In the last post for this series, we discovered that:
- Everyone else is scared too
- There is no such thing as a pain-free life
- Happiness is temporary
- You give people status
- Slavery is a mindset
Let us now continue this series, with 5 more life-secrets revealed by building confidence…
1) 99% OF THINGS THAT SCARE YOU DON’T ACTUALLY HURT
Fear keeps us alive. Well, at least it used to. Now it mostly just seems to keep us “safe”, which is something else entirely.
Safety is essentially the absence of risk. Inside your head is a system that constantly assesses risk and has a tendency to push towards safety. But as we’ve seen earlier, safety does not guarantee the absence of pain. So what is safety really?
Comfort. That’s all.
And what we can learn from successful entrepreneurs, athletes and social butterflies is this: if you feel comfortable doing something new, then you’re probably doing it wrong.
If you want the full range of experiences and emotions available to you through living a meaningful life, you will need to take risks. Through taking risks you will prove something to yourself that is one of the most important lessons you will ever learn:
Being afraid doesn’t actually hurt.
Approaching strangers. Public speaking. Starting your own business. All these things that you refuse to do because you associate them with pain.
The problem is that you are confusing emotional turmoil with physical pain. Anxiety doesn’t actually “hurt”, it’s just emotionally unpleasant. Fear does not leave a mark on you. Uncertainty does not make you bleed.
If you think I’m wrong, then prove it. Go try something positive that you’re currently anxious about, and then show me the damage afterwards.
2) THE WORLD ONLY EXISTS INSIDE YOUR HEAD
One thing neuroscience and other fields of psychology have taught us is that reality is subjective. There is no such thing as absolute truth. Even science itself cannot give a final answer, it can only ask further questions.
Reality is basically a movie playing inside your head, being watched by the Observing Self in your conscious awareness (something that just seems impossible to specifically locate by the way… please let me know if anyone has been able to find it).
Sound hits the cilia hairs in your ears, creating vibrations which are transcribed into electrical signals, and then played as “sound” inside your head.
Light hits your eyes, is turned upside down for some reason, and is then projected as an imaginary moving set of photographs to a location where you “think” your eyes are.
Touch is electrical signals. Thoughts are intangible bits of image and language. Feelings are impossible to grasp.
The point is that each person’s reality is slightly different. My version of the colour purple may be different to yours, but we’ll never know because you can’t see through my eyes. The same is true for beliefs. Whatever you believe now could be completely shattered tomorrow. The entire population used to believe the Earth was flat. Some people still do.
Confident people regularly experience the unpleasant feeling of having their beliefs challenged. They can often come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as definitive right and wrong; there is merely belief.
Nowadays I personally seek to be proven “wrong”.
Hold your beliefs lightly, because they have been created by your brain, and one thing we know for sure about the human brain is that it is pretty damn unreliable at being objective.
3) TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE ONLY LEADS TO SUFFERING
Many of us were raised to seek approval. We have a genetic predisposition towards being accepted by the tribe for our survival needs.
Check out my previous article on people-pleasing here.
Turns out we can usually survive on our own if needed (though not recommended, as I’ll explain later). So we’re living in an interesting time where we are wired for an environment that no longer exists.
Worst of all, to avoid abandonment we develop the strategy to please others and seek approval while we are still children. Children are basically stupid. They are in no position to develop complex social strategies. Yet by the time you are an adult you are conditioned to maintain and live by your crappy childhood strategy.
Trying to please everyone guarantees that you have to be fake. There is simply too much variation in taste to be able to both stay consistent and keep everyone else happy. To keep everyone happy you must have a flexible and manufactured identity. And even the most manipulative “nice” people in the world can’t get it right all the time.
Pleasing everyone will give you two definite outcomes: some people will still hate you anyway, and you will never feel like you get to be “yourself”.
Nothing but suffering.
Try not pleasing others for a while. You don’t have to suddenly become Mr or Mrs Assertive. Just stop trying to make others like you. You’ll quickly see how much easier it is.
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4) PERFECTIONISM IS NOT A VIRTUE BUT A CURSE
I used to be perfect. No really, I was actually perfect. Completely flawless and shiny and wonderful without even the hint of weakness. I was amazing.
OK… I may be bullshitting here.
But I certainly did try to be all of that. I secretly patted myself on the back for being a “perfectionist”. I would proudly tell others that I was a perfectionist, the way someone who has been wounded in battle shows his scars. I was the hero who was willing to get it all perfect, no matter what the cost.
Turns out no one felt sympathy for me. Odds are, they just thought I was a know-it-all dickhead. My nickname at my previous job was “Golden Boy”.
Perfectionists are actually the least likely to do something “perfect”. Because there are only 24 hours in a day, some of which MUST be spent sleeping occasionally, you lack the capacity and resources to be perfect. When you try to be perfect always, you end just being average in everything.
You want to get something perfect, or close to it? It can be done. But it requires many other things to be sacrificed. You will have to learn to let go of do everything perfectly.
“In order to do big good things, you must allow little bad things to happen” – Tim Ferriss, The 4 hour work week.
5) MOST OF WHAT PEOPLE HAVE TAUGHT YOU IS WRONG
People are always happy to give advice. Most of the time, when they help you out in this way, they are lying to you.
People are so eager to be seen as smart and helpful that they prefer lying over saying “Uh… I dunno”.
Think of your parents and teachers. Do you really think that they knew everything? Is it so hard to believe that at some point in time they just thought “Hell with it, I’ll make something up, that’ll get him off my back”?
Even worse, most of the information they’ve received is from an unreliable source. Bullshit is passed down from generation to generation, from father to son, from teacher to student. The amount of times I’ve heard someone say “Well, they’ve done studies that prove…”
What studies? When? What were the control groups? Were they peer-reviewed? Who are “They” exactly? Just what the hell are you even talking about? Do you even know?
My flatmate, a hilarious character, told me the other night “Kiwifruit is good for your guts”. He’d had some stomach issues and been eating some Kiwifruit for a couple of days. When I queried how legitimate his claim was, he just said “Well, I’m making it a fact”. We both do this: make something up and tell other people as though it’s the full truth. It’s fun!
Take what you hear with a grain of salt. If the topic is important to you, then go and find out yourself. Learn the information first-hand. And no, teachers/mentors are not first-hand sources of information.
DOING IT YOURSELF is the only way to learn.
STAY TUNED, WE HAVE 2 MORE ARTICLES TO COME IN THIS SERIES!