Introducing… Star Wars mindfulness!

Star Wars mindfulness: Master Yoda lays it downLike any other pre-90’s kid with a beating heart, I love the classic Star Wars mythology. Now, with the obvious out of the way, you’re probably wondering what Star Wars mindfulness is all about. In fact, how are the two things related at all?

If nothing else, you’ve at least heard of Star Wars, because you have an internet connection, and a fairly normal human perception. Mindfulness, on the other hand, although a greatly expanding phenomenon, still seems to be somewhat less pervasive in the public domain.

This is also part of the reason it seems near-impossible for anyone practicing mindfulness to talk about it in a manner that doesn’t seem like they want you to join some neo-religious cult of sorts.

But if you haven’t heard of mindfulness before, it is, among other things, a way of practicing meditation. This description from Psychology Today is quite apt:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.“

I shouldn’t have to elaborate as to the benefits of meditation if you’re often struggling with low confidence and self-esteem. In fact, practicing meditation could reduce quite a few of the problems of non-fident people.*

Anyway, as it turns out, Star Wars mindfulness is just totally a thing.

It first occurred to me when I was watching “The Empire Strikes Back” for the umpteenth time, having learned about mindfulness since the last time. For this purpose, I’ll be concentrating on Luke’s initial Jedi training.

When Luke first visits master Yoda, he’s restless, edgy, and impatient to get started. Yoda, being Yoda, then tells like it is:

“For 800 years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment; the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away. To the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was; what he was doing.“

Non-fident people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future. Confident people accept their past by learning from their mistakes, and they prepare for the future by making the best of the present moment.

From then on, those Star Wars mindfulness moments just keep piling up.

When Yoda trains Luke in lifting rocks, he tells him to “feel” the rocks, and to concentrate. Of course, concentration per se might be a little misleading, since mindfulness isn’t about deliberately straining our minds.

But mindfulness IS about undivided focus. And to lift the rocks, Luke must give them this focus by “feeling” them, by concentrating on them, one at a time.

It becomes even clearer when Yoda tells Luke about the Force before he is to enter the Cave of Evil: “Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight.“ About how the dark side is “quicker, easier, more seductive”. And about how one will know the difference between the two sides when one is “calm, at peace, passive“.

This is, essentially, all another good reason to practice mindfulness. We so often give in to the basic human condition of fear that we often get carried away by it, only to find ourselves struggling negative emotions galore.

But when we’re calm, passive, and at peace, it’s much easier for us to distance ourselves from those emotions.

When Luke starts asking questions, Yoda quickly cuts him off: “No. There is no “why”. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions”.

This, like mindfulness, is about acceptance. When we’re mindful, we accept things for what they are. We neither actively reject or pursue any information or idea. We simply let them pass through us without judgment.

Finally, before Luke enters the Cave of Evil, Yoda tells him that it contains “only what you take with you”. This applies to how we perceive and judge things. When we’re mindful, we observe things without labelling or judging them. But when we label or judge something, we ascribe it certain traits — positive or negative — that we bring along.

It’s only because Luke fears Vader that he sees him in the cave. — And, as he destroys the apparition and sees his own severed head, he sees how the fear might end up destroying himself.

Ultimately, when Luke returns to face Vader in “Return of the Jedi”, he is stoic and calm. You can almost detect the hint of a smile in the corners of his mouth. Having successfully learned the ways of the Jedi, he is able to withstand the temptation to fight the Dark Side, throw down his lightsaber, and take the path of calmness and peace.

Of course, Luke already has the Force within him that enables him to destroy the Death Star in “A New Hope”. And that’s kinda the beauty of it all. Because I totally think we all have the Force within us, and we should all find out how we’re gonna use it. And mindfulness helps us do that.

I could go on and on about Star Wars mindfulness. But don’t just take my word for it. Other people have long made the same discovery as I. Like I said: Star Wars mindfulness is totally a thing.

I was planning to be totally original and end this with a well-meant “may the Force be with you”. But for the purpose of generally writing about confidence and confidence-related issues, I’ll quote Yoda one last time. From when Luke complains about being unable to levitate his X-wing fighter from the swamp:

So certain are you. Always with you what cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?


* Sources: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2013/03/how-mindfulness-can-increase-self-confidence/; https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift/201411/overcoming-low-self-esteem-mindfulness; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ed-and-deb-shapiro/meditation-self-esteem_b_1803862.html

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Forget about never being made fun of: Here’s what to do instead

Being made fun of happens to everyone, and it's not up to us to decide the details. So we might as well embrace it.Being made fun of is probably one of the most common fears among people with confidence and self-esteem issues. And for many a good reason.

With the possible exception of Larry David and other deliberately self-deprecating comedians, nobody likes being made fun of. When somebody makes fun of us, a part of us is involuntarily exposed beyond our control. We don’t get to decide when it happens, or in front of whom, or the specific subject matter.

If we feel particularly vulnerable towards ridicule, we might feel like preventing being made fun of by only surrounding ourselves with asskissers and yes-men. But really, show me just one person who’s effectively made that idea work.

Or, we might feel like not surrounding ourselves with people at all — yet another common go-to idea amongst non-fidents. And can you guess if that’s really a good, sensible idea?

Yeah, I thought so.

So, what do we do about being made fun of, then?

Well, as with a great many other things in life, there are options. And, as with life in general, there’s no manual. So, in practice, it really comes down to personal preference and simply winging it.

However, if we wish to take the path of confidence, there are certain things to consider.

You see, confidence is all about latitude and inclusiveness. The more confident we are, the bigger we consider ourselves. And the bigger we consider ourselves, the more we allow ourselves to contain. Even being made fun of.

This doesn’t mean we should lie down and take one insult after another like a little, submissive bitch. It means we should consider the reasons we might FEEL like a little, submissive bitch. Is it someone else “making” us feel this way? Or would we feel this way at all if we weren’t disposed towards it in the first place?

This is a provocative question, I know. And as such, it’s all the more important to consider.

And here’s something else…

Have you ever noticed how no matter what happens in any given week, satirical shows will necessarily find a way to poke fun at it?

In fact, have you ever noticed how you’re not the only person being made fun of? And, indeed, have you ever noticed how anyone can, in principle, make fun of anything, at any time?

Yes, they can. And this just so happens to include you. And me. In fact, everyone.

This is one of those inescapable conditions of being human. There’s no changing it.

And this is why, when we try to actively escape or refrain from being made fun of, it only makes us look even more pathetic and hilarious. Because, considering how far we’ve come as a civilization, certain human traits ARE still pretty inelegant.

So accept it. Forget about never being made fun of. Instead, learn to embrace and love the idea that anyone can, in principle, make fun of anything, at any time — including you. Anything else is just fear-based insecurity.

Which everybody has. It’s just that confident people act in spite of it. And Hell, confident people even make fun of themselves.

MENTAL EXERCISE

1) Turn off your phone, and eliminate all other possible distractions.
2) Close your eyes.
3) Now imagine that you’re 200 feet tall and made out of diamonds.
4) Get heavy on the details. Imagine your surroundings. Where are you at? Is it a city? If yes, which one, and which part of it?
Try walking around. What do people, buildings, animals, cars, streets, etc. look like from up there?
Engage your other senses as well. Are you hearing the wind more clearly up there? Maybe tasting the cool air?
Are you walking slowly and confidently? Do movements seem slower? Maybe less risky than usual?

Try doing this for 5 minutes. Notice how you feel afterwards.

It’s when we think of ourselves as big that we grow a little.

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Forget about forgetting your insecurity — here’s what to do instead!

Only when we accept our insecurity will we get confidence to move on.Deep down, we’d all like to be able to simply forget — or delete — our insecurity.

Some people will claim that we’re better off having insecurity. Because it’s a natural, human trait that keeps us grounded and in touch with our humility.

But when someone with certain ambitions also has low confidence… They just wanna find that insecurity and simply press ‘delete’.

I know you’re out there, and I totally hear you.

However, here’s why we need to go about it a different way…:

Obviously there’s the fact that doing away with a considerable part of our mindset tends to be a time- and ressource-demanding process.

But there’s also the fact that when we want to get rid of something, first we need to accept it.

Those of you who struggle with stress and panic anxiety will know this. The more we fight it, the worse it tends to get. It doesn’t start to go away until we calmly and openly acknowledge and accept that it’s there.

It’s like that for all imaginable problems, really.

Hell, just imagine trying to walk on a broken leg because you won’t accept that it’s broken. Not exactly clever, yeah?

When we accept something, we grow a little. I’m all about personal growth, and this case is no exception.

Because, just like with stress and anxiety, when we embrace insecurity, its influence lessens because we allow ourselves to contain it.

When we’re big enough, we can contain anything. Including the things that have been opposing us. And if we simply absorb our obstacles, they’re no longer in our way.

Pretty cool philosophy, right?

Furthermore, if you’ve ever been insecure, you’ll always remember that feeling no matter how hard you try to forget it. So really, it’s no use. But the root of the matter is, it’s not about forgetting; it’s about learning to ignore it at the right moments.

And yes, I specifically use the word ‘ignore‘ here. Some might think me self-contradictory for talking about embracing insecurity first and  then simply ignore it. But really, this is how confident people do it.

Given the right set of circumstances, anyone can feel insecure about something. This is basic, primal neural functions at work. We’re hardwired to look for trouble. But that doesn’t mean there’s really anything to be insecure about. So we need to learn to distinguish between real and perceived threats. Then, we’ll be able to tell our insecurity to calm down when it’s not useful.

Which, in fact, it rarely is.

Now, apart from acknowledging your insecurity, there are several things you can do that will naturally diminish it.

If done right, meditation helps. Also, exercise is always a good thing. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep should go without saying. (And then, of course, there’s confidence coaching, which I most heartily recommend!)

Different things work for different people. But however you live your life, always remember this:

Everyone feels insecurity. Even confident people. It’s what we DO about it that shows our real character.

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Okay, so you messed up. Now what?

If you messed up something, you might feel embarrassed. But mistakes are necessary if you wanna build confidence.Okay. So you did something wrong. Maybe you made a social blunder; maybe you carried out some task and failed. In short: You messed up.

For people with low confidence, failure can be downright devastating.

I know. Because I used to be ashamed of things I did or said. All the time.

And I’m not talking about calmly realizing one’s wrongdoing and immediately learning from it. I’m talking an involuntary panic-anxiety-attack-like-muscle-spasms-complete-with-grinding-teeth-and-making-noises sorta sensation.

With an inner voice going like: “Screw you! You messed up, and you’re useless! You’re unable to do anything right, and you should be locked away! You messed up, and that’s all you’re ever gonna do!

Every day, several times.

And it doesn’t even have to be something big. It could be a misused word, a social faux pas… anything.

When non-fident people react drastically to making any kind of mistake, it’s because non-fidence is often accompanied by low self-esteem, perfectionism, and insecurity.

When we have low self-esteem, we tend to judge ourselves more vigorously than we would our peers. If we don’t like ourselves, we’re hard on ourselves. Simple as that.

But moreover, if we don’t allow for ourselves to make mistakes, we develop perfectionism. Which, in turn, makes it seem so much worse to us when we do make a mistake. — Or even do something in a manner less than “perfect”. (Which, as I’ve written about before, is a BS notion.)

And then there’s the insecurity, which doesn’t allow for much space for mistakes, nor for even trying. This is governed by the amygdala — the reptilian part of our brain — most commonly known for our “fight or flight” mechanism.

See, amongst our primitive ancestors, social identity was way more important than today. Dangers were all around. If you messed up something, it could get you expelled from your tribe and thrown out into the wilderness on your own.

All of this perfectly illustrates the dangerous downward spiral of non-fidence. If we have low regard for ourselves we make less space for ourselves to make mistakes. This, in turn, causes making mistakes to be even more likely, which, then, will only lead to much more self-loathing and shame.

Because we DO make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. We know this perfectly well, yet tend to act like we’re the only flawed person alive.

But here’s the kicker:

Confident people make WAY many more mistakes than less confident people.

The more confident you are, the less regard you give to other people’s opinion about you. The higher you think of yourself, the less you worry about making mistakes. You know perfectly well that your rights outnumber your wrongs. You know perfectly well that you’re able to learn from your mistakes.

Indeed, if you don’t make mistakes, you can never learn. And if you don’t learn, you don’t grow.

In other words:

For every time you messed up something in life, you had the opportunity to learn, grow, and prevent yourself from making the same mistake again.

So get out there and mess up. Badly. Learn, improve, repeat. And as you learn and grow, watch as your confidence grows with you.

ACTION ITEM:

The next time you’re embarrassed about something, use the following method:

  1. Stop what you’re doing.
  2. Breathe. Ten long, deep breaths.
  3. Think. Realize that whatever negative response on your part are merely thoughts, and that they’re not necessarily true, constructive or favourable.
  4. Choose how you want to feel about what happened. Do you genuinely want to be ashamed? Or would you rather accept, learn, and grow?

The choice is yours.

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Why the idea of “perfection” is BS

Leonard Cohen, rest his weary bones, knew, perhaps better than most, that perfection is BS.This one should go without saying, right? I mean, of course perfection is BS. Nobody could take an abstract ideal like that serious, could they?

Well, actually, it would seem so.

How many times have you looked at the cover of any men’s magazine and thought, “My God, Carmen Electra’s just perfect!” – only to immediately deem her out of your league? (Substitute for any model of your choice, if you will.)
Or, if you’re a girl, that your body could never be anywhere near as perfect?

I know, right?

Perfection is BS, because it is, pretty much by definition, something unattainable. So why do people keep striving for it?

While everyone may not literally be striving for perfection, we sure do tend to act like it’s a real thing, – and then ultimately feel bad about how it’s beyond our reach.

I’m willing to bet that 100% of anyone reading this has, at some point in their lives, compared themselves or something they did to someone or something else that they considered perfectly flawless, only, then, to feel imperfect – and, in turn, inferior.

To a certain extent, this is what made me quit playing the guitar. I thought that I could never possibly be as outerwordly gifted as Dimebag Darrell. – And when I tried pushing myself towards his levels of speed, all I got was beginning signs of tenosynovitis!

When we do this to ourselves, we’re unconsciously being self-destructive. By holding ourselves to preposterously unfair standards, we fixate ourselves in a sense of inferiority. We think of ourselves as being of lesser worth.

This type of thought and behavior is ultimately dangerous because it’s self-affirming: The lesser we think of ourselves, the more we see perfection anywhere but ourselves, thereby effectively downward-spiraling deeper still into low self-esteem and depression.

“Well, shit. What’s the good news?” Glad you asked:

The notion of perfection – flawlessness; precise accuracy etc. – doesn’t even apply to our daily lives!

Unless you’re dealing with geometry or mathematical concepts (even which, for all intents and purposes, are merely principal human constructions), there is no such thing as “perfection”. Perfection is BS.

Now say it with me:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “PERFECTION”. PERFECTION IS BS.

One man’s masterpiece is another man’s garbage. Even my favorite books, movies, and albums could be improved upon one way or another. Hell, even Carmen Electra probably has some sort of cosmetic flaw or irregularity (of which I wish to remain blissfully unaware).

By and large, “perfection” is an infinity-multiplied notion of one or more positive qualities. – An idealized matter of personal opinion. Which, for the record, does not equal “truth”.

However, that doesn’t mean that the idea of perfection is utterly useless. On the contrary, we can use perfection as a means of motivation.

When used right, perfection should be considered nothing but a principal ideal to pursue – not to ultimately attain. If we aim for perfection, we can’t help but improve a little all the time. It’s when we expect perfection that we set ourselves up for failure.

As the saying goes, “Strive for progress, not perfection”. Or, as another saying goes, “Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.

(Whichever you prefer).

Or, as my personal favorite goes:

I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve.

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