Why Compliments Are Hard To Receive

If you’ve ever felt uneasy about a compliment that someone has given you I think it’s because you’re starting to understand that you don’t – and never have required the validation of others to live a good life. The trouble is the way you’ve grown up makes it really hard to shake the feeling that you need to be complimented – otherwise you’re doing badly.

I think we’ve all grown up in a world where we have this messed up social reward/punishment system that’s drilled into us from a very young age. Our personalities are twisted, pulled, shoved and totally manipulated by the people who raise us to the point that most of the time we actually don’t understand how to practice self-belief – unless we’re indulging someone else’s wants and needs rather than our own. We seem to mostly rely on others to validate our actions with praise – or punish our actions with negativity. Have you ever had someone tell you ‘You just gotta have a bit of confidence in yourself’. Damn man, I wasn’t raised to have confidence. External validation was all I knew – my confidence literally was other people cheering for me – none of it came from me. If my teachers said I was wrong or that I wasn’t good enough – I believed them. If my parents said I should to do something, I did it. Personally I rebelled a lot and it messed me up big time because even though I knew I was trying to do the right thing and believe in myself – everything else in the world was telling me NO NO NO.

Good advice is good advice, but I think that we’ve become quite socially backwards. Like we’re totally selfish when it comes to what other people do – we often want to control them with our influence to benefit us rather than them. We’re also totally neglectful of what we really want because we allow everyone else to make our decisions for us. All of this because we were taught that it’s not ok to be ourselves and do what we want to do. We’re also told what the consequences of our actions will be before we take the action – and in an attempt to make us ‘see the light’ our peers and parents manipulate our situation so that we learn a lesson as close to what they said we would as possible – which is a way for them to validate themselves by telling you you’ll screw up and almost ensuring that it happens rather than supporting you. Most advice is selfish – I rarely come across advice that doesn’t have a hidden agenda. Why? Like I said, I think our practices of love and caring for others is just structurally backwards.

With where I’m at in my life now I’ve come to the conclusion that compliments are nice – they do feel good but I do not need them to be happy within myself. I know that I’m good at what I do and I know that I’ll do well in whatever I choose to pursue. My advice is to stop asking people if it’s a good idea to do something. You already know if it’s what you want to do – which makes it a good idea even if it’s a mistake. Stop trying to validate your life – just live it and love how crazy it can be. Also be kind to those who try to fuck you up. I don’t think they truly want to – what they really want is to be able to love themselves – they just don’t know how to live life any other way.

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

Fear of Failure & Not Being Good Enough.

I often think that a fear of failure or not being good enough is the root cause of so many problems we face. If we’re afraid to fail then we are essentially afraid to do, or at least afraid to do anything meaningful. This doesn’t mean to say that we should put ourselves in situations we don’t want to be in, but I think that people often struggle to differentiate between what they don’t want and what they are too afraid to pursue.

I’ll give you an example of a situation I’ve been in where I was in a job that I didn’t like and I felt like I was going absolutely nowhere with it, which was frustrating and depressing. The reasons I didn’t liberate myself from this position were numerous, but the one that stands out the most for me was my fear of not being good enough, which directly correlates with a fear of failure. So I found myself in a position where I felt directionless and even though I tried pursuing hobbies or other activities outside of work in the hope that they would lead to something – in the end I felt like I was right back where I started, like there was no hope of anything ever being different. Sounds extreme I know, but fear can do that to you – it can cause an anxiety that makes irrational thoughts feel frighteningly real and inescapable. Essentially I became so afraid to fail that I ended up subconsciously self sabotaging and ending up in the same place over and over again. Fear creates the anxiety and the anxiety causes us to refuse change, which I believe is our instinctual way of protecting ourselves. The trouble with this is that it’s pretty easy to get it wrong, owing to the immense pressure we place on ourselves. So even if we truly desire change – when we’re afraid, what we truly want becomes distorted. I desperately wanted to get out of the job, but my fear held me back. It took me a long time to realise that I was convincing myself that I couldn’t do better because I was too afraid to try.

The point of my example is that I believe if you’re going to successfully break away from a situation where you feel stuck, first you have to accept why you’re stuck in the first place. I think a lot of people focus on the consequences of being stuck rather than why they are stuck. For example; a consequence of being stuck might be hating your job and/or the people you work with. Why you are stuck is more likely to come down to your lack of self belief and the self-destructive attitude that goes with it, but all you focus on is how much you hate going to work each morning. I think the hard option here is to spend time understanding the situation and digging for the real reason you’re unhappy. Unfortunately, I think it’s much easier to choose to believe in our own excuses – like the job is beneath us, our colleagues are assholes, or ‘that’s just how it is’. Whatever the excuse, I think we have to consider that there is often an underlying emotional cause – like being afraid that you’re not good enough, that you won’t fit in, and thus making it so.

It’s so important to be able to admit to yourself that you’re afraid to fail or that you don’t think you’re good enough. The joy of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is the learning process involved – win or lose, I don’t think you can ever truly fail, because you learn something about yourself, what you need to improve on and what works well for you. Fear of failure is naturally built into most of us to some degree but I think the main difference between people who succeed and those who don’t even try, is all down to how much they let the fear control them and dictate their actions. The way I see it, you are ALWAYS good enough because you are you, there’s only one of you and you are the only real measure of your own success. Sure, other people can appreciate and recognise what you’ve done or what you stand for but they’ll never deeply understand everything that it means to you and your own journey. Like I said before, you can NEVER truly fail either, because with every failure comes an opportunity to learn and grow. What do 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?