Why I’m On The Fence About The Self – Help Industry & The Key To Making The Changes You Want To See

Culture & Society, Re-framing Your Thinking

changes

I’ve been through 2 self-help programs. These programs told me I was going to “find my inner beauty in 3 months” and “find the career of my dreams (or something along those lines) in 8 weeks.”

These programs claimed that they would “fix” my life, in a sense.

Have I embraced my inner beauty or gotten my dream career?

Nope. Not yet. I’m in the process of doing those things.

Sure, these programs have helped me somewhat, but they are not a quick fix. They are advertised to make you THINK they are.

This is why I have a problem with them:

You can’t develop confidence in 8 weeks or whatever else these programs advertise. Building confidence takes years. Your career is a constantly evolving journey. Your “purpose” is going to change as you change. You have to put effort into instigating the changes you want to see.

These programs in the self-help industry don’t fix your problems. You do.

I’m going to say that again. We fix our problems.

In response to the New York Times article that discussed young girls and the fact that they use YouTube to validate whether or not they’re physically attractive, one reader left the comment:

“Sounds more like our culture is the issue-again. It says a lot when the standard for approval and acceptance for young girls is physical appearance-but not so much for young boys.”

Guys go through the ringer too, you know.

I don’t think our culture is entirely to blame here; our society is made up of individuals who have the opportunity to help shape our rules. So yes, that twisted society that we always say has to change?

You help make it too.

I’m not trying to make you angry and say that everything that happens in society is your fault. I’m just asking you to consider the fact that you might be engaging in little things that are helping to create a society you don’t want to see.

Gandhi was right. In order to change the world, you have to BE that change.

What sorts of changes do YOU want to see in today’s society?

 

 

 

 

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“Keep Your Head Up, Nothing Lasts Forever”

Culture & Society, Re-framing Your Thinking

Kudos to Kelly Clarkson’s songs for inspiring me.

 

There were so many things that I wanted to blog about this week. Yes, I’m that kind of person who can’t go anywhere without a notebook (or Evernote, if I must be parted from my beloved Moleskine for some reason).

 

No, I did not close my eyes and point to a topic on my ever-growing list of topics before churning out a blog post (although I am debating doing that at some point).

 

But I decided to combine a few topics and put them under an umbrella, and talk about gratitude again.

 

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I’ve talked about gratitude before. Two times, to be exact. So what’s so compelling about this subject that I decided to do it again?

 

Chiara De Blasio’s recent article on XO Jane really got the cogs turning for me. Because I was in her shoes. On my bad days, I would say that I still am.

 

I had everything that so many people wish for. Clean water, clothes, food, a bed at night, an education. And I was taking it for granted. I was selfish. I was ungrateful.

 

I couldn’t recognize how rich I was, how fortunate I was.

 

I’m in a better place now, but that doesn’t mean that I never have bad days; everyone does.

 

Even when some friends catch me on a bad day, they don’t really believe that I still deal with many of the issues that I tell them that I dealt with. In their minds, it’s been over a decade. A decade should be plenty of time right? Get up, dust yourself off, move on.

 

In the past, people have called me selfish, thought that I was seeking attention.

 

I’m here to give them a big (hopefully very loud) wake up call.

 

These conditions are not picky. It’s not like someone decides, “This person is going to get X, this person is going to get Y, and this person is going to Z.”

 

People who have these conditions are not selfish. Our brains just work differently. Sometimes we go to these dark places because it’s the only way we know how to cope with the world. It’s hard to be grateful for what we have, to even see what we have when we feel like the world is out to get us.

 

The world can feel very unsafe for us sometimes. I know that as a victim of bullying, I felt unsafe in school. It didn’t matter if I was eating lunch, in class, laughing with friends. I still felt unsafe.

 

I don’t think people who deal with mental illness are selfish. They’re warriors. They’re dealing with life the best way they can, with the tools they have, just like the next person. Sure, the tools may be a little different, a little unorthodox, but they’re still trying to live, trying to survive.

 

Some would say that they’re just not seeing the big picture. I was told thousands of times that I wasn’t seeing the big picture, that being detail-oriented was a bad thing, that I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees.

 

Were they right?

 

Maybe.

 

But sometimes what you say to someone doesn’t register. The things you say to them aren’t interpreted the way you intend them to. Sometimes we need events to remind ourselves not to take things for granted.

 

It’s sad to know that it takes the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls or a local fire to remind us to be grateful, to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have the most basic of things. But this is the world we live in.

 

The best part is, we can change it.

 

We can help turn this world into a place where girls from all over the world are given the gift of an education. We can work to make this society a place where human trafficking victims’ stories can be heard, a place where the stigma of mental illness is no longer taboo.

 

What are you grateful for? What sorts of changes would you like to see in the world?

Image Credit: Pinterest

 

How Japan Has Made Me Count My Blessings

Culture & Society, Travel

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(Image Credit: Pinterest)

Sometimes it takes going out of your comfort zone to realize how blessed you are.

I arrived in Japan at 15 armed with clothes to ward off the sweltering heat and what I thought was a solid vocabulary, but that confidence quickly dissipated when I heard my family try to converse with me at a normal speed. I was the American, the exotic one. They broke down words and spoke to me like a 5 year old the minute they saw my eyebrow furrowing.

It gave me an opportunity to try to take a backseat and listen rather than talk.

Watching my friends and family, I learned that a “nice” Japanese woman wasn’t supposed to be outspoken; she couldn’t accept compliments, either. You weren’t supposed to take care of yourself before you took care of others.

When an interviewer would ask a young actor what sort of woman he found attractive (a question nearly always asked in Japanese entertainment television), the answer was almost always something along the lines of an attractive woman who would cook, clean, do all the things men “weren’t supposed to do.”

The roles I saw in television shows only served to emphasize that description. The magazines were worse. Big, glossy publications filled with pictures of airbrushed models who had unnaturally big eyes, dyed hair and pale skin or came from mixed racial backgrounds were plastered everywhere. Friends of mine and young girls on the street (who were perfectly beautiful) would look at these images and say to their friends that they wanted a lighter skin tone, lighter hair, to be of mixed racial origin because that was what was considered pretty.

I had done that too. Oh the power of the media.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Japan for many reasons. The public transportation system is reliable (and clean), the food is incredible, and the people are extremely polite. Not to mention that the department stores are incredibly well organized and meticulously put together. Where else would you find a customer service representative willing to give you a waterproof bag to put your purchases in so that they don’t get ruined on your walk to the train station?

I understand that as someone who has never lived in the country for an extended period of time, my views may be biased. There are plenty of things about the country’s culture that I don’t understand. But that doesn’t mean that travel can’t teach you anything about yourself and life.

Doing things just because you’re told “you should” doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy (or healthy)

Many friends of mine are in unfulfilling jobs just to have the safety net of financial security. They do it so their parents won’t worry about them. But that financial security comes at the expense of their passions. Inevitably, the phrase, “I wish I could” comes up in our discussions revolving around the job market. I feel for them. Many aren’t in a position to just pack up and go. Watching them shows me how blessed I am to have the family I do, and live in a society where it’s OK to forge your own path instead of going down the beaten track.

Find things that you like about yourself in order to stop comparisons

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(Image Credit: Pinterest)

This one is a tall order. It’s much easier said than done. Comparing myself to the models in magazines and television only served to make me feel awful about my own appearance when I looked perfectly fine.

It wasn’t until I was back in the States that I realized something. Sure, I would have liked to have avoided the condescending stares in the trains, and sure, I didn’t look like Yuri Ebihara or Meisa Kuroki (the two models pictured above) but I loved having the confidence to wake up every morning knowing that I didn’t need to paint my face to feel beautiful. (This is not to condemn makeup. Makeup can alter a person’s appearance and thereby give them a degree of confidence, which is never a bad thing. I personally prefer going makeup-free.) Finding little things like that about yourself that you appreciate can help build your confidence without the media telling you to do one thing or another.

“The media can be an instrument of change. It can awaken people and change minds. It depends on who’s piloting the plane.”

                                                                       -Katie Couric, MissRepresentation, 2010

Keeping your emotions in check on account of others = not good

Too often, I’ve had 3 way discussions with acquaintances and friends, where one friend says something, and the second the third person is out of earshot, they turn to me and say what they really think, which often turns out to be the opposite of what they actually said.

It’s true that there are situations that arise where it’s not entirely appropriate to voice certain opinions, which vary from culture to culture. Try to be aware of that. But I’m a firm believer that honesty is better in the long run. If you keep suppressing your opinion, the frustration builds, and without a good outlet for that energy…well, things don’t always turn out pretty.

Age is just a number

You can be in your eighties and still act like a child having a tantrum. You can be in your twenties and enjoy things that people in their fifties do. Young people can be wise beyond their years. The idea that the older you are, the wiser you are, is not always true.

Read between the lines

Sometimes the things that aren’t said are the most powerful and profound moments.

Ask for what you want

If you don’t ask for it, or make your goals known, the answer will always be no. You never know who will be able to help you. Silence will get you nowhere in life.

Are there any particularly profound lessons you’ve learned while traveling abroad?