Insides and Outsides

This post is inspired by what a friend said to me recently: “Don’t compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides”. Most of us compare ourselves to others at least occasionally, sometimes constantly depending on our self-confidence. It’s sometimes useful to compare ourselves to others but I know that most of the time when I’m comparing myself to someone else I come to the conclusion that that they are much more confident/funnier/smarter/happier than I am. The thing is all we have to judge someone on is their behaviour. Who knows what’s going on underneath? Maybe the person who I thought of as happy all the time actually spends a lot of their time feeling sad or lonely. Maybe the person I see as having their life sorted is actually constantly anxious and stressed about things going to plan.

The truth is the mind is a messy place (If I ever wrote a book it would be called “The mind is a messy place”). And this mess hardly ever shows on the surface because it’s not something we share with most other people. It’s no wonder comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides makes us feel bad. This is something I will endeavour to remember next time I meet someone and wish I was as good as them.

insides and outsides

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And now you’re awake

We all have our own guilty pleasures concerning what we like to watch on TV. Crime dramas for some, documentaries, or maybe the X-factor? Well whatever it is that I’m watching I always get the same experience when the credits start to roll. It’s kind of like I’ve walked into the room again, or like I’ve just woken up and can think my own thoughts once more (as dramatic as that sounds).

All this leads me to wonder what happens to you when you’re watching TV. It’s like our brains become merely reflections of what’s happening on the screen. We may have the occasional thought enter our heads like “I’m sure I know that actor from somewhere” but mostly we’ve turned into blank screens ready for whatever the program is projecting. I think this is the reason we call TV escapism. We literally escape whatever was on our minds but it’ll still be there when the show finishes.

It’s not just when I watch TV either. YouTube is a constant source of distraction for me and is the reason I noticed the “awakening” sensation in the first place. Because on YouTube the videos are typically just a few minutes long and then you have to go looking for another one that will allow you to slip back into your easy-living brainwash state.

While it’s obviously important to let your brain relax for a bit when you’re taking a break from essay writing, data analysis or rocket science for example, I don’t think it’s healthy if you do it too much. In an earlier post I mentioned that you are what your brain does. Personally, I don’t want to be nothing. I want to be me for as much of the time I am on this planet as possible. Although.. I won’t be quitting YouTube cold turkey anytime soon.

I’m hoping at least some of you can relate to this in some way. Maybe? Ok good.

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Can’t buy progress

Whether your goal is to start running, to start reading more, or to learn a new language, pouring money into it won’t guarantee success. Now you have a brand new pair of running trainers doesn’t mean you’re going to start running three times a week like you were telling yourself at the checkout before you walked out of the shop all pleased with yourself. Likewise, just because you purchased an intelligent-looking book or two that you think you should read doesn’t mean you’ll find the time or patience to read and learn from it.

I am very guilty of this particular habit and I think it’s because buying something that you think will help you in whatever goals you set yourself gives you the illusion that you’ve actually done something useful towards attaining that goal. This feeling is enough for you (or me at least) to put off doing anything that will actually help you. It’s like when I buy a book my brain is saying “Wow, well done for making all that effort to go to the shop, you deserve at least several days rest before you start reading it”. Or maybe I think the knowledge will somehow enter my brain if it sits on my desk long enough. I have also been guilty of buying more expensive coffee during term time with the intention that I will be working much harder and therefore need help staying awake. I think I actually drank it more often while watching iPlayer and Youtube.

What I’m trying to say is buying something won’t change the way you behave. Motivation doesn’t come from having the right tools. It comes from you having a goal and, crucially, believing you can achieve it because the single greatest obstacle to achieving something you want is the lack of belief in yourself that you have the necessary aptitude and skills to do so. So motivation from within…meaning you are all you need.

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Thoughts on the brain

The modern philosopher Julian Baggini said “I is a verb dressed as a noun”. He means that we are what our brains do. Like most people I’m sure, I like to think I’m complicated, so I’m happy that the brain is arguably the most complex thing on earth. It’s about 3 pounds in weight, split into two hemispheres, and appears a shiny pink with veins that course the surface. The similarity of our brains hopefully ends with what they look like and what they’re made of. The way in which the billions of neurons are connected is unique to each individual.

My brain for instance associates Cadbury dairy milk with white t-shirts, “Byker Grove” with ice lollies and the smell of blackberries with Belgium. Funnily enough, now your brain has connections between these things too, however weak and temporary they may be. Probably won’t last long… but… have I just made you a little bit more like me?  Hmmm