A few weeks ago, I went to an event for personal development. It was fun and got to know a few interesting people. Besides, some theories that have to do with personal development can be quite challenging. One that I’ve already mentioned here on the blog is the concept that a positive mindset can and will change everything. According to that idea, you are the creator of your reality because you can controll how your mind works. For example you can complain about a shitty party and regret having paid way too much to get in there and for the disgusting booze they serve, or you can choose to make the best out of it and decide to have an awesome time. Tbh, I have no clue how you can decide to have an awesome time if everything around you is awful, but I guess that’s just my underdevelopped personality speaking.
Now to sum up what I wrote in that other blogpost, I do think that a positive attitude is definitely helpful, but in my opinion that alone won’t help much.
Related to the the concept of being in control of your fate by choosing a positive mindset is the concept of freedom. The opposite of that are limiting beliefs – meaning stuff that’s based on personal assumptions. For example saying things like “I can’t just go talk to that person.”, “Bungee jumping is too dangerous.”, “Sharks are evil.”… would fall into the category of limiting beliefs. So in that logic, if you free yourself from your own limiting beliefs, then you’re free to do whatever you want. Which leads me to a conversation I had this afternoon.
As much as I appreciate and also encourage personal growth, some of the personal development theories slightly make me think of cults. When you hear stuff like “Our fates are just the products of our thinking” and “We are all god-like creatures”, or even “Everything the universe has created is perfect” I can’t help but roll my eyes. I also hate phrases like “I love all creatures”. The person I talked to today claimed he loves Trump, just because he’s human as we all are. Sorry, but this is the dullest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Nothing in life is just love and happiness. There has to be some rage, some drama, maybe even a few schemes and feuds. And if it’s just to keep things interesting. If things were supposed to always be brilliant, nothing but peace and happiness, why would anyone love soap operas? Or Gossip Girl. I for one am a big fan. (And let’s be honest, the outfits weren’t THAT great.) – And if there’s some higher power that created humans, I guess it loves soap operas as well. Think of all the drama, wars, sex, crime, whatever we have on earth. And then imagine being able to get a private closeup to every single scene, like a VIP access. Who needs VR if you can have omnipresence?
Equally weird as the phrases I mentioned above is the belief that we’re absolutely free when in comes to the decisions we make. If we’re honest, can anyone experience absolute freedom? In my opinion, the answer to that question is a clear and resounding no. And the main reason is that we’re human beings, which means that we actually need the contact to others to stay alive. More, being in a relationship, being in love is like a drug, we’re nothing but little junkies getting high on our daily interactions. So of course, all of our conventions, all of our values are pretty much based on how each inviduum is acting within a group. And honestly, I don’t believe people who say that they don’t care about what others think of them. Maybe they don’t care about a certain group. I for example couldn’t care less about what people in a karaoke bar think of me (my poor friends can confirm). But then there are numerous situations where I actually do care and where I’ll probably be more likely to “play by the rules”, meaning and stick to social conventions, even if it’s just a facade. Like a little white lie.
Besides, did you know that keeping up the social charade where you don’t always speak your mind is actually is proof of good taste? A few centuries ago, this was described as decorum, or in another word, etiquette. And it wasn’t just used to make living and interacting with other humans easier. One could also use it strategically by wisely choosing what to say to whom. When I think of decorum, I always think of Cersei. (Side note: Why do people hate her? I honestly don’t get it.)
But are you truly free if your entire behavior only shows certain aspects of you? I don’t think so. And before you’re pronouncing that outcry I’ve already heard so many times, before you say, “Oh no, I’m always authentic!” or “I would never manipulate people that way!”, go ask yourself: Have you ever omitted an information just because you were embarrassed? Have you ever complimented someone on a new haircut that, in fact, was butt ugly? Have you ever cancelled a date or a party under some dumb pretext just because you preferred staying home with your cat instead of being social? Or have you ever called in sick at work when the only issue you had was a slight hangover paired with a massive feeling of laziness? (Just for the record, I would count massive hangovers as sick, I mean they’re just a version food poisoning.) Or have ever you worried about the neighbors or roommates being able to hear the noise of you while being with your significant other? If at least one of these scenarios is familar to, I welcome you to the world of everyday manipulation. And for every lie we tell, we give up a little amount of freedom, even if it’s nothing but the brain space which is used to remember which lie we told whom. But we’re social beings. If we would have to choose between absolute freedom aka no social conventions, just brutal honesty on one hand, and a healthy social life on the other, I’m pretty sure we would always choose the latter. So instead of telling your friend to get a life because s.he’s been annoying you with boring stories about her.his non-existing love life, you sit patiently, thinking about all the other possibilities how you could have spent your afternoon instead of listening to that crap, mourning the fact that you decided to be a good friend who’s there for the other, but already plotting your revenge – the moment when you need a catsitter, well knowing that your cat’s an asshole – but of course, not mentioning any of this because after all, you really really want to be a good friend, even if it means being in pain for a few moments. And since you’re such a good friend, you of course brought some wine to cheer your friend up, completly ignoring the fact that you’re the one drinking all of it, because your suffering in this exact moment is muuuuuch bigger.
Now one could argue that being free doesn’t mean not taking responsability for your actions, and I totally agree. But the thing is that the functioning on our socitey is mostly based on some sort of compromise, even if it’s a compromise we maybe wouldn’t make if our social standing wasn’t endangered if we didn’t play along. Besides, since we’re not even fully aware how conventions may or may not impact us, the idea of doing something just because you think it may be your personal preference is totally fake. Take shaving for example. Is it really a choice that you fully make on your own, or does shaving or not-shaving always include a message you want to send? Either way, it automatically includes other people. That in my opinion, has nothing to do with freedom.
And I won’t even get to the point where I explain that freedom, no matter if real or fake, is just momentarily. No one can ever claim it for forever. Other people can take way too much of control over your life, may it be by hiearchy, family status, or by holding you hostage. So saying that everyone is free in their actions is total BS. Maybe next time, I’ll ask one of the you-have-the-power-to-create-your-own-destiny-people what their opinion on prostitution is. Or if there’s an age threshold to pass in order to have the power of creating your destiny. I’m thinking of human trafficking and child abuse here. Are the victims free to choose their destiny? Or, referring to my previous blogpost here, did they have it coming because of their shitty mindset?
But also, just living in a normal household and having a curfew kinda limits your freedom.
But even if we don’t concentrate on the importance other people have on our freedom, we ourselves are not free. Our biological needs prevent that. If I want to go on a 60-days-hike, start just like that, not bring any water or food, well, I won’t be able to. I’ll die instead. If I have everything, even in abundance, just except human contact, I’ll die. Humans are not supernatural, god-like beings. We simply can’t do whatever pleases us just because. We would have to bring a suitcase for example. But that would be a compromise, since it would be hindering while moving around for example.
We’re not totally free.
So to answer to the question I raised in the hedline: Freedom is nothing but an idea. There’s no total freedom. For everything we do, every decision we make, there’s a price to pay. One could even go as far and say everything in life is a transaction. (Maybe I’ll get to that in another blogpost.) I know, it sounds depressing. But freedom is a concept created by humans, as is society. So it’s not really surprising that it’s flawed, is it?