Confident Beginnings

Confidence is a tricky thing, isn’t it? Like Goldilocks people can have too little or too much. Either ends of the scale are limiting and not particularly attractive but getting it just right? That’s the hard bit.

Milk
Colin’s Fridge and The Three Milks by Alasdair courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/zCANY https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I recently watched a documentary where psychologists were monitoring young children in a play and school environment. Two children stood out and seemed to strike up what, on the face of it, was an unlikely friendship. One was overconfident, a thrill seeker who sought out danger and constantly pushed boundaries. The other was a boy who excelled at maths but who was generally frightened by life and shied away from anything he perceived as dangerous. These two boys, despite their obvious differences in personality, seemed to gel.

Friendship
Friendship by Tomvdh1 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6zvfWy https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

When the psychologists put up ‘Danger – Keep Out’ signs and taped off one of the children’s favourite pieces of play apparatus – a play house reached by a ladder – the thrill seeker immediately wanted to investigate and go into the play house to see what the danger was. The nervous child hung back. So upset at the prospect of his friend doing something that was forbidden, the nervous boy told him that two adults were coming his way, even though no adults were in the area. The thrill seeker reluctantly left the equipment alone and the nervous boy had, in his eyes, protected his friend from danger. One had regulated the other’s actions.

Yin and yang
Yin and Yang by Rolf Dietrich Brecher courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/Xpv3X1 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Later, these same boys were confronted with a tarantula spider in a case. When the handler asked if the children would like to hold the spider, the thrill seeker was one of the first to put up his hand. The nervous boy, seated next to him, had already professed a fear of spiders. He hung back and moved away but was still fascinated enough to watch his friend handle the spider and allow her to walk over the back of his hand.

A few minutes later after another couple of children had handled the spider, the nervous boy asked if he too could have a go. At first, he was still too scared to hold his hands flat on the table to allow the spider to crawl over them and was seeking assurance from the handler that the spider would not bite or claw him. Once that assurance had been given, he had a go. Wonderfully, his thrill seeker buddy put his hand flat on the table first and the nervous boy put his on top of his friend’s and the spider then walked over both of their hands.

The nervous boy was delighted that he had faced and conquered a fear and the thrill seeker was pleased that he had coaxed his friend to try something new.

Though very different I could imagine this unlikely pair growing up to be firm friends for life. Operating at either extreme of the confidence scale, you could see how they could help to pull each other further into the middle ground of ‘just right’ thus enriching each other’s lives immensely.

friendship2
Friendship by Alex Isse Neutron courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by Public Domain 1.0 https://flic.kr/p/CwP7Zz https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

For those of us who do not have a friend at the other end of the confidence scale to help push, guide or protect us, we have to learn the hard way by life’s experiences. That’s why older people are a lot less bothered what others think of them than their younger counterparts. They have learned that in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter all that much.

Confident beginnings are wonderful but for the rest of us it’s not where you start but where you finish that’s important.

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Fear of Missing Out

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – is a thing. Who knew? Apparently it has even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

checking phone
Let me check a few things first by Johnny Silvercloud courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/s8DNC2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Are you suffering from FOMO?

Do you compulsively check your social media updates to see what your friends are up to?

  1. Do you feel compelled to join your work colleagues at every after work event?
  2. Do you over commit so as to attend every party/barbecue/impromptu get together?
  3. Do you check Rightmove and other property listing sites not because you have any intention of moving house but because you want to see what others have got?
  4. Do you binge watch the latest box sets so you know what everyone else is talking about?

If you answered yes to the above, chances are you are suffering from FOMO.

Wikipedia describes FOMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social angst is characterised by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.

Smartphones
Man Woman Smartphones Restaurant by David van der Mark courtesy Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/y6sdfD https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

Is it any wonder therefore that most of us feel exhausted most of the time?

Human beings are designed to have periods of action and periods of rest. If our rest time is dominated by our digital devices the quality of that rest time decreases. Whilst interacting on social media isn’t physically demanding, mentally and sometimes emotionally it can take its toll. Even if we are not aware of it our bodies will react to what we are reading, writing or seeing. Anger, frustration, joy and laughter all create a physical reaction. We have already put our bodies through a tough day. To then spend the evening and sometimes even the night too dancing the digital dance leaves us feeling over stimulated. Is it any wonder that so many people complain of not being able to sleep properly? Our minds are still wired and busily processing all of the images that have been teeming in front of our eyes.

We have reached the point societally where Mums ignore and do not interact with their children as much as they would have done in previous years because they are instead interacting with their phones. Couples are going out to dinner and checking their devices instead of actually talking to one another.

Don’t get me wrong, computers, iPads and phones are wonderful things but they are meant to enhance our lives not dominate them to the point of destruction. We are in danger of diluting our personal relationships with children and spouses and wider family members for the sake of our relationship with our phones and by extension our relationship with our friends and followers. Which do you think is more important?

helloworld
Hello, world by Dwayne Bent courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/c9BGhf https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Disconnecting in the short term – a digital detox – is perfectly possible but what about in the long term? Spending time on our phones is a habit. We do it through the fear or missing out and often from boredom. Interestingly, we often feel less fulfilled as a result. The nagging thought that we are “wasting time”, the incessant comparing of ourselves or our lives to others often leaves us feeling inadequate and dissatisfied. Perhaps it’s time to kick the habit.

Limiting the time you spend on your phone or other devices is the answer. As with breaking any ingrained habit the best way to draw back is by doing it over a number of weeks. Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets and don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. Persevere however because the results will be worth it.

A whole new world of possibilities will open up for you together with the time and space to reconnect with your old world – the people who physically share your life. In turn this will lead to you feeling more connected than you ever did previously, you will also have a greater sense of fulfillment and contentment. What’s not to love about that?

Even the strong need to be weak sometimes

strength
Strength by Michael Havens courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Are you one of those people who others turn to in times of crisis? Are you the shoulder to lean on? The one who sorts things out and makes people feel better? I am one of those people and I like the fact that others feel they can rely on me and that they see me as someone who they can trust to help them. But what happen when it’s you who needs the help?

It is one thing to give help to others, it’s quite another to accept help in return or even to ask for it. To those of us who think of ourselves as strong it’s hard to let go and admit there are some things you simply cannot handle on your own.

cant-bear-to-look
Can’t bear to look by Rennett Stowe courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Strong people often take pride in their strength and their ability to cope. They feel sorry for those weaker than themselves who cannot ride the tides of life quite so well. But even for the strongest amongst us, life can sometimes drag you down to your knees and when it does it takes a different kind of strength to reach out and grab the hands being offered to you.

Lemur giving hands
Lemur Giving Hands by Tambako The Jaguar courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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So next time life batters you around the head don’t let pride stop you asking for help, give yourself permission to be weak, just for a little while because the real strength is in knowing you don’t have to be strong all the time.

 

Catch up with friends not boxsets

I recently caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in months. You know how it is, you promise each other you’ll get together but somehow life gets in the way and weeks become months seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Calendar
Calendar* by Dafne Cholet courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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It’s all too easy to slip into a routine after a busy day at work. That bottle chilling in the fridge is calling to you as is the latest boxset at your fingertips. You can gorge yourself on back to back episodes and live your life vicariously through the characters on the screen.

Watching TV
Relaxing by C.P. Storm courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Going out takes effort: making plans, getting dressed up. Going out means unknown variables: how are you going to get there? Will the place you’re going to be any good? Will you enjoy yourself? Stack up all those unknowns against a glass of wine, a remote control and finding out what happens next in the latest story you are hooked by and it’s hard for real life to compete.

But don’t let the boxset win out. Don’t take the easy option. I spent the fastest three and a half hours of my life enjoying fabulous food in a restaurant with a great atmosphere catching up with an old friend I have known for (eek!) over thirty years.

Gossip Girls
Gossip Girls by Nicola Romagna courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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The evening flew by full of laughter, tears, reminiscences and great stories. We weren’t quite the last to leave but almost. You know the restaurant staff are getting antsy when they start laying out the tables for the following day’s service! That said, they never tried to hurry us along.

Wine glass
Wine by Quinn Dombrowski courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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When we said goodbye we promised each other we wouldn’t leave it as long. It’s an old familiar refrain. We all do it, right? And then life consumes us once more and the pages of the calendar turn faster and faster. Will it be any different this time? I hope so because I came away fulfilled, re-energised and happy.

Smile
Smile by Kathy Kimpel courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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I have yet to find a boxset, however gripping, that has the same effect.