Why Self-Improvement May Not Be What The Doctor Ordered

Self improvement is a billion dollar industry. The industry thrives on you believing that there’s something wrong with you. That you’re incomplete the way you are. That you’re worthless.

I am the by-product of billions of years of evolution. A biological machine that is perfect in every regard. I’m primed to do the job I was created for. And that job is to survive long enough to procreate, to pass on my genes and continue the race.

The very basic assumption of our society is that we are inadequate in some way or other. In this manner we are peddled penis enhancements in the same breadth as a certain author peddles a ‘secret’ for better living. Stuff like that makes me nauseous these days. I won’t for a moment pretend I was above such puerile bull, hitching on to the self-improvement bandwagon with ardor. If the whole world tells me that I’m inadequate in some way or another, then I must be! is how my thought process works in this regard, and so does yours I bet.

There’s a noise around us. The noise of people telling us what to do and how to be and what is right or not and what is good and bad. The noise isn’t easy to ignore precisely because it’s all pervading.

It only takes a moment to be aware of the noise that’s around you; the noise of newspapers and magazines telling you that you’re unattractive, of TV ads promoting machines that will give you 6 pack abs with almost no effort; of a million books telling you how to make that first million dollars or the one telling you how you should keep smiling and ‘think positive’, even though you may have lost your job, your home and maybe even family.

The noise tells you that you are only a few steps away from achieving perfection, and yes, you can buy it, and it’s at half rate for a limited period only!

Even if you’re a skeptic at first, somewhere down the line with years of being exposed to that noise, you begin to believe it. You are mired into the ugly web and society conditions you to go to the gym and take your vitamins and put on your sunscreen so that you can look and feel perfect.

What’s happening here in the background you ask? What’s happening is that you are programmed to believe you are imperfect and then given a solution to your imperfections! Hence the popularity of fairness cream (why is being ‘dark’ a bad thing again?) or any of the assorted ‘brand’ images we are bombarded with in every waking moment.

I’m not saying don’t buy into it. That it’s ALL a scam. That it’s only feeding the $500 Billion industry that is Self-improvement. There may be some good people out there who do this so that you can be a better person. But ultimately know this – ALL these people speak through personal experience; and that’s something you can’t buy. Eventually you need to stop reading and get out there and put things into action. Lying back with your head on the pillow and muttering positive statements over and over like some book suggests would probably get you nowhere. But don’t take my word for it. Read all you want and try and put those ‘principles’ into practice. And come back to rub it in my face and tell me how you made your million following those principles. Maybe I’ll renege on my words in this post and dedicate a post on your magnanimousness. Till then, peace, it’s 7 am and I really need to sleep.

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A Social Animal

It’s been an ordeal. Yes, that is how I’d like to describe this ‘no social networks’ self-imposed abstinence. This ‘ordeal’ was compounded by the fact that on day 2 (Monday) I formatted my phone and lost my phone contacts. The online backup I managed to bungle and ended up with nothing. 0 frickin’ phone contacts. Upsetting? Yes. Pissing off? VERY.

I had made a note of what I did all through out the first 24 hours and lost that as well. Coupled with a about 2 dozen other notes, some very important. I’ve managed to survive that alongside.

I’m not saying there haven’t been positive developments which have come as a direct result of my fast. It’s got me going out a lot more, making more calls, just wanting the company of people. I think that social networks take care of that to a large extent for a lot of people.

Man is a social animal. That is all I remember from my civics textbook back in school. And it’s something that has been reinforced in me over the years. This need for being a part of a group or society has its roots in our ancestry and is, to a great extent, why humans today are the superior race on this planet. Being social enabled us to fight off stronger foes in the jungle, raise our offspring in a secure and loving environment and work towards the general survival of the societies we were a part of. This is still, largely, how our brains are wired. Our brain rewards us every time we partake in any activity that is deemed as a group or social activity, because it directly influences our survival in a positive manner. On the other hand, if we stay away from interacting with others too long, our brain releases stress hormones that adversely affect our well being. It definitely is a physical response that you feel when you can’t log in to facebook or twitter. Ever heard of solitary confinement and wondered why prisoners dread it? People have gone insane and have been severely psychologically destabilized as a result of being incarcerated in solitary. THAT is how much being alone or without company affects us.

Logically speaking, social networks are a great way to stay in touch with people you can’t reasonably connect with on a regular basis. But take that too far and you end up disconnecting yourself from the real world, preferring to stay connected to people from the comfort of your armchair or through a phone. Ask me if you have any doubts about whether that really happens to people. The thing is, although social networks may give the illusion of being connected, what it really does is allows you to connect and disconnect as you please, switching on or off as your mood fancies. This may seem great at first, having the choice to be with people or being alone, instantaneously, at the push of a button. But ask yourself, is this a really healthy way to maintain or build relationships? Is the time when you switch off spent in fruitful contemplation and productive activity or is it just the interim period between ‘log ins’?

I’ve completed 100 hours of staying logged out of my social networks. I will be the first to admit it has been hard. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park for someone who’s connected 16 hours a day. I sleep the other 8 hours, just in case you wondered. I’m going to quit with this experiment now, for what I had to learn, I’ve learnt while also having a deeper understanding of how things work and my personal duty of going out and meeting people more, as opposed to being virtually connected.

Over the past 100 hours I’ve heard people call me crazy, asking me how I’ve managed to stay away and basically shaking their heads in disbelief. The most important thing I learnt about quitting something is that you don’t try to ‘wean’ yourself off your addiction. That’s never worked for me when I tried to ‘cut down’ cigarettes. What was finally successful was going ‘cold turkey’ and not giving in to the temptation of puffing on a cigarette. Resist long enough and you’ll get used to it. It’s the same with quitting any other bad or unproductive habits I guess. You give it up cold turkey and not think about what happens or how much you need it. Pretty much ignoring every plea your body and mind cry out. Stretches the will power, it does, but you’ll be the better for it eventually. Peace.