Effective Communication

There are two sides to the communication coin. Talking and listening. A while ago I discussed the relationship between them and how we don’t really listen anymore in a blog post called “The amount of talking we do”, so I will not go into details here.

Effective communication is important in all sorts of relationships. From romantic relationships, to the relationships with your friends and families, the relationships with your boss and even the relationship with yourself. We need to learn the skill. If we don’t we run the risk of getting hurt severely. Not being understood is the cause for loneliness but bad communication can also lead to misunderstanding and painful inter-human conflicts.

However, effective communication does not only rely on talking and listening, but also on honesty and clarity. This means we need to have a certain degree of openness, about what we think, how we feel and why. This is important. If I claim a fact and don’t specify that this is only a guess that I am making because it would make sense, it can easily happen that I will be considered a liar if it turns out I was wrong. This however can destroy any relationship, since relationships build on trust. And you cannot trust a liar. The more truthful and specific we are, even if that means confessing, that we are not sure how you feel, the more effective our communication can be.

But only your communication with others benefits from honesty and clarity. The more clearly you are able to express how we feel and what we want, the more we get to know ourselves and the better we can make ourselves happy. It is a matter of mindfulness and it has huge benefits. We need to learn to be honest with ourselves first. Find a way to be honest. This is really tough. Because it includes acknowledging our own shortcomings. But if we cannot be honest with ourselves, we will never be able to be honest with other people and if we cannot be honest with other people we will likely fail at effective communication which will probably lead us to fail at relationships. And we really do not want that.

In context of people talking to much there is one crucial observation left to make: We tend to talk about everything and anything, but the things that are truly relevant. The reason for that is likely our desire to present ourselves in the best possible light. However how we really feel or what exactly is we want is often not so glorious, so we hide it and talk about that trip that we made.

Everyone complains about how fake people are. How society is just full of hypocrites. But they forget to open up and be honest themselves and therefor turn into the exact thing they despise so much. I get it. We try to gain other people’s approval, we try to impress people. But tying back in with talking too much and never listening: Chances are that no one really cares, because everyone is talking and no one is listening and in addition to that, everyone is claiming the same approval-seeking stuff. Why listen when the internet is full of people telling the same sort of lies? But if no one cares, why not be honest? Nothing can happen other than we learn to be honest which will benefit any real relations that we have.

We all must learn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and tell it as precisely as humanly possible. There will always be slip ups. And of course not everyone needs to know everything. But let’s be very mindful of our words.

Inspiration & Ownership

When we start our lives, we are all about surviving. It is not even something we learn. It is an instinct embedded into us. The thing is: as we grow and surviving really happens passively, we are at risk of starting to drift. Since our survival is ensured, there really is no reason to improve. There is no reason to struggle hard and we simply drift through life.

There is nothing wrong with taking a break and enjoying one’s life for a bit. Everyone needs that. But if we stop having a vision, a goal to work towards, we will slowly but surely end up loosing our purpose. And when there is no purpose why would we get out of bed in the morning? Why would we leave this perfectly cuddly world that is so kind to us? It makes me feel depressed. And I end up feeling more dead than alive. When we are at this point is it high time we do something about our lethargy.

The first step is to find inspiration. It is about what we enjoy. It is about listening to podcasts, reading books and watching You Tube videos to figure out what it is we want. Or at least in what direction we want to go. We need to figure out, what makes us happy. We need to envision the life, we would love to live. The kind of life, that would have us be excited to get out of bed at 8am rather than at noon.

But inspiration is not enough. It is very nice to know what we want and then just go off and drift in the comfort of our lives some more. There are many reasons for this. Fear of failure, laziness and a sense of pointlessness to name just a few. Overcoming these is very difficult and every human being struggles. But there is no point in giving in to those obstacles. Because every day that we spend sleeping until 11am has us feeling a little bit worse about ourselves and makes it more difficult for us to actually be able to achieve our goals.

Truth is: we need to take ownership. When we get inspired, we are all motivated and want to go get whatever is the cause of our inspiration, but that only applies while we are in some sort of fantasy about our own lives. The moment we come back to reality, we fall back into our comfort. And this is where we need to be doing some work. We need to take ownership of our lives. We are the only ones living our lives. Which means we are the only one’s in charge. No one will ever do anything to improve our lives for us. No one can. There is this very powerful realization, that we are alone. No one cares. Yes, this can be incredibly devastating. If no one cares, why would I get out of bed? It doesn’t matter. Well… no one cares except us. It doesn’t matter except to ourselves. Yes, if we don’t get to achieve what we wanted to achieve, no one will care, but us. And this is powerful. It means that the relationship we have to ourselves and our lives is crucial. It means that the only person who we ever have to ask forgiveness of is ourselves.

And there is another big misunderstanding: to achieve our goals and take ownership, we need to get out of bed and off our butts. But other than that there does not need to be grand changes. Changing and adjusting our routines little by little will have a major positive impact on our lives. It is mostly the mindset that needs to be changed fundamentally. We need to adjust our mindset to be focused on owning our lives. We need to monitor our thinking. And this is important. The things we think is like talking to ourselves and if we say something often enough we will end up believing it. That can be very powerful if we control the way we talk to ourselves.

More often than not however we are blissfully unaware of what we are thinking at any given moment. There are a few things that can help. One of them is having a conversation with ourselves about what we think and how we feel. No one needs to know other than us. We need to be brutally honest with ourselves. And if we feel like a complete failure, maybe we can redirect our attention to the things that we haven’t failed, or even better find a way to improve. One more very effective way to monitor what we think is journalling. This can be in the form of regular check-ins with ourselves, or just random journalling about anything that is on our minds.

We need to ban negativity from our minds, that often comes in the form of perfectionism or realism and it causes a lot of stress which in turn costs us a lot of energy and has as drift into lethargy which is not what we want. We want to be inspired and take ownership. Never forget that we need regular boosts of inspiration, otherwise we might forget, why we are striving to build a certain life every day. Ownership of our thoughts, our mindset, our habits our daily actions. Ownership of our lives. Living and surviving are two different things. One is inspired and full of deliberation and happiness. The other is purposeless. It is up to us to choose. Only us.

Reasons. Misconceptions.

I am sure for everyone there is a different mechanism at play when they cut. No two individuals are the same. I can only speak for myself when I explain what might be happening inside someone who cuts.

But first and foremost I want people to understand that cutting itself is not the problem. This goes hand in hand with thinking that a person is at their worst, when they are about to cut. Trying to help me, when I have just chosen to cut myself does not make sense. Because I have been trying to fight my mental pain, my stress and my anxiety for so long, that I feel helpless. I feel like they have no control over my life at all. So I decide to take control back. A number of different things might happen. I might finally have a reason to hate myself. But really I have just given myself a target to aim my hatred at. Or I might be disappointed because my emotional state has not changed at all. Or maybe I realized that if I can beat the survival instinct, I can also beat my anxiety.

Here with what emotions I think people think, when I tell them I cut. Pity. Judgment. Worry. And willingness to help. The first three will not do any good. Again: Someone pities me for cutting? Why? Cutting is the thing that helps me, not the thing that is tormenting me. Judgement… Ah well… I have enough of that myself. And worry. Don’t. I beat my survival instincts by cutting. If I wanted to kill myself, I would not be alive anymore. And just because I cut does not mean I am stupid. I have seen enough cuts to know when something is off. And that is when I will make sure to not die of an infected cut.

As for willingness to help, I am sure there are a number of ways that might help. For some that may be distraction and fun. For others that may mean a shoulder to cry. And I bet, it depends on the situation as well. But what I have found, is that I am in a stressful situation. I am anxious and I worry. I start showing all sorts of symptoms from extreme jumpiness and nightmares to a messy room and constant crying. Then I get into a situation that triggers all of my fears. And all I want is to escape. I blame myself for being in this situation to begin with. So I cut. On one hand it is my fault I am in this situation, so I deserve the pain, on the other hand it is a coping skill. I am not afraid of cutting. I am not even afraid of triggers. Because they are powerless, when I am alright.

The reason I want to stop cutting is not primarily that it is violent, or that it hurts. It is because it triggers so much fear in the people around me. And because of the stigma. I can talk about this all I want but there will always be a stigma surrounding self harm. Of course I want to learn how to deal with stress and anxiety without hurting myself, but not because I am afraid of hurting myself, but because those techniques might be able to relief stress before it becomes such a dreadful mental pain. I would love to find a way to treat myself with more respect. But the reality is: cutting may be a lot less harmful than other coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol in excess. Too much alcohol will harm the liver permanently. Cutting has no permanent damage other than scars and those aren’t a risk to one’s health. Of course cutting in itself isn’t optimal. But not because of the cutting itself, but because of how we feel before and the fact that we seem to be unable to deal with that mental state.

So helping really means two things: Allowing me to let myself off the hock. This is crucial. As long as I am busy blaming myself for being anxious and in consequence for cutting myself, there is no way I am getting better. And the next step is to actually deal with the stressors. And to learn techniques to deal with stress in general, but unless the person trying to help us is a therapist or very experienced with such issues themselves they cannot help us with that.

Maybe we need professional help. The thing is: when we are at a point of self harm, we will not have the mental energy to go out and get that help. and therefore we might not even allow ourselves to realize that we do need help. And when we are better again, there is no reason to get help. So our bad times come and go as stress comes and goes.

Taking Responsibility vs. Hating

I have found one highly negative pattern within myself: Every time I failed in any kind of way, I would use this very failure to fuel my self-hate. Why would anyone do that? It seemingly makes no sense. Seemingly.

Humans can get used to almost anything. Including hating ourselves. And humans also do not particularly like change. So once we have gotten used to hating ourselves, we do not want to stop hating ourselves anymore. So we start finding reasons to hate ourselves and we end up in a negative cycle.

The important thing here is that we act as if we wanted the reason for hate to vanish but not actually taking any steps towards it. While this may seem very hypocritical it is actually not something we consciously do. And even if we know we have that problem, it may be almost impossible, to get rid of it, because to do so, we need to catch this negative behavior in the moment.

This ties in with general negativity. If we are able to eliminate negativity from our lives, we also get rid of our self-hate. So how can we catch this behavior? It is important to acknowledge our flaws, but it is not an excuse to go down the road of self-hate. We need to acknowledge our flaws, in order to improve. This is work. I am sorry. But the only sensible thing to do, when we catch ourselves talking to ourselves negatively and pointing out everything we did wrong, is to figure out ways to make it better next time. Sometimes our minds are too clouded by self-hatred, then it makes sense to write this down. This is productive and it gives us a better chance of breaking the cycle of negativity.

Here are some other things I like to keep in mind to break negativity:

Watching what I say. (I talk to myself a lot.) Especially watch out for whining and complaining. These are often just ways to give voice to negativity, without changing anything for the better. The goal is to become a more positive person, so yes, we need to acknowledge the things going wrong, but if we cannot change it, there is no point to get emotionally invested in it, since it will only drain our energy and make us more negative. This especially applies to talking about other people. If it is not something nice or at least very interesting we want to say, it would be wise to refrain from saying anything at all. Complaining, whining and bad-mouthing other people does not only make us more negative, but it also makes us a lot less pleasant to be around. Of course sometimes we just need to vent. It is perfectly human. But remember: there is ALWAYS something we could vent about. And it is one of the easiest negative traits to catch and correct.

Don’t seek out distraction when I feel crappy. This sounds a little counter-intuitive. But hear me out: I am not talking about taking a break or finishing the day off with a little bit of a nice TV series. I am talking about spending hours in front of the TV procrastinating. This can have all sorts of causes. My favorite ones are “I am tired” and “I am feeling nauseous”. The problem is: After I have wasted a few hours I will feel just as tired and in addition to that I will also not have done anything productive and that will have me feel even worse than where I was at the beginning.

Focus on improvement. This one is probably the most trivial one. But it is very important to remember that it is okay not only make small steps into the right direction. I once tried to talk myself down because I was sore after a workout, because it meant, that I was weak, even if that was true, me being sore was a sign I was on the right path. It is normal to have setbacks, but then it makes much more sense to focus on the long way we have come than on “how far we’ve fallen”. The first has a better chance at getting us up on our feet again.

Monitor what I think. This is very similar to watching what I say, just a lot more subtle. It is about training ourselves to be mindful of our thoughts and to alternate negative thoughts with something more nice and positive.

Take care of my physical self: Sleep, Exercise, Hydrate! This is pretty self-explanatory. It is all about feeling good in our bodies. If we feel good, it is easier to focus on how good we feel, than on how life is unfair and not worth being lived. It is also about being kind to ourselves and taking care of ourselves. Because that is inherently positive. It is consciously taking action to shower our bodies in positivity and that is a perfect first step to more positivity.

This list is not complete, there are countless other little things, that have us become more positive. And in the end it is a very individual journey, but for me breaking out of negativity was long overdue and these tips come straight out of my personal journal. I know that negativity is the one thing that if I do not get rid of, I don’t even have a single shot a happiness.

Body-Positivity: Excuse or Remedy?

Let’s talk about a buzzword: body positivity. What is it all about? Body positivity is about having a positive view of one’s body. It can be helpful in fighting the self-hate my feel towards our bodies. It is a topic especially prominent among people with a high BMI. The goal is to not feel bad about how much we weigh, or how we look.

This is a double-edged sword. The thing is: the way we look influences the way we feel. That is a fact. And while self-acceptance is a huge part for anyone not only those fighting mental disease, if taken over the top it can become toxic. If our body is not healthy we will naturally not feel as good. We will not feel as confident. And that, I believe, is a good thing. If we are out of shape, we should be putting in the work to get back into shape. Not because of what other people might think of ourselves. But because we respect ourselves. Body positivity can turn off that voice inside our heads that’s telling us to get off the sofa and work out, even though a work out would be really beneficial to us. Way more beneficial than just trying to accept us. Body positivity therefore stops us from trying to get the body we dream of. And while of course we cannot work in order to become taller, we can work in order to become slimmer. And the good thing is: if we manage to do so, we will get to be so proud of ourselves. And it will be real. It will not be some mantra that we believe because we repeated it every other hour.

The thing is: Confidence isn’t about how we look. There are countless people out there who have a near perfect body but are not happy. Body positivity makes it sound like a lower BMI would be the one thing that could make us happy, but really we don’t have to work for it, since we are positive about our bodies. But that is not true. We can be way more positive about our bodies, if we keep improving them. The reason exercising consistently makes happy, is that it’s tough, but once we are done we have achieved something. And that is what we get to be proud of. This is also why exercise boosts confidence. Because it teaches us, that if we put our minds to something we can make it.

Taking care of ourselves and our bodies is a matter of self-respect. Body positivity makes it seem like not taking care of our bodies by watching our nutrition and exercising is a matter of confidence and individuality and confidence. And that is a problem, in fact, not taking care of ourselves is all about laziness and will actually decrease our confidence.

I am very much against shaming others for their bodies, but really we should all be very much against shaming anyone for any reason. It is just no our place. And we never know how much someone has been working on something. We might be grossly misjudging and hurting someone. They might be overweight due to a medication. Or any other reason, that we cannot see. So while bodypositivity can be missused in order to stay lazy, let’s not jump to any conclusions.

While I do believe a body positivity can be misunderstood and used to promote laziness there is the other side to it: The part where we come to terms with our height or the size of our feet. Body positivity can help us to accept that when we go for a run for the first time in a year, we don’t get to run 5 Miles. Body positivity is a great way to fight perfectionism and focus on growing instead. And that is so vital. Perfectionism does not only make us not feel good but eventually will also make us stop trying to become better, since we can never be perfect.

Body positivity helps us focus on the good parts. It helps fight negativity. And that is great. When it comes down to it, it is all about balance. Body positivity won’t make us happy. Neither will having the perfect body. But improving will. Taking care of ourselves will communicate to ourselves, that we value ourselves way more than just saying that we value ourselves.

Maturing vs. Growing up

We can be grow up without gaining maturity. Growing up happens inevitably, but maturity is so much more than becoming independent and having a sex-life. Maturity is the thing most adults fake to have. The reason for that partially is, that part of maturity is to be confident. The other part is, taking responsibility and understanding that no one cares.

No one cares about how well we are doing at our jobs, or how well our studies are going. Yes, we do try to help each other and we do try to keep each other accountable. And that is all great. But it is just not enough. Unless we realize that we are the ones responsible for how our lives turn out, I can guarantee, it won’t turn out great. Taking responsibility is synonym with effort. And we humans do not like effort. So we’d rather resort to feel-good-quotes and keep telling ourselves, that everything will be fine. But it won’t. Unless we make sure it will.

Even if someone else wanted to deal with the fact, that we are not doing our job well. Even if someone else wanted to read more instead of watching TV, they can never make us. That is the draw-back of living independently. Yes, the people around us, can remind us, of where we want to go. But we have to walk there ourselves.

Do you want to know a secret? I hate it. So much. Taking responsibility for even just my life is so exhausting. And more often than not it does not exactly go well. But we all have to start somewhere, right? I believe maturity is about understanding who we are as an individual and about understanding that that is what matters the most.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that maturity means to never have fun. We can goof around in the weirdest way, but the important thing is, that this goofing around does not endanger anything important: our career, our relationships, or our health. To phrase it in other words: there is nothing wrong with having some fun. There is nothing wrong with making ourselves feel good. In fact, I am all for doing more of what makes as feel good, unless it is at the expense of our overall quality of life or honesty. We should not have to lie to ourselves in order to feel good.

Part of being mature is being able to make our own decisions in a way that benefits us not only short term, but long term. It is about taking responsibility of our health and minds. Our relationship and our surroundings. It is about not only knowing what kind of life we want to live, but also working up the discipline to follow through on working towards that life. Being unreliable is not only annoying and disrespectful to others, but also childish. Children do whatever they want unless they are told not to. Adults do whatever they want unless they tell themselves not to.

There is nothing wrong, with changing one’s opinion. But wanting something and not working towards it, or giving it up, is not taking responsibility for ourselves. No one will hand us the lives we crave. The relationships we want, or the physical appearance we have always dreamed of. We need to understand, that either we take charge or nothing is going to change. Ever.

Rationality AND Emotion

It is very obvious that we have two sides: Our hearts and our heads. And we all know that sometimes they contradict each other. Sometimes we know that something is right even though it feels wrong or the other way around. Both rationality and emotion are incredibly beautiful powers. And both can help us live a better life, be a better person and be happier, or make us miserable and feel like we have nothing left to live for. But how do we handle them, when they contradict each other? How can we handle them at all and how can we use them to our advantage.

The first step to a healthy balance between rationality and emotion is understanding, that both are important and both exist in their own right. Banishing either from our lives will lead to imbalance and pain. We need to acknowledge our emotion. We need to understand how we feel. We live in a world, where we are either over-focused on rationality or over-focused on “feeling good”. The problem with the first is obvious: If we never focus on emotion, we are emotionally immature, meaning, we have no idea what we feel and how to handle it. Focusing too much on “feeling good” is problematic, because it does not allow for pain and anger and their negative siblings and we cannot deal with something that we do not acknowledge.

Everything we experience we need to handle on an emotional and a rational level. Imagine, we had a fight with our best friend. The rational level to deal with that is to understand where our friend was coming from and to admit the points where we were wrong ourselves. But that is not it: It is natural and good that a fight with our friend will trigger some emotion. Sadness, anger, pain. We need to realize that we do feel them and handle them. Maybe we need to talk or journal about them, maybe we want to deal with our anger by working out, or cry. However most obviously it would not be wise, to just deal with the fight emotionally and never talk to our friend about it. And never rationally dissolve it.

Sometimes we feel emotions that seem out of place. And that is alright as well. We can try to make sense of our emotion, but sometimes, there is no real reason for why we feel a certain way, but that is no reason to push the emotion aside and not allow us to feel it. Emotions are beautiful. Being able to express them and show them is not a sign of weakness or a sign that we have no self-control. It is a sign, that we are human. It is a sign that we know ourselves. And frankly once we learn how we can deal with our emotion, it becomes a super power. Because it is how we truly end and argument.

But we do not only feel negative emotion. The interesting thing is: when we learn to handle our sadness and anger we also become happier. Because we learn to recognize not only our negative emotion. We learn to recognize when we are happy. And when we enjoy ourselves, and consequently we learn to understand what got us into a positive state and we learn to repeat that. And when we have dealt with the negativity there is room for happiness inside us.

But it is not all about emotion. There are emotions, that are very persistent and difficult to deal with. We do our best, but we simply cannot handle them. A good example is guilt about past actions. We cannot change what happened and we feel bad about it. And the more we focus on it, the worse we feel. This is one of the points in time, where we need to understand that we cannot handle it emotionally anymore, but we have to be rational and let it go. Move on and maybe come back to it at some point and try to deal with it then. A similar situation is, when we fall in love even though we may be married. Feeling attracted to someone is not something we can control. It is an emotion. It is nothing we have to feel guilty about, but pushing that kind of emotion aside will allow us, to keep living a happy life with our husband.

Just because something is the right thing to do does not mean, it is easy on our emotion. And it is alright to feel that emotion, as long as we do not make a mistake because we based our decision purely on emotion. There is a healthy balance between doing what we have to and doing what we feel like. But it is good to know what we feel like. It does not mean, we have to act upon it. And sometimes acting on an emotion is a good thing. For instance when you feel like telling a team mate, that you enjoyed working with him. That will lift up both you and the team mate, so why would you not say something.

It is important, to control how we act on our emotion, because we may cause harm. But it is just as important to not suppress all emotion. If I feel like crying at the movies, I should. The worst thing that could happen is that I end up with ruined make up. Yes, we will need to do our jobs, even if we don’t feel like it, but maybe we can get ourselves into a bubble bath afterwards.

It is important to tend to our rational side and do the things our head tells us we need to do. Because if we do not do them, we will feel bad about ourselves and this will affect our emotions as well. But it is just as important to take care of our emotion. And it starts with acknowledging them, and then we get to figure out, what helps us feel better. Different emotions will call for different measures and it is journey to find out how to deal with which emotion and when to push an emotion aside for a bit.

Confidence not Arrogance

Everyone knows the importance of confidence. And yet so many people struggle with it. Why? Why is it so darn difficult to build confidence? The simple answer is: because it is work. The slightly more elaborate answer is: because it requires constant hard work and honesty. I believe that when people hear that they should become more confident, they end up becoming more arrogant, which is counterproductive.

Both confidence and arrogance start with someone not feeling good about themselves. The problem with arrogance is, that it is what happens when we try to make ourselves feel better, without being willing to acknowledge our problems. We try to make other people believe, how great we are, because we cannot believe ourselves, when we say “I am awesome.”. We hope that when other people believe, that we are great, we can believe it ourselves and find a way to be at peace with ourselves. In other words we are trying to put up a show. The show that we are awesome. The show that we enjoy our lives and that we are in control.

Another very characteristic thing that is an indicator for arrogance is, when we feel the need to be acknowledged and approved by others, but most importantly: when we always want to be better than others. We constantly need to measure up against other people and be better than them, in order to be able to feel good about ourselves. This sometimes goes as far as we feel the need to put other people down. We feel the need to be seen. We feel the need to brag. We feel threatened when someone is better than us.

And while we keep all this up we end up being exhausted and still not at peace. The reason for this is simple: we lack honesty. Everything we do is nothing but a show. We know exactly that we are not as great, as we want to make other people believe. And we end up never being able to fool ourselves. Because we are not stupid.

Confidence is knowing that who we are is good enough. And that knowledge needs to be based on facts. If we are not confident, we need to consider the possibility, that there are some things we need to work on. Gaining confidence starts with honesty. It starts with figuring out, who we are. What are the things we like about ourselves and what are the things we do not like? For me some things that I did not like were and still are that I do not study enough and how much I tend to complain. Often these things are the very things standing in between us and our happiness.

We do not need to despair. Confidence is not only when we have eliminated all our flaws. Confidence is, when we know we are working towards it. We are improving. Because we started being confidence by being honest, we are still being honest with ourselves. And we get to tell ourselves that we are handled our flaw brilliantly today. Or even just that we improved compared to yesterday. Or that we kept going, even though we did not feel like it. But we can say this without lying to ourselves.

Confidence is not about what other people think about us. Confidence is what we think about us. Confidence allows us to be at ease and gives us peace because we do not have to fear our own thoughts. Of course there will be days where it is more difficult than on other days. And that is where discipline comes in. Confidence is more than just a nice feeling. I said confidence required hard work. And it does so, because it is not always easy to improve ourselves. And sometimes we just want to give in and stay in bed. We all know the feeling. But confidence is what we gain from getting up nevertheless.

We cannot be happy without being confident. And we cannot gain confidence without honesty and self-discipline. We need both. We can acknowledge our flaws and do little to nothing about them. That is just immature, maybe even cowardly behavior. It showcases a lack of self-discipline. And while it is true that some naturally have more than others and some build it easier than others, I do not believe that anyone should allow themselves to use that an excuse to not be confident. If we are self-disciplined, but not honest about our flaws, we are wasting our energy, or maybe we are not as disciplined, as we thought we were to begin with.

I get it. I am struggling with discipline myself. It’s tough. And being honest with ourselves is a bench. But the reality is that we all want to be happy. And being honest with ourselves only hurts us, if it means, we have to work on ourselves. Why would we try to deceive ourselves? Arrogance is, when we try to deceive others in the hopes that at some point we end up believing it ourselves. We need to understand that it is our own decision. No one is making us build confidence. No one is making us be honest with ourselves. But I will rather be honest with myself and put in some work in order to gain peace and happiness. In order to be able to live with myself.

The people who are constantly stating we need to be more confident conveniently forget to mention how much work it is, because they are aware, that if they admit that, some people will choose to not start this journey. But I think, that we need to understand the choice that we have. And it is no good to us, if we think we are confident and still feel so insecure. That insecurity is most likely coming from some flaw within us, that we have not addressed yet.

While it is true, that confidence is not about how other people see is, rather than about us being please about us, we also have to understand that we are humans, which means, we have emotion and rationality. What I have described tackles the topic of self-confidence from a rational perspective. But sometimes there is no rational reason for us to feel insecure. Sometimes we are truly confident rather than arrogant, and still feel insecure. This is a mere emotion, and we really know, we are good enough. In such situations it can help to approach the problem from an emotional side, because the problem is purely emotional to begin with.

Let me illustrate this with an example: I have been very insecure about my appearance and my body since I was a little girl, even though there was no reason for that. When I got into uni and felt insecure, I imagined what I would think about me, if I saw myself. Since what I thought was never really negative, I have been able to tremendously improve my body image. Because what I felt was perfectly irrational. This would not have worked, if I had not been taken care of. Which is, why I advise to take a rational approach to confidence. We naturally try to deal with our insecurities emotionally. But we can do that so much better, if there are actually facts to back up our positive self-talk.

It is also important to understand the difference between being arrogant vs. being confident and competitive. Both types of people may feel threatened when they come across someone who is better than them. But the arrogant person may try to talk them down or talk themselves up, maybe even do some improvement to keep up the facade. The confident but competitive person will take this encounter as a motivation to improve further. That is a good thing as long as we don’t try to improve, just to be better than that person. A confident person does not care if someone else is better at something, they don’t care for. They acknowledge and praise the achievement. But they will not go out of their way to be better than the other person.

Say we meet someone who runs faster than us. Us trying to beat that person is not a bad thing. It may benefit our health and mental state. But it becomes problematic, as soon as we endanger ourselves, or when it makes us feel threatened even though running that fast was never our goal to begin with.

This illustrates beautifully not only what it means to be confident, but also why it is so “in” to not care about what other people think, because if we are confident, it does not matter, what people think, because we know our flaws and we also know we are working on them. In summary confidence is about knowing ourselves. Knowing who we are today. And knowing who we want to be. It is about working towards that in order to not lie to ourselves when we say “I love who I am.”.

The Amount of Talking we do

It appeared to me, when I was working in a team for Uni: Listening is really difficult. And it is very frustrating, to say something just to realize, we were not properly listened to and therefore need to repeat ourselves. Not listening when someone is inherently rude and respectles. But when a team member does not listen to us, do they really mean to be rude? I don’t think so. I think the problem is not just a team member. I believe it is way more universal.

In this day and age, we have forgotten how to listen to someone. We do so much talking, and hardly ever listen. I am thinking of Instagram in particular. We post tons of content and write all the captions in the world, while we only look at pictures of others, responding with one to five emojis, that do not correspond to the caption.

And this talking way more than listening showcases one more thing: a latent arrogance. We are self-obsessed. There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves. But when we care mostly about ourselves and maybe a little about someone else, we have a problem. Yes, our first and foremost responsibility is towards ourselves, but we are not alone in this world. Nor should we act like we are. We are not the most important thing in the world and what others have to say is just as important, as what we have to say.

We have cultivated talking without end, hoping that someone will care, but we are at a place, where people can just ignore, what we say, if they do not like it. And that is how we learned to ignore what others say. How many people do we follow who’s post we just double-tab to like, even though, we do not really care for their content? We talk so much and everyone who does not like it, can ignore it, that we have stopped saying valuable things. And we have learned, that what others express can just be ignored.

This may very much be, how the internet works, but is not, how the real world works. And we should review our behavior. The more we ignore on the internet, the more we will ignore in real life. We learn behavior patterns. I suggest only following the people who create value, at least most of the times they post, even if that means unfollowing some of our friends.

We cannot control, what others do. But we can control what we do. We need to start making sure, that what we say and post has value. Not every joke we make will be on point and that is not what it is about. But if we are willing to talk, we should be willing to listen as well. And we should work on taking the things, other people say seriously, because not doing so is plain respectles.

Why Looks Matter.

Growing up many of us have been told that looks are not the most important thing in the world. We have been trained to ignore them as much as possible. The whole thing was designed to prevent us from becoming arrogant and shallow. If looks do not matter, why do companies have dress codes, even though only few of them are for safety? Why do lawyers and bankers show up in suits? It is true: looks are not the most important thing. But they do matter.

Looks are a form of communication. And they say so much more than just what my favorite color is, or that I like cats. Lawyers and bankers wear suits to tell their clients that they are competent. Doctors want to see their mental health patients before sending them over to a specialist of mental health, to assess how badly they are. But Clothes are not just a way to communicate to the world around us that we are competent, or that we know we are attractive.

It is also a way to communicate to ourselves. Taking the time to put on some jewelry or using some mascara, tells us, that we respect and value ourselves and our bodies. And that is something that we most definitely want to focus on, especially if we do have a history of self-harm. Dressing appropriately and nice is also a way to respect the people around us. Because they are the ones looking at us, all day.

But there is one more benefit in taking the time to create a nice outfit and that may be the most crucial one: It allows us, to check in on ourselves. It allows us, to figure out how we are feeling. Even if it is just how we are feeling about a certain piece of clothing. It is a first step to checking in on our actual mental state. And it tells us, how we want to feel. Our personal style reflects who we are. Are we playful? Are we serious and focused on achievements?

When it comes to clothes, many of us have intuitively chosen a style at some point in our lives. And some of us may have chosen clothes based on our body-type and skin color. We have tried to rationalize what looks best on us based on scientific evidence. I see one problem with both approaches: The first does not even acknowledge the power of clothes and dressing well, the second looses all mystery. The second focuses very much on what will look good based on scientific evidence and may easily forget that we only look good, if we feel good. Of course often times we intuitively choose what we should choose according to science. But just because our color season says we should wear green, does not mean, we have to wear green, even if we hate the color.

Clothes have more purpose other than being a form of communication. They should also empower us. Clothes empower us, not only by making us feel good. But they empower us, by reflecting who we choose to be. If you have not done so within the last 12 months I highly encourage you to adjust your wardrobe. Envision who you want to be. Maybe even write it down or make a Pinterest board. Then go into your closet and ask yourself for every single piece that you own not only Marie Kondo’s question “Does this spark joy?” But also: “Is this in line with who I want to be?”.

Why is this so important? What is around us, reflects who we are. Clothes are not just around us. They are on us. They are not only serving us, they are covering our bodies. Surrounding our bodies. Thinking clothes would be a minor detail in a human’s life is a fatal mistake. Because they are what we see when we look at ourselves. They make us feel a certain way. And we need to learn to use that to our advantage. We need to figure out, how we want clothes to make us feel. And then we cannot rest until we find those clothes, that make us feel powerful.

Having high standards when it comes to clothes may be an indicator for being spoiled. But it may also mean, that we know what we want. That we know what we need. It is wonderful, if we are able express our needs. It is so incredibly powerful to be able to choose what we need rather than just take whatever comes our way first. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is actually a skill that is so valuable and important and applies to so many areas in life. Clothes just being a very good way to acquire that very skill.

Do not make the mistake in thinking, that wearing the newest trend will empower you. I am sorry to bust your bubble, it will not. Trends are there for people who do not know who they want to be. Trends are there for people who need the mass’ approval of who they are. But if we wear what other’s want us to wear, we are not utilizing the power that clothes have. Maybe we are even working against ourselves, because we are wearing clothes, that embody values, that are the exact opposite of our own values.

Never adjust your values to what you are wearing. Adjust what you are wearing to who you are.

There is nothing wrong with trying a trend, but there is everything wrong with wearing a trend that is not in line with who we are, just because it is a trend. If we need external approval to that extent, we are very insecure. Insecure to an unhealthy extent.

Clothes are a tool. They can empower us to an incredible extent, if we know how to do it. And learning how to handle clothes properly, finding out what makes us comfortable and empowered. Is more than just finding a style that suits us, that looks good on us. It is about finding who we want to be. It is about respecting who we want to be and it is about learning to understand and communicate what we need. And this goes beyond clothing.

This is what real confidence is. Knowing yourself well enough that you are not pleased with something that is not right for you, just because it is trending right now. Confidence means not wearing a trend unless it suits you. It means not needing the external approval that comes with wearing something trendy. It means feeling comfortable and empowered wearing something that represents your values, regardless of what anyone else says. Because you are wearing what is right for you.

Not in a way that you walk around in inappropriate clothes. But that for any occasion there is something in your closet that is appropriate and the right thing for you. And when you wear it to that occasion you will not feel out of place and you will not feel like you are betraying yourself. This is confidence.