When we are in a good mood, we automatically see the silver lining. When we are in a bad mood, we seek out the storm clouds. Sometimes there are things that are unavoidably terrible and miserable, but those things are rare. Most times, we can fight our tendency to look at the negative bits of life.
Life is ambiguous and relative in many ways. We are dependent on context and what we’re comparing things too. It’s hard to not compare because in many ways, we’re comparing machines. In order to be adaptable and problem solve, we think in ways that compare our situation to past situation. We need to look at our choices and make the best ones. We need to look between people and decide who we want to be around. All of these comparisons are driven around a negative bias, this extra emphasis to be wary of what’s going to hurt us and make us feel terrible. We might not be looking for the Best solution, just one that isn’t going to cut off our heads. But that wariness that we need, it can make us hone in on the negative aspects of our lives in unnecessary ways.
We need to compare in order to exist effectively. It’s not a curse, its just a handy tool that we sometimes end up using too much and on situations that don’t need it. If you sit there and tell yourself that everything sucks, how can you expect to be able to he see anything but that? We can’t just stop our thinking habits on the drop of a hat, but we can start making the change little by little. Force yourself to look at the big picture. Give yourself something else to do that isn’t misery-making. Remember that we look for what we want to see.
There is a conceptual delight to the idea of a robot. A continuously productive machine with no gross emotions or feelings or biases is a wonderful thing. However, strange as it is, we are not machines. We need constant recharging, for hours and hours at a time. Even at our height, we are still not as efficient and effective as machines. We are volatile, events can harm us without direct physical contact. Humans are just so problematic compared to machines!
And yet! Being human is such a unique experience because we are aware that we are. We might not be as productive as machines, but what basis is there to assume our productivity equates to our worth? In some settings, we may begin to feel like that’s the case. However, there is more to us than that! We are creative and adapative. We can think outside the box, and use our associations to connect ideas. We can make wonderful things like machines in the first place, and emotionally connect to other people! Even we aren’t sure ourselves how we can do all of these things. It is something special to be a human.
While we love to connect to other people, part of being a social creature means we become jealous at times. We begin to compare oursleves to other people, and it goes downhill very quickly! But like machines and humans, part of being distinct entities requires there to be differences between them. Because you are an individual, you are different from those around you. Because we are varied in style, shape, and character, there are going to be differences in what we are good at and what we struggle with! You are not a machine, and that’s a good thing because you can do so much more than you are programmed for! You are also a “you”, and that means you are also able to bring something beautifully distinct to everything you do.
The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.
Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.
When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.
Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763
Our instincts aren’t always the same. The concept of “Fight or Flight” is pretty common, but it’s actually not the full story. True, most people either run or try to take on danger when it comes up. However, some bodies’ react by becoming paralyzed. A few people want to change the concept’s name to, “Fight, Flight, or Freeze”. That’s why there are those few ‘idiotic’ people in thriller-apocalyptic disaster movies that just stand there when buildings are crashing down all alongside them. When it comes to these certain core reactions to danger, we don’t really have a lot of choice. If Godzilla really attacked, you probably wouldn’t be carefully deciding what to do. Luckily for us, most of our interactions aren’t controlled by instinct, but rather by a filter of thoughts.
The Myers-Briggs test is a popular personality test, and one of the items measured in a person is their tendency to be either a ‘feeler’ or a ‘thinker’. Feelers tend to value their emotions over logic, the feelings of others and themselves are a primary concern. Thinkers tend to value logic and reason over emotions, with reason as a primary concern over emotions. It’s a spectrum rather than a binary, so one ‘Thinker’ may value logic more than the other. This thinking/feeling spectrum basically describes how much logic is in the filter you process your emotions through.
Instincts are different, our filters are different, our behaviors and thoughts are all different from person to person. Yet we are all similar in that we operate using both emotions and reason. We are heavily biased to change our thoughts and justify our emotions rather than fit our emotions to logic. Living is hard. Existing takes a lot of effort. You can be a feeler or a thinker or something in between, but it’s important to remember that most situations are not fight or flight (or freeze). We aren’t animals, our instincts aren’t the be-all, end-all, nor are even our more common emotions. Our self-control gives us an incredible ability to fight instant gratification so that we can make our future better. Use it.
The thing about kindness is that you don’t have to really ‘mean’ it. If you are a human that exists, you have affected other people, thousands of people, even if only in some minuscule way. Each action says something about you, whether you want it to or not. While it would be amazing to able to care about everyone all the time, we can’t psychologically handle that. People across the world tend to be too abstract for us to care about. That’s why we have things like religion, belief systems, and morals in place: You don’t have to be emotionally involved to show kindness. If you work at a soup kitchen, being supportive and bubbly is awesome, but even being there grudgingly helps out too. We have this strange idea that if we can’t put 100% into something, we shouldn’t do it at all. However, we get excited by the things we do. If you never do something, you’re never going to be excited for that thing in the first place.
Our thoughts become our behaviors, we know this. If you expect the party to be horrible, you’re going to act more anti-social and won’t enjoy yourself as much. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy to some extent. However, it works the other way around as well. Our behaviors influence our thoughts. Sometimes you have to be at the homeless shelter to actually care about the homeless. Perhaps the greatest gift our humanity has given us is the motivation to do things we don’t want to do initially, things that don’t directly benefit us.
How many times do you turn on the news and witness horrible events? Now, think about how many times you’ve genuinely cared about that, how many times you’ve donated your time and money to help. Churches and temples and synagogues and other places of worship usually involve some amount of charity because it takes higher forces to convince us that giving our time and money to others is worth it. In Puerto Rice right now, they don’t have power. In many areas, there’s not enough water resources for thirst or basic hygiene. This isn’t some minor hurricane that the island is used to, there are 3.4 million US citizens who are struggling to survive and no one seems to be trying to help.
The basic fact is this: you probably don’t care. This doesn’t have an obvious affect on you in all likelihood. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help. You don’t have to care, you just have to do something. The act of putting in your limited resources is a show of strength of character. We can afford at least some small act of charity, some small thing that will bolster our own self-esteem. Donating for selfish reasons is better than not donating at all, don’t wait for your ‘heart’ to be in it, just help. The action will affect your thoughts, and your thoughts will affect your future actions; no small act of kindness is ever wasted.
It’s strange to consider that oranges, which are now commonplace in America, were once considered to be rare treats, gotten maybe one or twice a year. Oranges are sweet, but I doubt most people would consider it to be like a candy. We wouldn’t because we have actual candy to compare it to. Even though oranges themselves haven’t altered, they’ve been debunked from a candy to a sweet addition to a meal. The oranges didn’t change, the things around them did. If we consider ourselves to be an orange then, how do we take and utilize this principle? We start off by not comparing apples to oranges.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you have a generic person who has an IQ of 100, as that is the average. First, you put them in a room full of people who have an IQ of 90, learning a task the generic person already knows but the rest don’t. Then, you put them into a room full of people who have an IQ of 110, learning something that everyone else knows but they don’t. These situations aren’t fair. However, even if the generic person knows the situation, they are still probably going to feel brilliant in the first class and like a moron in the next. That’s considering the situation while knowing that it’s unfair.
We don’t know the situation a lot of times. We make attribution after attribution on halves of knowledge. Our sense of who we are and what we can do depends tremendously on who and what we are around. It’s not everything, of course, but the environment is a huge factor in our identity. Let me suggest this however; you might be an orange once a year or you might be the commonplace orange. If you think you’re all that, you might just be surrounding yourself with people who are less skilled than you. If you think you’re worth nothing, you might be leaving out a massive chunk of the real population. We don’t have glasses that tells us how much money, IQ, or how many friends each person has. We can’t see the details, we don’t know where people are coming from a lot of times. Your ‘sweetness’ is relative.
So what can you do? You can keep on being sweet. You can keep trying your best, because that’s the best you can do. Help others, be kind. Be ambitious and chase down your goals. Try to keep in mind that both fruit and chocolate bars are sugary and delicious but taste completely different. Keep going, you can do this.
Beauty is a form of self control. We use makeup to cause the illusion of symmetry and accentuate attractive features, it is a skill to be honed. Certain clothes highlight those parts which our culture values, and keeping with those trends takes effort. To be healthy requires focus and self control on a daily basis. No matter the gender, to be attractive physically is a form of self denial for what is percieved to be a greater purpose. Therefore, it could be argued that “looking nice” shows strength of character.
Afterall, if you spend large amounts of money on attire and products, you most likely care about your life. It shows you put the effort in yourself and so you might be willing to put it in something else as well. However, this doesn’t always transfer over so easily. We have limited amounts of self control, and limited time to care about things. If you only care about appearance, you’re missing out. Besides, what about people who don’t care about their appearance and use self control for other, arguably greater, things?
If you scorn people who put effort into their appearance, you’re scorning someone’s values and effort. Frankly, that’s messed up. Also, if you scorn people who don’t put effort into their appearance, you’re missing out on what they do put their time and effort into, what they do value. Sometimes people care and sometimes they don’t. The perfect mix is probably somewhere in the middle. Respect people.