“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I was raised in a family where outward appearance and reputation were important. Standing out was only encouraged if it was within the bounds of what was considered “normal.”
No one ever explicitly told me, “What other people think of you is more important than being your true self,” yet that’s what I learned to believe. It became my mission to be accepted by others, because Ithought that only then would I be worthy of love.
I spent most of my middle school and high school years pretending to be somebody that I wasn’t. I would “chameleon” to blend in with people around me.
I suspect that due to my less-than-stellar acting skills, a lot of people could tell that I was being phony and didn’t want to hang out with me. This only increased my hunger for external validation and acceptance.
At the age of thirteen, I attended my first personal development seminar.
It was an incredible experience for me, and when I was in the seminar room, something inside of me came alive. Being in that space awakened my passion for personal development—a passion that has only grown over the last fifteen years.
In the next decade that followed, I’d spent more than 350 hours participating in personal development seminars, and in July 2009, I finally received the honest feedback that would change my life forever:
I showed up as arrogant, selfish, self-righteous, superior, and judgmental.
The feedback hit me like a ton of bricks. I was simultaneously composed and totally shocked.
I was composed because I knew that people experienced me in those ways: I was a condescending know-it-all with judgment by the boatload, and little tolerance for people “doing it the wrong way” (not myway). My demeanor was often cold and closed off, and I could easily insult people where I knew it would hurt.
I was shocked, because when I received that feedback from somebody that I’d met less than six hours earlier, I felt completely vulnerable. I didn’t know what to do with myself in that moment of being completely exposed.
The walls that I’d created to “protect” my authentic self were only pushing (or rather, shoving) everyone else away. I finally decided to make a change. And thus began my journey of rediscovering my true self.
To say that it was a battle would be a grave understatement. The little voice inside my head had gottenreally good at convincing me of “truths” that were actually just thoughts based in my false beliefs about reputation and acceptance.
Lying to myself had become such a subconscious process for me that bringing it into my consciousness on a daily basis was a struggle.
Right after receiving the feedback, I’d keep “be authentic” on the forefront of my mind for a few days at a time. But more often than not, my commitment to being authentic would slowly fade behind my decades of pretending to be somebody else, and I often wouldn’t even notice the shift.
When I’d realize that I wasn’t being perfectly authentic, every moment of every day, I’d go into beat-up mode and would berate myself for being a failure.
My new awareness seemed like a game of lose-lose: if I ventured out into authentic living and slipped back into my old ways, I’d go into beat-up mode; if I acted like I was okay with being my pretending old self, I’d feel sick to my stomach about who I was pretending to be. I didn’t know how to win that game.
I spent a couple of years on the rollercoaster ride of stepping out and being authentic, slipping back into my old ways, and beating myself up about it; it was exhausting. But then I learned that personal development isn’t a switch, it’s a journey.
I couldn’t just turn off my old behaviors and turn on some new authentic behaviors.
Creating lasting change would take commitment, practice, and most importantly self-compassion.
Commitment meant truly committing myself to being authentic, and doing it for nobody else but me. And practice meant making conscious choices to set my authentic self free instead of staying in the box I’d built for myself.
The self-compassion piece was the most important because it determined whether or not I wanted to pick myself back up, dust myself off, and give it another go.
If making a mistake was only going to end in me beating myself up about it, then I’d rather not have even attempted it. But if making a mistake was met with a desire to learn, and then re-approach my ways of being in a new way, it was a much easier choice to make.
Throughout my journey of discovering and living as my authentic self, I have experienced moments of immense joy and freedom, which have encouraged me to continue moving forward.
One of my most impactful experiences of letting my authentic self shine took place at the end of November 2013, when I shaved half my head.
One of my friends shaved part of her head in mid-2013, and I loved how it looked. I thought it was a perfect combination of sexy and tough. I immediately wanted to shave my own head, but hesitated…for six months.
I thought, “What are other people going to think when they see you? Everyone is going to judge you. People are going to think that you’re weird.”
The little voice in my head was going crazy. My head and my heart weren’t coming to an agreement because that little voice was repeating phrases I’d heard my entire life.
But one day—and I can’t remember exactly when it happened—I just decided to do it. I knew that deep down in my heart I wanted to, so I refused to let that little voice stop me anymore. If people were going to think that being my authentic self was “weird” then so be it!
I wish I could say “and then I shut the little voice up forevermore and lived happily ever after,” but that wouldn’t be true. My little voice was screaming when I finally sat down to get my head shaved. But I just chose to acknowledge the screaming and shave it anyways.
After it was all done and I looked in the mirror, I fell in love. I fell in love with me! For the first time in my life, I felt completely aligned in my outward appearance and my inner authentic self. I felt free.
Sure, people stare at me in public. But I just smile and walk on by. Everyone has an opinion about my hairstyle, but there’s only one opinion that matters—mine. And I love it!
That was one of the biggest and most tangible steps that I’ve taken toward letting my authentic self truly shine. Now, if I start letting to the voice inside my head get to me, I can just look in the mirror or touch the shaved part of my head to remind myself of who I really am.
One of my biggest lessons throughout my head-shaving experience was this: when I limit myself because of my fear of what others might think of me, I’m limiting what I think of me. When I truly embrace my authentic self, I am free.
Abraham Maslow said, “What is life for? It is for you.” I’m finally living my life for me, and I’ve never felt more empowered, joyful, or authentic.
How are you holding yourself back?
Would you be making different choices in your life if you weren’t worried about the acceptance of others?
How different do you think your life would be if you stepped outside of your comfort zone one time every day?
I encourage you to get uncomfortable and to let your authentic self shine. You might be surprised at how freeing it can be.
Empathy is the lifeblood of any system of health—it gives us all a shared stake in being healthy and helping others to thrive as well.
Building empathy has been a critical strategy in my household of late—not only because it helps motivate them, but also because it is an important part of their social development. Lately I have been thinking about empathy on a larger scale, beyond my household, and how critical it is to building a Culture of Health.
Most people don't think about empathy as a key to health, but it is profoundly important.
The myth of normal tells us that that being within the range of what is considered "normal" is a core feature of successfully being a member of society—and that is simply not true. The myth of normal is very strong and very wrong.
Being “normal” is usually assessed by one’s being in or around the average for any given trait: height, weight, body type, sexuality, physicality, sociability, etc. And we largely assume that, with a few exceptions, it is best to be as normal as possible to fit in with those around you. In this notion, the average for any given trait, and maybe one, or two, standard deviations from that norm is fine, but once you get far away from the average, there is something wrong—you are not being human the right way.
This premise results from two misconceptions:
A very poor understanding of the range and patterns of actual human biological and behavioral variation.An assumption that the average in any population or group is more or less a measure of the “right” biological and social way to be.
The insidious social practice that emerges from these two misconceptions is the tendency of social groups, and societies at large, to punish or peripheralize those individuals who fall outside of what is considered “normal”—often with serious psychological and social impacts on those consequently labeled/recognized as “deviant.”
Many have argued that this tendency to ostracize those outside of the norm is just a reflection of our evolutionary ancestry—our tendency to be more comfortable with those more “like us” and to be wary of those not “like us.” This may well be the case, but what if the modern myth of normal has overshot our basic evolutionary history of wariness toward the unknown? What if it has inserted an overly narrow vision, by defining what is “normal” and “right” within groups and populations in much too constricted a range?
The current myth of normal tries to extinguish the very variation (biological and behavioral) that is core to our species’ ability to evolve and adapt to so many different challenges.
There are some extreme variants in human biology and behavior that are truly problematic in serious ways (neurological defects and pathological psychoses, for example). But those are few and far between. Here, in tackling the myth of normal, I am talking about our overemphasis on constraining the range of human variation into too narrow a band—mistaking “average” for a value statement, and forgetting that it is merely a statistical description.
For example, we often think about things like “normal” weight, height, and gender-specific behavior as indicators of physical, psychological, and social health, but are they? What is “normal” in this context?
Let’s use a straightforward example: Height and weight. Humans as a species are enormously variable, with some populations averaging under five feet in height and others averaging over six feet; and, on average, men are about 10-15 percent larger than women. So there is a huge range in our species and some patterns, based on sex. Within any single population we expect to see less overall variation in height than in the whole species, but the same pattern based on sex. However, even within a relatively homogenous population there can be substantial variation in height.
Consider: If you line up all males and female adults in a population, there is usually about a 70 percent overlap in height—meaning that the statistically average male is taller than the statically average female. However, if you actually go out and select thousands of individual people at random in this population and just look at their heights in he absence of any other data, you are going to be able to accurately determine their sex by their height alone only about 30 percent of the time. Yes, the tallest are likely to be men and the shortest, women—but this does not get you anywhere near 100 percent of the actual variation. This means that being a tall woman or a short man, while statistically out of the norm, is not by any means uncharacteristic—or abnormal. It is a regular part of the distribution of variation. Tall women and short men are normal.
Weight is even more complicated. Currently we use BMI (the relationship of height to weight) as a measure of overall health. This assumes that there are easily identifiable, and normal, relationships between height and weight in regards to being a healthy human. But weight and health, while related, is not a simple relationship, and BMI does not differentiate between a body builder and a couch potato whose height and weight may be the same but for very different reasons. It is very apparent that while BMI does work for those at the very extreme of the height/weight relationship range, it is not a great measure of health in most of its range.
If we are getting “normal” so wrong for things as easy to measure and understand as height and weight, what about things like gender identity, sociability, imaginative interests, etc.? Is there one average (and thus “right”) way to be a boy or a girl? No. Gender is a highly complex and broad spectrum with individuals being a mix of a range of elements from across the feminine-masculine spectrum—average patterns exist, but they are statistical measures, not assessments of happiness, success and contentment. Should everyone be expected to feel more or less the same in social situations, have more or less the same number and types of friends? Of course not—there are many feasible options for sociability, and most people within that broad range do just fine. Is it evolutionarily, socially, or psychologically better to force oneself to be interested in the books, movies, themes, and ideas that are held as “normal” in a given society? It might make some people more comfortable, but it does not necessarily lead to flourishing and happiness in most individuals.
It is the very human ability to range far and wide in body and mind that has enabled us to do so well as a species, and the myth of normal cuts that range down to a minimal “norm.” Again, I am not arguing that anything goes—rather, that by continuously imagining that there is a direct connection between the statistical norm and the “right” way to be, we are making the lives of many people, across the range of variation for any given trait more difficult, and denying them a seat at the table.
Humans are remarkably diverse—it has served us well in the past, it is with us in the present, and it will benefit us in the future. Don’t deny variability: Enjoy your spot at any place on the continuum and know that being different is in fact a normal part of being human.
A ”buddha brain” is one that knows how to be deeply happy, loving, and wise. We develop ourselves in this way by cultivating wholesome qualities and uprooting unwholesome ones. In a sense, we plant flowers and pull weeds in the garden of the mind – which means that we are gradually changing the brain for the better.
Gratitude is a powerful tool in this “garden” since what you rest your attention upon is what will shape your brain the most. That’s because “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Gratitude shifts your attention away from resentment, regret, and guilt – and therefore stops you from building up the neural substrates of these known factors of mental and physical health problems. Gratitude also focuses your awareness on positive things, simple good facts such as having enough water to drink, the laughter of children, the kindness of others, or the smell of an orange.
To reap the rewards of gratitude, rest your attention on a good fact, noticing details about it, staying with it for at least a few seconds in a row. Then allow a natural emotional response of gratitude to arise. Continue to pay attention to this feeling of gratitude for another few seconds – or even longer: it’s delicious! Taking these few extra seconds will help you weave gratitude into the fabric of your brain and your Self. And you can practice gratitude both on the fly, as you move through your day, and at specific occasions, such as at meals or just before bed.
Many of us grew up in religions that warned about the perils of desire. Greed and gluttony are two of the seven deadly sins that imperil our soul. Buddhism, which many view as a psychology more than a religion, is often understood as teaching that desire is the root cause of suffering; the path toward liberation is one of freeing ourselves from its seductive grip.
No doubt, our desires and longings have brought a heap of trouble with them. But an open question remains: is suffering created by desire itself or how we relate to it? Perhaps it is how we engage with desire — or fail to engage with it in a wise and skillful way — that generates the bulk of our discontent.
Desire has gotten a bum rap. Without desire, we wouldn’t be here. Since desire has the awesome power to create life, how could it be anything other than sacred? As psychiatrist and Buddhist teacher Mark Epstein puts it in his book, Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life: “To set desire up as the enemy and then try to eliminate it is to seek to destroy one of our most precious human qualities.”
According to Buddhism, “tanha” creates suffering. This Pali term has often been translated as desire, but “craving” is a more accurate translation. A psychological equivalent would be compulsion or addiction. We often cling to substances, activities, or things that distract us from seeing things clearly and impede our connection with ourselves and others.
For example, craving excessive carbohydrates or sugar might bring temporary pleasure, but they are poor substitutes for our desire for love. Craving alcohol might numb us to our pain, while offering a surge of pleasant sensations. But this addiction comes with an obvious cost and does not satisfy the deeper needs of our soul.
Differentiating between craving and desire might alleviate any shame we might feel to honor and pursue our human longings. Greed, gluttony, and craving might be understood as secondary reactions to our frustrated, primary longing for love, intimacy, acceptance, and respect. When our longing to love is thwarted, we may get consumed by a search for power, wealth, or fleeting pleasures that take us on a journey away from ourselves and life.
Differentiating between craving and desire might alleviate any shame we might feel to honor and pursue our human longings. The scientific research that led to Attachment Theory, pioneered by John Bowlby, tells us that we’re wired with a need for connection — what he calls human attachment. Without strong bonds, our immune system languishes and we’re more prone to anxiety, depression, and other ills.
A useful and illuminating practice is to inquire into the nature of our desires, exploring what they’re about. As Buddhist teacher and psychologist Tara Brach explains in her book, Radical Acceptance:
“Longing, fully felt, carries us to belonging. The more times we traverse this path — feeling the loneliness or craving, and inhabiting its immensity — the more the longing for love becomes a gateway into love itself.”
As we welcome our longings and uncover how they’re guiding us, we might find that our deepest longing is to love and be loved. Now, how can that be anything other than sacred? Our challenge is to welcome our experience just as it is — exploring which desires lead to suffering and which ones lead us toward greater connection, openness, and freedom.
“"I have a dream... for Iceland" News of Iceland ... Research center for Arctic studies, climate change and global warming. Research and development of electric cars. Peace conferances and peace talks.”
Most parents admit lying to their children yet, according to new research, the more children are lied to, the more they are likely to lie and cheat themselves.
The experiment from which these conclusions are drawn involved 186 children, around half of whom were told that there was “a huge bowl of candy in the next room” (Hays & Carver, 2014).
However, the experimenter then admitted this was just a lie to encourage them to carry out a test of their resistance to temptation.
During the actual test, the children had to try and pair up audio clips with character toys that were hidden from their view.
For example, there was a “Tickly me!” audio clip that paired up with Elmo.
However, there was one that was tricky, where the researchers played a snatch of Beethoven that didn’t suggest any children’s character, then ‘accidentally’ had to leave the room.
Before going, the experimenter explicitly told the children not to peek at the toy which was making the sound.
The children didn’t know it, but cameras were still rolling to capture their behaviour when alone.
Of the children who were not lied to, 60% did peek while the experimenter was out of the room. And 60% of those then lied about it.
Of those who were lied to, though, fully 80% peeked and then 90% of those children lied about peeking.
We don’t know exactly why this happens, but two mechanisms are likely involved:
-Children might simply be copying the adult.-Children think that because the experimenter appears to be a liar, it’s OK to lie to them.
The authors conclude by saying: “The actions of parents suggest that they do not believe that the lies they tell their children will impact the child’s own honesty. The current study casts doubt on that belief.
...grown-ups may have to re-examine what they say to kids. Even a ‘little white lie’ might have consequences.”
Wharton’s Sigal Barsade says demonstrating “companionate love” in the workplace is vital to employee morale, teamwork and customer satisfaction.
Already, though, the research seems to be pointing to a strong message for managers in all industries, Barsade says: tenderness, compassion, affection and caring matter at work. “Management can do something about this,” she says. “They should be thinking about the emotional culture. It starts with how they are treating their own employees when they see them.
tenderness, compassion, affection and caring matter at work.
Are they showing these kinds of emotions? And it informs what kind of policies they put into place. This is something that can definitely be very purposeful — not just something that rises organically.
It took me a very long time to work out the difference between being kind to myself and actually being kind to myself. I used to think a long hot bath, a yoga class or a new pair of shoes would suffice to ease a low patch or quieten my noisy inner critic
. These gestures may have helped a bit, but they remained just that – actions representing a kindness rather than actions that also felt kind to myself when I did them. I could practise yoga for an hour and still feel bad. I might even feel rubbish at yoga and leave a class feeling even worse. Learning to be truly kind, compassionate, and even loving toward myself meant some pretty hard work.
This ‘self-compassion’ starts off as a skill, and like many other skills, a tricky one to start with but well worth the effort put in.
Beyond Right & Wrong presents the stories of people who have experienced loss and the stories of people who have caused that loss. From the Rwandan Genocide to the Troubles in Northern Ireland to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, people from different sides of the violence have entrusted all of us with their stories—their anger or remorse, their pain, their paths to recovery.
Jim Manske's insight:
Inspiring film that deepens my sense of Vision and Mission. See it for free, Share it with friends, Host an Event! beyondrightandwrong.com
A dying cancer patient who worked at a Dutch zoo returned to say goodbye on Wednesday. Lying in a hospital bed placed in the giraffe habitat at Rotterdam's Diergaarde Blijdorp, the 54-year-old man, identified as only Mario, waited for the animals to approach.
In an image now breaking the Internet's heart, one giraffe appears to understand the moment, kissing Mario.
"You could see him totally light up," said Kees Veldboer, founder and director of Ambulance Wish Foundation, which arranged the farewell. "It's very special to see that those animals recognize him, and sense that he isn't doing well," he told Rotterdam newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
Mario, who has a mental disability, spent nearly his entire life as a maintenance man at the zoo, according to the paper.
After the touching encounter, he then bid farewell to his colleagues, the charity reported.
There are two reasons I've drawn a huge circle around March 20 on my calendar. The third Thursday of the third month is the first day of spring -- my favorite season. And, more importantly, March 20 is International Day of Happiness, a holiday commissioned by the General Assembly of the United Nations to raise awareness that well-being and happiness are fundamental to human life.
Both events celebrate new beginnings. Spring brings new life. International Day of Happiness brings new understanding.
When we inhale the heady perfume of baby grass and spring's first flowers, we feel a lift -- we're happy for the experience. When we decide to make gratitude or forgiveness or generosity a priority, we also feel happiness. Are the two linked? I think so.
Both the advent of spring and International Day of Happiness have basis in natural science. One is caused by the tilting and orbit of our planet. The other, while a man-made invention, underscores the fact that we are hardwired for happiness. Mother Nature has endowed us with a body that's capable of positive emotions, actions and expressions. When people respond to life's inevitable challenges with grace, perseverance and even joy, they inspire us. They show us that sad, painful or disappointing events can have good outcomes or unexpected silver linings. Science is showing us why some of these profoundly human characteristics are demonstrated even in difficult situations. It turns out that we can choose happiness -- for ourselves and for our world.
International Day of Happiness isn't about drawing smiley faces on sticky notes (which I don't do) or putting a good face on bad news (which I do sometimes), it's about hitting the "pause" button sometime during March 20 and thinking about how happiness is an essential element of a basic life.
It is wonderfully freeing to simply write those words: "Happiness is essential." While it is different for each of us, happiness is something we all need and deserve.
I saw happiness on the faces of men and women who had little in American terms, but were rich in community while on a family trip to Morocco. As our guide walked ahead of us along the clogged streets of Marrakesh, he would sometimes pause to acknowledge someone with a nod or to touch a hand. After a bit, I realized he was also dispersing some of the coins we'd paid him into those hands. This wasn't just commerce; it was also a social network. He gathered happiness from those around him and likewise, passed it back to them.
Happiness is not the result of wealth, health or education. Rather, it is an indicator of those things. That makes happiness a powerful tool in improving worldwide economics and the health and well-being of people all around the globe.
I'm going to be at the United Nations on International Day of Happiness, taking part in both formal proceedings and the free-form celebrations we've planned at public locations. Active, loud and personal endorsement of happiness is important to raise awareness of its potential positive impact on everyday life. I expect to see, hear and report on people who "vote for happiness," and I'll share those stories in our next issue. Will it be your story that I share? Mark March 20 on your calendar and go toactsofhappiness.org to learn how to get involved.
Jim Manske's insight:
Our monthly free teleclass this week-end is in honor of the UN Day of Happiness: Fueling Life, Liberty, and Happiness with Jim and Jori Manske. Details at radicalcompassion.com
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored.
Jim Manske's insight:
I'm touched reading this teacher's strategies for cultivating connection and compassion in her classroom. Today, Jori and I will join a group of local educators to talk about how to integrate a "No-Fault" zone in their school, right here in our neighborhood!