Tag Archives: love

Ideal You, Ideal Me

We often get consumed in the idea that our expectations are the same as everybody else’s. Growing up, we have a hard time figuring out ourselves and what we’re comfortable to be deep down. It’s difficult enough to come to the realization that, “the more we know, the more we know we don’t know,” nevertheless accept that thought, and act proactively rather than passively. Right after we start getting the hang of it, we apply our experiences to others, and only our experiences, or the past experiences of those closest to us, the ones that have moved us the most. We also apply others’ experiences to ourselves if it’s new to us. We miss out on, not one, not two, but hundreds of other sides and stories.

I lived most of my life thinking I’m an extrovert. I enjoyed myself being a crazy, out-going, silly, loud person, and I thought I got most of my energy from the people around me, be it my friends or family. I only set aside 10% of my time for reflection about my life and experiences, and I always needed those 10% because that’s when my noisy life finally became quiet. But sometimes I forgot to set aside that alone time, and I ended up crashing and burning, sick for a few days in bed, or completely confused about my life and feeling gloomy.

Living an extroverted life gets you to meet more extroverts, get along really well, and it makes your extrovert circle bigger and bigger, making you think it’s the norm. You feel great because people look up to you, they want to be like you. However, extroversion is not the norm, neither is anything else. And that’s the problem. Being the way you are through the experiences saved up in your conscious and subconscious memories makes you forget that others don’t have to be wrong when they’re different, they can just be different. It also doesn’t mean you’re strange or not living life to the fullest if you’re the opposite. Yes, I know you know that, but I think you really don’t unless you’ve been through it.

A bit over two years ago, I met someone amazing. This personality was totally new to me. I admired his focus, passion and ambition. We got along so well from the very start, and it felt great, because I thought that this person was just like me. I didn’t know though, that this person would turn out to be my exact opposite (or at least what I thought was my exact opposite back then), a complete introvert. I also didn’t know that I would see that as a strength, and learn so much from it. Finally, I didn’t know that someone’s comfort in their own skin could inspire a person who viewed extroversion as the ideal, to come to terms and actually want to be more introverted, even if not fully.

The Extrovert Ideal:

I recently read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. I’ve seen and heard great things about the book before I started, but a part of me always used to get offended by the phrase on the outside, “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” What’s that supposed to mean? Is the author implying that extroverts can’t be as intelligent as introverts? Is she implying that I can’t succeed if I wanted to? When I decided to start reading the book and not be cynical about what the cover said, I realized I had already learned countless lessons about both personalities and the things in between, and that was why I gave it a chance, two years after dating an introvert.

After two years of not reading the book, and after I’ve experienced being with an introvert, he and Quiet made me question my whole life, everything I am or was a part of. They made me think about how I deal with people at work, how I initiate learning experiences throughout my team. It helped me recognize why some people could respond to loving things I do differently than others. I’ve reflected on my time in school, university, student activities and workshops I’ve been to. All of those things had one main thing in common: everything is better when it’s more interactive. But now I know that this is what people think is the norm, even though half of them don’t feel good about that. I can’t conclude that my environment imposed the extrovert ideal on me, just like I can’t conclude that it didn’t. All I know is, what I allowed to influence me was very aligned to it, and I lived in fear of becoming anything different, whether it felt good or not.

I used to be terrified of being alone in public, not because of any dangers I might be exposed to, but because I didn’t want people to look at me and judge that I’m a lonely loser (even when I knew I wasn’t). My friends and many acquaintances were my shield, but I didn’t know it back then, I just felt more comfortable about having more friends, rather than closer ones. I did have a balance between both though, and I genuinely enjoyed my company with most of the people I hung out with.

Now, the extroverts reading this might think I am now rooting for introversion just like I thought the author of the book was doing. However, I am only encouraging self love and acceptance. You don’t have to be an introvert, just like you don’t have to be an extrovert. Also, you don’t have to put a label or a percentage at all, you could be a beautiful mixture of zestful solitude as well as the most popular person in that club. Just don’t miss out on your nature thinking that being the party animal is always better than the romantic book reader.

What I Missed by Aligning to the Extrovert Ideal:

  • Feeling good about myself when I thought others judged me

I used to claim I didn’t care what others thought of me, but years after growing out of the need to prove that, I learned that I did. I knew I was genuinely nice and lovable, and I knew I had smart interests that could impress others. I just never trusted that part of me, and made myself feel bad if I didn’t know enough people, and didn’t go to all those outings/weddings I got invited to. I always convinced myself that I should go up and confidently introduce myself, even when I knew nothing about the other person. This was my view of working on myself and confidence. When I look back, I feel fortunate to have met great people in the process, but I shouldn’t have beaten myself up if I just didn’t feel like getting to know someone new. I thought I always had to want that.

  • Focusing on my passions which are mostly done in solitude

Some people are so extroverted, they’re so good at focusing on people and jobs that require constant communication with everyone around them. This is their type of focus, this is where they excel, and this is what makes them successful. However, success doesn’t have to be set forth through popularity. Success could be translated by commitment, someone who shows up everyday, alone, writing that story or making that drawing. Someone who doesn’t need to be motivated by others to finish their work. It could also be a balance between both to someone who’s in the middle.

  • Learning from my past projects by doing them more mindfully

I’ve always filled up my schedule with things I want to do with others, but never with/by myself. I never set aside the time to write, draw, paint, do calligraphy, or anything else I could do on my own, because that to me was a waste of time. I wish I hadn’t overlooked everything I was truly passionate about though, also only because I was fearful of others’ prejudices.

  • Lots of places I could have gone to if I hadn’t forced myself into becoming sick

Over-worked and over-stimulated by the loud world around me, I always ended up depleting my energy completely and never sitting down to reflect on where I am or what I’m currently doing. I’ve missed a lot of nice places I could have gone to with others, and a lot of intimacy. I’m happy I’m learning to take breaks and remember I don’t have to show up to that birthday I don’t feel like going to.

Here I am again, reminding you as well as myself to be mindful and live passionately. You don’t have to be the expectation of others, but you don’t have to resist it either. Just let who you are fall into place, you will know you’re there when you feel comfortable. Do things you truly enjoy, whether you’re alone or with others, whether you’re part of a team, or prefer doing that thing alone. Don’t judge the person who wants to sleep at 10pm because they want to wake up at a time when they won’t get distracted by others. Live your life fully, whether that means you’re partying or working. Don’t be afraid of people, they’re just people who have the same thoughts and insecurities you might be feeling at the moment.

Oh, and, I noticed I’ve been trying to become an introvert, when I shouldn’t be trying, so my conclusion is, I’m something in between, and I admire everyone else who’s part of the spectrum.

A lot of the reflections here were inspired by Susan Cain’s Quiet, definitely a book worth reading.

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The Positives of the Negatives

Chaos that is constant in places including, but not limited to, Cairo really affects me negatively, every single day. People, whether I work with them or deal with them in public places are also a source of that negativity, partly. I think this is the story of everyone’s life, but we don’t realize that the unclear haze is within us. Condemning the outside world never changes anything, and here’s my take on how bad things make you believe and stay positive by choice.

Being a person who often falls in the above trap, I’m trying to exercise having more compassionate and patient habits. I started taking mental notes of the positives and negatives in my daily life. It feels great to wake up in the morning feeling enthusiastic about the day and looking forward to it, but with the inescapable negative stimulation I encounter, I feel drained and therefore end up feeling sorry for myself (doesn’t feel good), or blaming other people and the outside circumstances (only feels good for a short while). In the long run, this doesn’t do me any good or give me the inner peace I’d rather thrive with. Reacting mindlessly and with anger, or even not realizing that I have an option gets me behind, it never takes me forward, and this is why I’ve decided to get myself more aware about it.

Reacting and responding are too very similar yet very different processes. They’re usually outcomes of a situation, and they can both be good or bad. Reacting is easy, it’s quick and it’s usually a bad habit, but it could also be a plus if you’re avoiding an accident. While responding is a more well-thought, possibly kinder, practiced acknowledgment of a certain thing. It’s usually the right thing to do unless speed is needed. Mindfulness is the trick. It’s the catch. Mindfulness isn’t the easiest of practices, but once you’re aware, the path to mastering it only gets smoother.

Last week, I’ve talked about passion and how our choices can affect us from accomplishing what we’re most passionate about. Believe it or not, mindfulness has got a lot to do with passion. I’ve mentioned how things like gossiping, not having alone time, and doing things without savoring them can be huge barriers, and they’re obviously negative things that keep you in that same state, not on the bright side of life. I believe that instead of dreading our lives, we should get a thrill out of them and they should mostly be joyful!

This is what I’m reminding myself of from now on:

There’re a positive in every negative, and by focusing on it and relying on your power to be disciplined with your thoughts rather than letting go to anger and frustrations, you will start experiencing control over your life and emotions, instead of feeling powerless and being controlled by your environment.

The best part about having the choice is that you can always find a way out. A few days ago, I was sitting with a dear friend, and she went on and on about how her boss is unfair and judgemental. I don’t mind listening to my friends when they need someone to lend an ear, but at some point, the venting makes things worse, not more relieving. This conversation made me realize that I really am convinced that energy plays a big role in our life, and whichever type we feed, grows.

When my friend continued, I decided to stop her at some point, and reminded her that her boss is probably at home having fun with her family, while she is sitting and discussing a person who consumes 8 hours of her day already, still wasting her own time.

Since the attitude exchanged between people can really affect their moods, I’ve learned that the way to keep both sides feeling good was to engage in some energy Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu, a martial art, combat sport and self defense system, asserts that a smaller/weaker person can practice the technique and defeat a person who’s larger and believed to be stronger. The catch is, Jiu Jitsu, in its core, is basically the tactic to expertly seize the strength and power of the opponent and use it for your advantage.

Relating to the conversation I wrote about before that, the concept of Jiu Jitsu can easily be applied to negative and positive energy and how it doesn’t have to affect us. Consider the negative energy to be the larger opponent, if not taken a responsive action against, it will stay scary and big. If, however, the technique is done right, what seemed to be fragile can win. I’m assuming focusing can be shattered by distractions when you’re new at it.

So in the event of being surrounded by someone who’s in a negative frame of mind, take that person’s energy and remind them that they’re only affecting themselves by staying in that place. Be persistent and assertive, you will nourish your own belief, you’ve just benefited from someone’s complaints. We all have the tendency to take the easy way out and join in the whining about how the world is unfair. But that attitude will never change the world, just like worrying about a sick person will never make them healthier.

Another way to bring out the good is by being grateful. Gratitude and appreciation are both beautiful experiences, and they’re so easy to experience, even when you’re sad. Use your sad moments to appreciate your conditions, the fact that you have a roof over your head, the luxuries you have in your life. And appreciate knowing that whatever’s making you feel sorrowful probably wouldn’t matter in a week. Somedays are going to be brilliant, while others just won’t. Being aware of the difference is a gift.

Even if you’ve reacted, and even if you’re on your negatively programmed autopilot system, be thankful that you’re learning. Take your emotions as warning signs, things that you can change, things that aren’t worth feeling. Being reactive will teach you to be responsive, it will push you in the right direction. Acknowledge your bad reactions, forgive yourself and move on.

The heartbreaks and hardships make you who you are, they give you your edges and perks. They help you define your values, they help you get to know yourself, let them happen, let them help you. Learn to be the hero, not the victim. Your excuses won’t get you anywhere, and the more robustly you evolve out of a situation, the better you will be at life. Instead of being the person people want to avoid, be the person who carries the sunshine around, your long face will repel the rest of the sunshine, not attract it.

Long story short, nothing’s worth a troubled mind or moment, so admit it and move on. There’s virtue everywhere around us, when we choose to see it. Blaming the world won’t fix you, only you will.

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You’re Probably Living Without Passion

Most people are mediocre. Most people, just exist without questioning. They fall prey to trends and then go with the flow of whatever’s buzzing, never contemplating what’s within themselves. Most people, aren’t even aware that their lives are void.

I believe that everyone in this universe has something remarkable to offer, but they may never get to express that one-of-a-kind gift if they don’t unlock the door that’s guarding it. So here I am, writing this, because maybe I have something valuable to offer, and maybe by setting someone who’s unaware in motion, I will give them the momentum that will help them carry on.

If you’re living without passion, you’re probably just waiting for everyday to end, expecting the next day to be the same, not trying to identity what is it that fires you up. You probably don’t believe that you can accomplish something impactful one day. So whoever you are, this is a wake up call for you to step into a slightly deeper, maybe more confusing territory, and enjoy the ride!

Here are 9 signs you’re likely to be living without passion:

1. You spend time gossiping about others rather than assessing how you can make your own life better

You’re not honest. You think you are, and you tell yourself you are, but you really aren’t if you spend most of your time on other people’s business instead of yours. Yes, gossiping is that much easier. It distracts you from connecting with your inner self and makes you feel like you’re better off than other people. That might be true, but if you keep that on, you’re going to lose the race.

When you catch yourself talking about others, just make a note of it, and remind yourself that you’re not perfect either, if you were, you would have been busy building up your expertise, rather than throwing around shallow comments.

2. Your life revolves around a job you aren’t enthusiastic about

“I’ll quit when I save up enough money, or when I can say I’ve worked there for a long time.” Stop basing your life on money, and stop making life decisions considering how the next employer is going to see you. You might be good at that job, really good, but you’d be way better as an expert after practicing your unique talent. Or you might as well climb that ladder of fame, fortune, and unhappiness. People can’t thrive if they’re no longer healthy, and even though it might take you a while to become the best at what you love, the time’s going by anyway, so you might as well spend it wisely.

3. You fill your time with short-term, shallow activities instead of giving yourself time to rest in silence

Here you are again, distracting yourself from the things that really matter. You go out with the same people every time, and you prioritise your time with them over your time with yourself, getting replenished and realising that you enjoy your own company just as much.

4. You spend too much time dwelling on how someone might have hurt you and plotting your revenge

Don’t be a victim, please. That person probably didn’t mean to offend you, and they don’t even remember what happened. Becoming vengeful depletes your own energy, the energy you could be using doing things like: spending time with your family and loved ones, painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, or maybe even finding a cure for cancer!

5. You dream about what you love doing the most but think it will never be your reality

You get lost in thought before bed every night, thinking about how dreams are merely dreams, they don’t come true except if you’re lucky. And then you wake up the next morning doing the same things again. Get this, your mind and brain are versatile, you can actually change what your brain looks like by practicing new habits. As cliche as it sounds, practice does make perfect. You choose your reality, and you start where you are. You come up with a process, and you make it happen by taking baby steps. Don’t just sit there dreaming.

6. You avoid trying anything new

You’ve lost touch with your inner child, and you’ve grown up with a solid frame of mind of what you like and what you don’t. But that thing you think you don’t like, whether it is food, a game, a music genre, or an activity, have you even tried it to judge? Don’t stop yourself from doing things just because you’ve somehow managed to like or dislike them without coming into contact with them. Some experiences are bad, and some are good, but there’s always a lesson anyway. Trying new things will help you break the barriers of self judgement and judgement by others.

7. You care about how other people see you rather than how you see yourself

We all love being approved of, believe me, I’ve lived most of my life being a people pleaser. What have I learned when I’ve gotten that out of my system? I’ve become confident in my own skin, I’ve learned to trust myself and my decisions, and I’ve realised that even the oldest, most experienced people will limit you through their insecurities. You’re old enough to know whether what you’re doing is right.

8. You surround yourself with “cool” people who don’t truly love you, and neither do you love them

Yep, they’re just “cool” because they’re popular. Not because they create mind-blowing art, and not because they read books in 5 languages regularly. Instead of surrounding yourself with people who don’t even know what you love other than your favorite kind of food, be a part of a community than engages in deep knowledge regarding many interests. Hang out with the girl who takes dance classes behind her parents’ back because she’s most alive in those moments. Or the guy who reads about chemistry in his free time and wants to change the world. You will love them even if you have nothing in common but this zest for life.

9. You are inspired by people who do what they love, but you still criticise them because it probably means they’re “selfish, irresponsible, and/or lucky”

Again, don’t be a victim, please. Life hasn’t chosen to be nice to them and evil to you. You make your life. If you’re jealous, it’s a bit better than criticism, if that might fuel your fire. Now do something about it! Don’t be selfish, but be compassionate towards yourself without forgetting about others.

Are you living with or without passion?

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