like they had been, and concluded that he would get over it. In time, Harry actually started to believe this too, and besides, all his friends were going to uni so he figured he would feel pretty left out if he didn’t go. Harry uneasily applied for an accounting course he wasn’t really sure about and attended the university his parents wanted him to go to. 3 years later he walked out with decent grades but no idea what he wanted to do with his degree. More than anything he just wanted to get away from the subject and get a job doing something else because he never went to university with a purpose other than to satisfy his parents and keep up with his friends, so he felt a bit lost and resentful about the whole thing. It’s possible that, had Harry listened to his instincts, he may well have attended university later on and studied a subject that he was passionate about, one that would allow him to build the career he wanted on his terms. Obviously he may not have chosen to go down that path, but as long as whatever he chose to do was his own decision, he would be able to learn from his situation rather than become embittered by the fact that he never felt in control.

These situations can include really simple decisions like attending an event that you feel is important to you or perhaps spending an hour with a friend, sibling or parent, but allowing yourself to be convinced by others that it’s not the right decision even though you know it’s what you want, or perhaps what you need.

I guess sometimes it can feel like you’re not even living your own life and I suppose this wouldn’t feel like much of a problem if you weren’t, in some way or another, aware of the fact that it was happening. There’s a lot to be said here for people thinking they know best. In my personal experience, people who are adamant that they know what’s best for you and press this belief firmly on you are the very people who are most afraid of being wrong, failing or simply not being good enough.

I also want to talk about responsibility. This is because, like I mentioned earlier, we are not responsible for how others behave, but how we allow that behaviour to affect us and dictate our actions is absolutely within our control. I was bullied in school, I complained about it, suffered with it, and the next day you’d find me in the principals office having bullied someone myself. I’d deny it completely of course, argue my case badly and worse yet i’d believe my own words because I could not and would not accept that I was also a part of the problem – that I was at all responsible. I think that those of us who are aware of an issue, owe it to ourselves and the rest of the world to consciously take care of our responses. I know from my own experience that it is absolutely a choice to allow other peoples insecurities to dictate your decisions. If you roll over and indulge the insecurities of another person, you might be giving them what they want on the surface but the fact that they are projecting these issues onto you in the first place is, in my view, an opportunity to defy fear and ‘break the cycle’ for all parties involved. If you do not indulge someone else’s insecurities and thus do not indulge your own, you grow, learn and develop, not only within yourself but you also help others who couldn’t see things as clearly.

The best advice I can give to anyone who feels like they are in a situation like this is to live purposefully, and not only for other people. If you don’t understand the purpose of your current situation and why it is important to you, then try to find out. If it turns out you’re in this situation for the wrong reasons then try to change the way you look at it, or change the situation completely. I think that the hardest emotional decision you can ever make is not to do what other people feel you should do, or what feels easy, but what you feel is right, deep down and underneath all the filters. In the end I think we almost always know what’s right, we just don’t believe in ourselves, or trust ourselves enough to follow through. It is developing that trust and self belief that we should work on most of all, both for our own benefit and the benefit of everyone we come into contact with.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

 

Respecting People As Individuals

Firstly, I’d just like to say that I believe respect to be the core foundation of any positive relationship and I also believe that respect, especially for a person as an individual, is incredibly undervalued in society today. I’d also like to mention that everyone is different, and as a result we can’t possibly expect to get along with someone if we only like and respect them for the labels we place on them or the assumptions we make about them.

Respect is an interesting concept. You can show respect for someones abilities with words like “That was very impressive, well done!” and really mean it, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that you respect them as a person, or individual. Respect for someone as an individual means accepting who they are, who they might be, what they do and what they might do in the future. Obviously it’s hard to know all of these things for sure, which is why respecting someone is essentially like having faith in them. Now you could be wrong about a person and they might, in your eyes, change for better or worse. This is not of major importance because if you respect yourself then you can accept that you could be wrong, things might change and that it’s ok either way.

Respect is very give and take. You’ll often get respect from those whom you respect and vice versa. The trouble we often run into is expecting or perhaps demanding respect without first offering it. Giving respect to someone as an individual – having faith in them – can feel a lot like giving the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had in the past that might cause you to make assumptions about a person – allowing your assumptions to dictate the way you treat them is, in my eyes, incredibly disrespectful. I’ve seen it a lot between children and adults, where the adult will demand respect from the child in a totally disrespectful manner. These conversations tend to manifest from the assumption that ‘this is how you speak to children’ – as if there’s some sort of formula for dealing with a child like you were mixing concrete or calculating your tax return. I’ve often found that this demand for respect comes in varying forms of verbal and/or physical abuse, and the resultant behaviour from the child is either retaliatory or mindlessly obedient – neither of which I would view as healthy. I’ve seen it between couples, where one party is being totally unreasonable or difficult and just expecting the other person to know what they want without explanation. The response is, again, retaliation of some description, or mindless obedience. In both examples the underlying problem is the same. You have a child who is responding to a lack of respect with, you guessed it, a lack of respect, or perhaps they are too afraid to confront the disrespect and simply accept it. By doing this they are essentially admitting to themselves that they don’t deserve to be treated better. Having been a child in this situation, I know that sometimes you feel powerless to question things so you just accept the situation and the baggage that goes with it. Exactly the same applies to the couple, only in my experience irrational expectations are often caused by feeling disrespected in the first place – interesting thought huh?

In regard to these examples, my solution consists of two parts; firstly you have to respect your own feelings and values. I believe this is absolutely imperative to being able to respect others. If you don’t respect these things, or you compromise your values, the result is generally just giving in and quietly accepting the situation as mentioned in the example. If you only respect your own feelings then you end up retaliating in an attempt to defend yourself and your values – which brings me to part two; respecting the feelings of others. If you can do this then you put yourself in a position where, even though you may feel the desire to retaliate, (chances are they’ve said some hurtful things), you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them accept that their feelings are their own. Whether you want to or are able to help them or not, your respect for their feelings will, at the very least, never worsen a situation. For couples it generally only takes one person to break the negative back and forth, and as time progresses I think you learn to help each other, even when you’re both having a bad time.  In my experience with relationships of any kind, the ones that last do so because mutual respect is present. If one party in the relationship believes themselves to be above (or perhaps below) the other, a bitterness tends to develop between them that will inevitably end the relationship, often not on good terms. In the case of children (at least young children), I think it can be different and more difficult because the responsibility lies primarily with the adult to initiate a respectful interaction. You can’t teach someone to be truly respectful by demanding respect disrespectfully – am I right?  I’d love to know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

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?