Always Look Up
When following your own path it can be hard to feel like you aren’t having a quarter or mid-life crisis. Harking back to a previous post where we discussed humans are creatures of habit as it suits our physiological needs, its no wonder un-expected life turns or choices can make us feel rather wobbly if they don't fit the social mold. Or that the fact we can still jump into the splits at 33 on the dance floor is starting to seem less impressive than the 5 children your old pal from school has spat out.
When we look at these introspective thoughts very often they are the sort that cause us to microscopically zoom in and focus on one thing rather than seeing the bigger picture. As Dolly Alderton points out in Life Honestly (1) “marvel at something massive” ‘and we aren't talking big appendages here, go look at the vast ocean that connects every being on the planet, go visit the Yew tree in Wales that has existed for 4000 years, get some perspective.
We talk about mindfulness a lot today, this isn’t a new concept, it harks back to meditation and encompasses one of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing; Taking Notice alongside fulfilling the mantra of ‘being in the moment’. Though this looks a little bit like a game of semantics essentially the premise is to achieve zooming out and looking at that bigger picture. The world is full of amazingness and people who have survived beyond what you could ever imagine.
It is easy in times of vulnerability to lie about our true self, but as we learnt in our vulnerability blog so much courage comes out of being you (2). The other amazing effect of opening up about our flaws and experiences is that we share and break stigma because before you know where you are someone else is also talking about their recent chlamydia. Beautiful relationships are born out of truth, what are you hiding from others or indeed yourself? - why not come to the NotLostbutFree workshop to find out #shamelessplug
Surely one of the benefits of getting older is finally being able to be who the fuck we are?! So tell others they look great, be happy for people who live differently to you, don’t lie to Leboni’s pizza at 2 am about both the pizzas being for you - laugh about it and bloody enjoy it, because we have all been there, we are all human, right?
In juxta-position often in life when things get tough we have act and hope the rest will follow, but perhaps this is with a different premise as we can be open about the fact we really didn’t want to change our bedsheets or have a shower - however that when we did although it started out feeling like a performance by the end it got us going again. Routine and habit, especially habits we don’t mind boasting about are good for human nature (3), the trick is not allowing them to take control and stop us from progressing or sampling life.
Research shows that you doing you strongly correlates with “self-esteem and aspects of both subjective and psychological well-being” (4). Wood et al show us in this diagram:
That authenticity first involves what we perceive vs fact, this links with what we previously discussed as being cognitive bias e.g. judging a book by its cover and that in fact, your reality might not be your reality. eek! Research suggests we will never know true reality because we all hold some bias.
Secondly that our perception of our reality then links with how we behave, as well as behaving in line with how we feel. Thinking back to the Hot Cross Bun of CBT this can become a problem if we are in a habit of NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts). Simply put authentic living means to be true to yourself in most situations including going through life based on your values and beliefs.
Lastly, the third level considers how much we are influenced by peers or how much we feel we have to fit in with peers, sadly it is natural for us humans as social beings to alienate from our true self just to fit in :(
Much psychopathology (mental ill-health) is derived from a “departure of authenticity. Basically to not be yourself, really stresses your mind out because you go against the grain, so in the words of Shakespeare:
“This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
1 - The Pool (2018) Life Honestly: Strong Opinions from Smart Women.
2 - Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Penguin/Gotham.
3 - Avni‐Babad, D. (2011), Routine and feelings of safety, confidence, and well‐being. British Journal of Psychology, 102: 223-244. doi: 10.1348/000712610X513617 4 - Wood et al (2008) The Authentic Personality: A Theoretical and Empirical Conceptualization and the Development of the Authenticity Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol.55 (No.3). pp. 385-399. doi: 10.1037/0022-0188.8.131.525