Friday, June 28, 2013

19 Ways to Overcome Life's Brutal Realities

I recently saw a post on reddit titled "19 Brutal Truths About Life That No One Will Tell You" (here) that really got me thinking about self improvement and the community around it.

That article in particular bothered me because it preys on insecurities. Self-help schemes for centuries have focused on convincing people of their flaws before promising a secret, easy, magic solution. I don't see that  article as a scam, but I think it's a shame that people give that article so much power. Just because it presents every point in a blunt, demeaning fashion that people can relate to (because who doesn't have some insecurity). Most importantly though, that article tears the reader down. Here, I'll present 19 ways for the reader to respond to these "Brutal Truths" and emerge a better person.

1. Get "friendzoned" less by being more attractive
Very, very few people are fundamentally unattractive. Your face is the only part of you that can't be changed (without plastic surgery), and other than horrible asymmetry I guarantee it is not unattractive. Your big nose, tiny eyes, wide lips and other features have very little impact on attractiveness. Whether you are male or female, focus on the basics: reduce body fat, add muscle and take care of your skin and hair. As a bonus, wear clothes that fit and try to smile more.

2. Stop people from talking behind your back by being a better friend
Your friends are absolutely going to talk about you and sometimes it won't be nice. That is unavoidable, but you do it to your friends too. However, you have some friends or colleagues who you tend to say nice things about. Try to be more like him/her. Stop talking bad about your friends to other friends. Start volunteering to drive, to host, or to plan.

3. Stop worrying about unflattering pictures by noticing how normal they are
People over-analyze their faces, but other people aren't paying that much attention to you. Also, you are used to seeing yourself in mirror image so when you see yourself in a photo it looks wrong. Try this: go to facebook and browse the photos of your attractive friends. You'll find an abundance of 'unflattering' photos that you didn't notice and don't change your opinions of the person. How's that for perspective?

4. Deal with sexual jealousy and insecurity by thinking about yourself
Your partner probably fantasizes about her exes from time to time. Maybe that hurts to think about, but your exes are fantasizing about you too. And you fantasize about your exes. And people you've never even talked to fantasize about you. And your girlfriend has fantasized about thirty different celebrities. In the end though, you're the one with her (or him) right now and that is what really matters, because there are three other people out there fantasizing about your girlfriend and wishing they were you.

5. Accept rude thoughts by realizing you won't act on them
Sometimes you think horrible things about other people. Maybe you laugh inside at the bully in highschool that hasn't gotten anywhere, or the girl that rejected you who is now a single mother of three. Our brains think many horrible thoughts. Every person's brain has thought about jumping off a ledge with no intention to actually do it (known as the high-place phenomenon). Realize that having negative thoughts about a person doesn't make you bad. And being glad that a bad thing happened to a person doesn't mean that you'd ever intentionally cause that bad thing to happen to him.

6. Overcome other's judgement by noticing when they are invalid
Never caring about other's judgment is very hard (and silly) to do. Often times, we can take valuable lessons from the opinions of others. Just as often though, the opinions of others aren't fully tied to the reality you live in. When others have an opinion about your current, tangible state, those judgments may be worth considering. You might want to know that others think you smell bad, look unhappy, are too mean, etc. The less valuable judgments are about your capabilities, your future, your motivations and your values - other people almost never get those right.

7. Gain the attention and respect you want by making yourself beneficial to others
People are inherently selfish. Sure, we care selflessly about our existing friends and our families, but in the end, most of our actions and relationships are self-serving. If you find that no one wants to be your friend, or listen to you, or even respect you, let that be a signal that you're doing something wrong. Figure out what people want and be able to provide that (hint: people like feeling cared about, people like money and people like opportunities)

8. Improve other's impression of you by dressing well
The most important part of dressing well is wearing clothes that fit. Second is wearing clothes appropriate to the occasion and culture. I don't know a thing about fashion, but if you want to fit in, wear what everyone else wears. If you want respect, wear the clothes that someone you respect wears.

9. Make the most out of what you have by not regretting past decisions
Take your bad decision and accept that you made it for very good reasons at the time. Maybe you were misled, maybe you didn't care, but what's done is done. Things like college degrees provide value, opportunities and status. If you think your degree is worthless right now, talk to other people who graduated in your class and see what they are doing with their lives - it might surprise you how normal you are.

10. Gain status and money by educating yourself constantly
If you don't have a degree and you have a good job, make time every day to become better at what you do - real world capability is respected more than a diploma. If you don't have a good job, consider going back to school with a practical focus. With the right degree you're practically guaranteed a job with a decent salary. Try Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering or Nursing.

11. Make a better life for your children by building wealth and connections
Providing a good life for your children can be done many ways, but having enough money to raise them right is a big one. If only for your childrens sake, educate yourself to get a high paying job, then network constantly. One day, when you can send them to college and help them land a job every summer, you'll know your effort was worthwhile.

12. Overcome stigma from your past by being the best person you can be now
People may judge you for many things you can't control today - race, gender, family history, educational background, sexual orientation, performance record, criminal history, etc. Some people will always judge you for things you can't control today, but you can shift people's opinions by impressing them. You'll be surprised how fast people will change their opinions of you when you are friendly and helpful to them.

13. Make a difference by being active in your local community
Sometimes you can't control what goes on in your country. Even in a democracy, your vote in one in a million and you're choosing the lesser of two evils. On a smaller scale though, the politicians in your city or country really are people just like you who want to make a positive change by spending 10 hours a week on city council. In fact, many of the biggest changes you can make may be in your own city.

14. Relate better with others by reducing secrecy
Everyone has a few people they trust to the extreme. A secret you tell your girlfriend will probably be told to her best friend, and her best friend's best friend. If you break up, it will be told to her next partner. Some deep personal secrets might never be shared, but you'll find that maintaining less secrecy helps you open up to others - and being open with others helps build strong relationships.

15. Stop wasting time by identifying dead-end relationships
You're likely to have plenty of people in your circle of friends that don't like you very much. It's often easy to tell who they are - the ones that are mean to you in front of mutual friends or the ones that 'forget' to leave you off invitations. Some people just don't like who you are and never will. Identify these people and refocus your time and energy away from them onto the friends that actually care about you.

16. Get offended less by understanding people's motivations
It doesn't matter whether you're mad at a spouse, offended by a stranger's words or hurt by an acquaintance's actions - looking at the situation from their perspective can help lessen negative emotions. People do things for themselves and rarely think about others. 90% of the time when someone hurts you, they weren't doing it for that purpose and considering their possible motivations can help you realize the reality of the situation.

17. Get a better job by improving your qualifications
There is a huge demand for highly qualified workers everywhere in America. There are also huge numbers of mediocre workers vying for (better) jobs. If you want that promotion or that new job, realize that you have to stand out. Go the extra mile, work on a side project, learn how to communicate more efficiently, learn how to dress more appropriately, take a class, apply to similar jobs or do one of a thousand other things to better yourself. When you are more qualified, you'll be surprised how easily opportunities for advancement present themselves.

18. Be happier by cherishing every moment for yourself
When you spend every moment caring what other people are going to think about you, you'll miss enjoying the things in like that you are experiencing. Cherish every moment and precious memory for its own sake without worrying about what other people are thinking.

19. Improve self esteem by fixing one-sided relationships
We've all met people who think they are better than us. There are two good options for dealing with these kind of people. If they're judging for the wrong reasons, forget about them. Never stay in or pursue a relationship where you feel degraded or put down, no matter how great a person seems in your head. However, if a person is judging you for a valid reason, you have the option of improving yourself. If you're unwanted for being fat, poor, unhygienic, mean or uneducated, maybe it is time to reconsider your own choices.

Are you wishing you started thinking this way sooner? See the next piece on Dealing With Regret.

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