Neymar, What Do You Represent?

Dear Neymar,

How are you? I saw you play against Switzerland the other day. I noticed your new hair cut. I really liked the Elvis style. I heard you brought your hairdresser to Russia though. He must be having a great time! Too bad, he cut your hair short after that game. Did you think that’s why you didn’t score any goals? Haha, just kidding. Anyway, I sincerely hope you will get this letter, because I have been meaning to talk to you for a while already.

You know, my mind spins, every time I see you play. It seems that you have figured out how to fly, but only when you are touched in the right place. Then, every time you walk in or out of the dressing room, I get to see commercials here on the Brazilian TV. With you again! Who would have thought that would be possible? Well, we all know it’s possible. In your case nevertheless, things might have turned out quite different. I read you grew up near São Paolo, being very poor and all. Most people don’t make it out of there like you, rather they work in the local convenience store or at the McDonald’s.

However, you did end up working for the red M huh? Beautiful commercial with your son. And his hair, so blond! Wouldn’t you like some of that? Haha, just kidding. I was wondering though, if you considered what you are actually representing? The thing is, at McDonald’s they sell burgers, fries, and other processed food. It has been proven over and over, that those are major causes of the biggest killers in the world. No, that’s not Osama Bin-Laden. They are: heart’s disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Is that really what you want to represent?

Then, the other day, I saw that you build an institute in your hometown. Amazing, that you are investing in the lives of the people you grew up with. Providing them with better opportunities, education and sports facilities. You seem to have your heart in the right place.

At this moment I wonder therefore, if you know which people suffer the most from eating the garbage you represent? To make it easy for you, the people with little income. Like the ones in your hometown. So, on the one hand you do this beautiful thing for your community. Where on the other hand, you stimulate the same people to eat glorified plastic by appearing in every commercial with a big red M above your head. Have you ever looked at it from this perspective?

I believe this awareness to go a long way, also because your life isn’t the only one filled with contradictions. I even write about it regularly, here on my blog. If you want your weekly fix of awareness provoking and healthy lifestyle inducing information, just enter your e-mail address on the right here. You will receive my newest blog right in your inbox! Maybe it will help you with future decisions.

That’s all for now. The only thing I still want to mention is; please, score some goals against Serbia, and get Brazil to the finals. As things go, there is nothing worse than being around Brazilians when they have just seen their favorite person in the world fall a thousand times, without making any goals.

Good luck!

Joël

ps. something I have always wanted to know; when you play FIFA, do you always play yourself, or rather Messi or C. Ronaldo

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Why I Am Antisocial

Over the previous year I have met quite the amount of people. Ranging from young to old, poor to rich and everything along the line from very extrovert to very introverted. Regardless of personality type, I have had great conversations with all of them. Previously, having felt uncomfortable with “small talk”, I have become quite good at it now. The continuous exposure to conversation through being part of open cultures has helped me a lot. As a result, I come to the conclusion that small talk does not necessarily mean there is no purpose or content to what I am talking about. I know now, that the distinction between small talk, and otherwise meaningful conversation does not make sense to me anymore.

More Than Small Talk

From my point of view, to make this distinction, also means diminishing the fun and value of having a conversation. Just standing next to someone, there are so many more things happening than just the exchange of words. The biggest amount of our communication is non-verbal anyway. This is something I have become very aware of after meeting all these people. There are little words needed to figure out how comfortable I am going to be with somebody new.

I perceive that the expectations I have entering a conversation play a big role in this process. However, I have interacted so often now, that it has become easier to be at ease during a first encounter. Nevertheless, there are still situations I wish I would be able to be more open. On the other hand though, I have been in situations where I was purposefully antisocial. As things go, the truth is, that there are people I prefer not to talk to.

Becoming Antisocial

In the beginning, I was genuinely wondering if I was being impolite or closing down. Now I recognize though, that I have met so many people that I can say quite quickly if I want to invest energy in a connection. Being honest about what I like and do not like, together with my current outlook at life give me a compass in these situations. At the same time, ever since I stopped worrying about this, it has become easier to start a conversation with somebody new. Regardless if I am more, or less interested in that person. When I know beforehand that I am interested in nothing more than talking for a bit now, I will be more likely to engage in this conversation than when I am denying myself this truth. As things go, nothing is more uncomfortable and energy consuming than talking to somebody I do not want to talk to, at the same time worrying how to not talk to this person again.

On a deeper level I know, this all comes down to what is called self love. I cannot invest all my energy without having the time to recharge. Meeting people is awesome, but there are moments I do not have the energy for it. Just like with helping somebody else, either through my work or in my private life. If I do not take care of myself first, the situation I am creating will be unsustainable. Eventually, making me the person that would need help, even though I am trying to help somebody else.

The following I always conceive as a great metaphor to explain what I am getting at. Everybody that has been on an airplane, is familiar with the safety instructions before take-off. When the instruction gets to the point of the oxygen masks, they always tell you to put yours on first, before you help others. This practical form of “self love” is the same as being purposefully antisocial. When I do not take a breather every now and then, by not connecting with somebody or just straight up walking away from conversation, I will be unable to keep connecting with people long-term.

Talking Less Results In The Opposite

The interesting thing is, that since I started becoming more conscious about when, how, and under what terms I want to connect to somebody, I have actually found it easier to start talking to another person. I am not wasting energy on internal conflict, which would otherwise be something that inhibits my capacity to connect. To stay true to my own motivation and willingness to exchange, seems to be the ultimate tool to keep building authentic relationships.

 

Why You Should Reduce Effort

Less is more, something I have to remind myself quite often. I like to eat a lot, I move a lot and I tend to be obsessive, before balancing out. Regardless, if this is in school or with traveling. However, the more I go through the motions, I realize that the less I do, more seems to happen. There have been multiple occasions that I have trusted this mechanism. Nevertheless, as soon as life moves just a little back to the fast lane, this conviction tends to lose it’s presence.

Church of Progression

It seems that during my everyday life there is no place for this idea. As things go, the most visited church in the west, the church of progression, tries to make us believe that there is only one way to do things. This being, the necessity to engage in any working activity to earn and spend afterwards. Bigger car, bigger house, new clothes and fancier food. However, except for more materialistic well being and a sense of physical comfort, how does this serve me really?

The Value of Leaning Back

To optimally function as a human being, it is important to take a break at least as much as it is to do something. What I am made to believe nevertheless, is that if I want to achieve something, I need to do something. Even though, both the idea that only by doing something I can achieve, and the idea of what “achievement” is, are another two inventions of us humans. To let our body get better at what we do, we need to give it a rest, just like we need to give our brain a break to let it process.

Though, this way of tending to our mind and body seems to be subject to effort. If I do not engage in anything, I am lazy. However, those awesome ideas popping up in my head, that creative perspective or that life-changing realization usually do not enter my mind when I am staring away at a computer screen, or working purposeless on a project for some big corporation. When I manage to reduce the things I do though, let my brain do it’s thing, it will present me with plenty of useful information that I can apply in my life after.

The same goes for engaging in an activity. Being it cooking, a project at work or commenting on somebody littering in the street. If I do not “interfere” in any of these, does not mean there will not be the outcome that I desire. Apart from that being a matter of perspective, a negative experience might just be what I need to get me “ahead”. Regardless, if I notice this in the moment or not.

When I manage to reduce active engagement in my everyday life and decrease the amount of thoughts I interact with, there is time to notice in what direction the energy of my life is flowing. As soon as I notice, I can hop on this train and ride the flow, rather than pulling it all by myself.

No Need To Finish

This might mean that I could start something new, being it work, a project around the house or a friendship. Where after, I decide in the middle to leave it as it is. The fact that I leave something for what it is, and continue my life in another direction does not mean I leave things unfinished. Rather, I trust that what I am leaving it for, is what is right for me now. That I do not know if I get back to the initial thing I started, does not mean I will not. I believe this emotional agility allows me to learn on a wider spectrum. Eventually, this allows me to see that leaving something, actually means starting something new. Ending and beginning are mere concepts, and actually dissolve as soon as I adopt a cyclical view of life.

I know there is a time for everything. A wider perspective on the meaning of things happening to me, allow for easier acceptance of it’s presence. Also, allowing for better integration and sustenance in my life. Finally, mingling less with life’s direction and trying not to be afraid to follow gut, head, and heart when everybody around me thinks differently, help me to keep levitating on the cloud of life.

Behavioral Change Step 3: Cultivating Perspective Change

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. In the first two blog posts on this subject I wrote about how I first try to cultivate and increase my awareness, where after I reach a point where I consciously aim to integrate the newly gained perspective in to my life. In this third and last blog on the subject I will explain how I try to cultivate a change of perspective.

First off, I think it is important to consider that any change I make is part of a bigger process. This is important to me because what on one day might seem like a life altering outlook can be normal the week after. If I want to optimally profit from the alternations I go through, seeing things for what they are will allow me to take appropriate steps to keep continuing the road I am on without getting lost in the moment.

Being conscious will also allow me to put setbacks in to perspective. If I am solely focusing on the present, disregarding the bigger process, a setback might really feel as a setback. Whereas, if I look at the bigger picture, a setback usually is an opportunity to learn.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to integrate anything learned directly in to all parts of my life. There were so many times I had to reinforce certain decisions after being caught by the novelty of a situation. When other parameters in my life differ from the regular, I find it hard at times to reproduce a satisfying decision based on my values. For example, going out to eat in a different country, with a different language and food culture, there might be signals that might normally make me say I do not want to eat that. Whereas, in this case there is so much new that I perceive these signals differently. The same goes for responding in a preset manner to friends or family just because there was a time specific interactions were bothering me. Having set the intention to put these interactions in to a different light does not mean I solved the issue forever. This is definitely the case with patterns within a family. Having lived together for so long, there was a lot of time for patterns to get intertwined in a lot more ways than we tend to be aware of.

On a more material level, to make any changes last, I believe it best to literally start living them. If I talk about them in my social environment they are already more real than if I would keep them to myself. Asking for support to help me maintain a certain direction can be as simple as telling me when I am off, but also conversations about obstructions can be a great way to redirect intentions.

Taking this one step further, I believe that a set of values will make life inevitably lighter to manage. It is easier to make decisions in relation to a certain context than when I am simply drifting from stimulus to stimulus. However, by this I do not advocate blindly subscribing to a religion or becoming a full blown radical left-wing supporter, nor does it need to be a fixed set of values. Rather, if I figure out what is important to me and my happiness, I can relate my decisions to that.

From my own experience I have noticed that if I stick to my values this generally gets accepted by the environment I am in. Even when the values of my environment are entirely different. I have been in a lot of situations where I deliberately had to emphasize that I do not eat any animal products, nor can you make me happy with a glass of Coca Cola. When I communicated these intentions clearly, I never had the idea people thought me unthankful, something a lot of people worry about in this regard. Nevertheless, if I would be in a less confident state of mind my intentions were bound to be received with more apprehension.

The take home message for me here is, that if I live my change, my mindset and my values, I believe people will realize that that is who I am. The form of feedback originating from this makes the cultivation of this same change more sustainable. Ultimately, strengthening the fundament any authentic life can flourish upon.

Behavioral Change Step 2: Changing Perspective

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. Last week, in the first blog on this subject, I broke down how I execute the first step in this process. I try to increase my awareness by maintaining a questioning attitude in the present, at the same time using passed experiences to better direct the already achieved mindset.

So, once I am aware of something that requires change, like the way I eat, the way I feel when somebody talks to me, or how I perceive the relationship with my friends, this is easily kept at the front of my mind. However, to actually do something with this newly acquired perspective, asks for a different plan of action.

Before I can use any of the newly acquired outlooks, I believe it is necessary to accept this new information. As things go, we have a tendency to resist change. Both our minds and bodies thrive on structure, rhythm and safety. A change of perspective however, puts all of our habits under pressure. Therefore, our first line of defense is often any form of denial.

Where it might be hard to actually keep questioning to increase awareness and change perspective, it often is not that hard to come up with alternative views just to keep our current state of mind in place. I know that next to accepting a newly perceived view I also have to accept any forms of denial that follow. Just like I try to not let fear dictate my decisions by accepting the sensation when it occurs, I know that dealing with denial is best done the same way.

The way I follow up on a change of perspective, is to consciously revalue a certain mindset. One time an increase in importance of a certain idea might be needed, whereas in another moment it’s importance should be decreased. I remember one time where I did this with a lot of purpose. There was a time when I was feeling guilty for my “laziness” (I also wrote about this in an Instagram post). I had the feeling I was not being productive and therefore should actively pursue a goal to change this. Until I realized, that this idea and the feelings resulting from it were nothing of my own creation. Instead I worked out that it was rather the way the society I grew up and worked in were making me think along these lines.

When I arrived at this point I literally had a f*ck that! moment with so much presence that it never returned. Here I succeeded in revaluing this feeling and therefore changing the way it affected me. After that, I never felt lazy again. In the beginning there were some moments where I had to reinforce this outlook, but apart from that, it stuck.

In this case the life I was living was fully supportive of the ability to change. There were no stimuli from my environment confusing my thoughts and there was sufficient support around to talk about these subjects. Before I started traveling though, this was not the case. Work, sports and day to day sucked up a lot of my energy. Even though, I was being aware that I disagreed with the reigning work ethic, I did not have any headspace, nor energy left to get to the bottom of this feeling.

The optimal state to use newly acquired awareness, seems to be one of tranquility and ease. In my last blog I actually concluded that a similar state is also where an increase of awareness is achieved. However, when we are living our everyday life this state of mind rarely occurs when we not actively seek it.

The idea that we are only doing something when we physically move or are working towards a goal is something deeply wired in our society. Not only does it discredit the value of doing “nothing”, it also seems that when we live as expected there is hardly any space to form ourselves along a trajectory that we want. Fitting in is more important than personal authentic growth.

I know that it is up to every person for themselves to ascribe the value that they think any idea is worth. What for the one person is a life altering perspective change might for the other be just another day in the life. I believe it important though, that the values should be of my own creation. Not from my parents, nor society, nor my friends.

Regardless of the value I end up giving to any idea, there is no good or bad. Also, it does not need to be forever. I am free to change my mindset any time.

There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Body

I have recently been reflecting a lot on how I view body, mind and soul. And most of all, what is considered normal and what is not in this regard. Consecutively, I started reflecting on how I come to my decision in any health-related situation. The main thing I do, I realized, is that I always look for the why? behind my current state of mind and body. This thought process always evaluates how I felt the days before, what I ate, how I exercised, how I slept and what kind of stress is influencing me at this moment. Answering all these questions often lead me to seeing why I feel a certain way and make it easier to (not) respond accordingly after.

Most importantly though, by answering all these questions for myself I come to a logical conclusion. Therefore, the way I am feeling is reasonable and normal given the circumstances. When I drink too little during the day, the headache at night is a reasonable consequence. When I drink enough during the day, but I slept too little the night before, a headache at night is also reasonable. The origin and consequence here are quite easy to find.

However, when I increase the time span and the factors in play it gets harder to see the origin and consequence of how I am feeling. For example, I am 50 years old, I sat the majority of my life working a desk-job with medium to high stress levels, and I eat a lot of low quality processed food. After, I get diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease, is this reasonable? Or, when I play 3 soccer matches in one week and I tear one of my calf muscles, is this normal?

Yes, I believe this is all normal. Put any given person in the same situation with the same life and history and their bodies will most likely respond the same. So when I fracture my upper leg, when I have a headache, when I sub luxate my shoulder or when I get diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, Heat Disease or COPD is there anything wrong with my body?

No, nothing is wrong with my body. My body is responding in a logical and reasonable way to how I treat it. The moment I should be worried though, is when I can hold my hand in a fire without hurting it or when I can run for 40 hours at sprint speed. In any case, the awareness of this interaction is probably also why, I realized, I have such little problems with experiencing pain (I wrote about this here). Seeing these connections makes me aware of which behavior led to which feeling, and it allows me to accept and deal with the situation without feeling lost. Above all, viewing things this way, means that when I change the way I treat my body for the better, it will respond appropriately.

There are times though, when it gets really hard to see how things are connected. There might be too many things going on in my life and too many thoughts in my head. Recently, I experienced a severe headache unrelated to dehydration or sleep. Also, I had recently been sick but I had been feeling better a lot already. More over, there were other physical and mental factors at play that made me confused and unable to find the reason for my headache.

In these cases, it is great there is a healthcare system at most people’s disposal to aid in circumstances like these. The problem is though, that the most sought after health care professional generally treats symptoms, not origins. Next to that, to look for the why? behind any given problem is not a common thing. In this process we tend to be afraid when something is wrong and we want it fixed as soon as possible. Luckily, in this situation there is always a doctor willing to prescribe medication. Nevertheless, is this the solution for our problem?

Instead of prescribing medication, asking a couple of times why? will go a long way. Usually the origin of any given problem is quite obvious once there is somebody helping you putting your behavior in to perspective. Still, from my point of view, it is more the way our healthcare system is set up, what leads to the inefficient way of treating problems, than it is how the individual healthcare provider works. However, I believe that regardless of whatever healthcare system I am subject to, my independence is key. I know what is best for my body, as soon as I become aware of it.

Therefore, to be the director in everything regarding my body is important. We should not blindly belief anybody that makes decisions about our health. Rather, we should put everything to the test, educate ourselves, practice awareness and always ask for multiple opinions. In the meantime, always keeping the two core beliefs in mind. Being that the way I take care of my body has logical consequences, and these consequences are therefore normal. After all, nobody but me has to live with my body all my life.

Value and Money (1)

The subject of value and money has been playing around my mind for a long time. How can I live without money being the main motivation in my decisions? This used to be an interesting discussion point among friends. At that time, I was already aware of how money corrupts life. Consecutively, I chose a standpoint that was more directed at denying the existence of money, than actually dealing with it the way it is. I usually ended up saying things like: “I don’t like money and our monetary system. I don’t want to think about it, and I rather have nothing to do with it”.

Where I grew up in North-Western Europe, it was easy to create convictions like these. As things go, the consequences of not having money I never experienced. Over there, I used to live in a protected society where people living on the street, still have better chances than the majority of the people living in this world.

Nevertheless, I still disagree on the value that we have given money. I do understand now though, that to live the life I want to, I have to accept at least part of the value we ascribe to it. Next, it also made me realize that I should value more what I already have. At the same time, not being afraid to seize the opportunities given to me. To live on an island alone, might solve the issue of having to deal with money. However, this would also mean that I lose the possibility on using the opportunities that result from having it. I realized that I rather try to show how to live and value money differently within society, than to live on the outside denying it as a whole.

When discussing this subject over the previous half year, people would often remind me that you have money. Even when I do not, there are friends, family and a safety net provided by the government waiting for me in the Netherlands. This means, that the lowest life standard experienced by me, will still be above what the majority of the world population currently enjoys. Now, it is not just that I am aware of these inequalities, I also was in situations where I actually experienced them. Consecutively, the aforementioned comments sometimes made me feel guilty. It is quite easy for me to be critical of the monetary system, while being on the safe side within it. Should I not be living on the street to give my ideas some real credit? I concluded in the end, that I do not need to.

The awareness of the fact that I am positively predisposed in our world, just because I grew up in North-Western Europe, has made me realize that every opportunity I get is worth twice as much. Also, it does not make sense to me to live a life where I feel sorry for the chances other people did not get. It is easy to develop depressed feelings living with this awareness. I do believe however, that by showing that I can live happy with my values, there is a higher chance that somebody else copies them. There are enough people feeling depressed and unsatisfied already. Regardless, of the amount money in their bank account. Interestingly, a lot of people feeling this way in developed countries, turn out to be in some way or another, enslaved to the idea that money holds value.

In reality though, money by itself has no value. It only holds value as long as we believe it. The 50 euro note is not worth anything by itself. I can hardly hold it up to stop the rain from dropping on my head, or to use it as paper to write an important message upon. A thick woolen sweater on the other hand, will warm my body if I believe it or not, just like a roof on top of my house will keep me dry and a banana will always be able to provide my body with energy. As long as I keep believing money holds value by itself though, it is hard to put it into perspective. Once I flip this idea, I might be able to find ways to not see money as the sole condition to acquire anything of value.

In conclusion this means, as long as I want to be part of the current world we live in, I believe that I cannot deny that money exists nor cut it out of life entirely.  However, I can change the value it holds in my own life. If everybody else still thinks it is the most important base to decide upon, does not mean it should be for me.

Next week I will continue with this topic and explain how I try to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

 

How Fear Influences Your Everyday Life (1)

This is the first post in a two part series on how fear influences your everyday life. In this first post I will try to dissect how fear is wired in to our current life without a valid reason. In the second part I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle, at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form, instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.

Fear in Everyday Conversation

We all experience a sense of fear on a regular basis. Popping up whenever we see something happen we do not like, or when we think of something that might happen in the future. We are afraid of an exam, afraid to tell the truth or afraid to change the way we act. The feeling of being afraid is so normal that there are sentences like: “I am afraid this is not going work” or “I am afraid I am not going to make it on time”. Whereas, these sentences are used as messages, the words they contain are connected to feelings deeper rooted in our organisms.

The simplicity of these messages and the frequency with what we use them is a sign of how deeply rooted fear is in our behavior. If we do not pay attention a lot of our behavior and decisions, unknowingly will be based on fear. I for example, notice that I often feel stress and act stressed when I have to get too many things done in “too little” time. This is an example of fear-based behavior. As soon as I realize that stressing it does not support me to achieve my goal in any case, and that time is a subjective phenomenon anyway, it becomes easier to let go of these feelings.

In general though, we might be afraid to engage in new ventures, relationships or a change of life direction, all leaving us paralyzed in the present. Regardless of the probability of success of the desired choice, the result will always be the same; no change.

Origin and Consequence

Fear can be the consequence and origin of a wide variety of feelings. Fear by itself, awkwardness, shame and insecurity are definitely feelings that are connected in a lot of situations. While these feelings are usually blacklisted in our life – we do not want to feel them – they corrupt our decision making and behavior even more this way.

I for myself, can feel insecure before engaging in a conversation, definitely when I do not speak the language fluently. Another reason might be, when I have to tell somebody something I think they will not like in that moment. I experienced this both in my personal life as at work. Whereas, in the former this would be about speaking true to my feelings, in the latter it usually meant speaking the truth, and supposedly provoking a feeling of disappointment in my client. On both occasions though, these short-term “negative” effects do not mean anything when compared to what is to be gained from knowing the truth.

Essential

However, fear is probably the single most essential feeling to ensure the progression of our physical life. This sensation focuses all our attention in the present, diminishes the importance of any other feeling, heightens our essential physical abilities, and inhibits conscious decision making. Because, it is time to run away from a charging lion, safe a child from a speeding car or to steer clear of a creepy person in the night.

Nevertheless, we now connect these primal feelings with none life-threatening situations. Feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence supported by unnatural expectations from our environment constantly trigger fear(like) responses. School, work, schedules, planning, culture, social values and traffic together with constructs like time and money create an environment full of “dangers”.

Where fear might be experienced as it is, it might also develop into different behavior. This makes it harder to see where the origin of the discomfort is. Possibly, even developing in to chronic health problems. Take a look around your social environment (including yourself), and you will definitely encounter somebody that lives a fear-based life. It should be no surprise that these people look and act tense, and eventually live tense, marking their body and behavior with fear.

Acceptance

Where it is hard to block out all sensations of fear, it is the blocking of these types of emotions that actually strengthens them. To me though, it makes more sense to feel the fear and then deal with it, instead of steering clear. As soon as we get comfortable feeling fear it gets easier to deal with situations that arouse it. At the same time, allowing us to question both the situation and the feeling itself. Where after, it is possible to see this feeling for what it really is, and we might get to a point where we realize that it is actually provoked by something else.

Next week I will continue with what “something else” might be. Please come back next week to read on.

What Is Authenticity?

Two blog posts ago I wrote about why I started Quest for Authenticity and I will now continue to explore what authenticity means and how I think going on this quest has already helped me live a more fulfilling life.

Awareness

To me, the thing that stands out most strikingly in this process, is the importance of becoming aware of what is ours in our lives, and what is not. Consequently, it is possible to make a conscious decision on what we would like to include and what to exclude. Because, from the moment  we enter this world up to this very moment there has been, and will be, continuous input from both inside and outside ourselves. Regardless of the origin of these inputs, their effects on us are all equally real. The problem is though, that in most cases nobody teaches us how to deal with all of these inputs.

When we zoom out though, it becomes visible that a lot of these inputs are results of a societal belief-system rather than the result of personal needs. In western society, our culture has become increasingly materialistic and focused on education, money, and performance whereas in Middle-Eastern society, for example, a more traditionally family oriented belief-system is still in place. The result in both occasions, however, is that we end up living lives that we think are ours but are actually far from it.

Authenticity as a Painting

I like to think of this way of life as a painting. When we are born we actually have a blank painting, nevertheless society drew all the lines already. The way it is now, we are only allowed to color in our painting. The idea of finding your own authentic way of life though is, to look at your painting and question every color and line in there. Is this what I want it to look like? Where after you can decide to keep it in this way, change it or erase it, leaving space for something new.

What is Normal?

Currently though, the first thing that will be decided on is whether we are normal or not normal. Normal in this case means that we are allowed to start the path into society along the most convenient way – starting in kindergarten until we get our degree. Subsequently, we are eligible to start producing and consuming to keep the bubble of our western society floating.

However, if you are not qualified as normal, you will either have to become normal by doing therapy, using medication or just pretending to be. After this, you might still be eligible to enter the “regular” path of life. If this still does not work out, there is an alternative trajectory which reduces your chances of a free life in almost every way. The criteria for normal and not normal vary depending on where you are from. In some cases skin color or the amount of money is already enough to put you in one of the categories, while in other cases a certain mental health status might determine your trajectory.

However, the way we view skin color, mental health, body composition, physical capacity and book-learning capabilities are all labels and measurements created by us humans. We have defined what is normal and what is not normal. This way, the reigning paradigm can be kept in place easier, and threats to it can be suppressed and quarantined. Think of all the medication prescribed for certain mental health “disorders”. In this, we are made to believe that there is only one reality, and that is the one that is systematically being forced upon us. At the same time we get the false idea that all of this is necessary for our own well-being.

So when we realize this we can come to a point where we might decide to view things a little differently. We can start changing, erasing and refilling parts of the painting of life. Do you agree with the normal – not normal division? Do you think that money is more important than health? Do you agree with the amount of hours we have to work every week? Do you agree with school being more important than playing at home? Do you agree with the idea that somebody who finished his Masters’ degree is smarter than somebody quitting high-school? And do you agree with the idea that when you are not working you are not productive?

These and a million other normal things within our western society are results of this belief-system silently agreed upon. However, when we become aware of this and actively use this awareness, we can make a conscious decision on anything in life. Therefore, my Quest for Authenticity is really about reviewing these concepts and to decide on their part in my life. While there are both useful and useless things to our western society, both of them are there without question until you start questioning them for yourself, and start to paint your own painting.

Redefining Continuously

Personally, in this on-going process I am redefining concepts like the importance of work, time, laziness, health, and money. I am trying to reduce the influence of the latter in my decision taking, by looking for alternatives when it comes to spending it.

Also, feelings of insecurity and fear I try to accept and retrace to it’s origin. These feelings are often based on non-personal beliefs and wreak havoc in my behavior and decision-making capabilities. Seeing them for what they are it is easier to reduce their influence. Still, there are so many other things that I at least try to approach without any preconception, until there is a moment I need to decide on the value of a certain idea. Because, the idea that once we have defined something that this is forever, is an invention of ours as well. We are actually free to redefine our authenticity at any moment.