Growing Up Fatherless and the Importance of Introspection

Growing Up Fatherless and the Importance of Introspection

I remember exactly when I became keen on the importance of analyzing my past. It was when I was 18, just beginning my first year of college. I was listening to a podcast while I waited for my next class. The podcast was just a regular conversation between two intellectuals, but they touched on something very relevant to me. That "something" was the psychological effects of growing up in a fatherless home. 

As they described the ramifications, which were based on studies, I felt as if they were describing ME. I was floored. "How could they know me so well?" I thought.

Because of this conversation, I learned that growing up fatherless greatly contributed to my low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression. I didn't even need to look at the studies - once I made the connection, it made perfect sense. I just needed someone to point it out for me. 

The truth was that my father's absence created a deep feeling of unworthiness. This is a big reason why I was never able to form long-lasting relationships and why I did so much to sabotage my life. 

The most important thing that I learned is that I couldn't possibly expect these issues to disappear without doing a lot of introspection first. Because to permanently fix an issue, you have to understand where it came from in the first place. 

Looking back on this realization, it is really surprising how I didn't know something so simple. Before this, I was not aware of the factors that contributed to my issues. I knew that there were factors, but when it came to articulating them, I was completely lost. I was never given the mental tools to decipher them. 

Come to think of it, I remember consciously thinking that I was strong enough to be unaffected by the fact that my father left me. I was even proud of the fact that I never cried over it. I now realize I was being delusional. Gowing up fatherless did have a huge effect on me and being ignorant of the fact only prevented me from removing (or at least mitigating) that effect. 

How has the importance of looking at my past eluded me for so long? Why didn't my school or family teach me this? If the knowledge of the damaging effects of fatherlessness was kept from me, then what else?

Radical Self-Acceptance

Radical Self-Acceptance

Today I started reading Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. It crossed my radar because Tim Ferris has strongly recommended it in the past. I gotta say, so far it's looking to be a book that I didn't know I so desperately needed. 

In the beginning, Dr Brach told a story of a woman who was on her deathbed. Before she passed, she was able to reveal this profound and heartbreaking insight to her daughter:

You know, all my life I thought something was wrong with me

For me, this really hit close to home because it's what I believed for so much of my life. It also made me think of how horribly damaging this feeling of unworthiness can be. For example, it can lead to a drug addiction or dependence upon an abusive partner. 

This is not part of the book (at least not that I'm aware of yet) but I think this feeling of unworthiness exists largely because of how we are treated as children. It comes from being told that we are "bad" or "wrong" for expressing ourselves in such a way that an adult doesn't approve of. 

In a more indirect way, it can also come from the belief in original sin.

Evidently, most of us are raised so that our acceptance of ourselves is strongly tethered to how others feel about us. The stronger this connection is made the more fragile we are. And the more fragile we are, the more we suffer. Think of the people who gauge how they feel by the number of "likes" that they get. 

I think a mentally healthy person generally has an opinion of himself which is unmoved by what others think of him. (Of course, this is excluding the close people who he respects). I think this is a path to true happiness. Or at least a path away from suffering. 

I desperately don't want to live the rest of my life feeling unworthy. Luckily I've already made great progress in getting that out of my system. And I have this blogging journey to thank for that. I'm slowly but surely disconnecting what others think of me from what I think of myself. So far, this has done so much for my own happiness.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to learning the insights that Brach's book has to offer.

Featured image by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

Parents Should Be the Most Charitable Interpreters of Their Own Kids

Children a) are powerless and b) don't yet have all the mental tools to express their feelings and needs effectively. (Though I'm afraid "b" is not exclusive to kids)

Instead of assuming "bad behavior" or "disrespect" or "he's trying to dominate me" whenever children do something they don't like, parents should assume "they don't know better ways to express themselves yet" or "they haven't had enough practice." 

The former interpretation will cause anger and an attempt (often in the form of punishment) to repress the child's present and future attempts at self-expression. The latter will allow the parent to react compassionately and actually teach the child better tools of self-expression. 

I guarantee parents will have better results doing it that way. It will also create mentally healthy adults who DO know how to express themselves effectively.

Children need guidance, not punishments.

My Personal Development Project: Move a Mile a Day

My Personal Development Project: Move a Mile a Day

If you see my Instagram, you would notice that I'm running at least 1 mile every morning.

About a year ago I made the conscious decision to make running a part of my life, the reason being I want to live a long and healthy life. In the beginning, the times when I ran were sporadic. I basically ran only when I felt like it. Sometimes I even took weeks off. 

To become more consistent I joined a running club. This really helped my consistency and endurance. We ran on Mondays and Thursdays, but when it came to the rest of the week, I didn't always run. Again, only when I felt like it.

While that certainly was an improvement, I wasn't running as often as I would have liked to. I think if I truly want to become a lifelong runner, I need to turn running into a subconscious habit. This is why I've decided to take on this personal development project. The challenge is to move at least 1 mile every day for the next 30 days. 

Now, one mile may not seem like much for someone like me, but that's by design.

This isn't about the distance or the speed. Running 1 mile may be easy. Staying consistent is the hard part. It means I have to do it even on my worst days. 

By making it an easier distance, I'm also removing almost every possible excuse. There's almost no reason why I couldn't go through 9 minutes of discomfort every day. If I made the challenge 3 miles I would be more likely to resist even getting out there, and that doesn't help me. Besides, what I've found is that once I'm out there, I'm likely to push myself beyond 1 mile just to make my day's exercise more impactful.

Another reason is that I currently have an injured knee which is in the process of healing. Right now I can't run more than three miles without devolving into a limp. Even though I'm taking on this challenge, I'm also committed on allowing my knee to heal. It may mean that if it starts hurting too much, I will walk that day. Either way, at least one mile will get done. I'll even crawl if I have to.

In order to make this challenge more real, I decided to document it on Instagram. If you want to witness my journey, you can go ahead and follow me there. It'll give me more reason to not give up and you'll get slight doses of inspiration. At least I know I get inspired when I see other people's hustle.  

If I'm successful maybe this will turn into a yearlong challenge, or maybe I'll go crazy and make it lifelong!

Maybe I'll be like this man who ran every day for 45 years:


Featured image by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

Effortlessly Listen to YouTube Videos in Podcast Form

Effortlessly Listen to YouTube Videos in Podcast Form

Have you ever wanted to listen to an awesome conference talk from YouTube but needed the freedom to leave your computer desk? One obvious solution you have is to play the video on your phone, but then you run into the annoyance of carrying around a phone with the screen turned on - not only do you have to be careful to not accidentally touch the screen, but it also drains your battery life. 

Needless to say, this was a constant problem of mine. For some reason, I'm always drawn to audio-centric YouTube videos. If only such videos were in podcast form - life would be much simpler.

Take Be. Busta for example, a YouTube channel about horror stories that doesn't put the visual aspect to much use. This channel would be better served as a podcast, in my opinion. Well, now I don't have to nag the creator into making it available in podcast form because I've found the perfect solution for myself:

That solution is podsync.net

With this free tool I'm able to turn any YouTube channel or list into a podcast. 

So how does it work?

The way Podsync works is surprisingly simple. All you have to do is copy and paste the page of the YouTube channel of your choice. Make sure it's the page that has all of the uploads, otherwise it wont work. Once you enter the YouTube url, you will get back a different url. Then, in your podcast app, go to where it says "add podcast manually" and paste that url. Click subscribe and that's it! Now every time there's a new upload on the channel, you will recieve it on your podcast app too.

The coolest thing about this tool is the ability to have your own playlist as a podcast. This is done the same way. Once you have that playlist on your podcast app, you can instantly send any video to that app just by adding it to the playlist. Check out the gif below to see how easy it is:

Now, when I stream the "podcast episode" it automatically starts to play the video. In order to play only the audio, I have to click "done" and then the play button. At that point it gives me the playback option of video or audio. Once I click audio, it's just like listening to a podcast. I use a podcast app called Downcast, so I'm not sure how different things are with other apps. I do know that this tool is not supported on Overcast. 

I think this is an awesome little hack. It sure has streamlined my ability to consume content that I care about.

If you find Podsync helpful too, you might want to consider supporting the creator on Patreon


Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Why I’m So Interested In Unschooling Even Though I Don’t Have Kids

I love learning about unschooling. I love writing and reading about it. Just in case you didn't know, I'm a single 24-year-old male with currently no desire of having children. So why the heck would I be interested in that? Well, there's a few reasons.

(If you're not familiar, you can read my last post to learn what unschooling means to me)

1) For Self-Knowledge

I think learning about this parenting philosophy is a very effective form of self-therapy because it provides a rational lens through which I can analyze my childhood. 

​​​​Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood. - Alice Miller

When I'm reading a book related to peaceful parenting or unschooling, I'm basically reverse engineering myself. Think of it like fixing a poorly built IKEA table. The first thing you would do is look at the instructions to see the correct way of building it. Then you compare that to the way it was actually built. Once you find what was done incorrectly, you can disassemble it and rebuild it properly. 

That's exactly what I'm doing with myself. Peaceful parenting books are the instructions for how to build a mentally strong and happy me. With this information, I know what I need to undo so that I can rebuild myself properly. 

Going through this disassembling and rebuilding process has not been easy. In fact, it can be extremely painful. After all, it can be profoundly jarring to discover just how much I was damaged by my schools and the people who loved me the most.

But, as Nathaniel Branden wrote, "fear and pain should be treated as signals not to close our eyes but to open them wider."

This gets me to the next reason for why I do this.

2) It Allows Me To Properly Mourn

Looking back at my childhood through an analytical lens - thinking and writing about it while simultaneously reading about how I may have been mistreated - has brought about deep sorrow.

Reading books about peaceful parenting is like laying a magnifying glass to your past. It can help you see better but it also has the effect of burning you. For me, it has brought about strong feelings of anger, frustration and sadness. Sometimes it gets to the point where I have to take a break from it.

Ultimately, I think conjuring up these emotions is good, if not necessary. First of all, it's important to understand that those feelings were not created. Rather, they were already in me and I was just bringing them up to the surface. 

Genuine feelings cannot be produced, nor can they be eradicated. We can only repress them, delude ourselves, and deceive our bodies. The body sticks to the facts. - Alice Miller

One of the many benefits of feeling these emotions is that it helps me restore empathy for myself and what I went through. It helps me understand that it was not me who was broken but rather the world around me. I think this mourning process is necessary in order to love myself once again, or any other person for that matter. 

Another great benefit is that I can use this anguish as fuel to improve myself or the lives of others. 

3) I Want To Inform Parents And Help Children 

As I learn more and more about how to fix myself, I feel the need to pass this information on so that parents could stop making the same mistakes over and over again. I want to prevent as many kids as possible from having to endure the 15,000-hour infliction of schooling. I really don't want for kids to grow up and have to go through the same disassembling and rebuilding process that I'm going through. Or worse, I don't want them to grow up not knowing how they were damaged and then inflict the same damage on their kids!

When it comes to how we treat children, I believe that we have so much to improve on. I believe that much of what we think is an unfortunate but natural part of the human experience could be significantly reduced (or even eradicated) if only schooling and non-peaceful parenting stopped perpetuating it. I don't think life has to be as harsh, boring, and depressing as most schools and parents make it out to be. 

We don't yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people. - Alice Miller

4) It Could Come In Handy

I think this knowledge can be very important whenever I interact with children, even if they are not my own.

I really admire children and am deeply intrigued by them, but I'm not entirely sure I will ever have any. Why? For starters, I still have a long, long road to healing and I don't know if I'll ever be done with it. Then I'd have to find the right partner, someone who is strong enough to raise children with the principles of unschooling. 

Somewhere in there, I'd also have to be convinced out of my antinatalist views, or the idea that it is not right to bring new life into existence. If that doesn't happen, there's always the option of adopting. Either way, this will be an obstacle. 

One thing that I know for sure is that, whether I ever have kids or not, authoritarianism will stop with me.

Peaceful Parenting And Unschooling

Since I'm so interested in peaceful parenting and unschooling, I thought I should take the time to think about it and write down what those terms mean to me. Sometimes I interchange the two which may cause some confusion, but that's because I do take them to mean the same thing. I'll explain.

Peaceful Parenting

On the surface, peaceful parenting may seem like it's just about refraining to physically harm children, but it actually goes beyond that. Peaceful parenting is about respecting a child's dignity and sense of self. This means treating them without judging, shaming, bribing, intimidating or any other form of coercion.

Instead of looking at the parent/child relationship as a struggle for power, peaceful parenting allows us to look at it as two individuals who can work together to get their needs met. Now, usually when I say this I get the response that I advocate being a submissive parent. But that's not the case.

For an excellent explanation for how peaceful parenting works I recommend you watch the video below. I time-stamped the relevant part, but if you have the time I highly recommend watching the whole thing!

Unschooling

The central part about unschooling is to refrain from sending your children to school against their will. It is different from traditional homeschooling in that there is no enforced curriculum by the parent. Instead, it's the child who makes the decision on what he/she wants to learn. While unschooling, it is the job of the parent to pay close attention to the child's interests and to facilitate their learning experience with emotional support and resources. 

Unschooling recognizes that schools in general damage the child's natural creativity and love for learning about the world.

Why They're The Same

Just like peaceful parenting, unschooling comes with the recognition that children are their own individuals who deserve just as much respect as any other person. You can't have unschooling without peaceful parenting. 

The reason why I think of those two terms as the same thing is because unschooling is basically peaceful parenting taken to its logical conclusion. Afer all, I don't consider it peaceful to force a kid to go to school and learn things that he is not interested in.

I know there are conscious peaceful parents out there who still send their kids to school against their will, but I think they are being inconsistent with their philosophy. Maybe they fear that their child will not learn important things, or maybe they don't have the necessary time and resources required. If it's the former I'd encourage them to take a look at the thousands of now adults who were unschooled who managed to do just fine in the real world. If it's the latter, it's perfectly understandable. As long as they recognize the inconsistency and try to mitigate the negative effects of compulsory schooling. 

“I Don’t Know Why, But”

Not knowing things is perfectly normal. In fact, every human will inevitably go through life not knowing even a fraction of all there is to know. Publicly admitting what you don't know is often the first step of learning. It's commendable, but not all of the time. Sometimes admitting ignorance is not so praiseworthy.

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Being Mindful Of The Alternatives To Social Media

Being Mindful Of The Alternatives To Social Media

Many times, I find myself not knowing what to do with myself. I'm talking about those little moments of "free time" when I have no particular obligation or personal commitment.

Today I was going through that and, in that moment, my hand instinctively went to the letter R followed by the Enter button of my keyboard, which took me to Reddit. This mindless impulse has happened many times before. The sad thing is that after looking through the site I usually end up with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction.

Whether it's checking Reddit, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube it only turns out to be worth it about 10% of the time.  Sometimes I even find something that makes me feel angry or sad which is even worse. 

This needs to stop. Logically speaking, I should replace checking on social media with activities that are way more likely to be worthwhile. Doing this will make me mentally healthier and more valuable in general. 

A good way to make this change is to already have clear alternatives in mind or, better yet, have them written down so that, whenever I have the impulse to go on social media, I can instead look at an actual list. Because one of the biggest reasons for why I go on social media all the time is because I'm not fully mindful of the alternatives. So today I created that list.

This list of mine is made up of positive and fun things that I could do instead of checking social media. In my opinion, the more options I have the better, since that way I'm more likely to find something I'm in the mood for.

  • Walk my dogs - because in their eyes you can never do enough of that
  • Watch a movie
  • Go for a run
  • Play basketball
  • Read a chapter of Tribe Of Mentors
  • Read an article that I have saved on my Kindle
  • Read a chapter of a novel
  • Listen to a podcast - if you feel up to it, you can do it while running or walking the dogs!
  • Write a thank you letter
  • Call a friend
  • Talk to a stranger - I know you won't do it but hey, the option's always there
  • Answer some questions on Quora
  • Start or continue a post for my blog
  • Think of how I can improve this list (should I have more productive things or just more options?)

Side note: while I do think there's a place for social media, I think it's best used only when I have a deliberate reason. That way there's a pretty good chance it'll be worth it.

False Statements That You Should Pretend Are True

Even if they are technichally not true since they are absolutes, sometimes believing in these things can have huge benefits:

You are responsible for everything that happens to you.

This belief puts you in the driver's seat of your own life. It makes you look for what you could have done better so that you can improve next time. You see this mentality in a lot of great basketball players - even if the team loses the game because another player missed a simple shot, they don't blame it on them. Instead they say "it's on me, I could have done something." I think that's a sign of a great leader. 

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Believing in this makes it almost infinitely more likely that you'll be able to achieve your goals. Even if you end up failing, you will still get somewhere. As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”

In the end, everything will turn out fine.

This gives you the confidence to take risks.