Tag Archives: self-improvement

Seal of Approval

funny-seal-picture-photo

Hello, reader!  How’s your week going so far?

When I was a child, it took me quite a while to work out that the phrase “seal of approval” referred to a stamp-type thing on a piece of paper, not an actual seal who followed you around and nodded approvingly when you did something right.  (Trips to the zoo became slightly less fun after this revelation, if I’m totally honest.)

In modern life, seals of approval come in many forms: likes on Facebook statuses and photos, retweets, promotions at work and the knowledge that awesome people like being your friends.  This is all very well and good, but how much time do we commit to gaining the approval of the only people who matter: ourselves?

I freely admit that I rely too much on the good opinion of other people.  Hence the writing, I guess.  I have built my entire professional life around entertaining other people, and it’s not that different in my personal life: I am one of those people who automatically assumes that an unanswered text means that the recipient despises me, for example.  I’m exaggerating, but modern life does encourage us to believe that silence is passive aggressive and that a friendship isn’t real until you’re connected on Facebook.  Not the healthiest way to approach social interaction, is it?

How do we fix this?  Can we go about our lives in a way that balances a strong sense of self-worth with knowing the value of other people’s respect?  Is there an attitude that will allow us to like ourselves enough not to worry too much about our reputations, but at the same time make sure that our reputations stay intact?  Can we be the best versions of ourselves without needing to hear about it from the people around us?

Some people are already able to do this, of course.  Lucky you, if you’re one of those types.  But for the rest of us, whatever aspect of our lives/upbringings/personalities has led us to this point, we need to focus on gaining our own respect before we work for anyone else’s.  You know the irritating but true phrase “no one will love you until you learn to love yourself”?  Well, it’s the same with respect (and slightly less cloying to think about): what use is anyone else’s if you haven’t got your own?

Pursuit of what we know (or hope) will make us better people is the key to finding self-respect.  Think about the people you admire in life: the achievers, the constants, the optimists.  All of those people have worked hard to achieve those great feats and obtain those virtues.  They identified what they wanted to be or do, and then pursued it for their own sense of self worth.  If they can do it, you can, too.

It’s like playing Pokemon on a GameBoy (showing my age here): when you’re working towards a gym badge in those games, you don’t give a crap what Team Rocket are up to.  In reality, when you’re working towards becoming a better version of yourself, you forget about what other people think of you.  You know deep down that your opinion is the only one which matters.

Having said that, I think all of our self-improvement programmes would develop much more rapidly if seals actually followed us around and applauded our good deeds.  I’ll have to look into that.

Have a stupendous Tuesday.

Give Up and Give Out

2014-02-21 20.05.24

My friends are wonderful, intelligent and fascinating people, but sometimes their decisions defy logic.

This afternoon I went for a meal at T.G.I. Friday’s with a group of my closest friends, and we had a brilliant time together.  Three of us were waiting for the others at the bar for a few minutes, and our conversation went like this:

“Oh God, I’m so hungover.”
“Me too.”
“Urrrrrgggh.  What drink are you getting?”
“Bloody Mary.”
“Blueberry mojito.”
“URRRRGGGH.”

As you can see, our awareness of consequences does not always extend to making good decisions.  Lent starts this week, and although I am not particularly religious on a day to day basis, I am as ready as the next person to take advantage of the season of self-improvement.

I have decided (except on my birthday) not to drink alcohol during Lent.  Don’t look at me like that; I mean it.  Sadly, this is based on fairly small-minded concerns like money, calorie intake and my social graces (or lack thereof).  I think that most people give up things during Lent for similar reasons, though.  People give up smoking and junk food because they want to be healthier, not because they think that their decision will do the wider world any good.  I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that per se,  but I think during Lent it’s important to try to think about other people, too.

Again, this isn’t based on a religious idea so much as the premise that if you are working on self-improvement physically or personally by subtracting a bad habit, you should use the extra time/money/energy you have to go out and contribute something positive to someone else.  My house mate, who is already very good at thinking of others and being generous towards them, is considering taking up volunteering during Lent.  She’s suggested to me that I take up some kind of mentoring position, perhaps in a local school.  The whys, wherefores and the “holy crap, not another CRB check” aside, I am pretty excited about helping people.

It would be very easy  for someone like me (i.e. an unemployed person) to get bogged down worrying about myself and what will happen to me.  I am incredibly lucky, because I have got amazing friends and family who support my decision not to go after anymore office jobs, so I don’t actually have to worry about myself right now.  What I should be focusing on is how the extra time I’ve got on my hands can be used to help other people.

Obviously it would be nice to say that I will maintain my Lent resolutions forever, not just for a couple of months.  I should, in fact, be thinking about other people all the time, not just in the run up to Easter.  Some people think that it’s pointless to give up bad habits for a pre-defined period of time, and that’s fair enough.  But I hope that in making myself stick to a certain routine of behaviour for a matter of weeks, I will learn good habits that I will carry on automatically after Easter.  You never know…

Have a lovely evening everyone!