Airplane Writing: (Nov 2010)
I had a few thoughts I wanted to share in my introspective mood. Writing has become my therapy when I find myself removed from friends and family. The older I get, the more I realize that time goes by quickly. I find myself looking at the clock and having the reaction “It’s that time already?!” more often as the days go by. Since life does not last forever, it is more beneficial to enjoy your time on earth rather than maintain a constant state of depression, which is a dangerously pleasurable practice.
The most defining trait of anyone’s character, regardless of race, religion or ideology, is how you feel about yourself. Friends come and go as the seasons change and growing close to people makes it difficult to watch them leave. At the same time, though, not letting down personal barriers will not allow you to develop close friends ships that can provide pleasure, perspective and comfort. Therein lies one of the paradoxes of humanity: he who cares least about maintaining relations, rapport, or acceptance from others always possesses an advantage because he has the ability to walk away without pain. People will always act in what they perceive to be their best interests, and understanding this reality eases disappointment that others will inevitably inflict. Aligning yourself with people who have similar self-interests, then, will enable you to reap benefits and maximize your own happiness.
Initially, these ideas seem pessimistic. And maybe they are. Am I suggesting that other people do not matter and you should live without compassion for others? No. This is not human. I actually believe that every person has something to offer, even if it is to teach how not act. Keeping positive attitudes serves us well when we experience states of happiness, but realistic ones helps us preserve through challenges. This is you will always be most important.
At the surface, this writing gives me a feeling of emptiness. The same sadness I feel after being rejected at a bar, or spending an hour engaging a woman in a deep conversation which results in never speaking again or meaningless sex. Each of these occurrences evoke powerful emotions. Rejection makes people feel inadequate, pathetic and undeserving of what we want most. Fear of rejection discourages us from taking chances, risks and pursuing dreams. Unfortunately, this feeling is deeply rooted in our evolution as Homo sapiens. Humans used to live in tribes of roughly 40-50. As a species, our ultimate purpose is to reproduce and Darwin defines fitness as how many offspring our own children spawn. In this small of an environment, there are few potential mates. And if you chose the wrong one, or one who did not have similar attraction, the entire tribe would immediately gain awareness as to your rejection and you would be removed from the gene pool.
The strong, almost consuming fear of reject is one of the roots of addiction: trying to escape negative emotions by developing a consistent habit that gives temporary relief or happiness.
Addiction has many forms. Our society highlights that of drugs and alcohol. These substances give people a brief sense of heightened excitement, confidence and energy. When celebrating, having drinks with friends is a pleasurable activity and this brings fun to the group. Substance abuse becomes a problem, however, when the practice is frequently repeated without moderation. We all have friends who drink, smoke and in some cases- inject or snort when they feel sad, anxious, or bored. In essence, this represents people turning to an activity that eliminates short term negative emotions without regard for future implications.
My biggest addiction is constantly seeking sympathy and reassurance. This is my biggest personal weakness. We can lean on loved ones for confidence boosts in times of need. Using their support crates a dependency that is hard to weed off. Whenever I am not seen as cool by one of my peers or a girl I like cancels a coffee date, it has become essential for me to gain reassurance that I am adequate and that other people’s opinions should not affect how I feel about myself. This is my biggest flaw. To understand that while other people’s views do matter, they should not affect your personal image. On my study abroad trip, my biggest goal is to develop the skill of self-soothing without the approval of others. This will be hard because I have depended on this for the past 20 years. I work at this everyday.
Since it is usually unwise to deal in extremes, I must acknowledge that not all addictions are bad. Many people run, swim, write, cook or participate in other hobbies that they have developed skills or passions. Seeing the fruits of our labor, or rather, what we have accomplished is rewarding. Some people are addicted to work for this reason. Doing well in a particular endeavor, like cooking a good meal, closing a business deal or getting published in a newspaper, makes us feel good. The most critical mistake is performing these activities based on other people’s opinions. Being at the mercy of other people’s views is dangerous because public opinion sways like the wind. Often times, dealing with no longer being considered exceptional is more painful than never receiving recognition at all. You had a bite of the apple, the high that being loved brings. And without it, you seem to no longer have the ability to function.
Receiving positive responses from others stimulates feelings of happiness, achievement and satisfaction. If someone is telling me I am skilled in a particular area, it must be true and I am surely capable. Positive social interactions make us feel accepted and recognize our self worth. Human beings are naturally social creatures and being part of the group begets self-confidence. But what happens when the group crumbles?
Receiving an invitation to go out with friends or having a nice conversation about relationships, interests and beliefs is rewarding. Getting to know someone and establish a connection serves, as a catalyst for understanding your own believes and personal development. It feels good to evoke interest form others and spark their curiosity. Male camaraderie presents a backbone and support system. Any challenge I face, they will protect me with loyalty.
True friendship, however, is rare. Since we all act in our perceived best interests, how can you blame someone when his interests differ from yours? A true friend is someone who will temporarily put your interest first. People who do this are rare to find and are usually taken advantage of for their kindness, others mistaking it for weakness. To have a friend who has lived in difference places in different circumstances is what makes friendships. I have one friend of this caliber. I consider myself lucky.
Relationships with women are my biggest challenge to overcome. I used to place nearly all of my self-confidence on whether women perceived me well, were attracted to me or demonstrated mutual interest. When this did not happen, I would crumble and seek sympathy until I forgot about my women troubles or until I had enough positive interactions from other girls. To continue the cycle, I would repeat the same pattern when the next girl demonstrated disinterest. I am about to break the cycle.
We put so much emphasis and importance on what other people think of us. I spent the last three years of my life becoming a person who men would admire and women would want to sleep with. It was not fulfilling. As I continued to live my life based on how other people perceived me, I realized that there were always people who didn’t like me, thought I was weird or otherwise did not want to spend time with me. Despite the majority of the people I know having positive opinions of me, I still was victim of being judged. Recently, I realized that regardless of the person I am, I will always have judgment cast upon me. We all do. And to live your life trying to make people like you is neither possible nor sustainable.
Therefore, regardless of what other people think of you, you must love yourself. I do not love myself. I work on this everyday. It is my life goal to love myself. I do not know how long it will take, but I will achieve it. It is not possible to love, help or improve anyone else’s wellbeing if your own self-image is lousy. On airplanes, it is suggest you put on your own life vest before helping others. And I am trying to put mine on. I am trying to find it and put it around my neck and put enough oxygen from my own longs into it so no matter what obstacles, judgment or adversity I face in my life, I will always float.
Learning to love yourself is a hard concept because I need to learn how to do so. First, I identified my negative triggers, or the events that make me feel depressed, which are fears of being lonely and not accomplishing my goals. I am dealing with these fears by trying to always think of myself. I am trying to be selfish. What is the thing that will make me most happy at the current time? Right now, it is writing. In about a half hour, I want to eat a tortilla Espanola. Being selfish has a negative connotation in our society, but I believe being selfish is loving yourself. It is essential to try and see things from other people’s perspectives, but if you refuse to consider your own feelings, this is useless. To deal with my fears, I have been making lists of things I want to accomplish in a given period of time to try and use my negative feelings in a positive way. This will become my new addiction. Loving myself. Doing what is best for me and make me happiest. Trying to maximize all my opportunities and care about myself the way I do for my family. I want to love my body, spirit, ideas, interests and dreams. I can do anything. I need to look in the mirror and recognize all the amazing things about myself. I cannot listen to praise or seek approval since I seek my own.
It is ironic that those who are most recognized for a particular art or craft are those who do not seek to satisfy other people’s expectations, but rather, fulfill their owns. This is an irony that people do not understand. To gain recognition we all secretly desire, we must do things because we love to and want to. Because we care about them independent of what others think.
It is my deepest hope that I find such a passion one day. To find a job, position or hobby that I love and seek to excel and satisfy my own expectations. Because of me. And when I do that, I will be revered, loved and praised by others. And when that praise comes, I will love myself so much that when I lose that praise, I will not be affected. Falling from fame will not matter because I will have the greatest give of all: myself.
I am my self worth.
I love you.