Love Shouldn’t Be Flexible

Love Shouldn’t Be Flexible

Most people have a rather flexible definition of love, which renders the word meaningless. For example, they say they love their respectful and honest partner while at the same time loving their disrespectful and abusive parents. Or maybe they say they love their child while treating them like he's less than human by beating them, lying to them, or being emotionally abusive. 

From my perspective, love necessarily includes respect. It involves a commitment to being as honest and understanding as possible. You can have your own definition of love, but whatever it is, I suggest you define it well. And stick to it.

If you love someone who treats you badly and at the same time you love someone who treats you with respect, then I think you have a problem. You either have to define one as a different kind of love or stop saying that you love one of those people.

But why fix this contradiction, you may ask.

For one, it is insulting to the person who treats you one way to say that you love them in the same way that you love a person that treats you the opposite. If that person is smart enough, they will notice that you have a screwed up view of love, and will not give too much weight to your words. If they're even smarter, they would avoid being in a relationship with you in the first place. 

If the person is completely okay with your loose definition of love, then watch out. It may mean that they are looking to take advantage of you since they know that you will still love them anyway.

If your definition of love is loose enough to include disrespect and abuse, you will run the danger of inviting disrespectful and abusive people into your life and repelling good people out of it.  

Alternatively, you may end up inviting your own disrespect and abuse towards the people who you claim to love. 

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

“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.

Shyness Is A Result Of Trauma

Shyness Is A Result Of Trauma

"I'm shy at first, but once we get to know each other I can be very outgoing."

When people describe themselves, I hear that sentiment quite often. A long time ago I was someone who may have said such a thing thinking it was just a part of my personality. Now I see the tragic implications of those words. 

To understand the implications let's first define what it means to be shy. I'm defining shyness as being fearful of expressing yourself around others. This does not include introverts, provided that they aren't timid or nervous when they are with company. Introverts can be shy but not all are.

I happen to be both - for the most part, I like to be alone, but when I'm with others fear does prevent me from expressing myself properly. Because of this fear I have held back many laughs, smiles, dances, singalongs etc. Basically everything that makes life worth living.

In short, I have refrained from expressing myself in those ways for fear of facing punishment.

So where does this fear come from? I believe that shy people were once sensitive children who developed this fear as a result of past traumatic occurrences. I mention sensitivity because it seems to be a big differentiating factor. It explains why things which left lasting scars for me, my brothers were able to take in stride, as they were relatively more outgoing. 

Though shy people may not have a present reason to be timid, they once did. Shy people were once in an environment where, to some degree or another, it was dangerous to be fully themselves. This danger can come in many ways and from many people including parents, siblings, teachers or school bullies. 

Perhaps, like me, these shy people had their curiosity squashed, their propensity for being playful and loud tamed, their feelings exploited, or their unique quirks ridiculed. Whatever it was, I guarantee that they had an expression that was natural to them that others around them didn't like and so, much like a nail that sticks out, they got the hammer. 

Pretty soon they learned that not all of who they are is accepted, so they start to suppress their true selves in order to survive. But the problem never stops there; this self-censorship is then internalized. It stays with them as they grow, even when there's no possibility of retaliation. What was once a necessary adjustment in response to their environment has now turned into unresolved trauma.

Now you understand why I think this is tragic. It's almost even more tragic that there are people out there who think shyness is just part of their natural personality rather than a result of the trauma-inducing environment around them. Without this knowledge, they have little chance of ever reversing it.

I remember being outgoing and carefree once. I believe basically every person was born that way. It is not until they get tested, silenced, controlled, humiliated, scorned, or beaten that they become anxious and reserved. One of my goals in life is to reconnect with who I was before that happened.

My Favorite Album (Currently)

Listening to music is something I rarely have done ever since I discovered podcasts. As a result you may find that my music taste is of someone who got stuck in 2012 (the year when I basically stopped listening to new music).

Every once in a while, though, new music slips into my ears, and that is what happened with Maria Mena's album from 2015 called Growing Pains

I discovered this artist through her hit single I Don't Want To See You With Her. Maria's ability to be vulnerable by writing very personal lyrics combined with her voice got me hooked, so I knew I had to hear more.

With all of her insights and wisdom on relationships, listening to this album is almost like therapy. Speaking of which, I wouldn't be surprised if Maria has been through a few sessions herself as her album is filled with honesty and self-awareness. 

Though it's the most simple, my favorite song from the album is Where I Come From. It's a song where she expresses that she doesn't want to repeat her parent's mistakes.

I wish I could find more self-aware artists like Maria Mena.

Listen to the whole incredible album here.

Why Your Book Recommendations Are Futile

Why Your Book Recommendations Are Futile

Have you ever had trouble getting your family or friends to watch your favorite shows, read your favorite books, adopt a certain perspective? That's the story of my life. Sometimes I read, watch, or listen to something that I find so valuable that I can't help but share it in an effort to improve the lives around me.

I'd say my success rate is about 2%. I used to get upset when it didn't work, but now I don't because I have learned of it's inherent futility. Though I still do it just because the opportunity cost of mentioning something I liked is so low, plus that 2% can be meaningful. 

Why Is It So Futile?

You may notice that, when you tell someone "you should consume x" in an unwarranted manner, many times the person won't do it. They may show interest while you talk about it just to be polite but the interest usually stops there. Even if they do end up consuming it, they will most likely give you the lukewarm response of "I thought it was okay." In most successful introductions of mine, I can easily tell that the person didn't find it as important as me.

If you want to test this out, go to someone and show them a video which you thought was really funny. I guarantee you that they will not find it as funny as you did. I also guarantee that the person would have found the video funnier if they discovered it themselves. There's probably a study like this out there that I'm too lazy to look for.

Most times, the person is resistant to your recommendation not because they think they'll dislike it but rather because they simply don't like being told what to do and how to feel. If they consume something, they want it to come from an internal desire to do it. It gives them a sense of free will. There's nothing wrong with that - we all have the need to feel that way.

Successful recommendations where the person gleans the importance that you gleaned only work when they are already looking for it. The person has to have the same goal in mind that you had before diving in, and that goal has to be self-directed. 

I know certain books, podcasts, activities that can improve the lives of my family and friends but I know that if I try to introduce such things to them when they haven't asked for it they will get nothing of value out of it. Conversely, they have recommended things to me that I resisted for the same reason.

Despite the frustration that this brings, I wouldn't have it any other way. Discovering our own way through life is fun, it's what makes us different, it's how we derive our own purpose.

Knowing This, What Can We Do?

The best, if not the only thing we can do is to set an example. We could show the valuable effects we have obtained from trying such things.

If you want other people to see the value in exercising, all you can do is be happy and healthy and hope that people like those results enough to try it themselves. 

If you want people to read a book that you think is important, maybe write a review where you talk about the value you've extracted from it, post it on social media.

Make your thoughts and feelings known to the world and let people listen only if they please.  The important part is in doing this without being pushy.

And of course this wouldn't be an Erick Muller blog post if I didn't tie this topic back to children. If these things are true for adults, if we learn and discover the importance of things best when it is not pushed upon us, it is most certainly true for kids. This is why compulsory schools and authoritarian parenting is so backwards. Just like adults, children have an inherit need for freedom, so we should give it to them.

For more on this I'd recommend How Children Learn by John Holt. It's one of those books I wish everyone would read, so you must read it now! 

I'm joking - of course I don't expect that recommendation to work. In the spirit of following my own advise, you can expect a review from me soon. 

People Love To Criticize

Just go to any comments section of any piece of work and you'll find someone saying how they don't like it. This is true of even the most beloved pieces of work that have stood the test of time. Just think of your favorite book, movie or song and I can immediately find you someone that is unimpressed by it.

I mention this because it's important to know that criticism is something no one person who wants to do great things can avoid. Anything that you will create will be bad to at least one other person, so there's no point in trying to avoid it. 

Remember that most people who criticize don't know what it's like to have created something they deeply care about. If they did, then they would empathize with the creator and refrain from writing that unproductive or mean-spirited comment. 

Those kind of people aren't the ones you want to listen to anyway, so just ignore them. And think of them as a symbol that you are putting something that matters out in the world. 

This post was inspired by this awesome post by T.K. Coleman.

Patience Really Is Everything

Patience Really Is Everything

The ability to delay gratification, or patience, is one of the most valuable qualities a person could have. Especially when it comes to endeavors that take years before seeing rewards. For example, it is needed to become a doctor, write a book, learn a new language, loose weight etc.

Patience is a prerequisite for doing anything great.

Patience is what differentiates successful business owners and not-so-successful ones. That's because if you try to get as much money as possible as soon as possible, you are not focusing on what you should be focusing on, which is to build a solid foundation that will make your company last.

Patience does not come easy to me.

I became hyper-aware of this fact ever since I started my project, which was an affiliate website. With this site, I have struggled to do the things that don't get immediate results but are crucial for the long term success of the site.

Namely, I have neglected the fact that I should fill the site with interest pieces. Those are articles that don't make money directly but make the site as a whole more interesting and trustworthy. Such value is harder to see and more delayed. But it is very important for any website to have that in order for it to survive long-term.

The reason why it's not that easy to just go for the long term benefits is because of my scarcity mindset. I think 'if I don't take the money now, I may not get any at all in the future because some sort of disruption may occur in the market.' 

While those may be legitimate fears, I shouldn't put too much weight in them. Besides, I know that the people that are most successful are the ones that are strong enough to not take the money. 

Patience is very important if I want to be successful with anything. So right now I'm doing everything I can to strengthen that muscle.