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Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) Having kids is not the only path to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden.

At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it is better to remain childless, rather than having children just to fit people’s expectations. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, and has dedicated herself to her personal purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and political activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei, Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting the narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and everyone needs to realize that.

2) You may cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

Planets biggest method super fan right here

The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

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The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

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Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) Having kids is not the only path to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden.

At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it is better to remain childless, rather than having children just to fit people’s expectations. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, and has dedicated herself to her personal purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and political activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei, Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting the narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and everyone needs to realize that.

2) You may cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

Nice post I love mindset

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woman entrepreneur

More than 400 million women are successful entrepreneurs today. Female-owned businesses employ more than 9 million people in the US and generate almost $2 trillion in revenue per year.

Female entrepreneurship started gaining momentum about 40 years ago. Since then, women-owned companies have grown tremendously. Some have become global brands. So, how did women get to where they are today, and why are they so successful in the entrepreneurial world?

The Need to Become a Woman Entrepreneur

There are many reasons women feel the need to become entrepreneurs. As opposed to men who usually start a business to achieve financial success, women are focused on personal accomplishments. Their financial success results from their wit and skills and represents a confirmation of their worth.

Another reason women become entrepreneurs is the inability to break the glass ceiling in the corporate world. They realize they have enough knowledge to start something fresh rather than suffer inequality in the workplace. Women want to change the idea of leadership and push the boundaries for all.

Women also have an innate need to create, and it coexists with the need to become entrepreneurs. When they create something for themselves, they put a lot more energy into it. They feel proud that they’ve made something that belongs to them that has limitless potential, and it reflects on the success of the business.

The History of Female Entrepreneurship

Women have brought innovations to all aspects of humanity. They fought hard and worked diligently to become the best artists, scientists, and writers. In the 1930s, Grace Hopper was among the first women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics and create a compiler that was the basis for the COBOL language.

Frida Kahlo was the first 20th-century Mexican artist to be featured in the Louvre. In the 60s, Margaret Sanger opened a women’s health clinic and created the first oral contraceptive. Elizabeth Taylor started the HIV/AIDS foundation in the 90s. Here’s how it all started.

The Beginning

Before the turn of the 20th century, women-owned businesses only if they lived alone and wanted to avoid becoming a social burden. However, in the early 1900s, the world saw a change.

Many women had the need to become entrepreneurs, so they started their businesses at home. During this period, their businesses flourished and kept on generating income even after the war ended. One of the notable women of that time was Elizabeth Arden, who established the American beauty industry in 1910.

During World War I and II, the number of women in the workforce grew because of the lack of the male workforce. While this time doesn’t exactly mark the beginning of female entrepreneurship, women took on various roles, and society started accepting them.

As the world changed, so did women’s needs. In the 60s and 70s, the divorce rates increased, and women were facing the life of single mothers. This pushed their need to become entrepreneurs even further.

During this time, women also earned legal rights they never had before. Society saw them not only as housewives, but also as secretaries, teachers, or nurses. Between 1980 and 2000, women like Madonna, Oprah, and Martha Stewart paved the way for other women.

In 1988, Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act, eliminating the outdated laws and supporting female business endeavors. This Act marked the beginning of equality between men and women.

Today, women are founders behind software applications, makeup brands, clothing lines, websites, and blogs. The line between female and male entrepreneurship is almost blurred, but is it enough?

How Successful Are Female Entrepreneurs?

The women’s need to become entrepreneurs seems to lead them in the right direction. The fact that about 75% of businesses are men-owned doesn’t automatically mean that men are more successful. In reality, women are better leaders, generate higher income, improve startup companies, and open more job positions than men.

Opportunities and Challenges

women entrepreneurs
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Diversity and inclusion present great opportunities for female entrepreneurs. They finally have a voice, and women from all cultures and backgrounds are welcome to show what they can do.

Female entrepreneurship is a great opportunity for women to show their soft skills. Emotional intelligence and leadership go hand in hand, and the ability to listen is essential in business. Women can finally use their soft skills and run their companies.

The biggest challenge for women who have the need to become entrepreneurs is funding. There are still a lot of men among the VCs, and they seem to have trouble believing in female-led startups. Most of them believe women can’t lead a company toward success and hesitate to provide funds.

Another problem female entrepreneurs face is the lack of networking opportunities. Moreover, not having a mentor affects their growth. Unfortunately, the business world is still male-dominated, and women have a hard time finding a mentor who understands them.

Female Entrepreneurs of the Future

The development of technology won’t stop female entrepreneurs from starting businesses—it will actually help them grow even further. Many women of today are part of the digital world and love technological advancements.

Female entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of exploring the wonders of the internet of things or VR. Star Cunningham created a virtual health management platform called 4D Healthware. Leah La Salla and her Astral AR help detect and stop loaded firearms. Open Health Network, founded by Tatyana Kanzaveli, gives patients full control over their data via blockchain.

These are just some examples of female entrepreneurs in the tech industry. As the world develops and technology gives more opportunities, women will undoubtedly take the lead and use all resources they can to build businesses that will benefit society.

Summary

It looks like the need to become entrepreneurs has always been present among women. At the beginning of the 20th century, women saw the opportunity to be more active members of society. Many men died in World War I and II, and females became an essential part of the workforce.

The trend continued, and women started to understand the power they had and what they could do. They started businesses at home and grew beyond expectations. Today, female entrepreneurs are more successful than men. They show that soft skills go beyond the need to become rich and decide to become entrepreneurs to show the world they can overcome all obstacles.

 

%%focuskw%% | The Amazingly Successful Woman Entrepreneur

Anything related to this is so important

By Leo Babauta

We tend to go through our days with our noses to the grindstone, doing tasks, getting distracted, jumping from one thing to the next. Go to sleep tired, repeat the next day. 

Our days become an endless cycle of getting stuff done and getting through to the next day (especially during this pandemic!). 

What would it be like if today were special? 

I’m going to share a few simple practices that will elevate every day, into something to celebrate. 

Practice 1: Win the Day

Instead of starting the day with a list of tasks to get done … what if we identified 1-3 things that would make this day an absolute victory, if we were to do them? 

So the practice is to start the day with a simple entry in your notebook or on a simple text document: what could I do to make this day a victory? I like to title it, “Win the Day: Saturday Feb. 6” (or whatever date it is, obviously), then I list 2-3 potential victories. (For today , writing this blog post is one of mine!) 

I have other tasks and meetings on my list, obviously, but these are the 2-3 I focus on. Sometimes it’s just one. If I can get that single task done, or those 2-3 tasks, done, it will be a big victory for my goals for this month or year, or for my mission. Or it would just feel fantastic! 

I keep this list front and center, and refer back to it multiple times a day. It helps bring me back to what I want to accomplish. And then I look back on it at the end of the day (more on this in the next section), and celebrate what I can. Sometimes I don’t get them all done, which is not a cause for disappointment but for learning. But most days I do at least 1-2 of them, and any progress is a huge cause for celebration. 

Practice 2: A Brief Review

At the end of each day, it can be powerful to take a brief pause and review how the day went. And celebrate anything you can! 

Here’s what I like to review: 

  1. How did I do with my Win the Day list? Celebrate any progress at all. 
  2. How did I do with my practices for the day? Again, any practice at all is a cause for celebration. 
  3. Where did I see the divine today ? (You can word it as “God” or “the Sacred” or “Magic” or whatever feels powerful for you.) For me, I often find divinity in nature, in people all around me, even in a quiet moment like the one I’m experiencing as I write this post. I find this a powerful question that helps me celebrate life. 

This only has to take a few minutes. Set a reminder. I often will take a few more minutes to set my intentions/Win the Day items for tomorrow. 

Practice 3: Ending Ritual for Tasks

We don’t have to wait for the end of the day to celebrate. We can do it after anything we do. 

The practice is a simple ritual: pause when you’re done with something, before you move on to the next thing. And reflect. And celebrate. 

For example, when I’m done writing this, I will have the urge to open up a browser tab and start tackling other tasks. Instead, I will try to remember to pause, and reflect how the writing went. What did I find sacred in the writing process? What can I celebrate and be grateful for? Then I’ll ask what my next intention is. 

It takes seconds, but it means that throughout the day, we are finding moments of deep appreciation for life.

The post Three Practices to Celebrate Your Day appeared first on zen habits.

Who else? <3mindset

Self-awareness is like great sex: everyone thinks they have a ton of it, but in reality no one knows what the fuck they’re doing.

The fact is that the majority of our thoughts and actions are on autopilot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Our habits, routines, impulses, and reactions carry us through our lives so we don’t have to stop and think about it every time we wipe our ass or start a car.

The problem is when we’re on autopilot for so long that we forget we’re on autopilot. Because when we’re not even aware of our own habits, routines, impulses, and reactions, then we no longer control them—they control us.

Whereas a person with self-awareness is able to exercise a little meta-cognition and say, “Hmm… every time my sister calls me and asks for money, I end up drinking a lot of vodka. That might not be a coincidence,” a person without self-awareness just hits the bottle and doesn’t look back.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one of the most important psychological traits you can develop within yourself for life. Its benefits extend to like everything—whether it’s managing your emotions in conflict or understanding your weaknesses at work or being realistic on what you can accomplish. Every step of the way, self-awareness is necessary to make it happen.

Benefits of Self-Awareness

  • Aids self-control, creativity, pride, and self-esteem.1
  • Predicts self-development, acceptance, and proactivity.2
  • Facilitates decision-making.3
  • Leads to more accurate self-reports.4
  • Required to develop self-control.5

One of your greatest pursuits in life should be to become more self-aware and realize these benefits. But being “self-aware” is not an all-or-nothing trait. There are varying levels which we can achieve.

Let me show you what they are.

The Three Levels of Self-Awareness

Below are three levels of self-awareness along with a caveat. Why three levels? Who the hell knows? Just go with it.

Level 1 – What the Hell Are You Doing?

There’s a lot of pain and suckage in life. Over the last 30 days, how many times have you:

  • Struggled with a relationship with someone close to you?
  • Felt lonely, isolated, or unheard?
  • Felt unproductive or lost on what you should do?
  • Been under-slept, under-fed, low on energy, or unhealthy?
  • Stressed about work or finances?
  • Uncertain about your future?
  • Been physically hurt, ill, or debilitated?

Chances are if you add all of those up, you’re going to be pretty close to 30 out of the last 30 days. That’s a lot of suckage!

We avoid pain through distraction. We transport our minds to some other time or place or world where it can be safe and insulated from the pain of day-to-day life. We stare at our phones, we obsess about the past or our potential futures, make plans we’ll never keep, or simply try to forget. We eat, drink, and fuck ourselves into numbness to dull the reality of our problems. We use books, movies, games, and music to carry us to another world where no pain exists, and everything always feels easy and good and right.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with distraction. We all need some sort of diversion to keep us sane and happy.

Put another way, we need to make sure that we’re choosing our distractions and our distractions aren’t choosing us. We’re the ones opting into the distraction, rather than simply being unable to opt out of distraction. We need to know when we’re checking out. Our distraction needs to be planned and moderated in bite-sized chunks. We can’t binge on distraction.

Self-awareness BW double exposure portrait of a man with mohawk and a mountain

Most people spend much of their day drowned in a sea of distraction without even realizing it. I do it, too. The other night at dinner, I pulled out my phone to look at my calendar, and the next thing I knew, I was browsing video game forums on Reddit. Meanwhile, my wife is staring at me as if I just had a lobotomy or something.

I’m getting better. This only happens about 23 times per day.

Or sometimes I do that thing where I’ll have Facebook open, and then I’ll open another tab and instinctively type in the URL for… Facebook, the site I was already looking at. I don’t even realize I do it, but it’s my mind’s automatic move to disconnect (or in this case, disconnect from its disconnection).

We all think we know how we’re using our time. But we’re usually wrong.

We think we work more than we do (studies show most people top out somewhere around three hours of actual work per day,6 the rest is just fucking around). We think we spend more time with our friends and loved ones than we do. We think we’re more present than we are, that we’re better listeners than we are, that we’re more thoughtful and intelligent than we are.

But the truth is, we’re all pretty bad at this.

Now, some people take the hardline approach of trying to remove all distraction from their lives. This is a bit extreme. If time management and self-awareness was a religion, this approach would be like strapping a bomb to your chest and blowing up a mall thinking you’ve got a one-way ticket to 72 distraction-free virgins, when really, you’re just going to self-destruct (and probably harm a lot of people around you in the process).

The goal with distraction isn’t to defeat distraction, it’s merely to develop an awareness and control of our distractions. Instead of calling in sick to play video games all day, you’re able to devote some free time to video games in a way that’s satisfying and healthy. You let yourself drift away on your phone for a while if that’s what your brain seems to need, but you’re aware that you’re doing it and able to rein it back in when necessary.

The goal here is the elimination of compulsion. But to eliminate compulsion you must first become aware of compulsion. When are you engaging in an activity you don’t want to be engaging in? When are you checking out mentally and why? Is it around family? Friends? Co-workers?

For years I used to carry around an iPod and put headphones on every time I went into public. I felt naked leaving the house without it. For years, I just assumed I was really into music way more than other people, that there was some special need inside me for badass tunes that other people simply didn’t understand.

But eventually, it became clear this was a compulsion. I wasn’t in control. My headphones were a way of protecting and disconnecting myself from others. They were less about a bottomless passion and more about simple fear. Being around strangers without my headphones made me feel anxious and exposed.

Don’t judge these observations, simply have them. This is the first level of self-awareness, a simple understanding of where your mind goes and when. You must be aware of the paths your mind likes to take before you can begin to question why it takes those paths and whether those paths are helping or hurting you.

Level 2 – What the Hell Are You Feeling?

Have you ever been raging pissed and when somebody asks you why you’re mad, you’re like, “I’M NOT MAD! I’M NOT FUCKING MAD! I’M PERFECTLY FINE! I MEANT TO SMASH MY KEYBOARD THROUGH MY MONITOR! I’M NOT MAD! WHY ARE YOU MAD?!”

What people often find is that the more they remove themselves from distraction, the more they are forced to actually deal with a lot of the emotions that they’ve been avoiding for a long time.

This is why meditating for a long time freaks a lot of people out. Meditation is basically the practice of training your mind to become less distracted and more focused on your immediate experience. The result is that some people become overwhelmed by all of the feelings they’ve been bottling up forever.

Therapy has a similar effect, but rather than quieting your mind and staring at a wall for hours on end, you’re sitting on a couch and a really nice and friendly-looking man/lady is slowly guiding you back to how you feel, over and over, until your mind finally capitulates and you’re snotting everywhere and crying like an upset child.

This second level of self-awareness is where you really start finding out “who you are.” I hate using that phrase because it doesn’t really mean anything, but this is the level that people talk about when they say they are “finding themselves”—they are discovering how they actually feel about the shit going on in their life, and often they have been hiding these feelings from themselves for years.

Most people glide on the surface of Level 1 of self-awareness. They do what they’re told. They follow directions. They distract themselves with the same shit over and over. At no point have they allowed themselves to express individual emotions and reactions to what’s going on around them.

Once they’re removed from these contexts they start to realize things like, “Oh damn, I’m really sensitive and am sad a lot, and holy shit, I never allowed myself to feel that because I thought it made me weak or pathetic, but actually my sadness is part of what makes me different.”

Level 2 is an uncomfortable place to go. People often spend years in therapy navigating Level 2. It takes time to become comfortable with all of your emotions. Going back through those emotions and allowing them to take place is something that requires a lot of focus and a lot of effort.

But a lot of people also get held up on Level 2. They think Level 2 is as deep as it goes and they get lost wallowing in their feelings for the rest of their lives. I think this happens for a couple of reasons.

The first is that emotions are powerful, especially for people who have been suppressing their emotions for most of their lives. Suddenly opening up to them will feel life-changing and incredibly profound.

As a result, a lot of people start spinning up a bunch of stories about how this is the ultimate level of self-awareness, just feeling stuff all the time. They may even go as far as to consider it a “spiritual awakening.” They’ll describe it in all sorts of high-falutin’ terms like “ego death” or “transcendent consciousness” or “higher consciousness.”

But this is a bit of a trap. Emotions, as you eventually discover, are a) endless, and b) don’t necessarily mean anything. I mean, sometimes they do, but sometimes they’re also self-induced and completely arbitrary.

For instance, look at this puppy.

A cute puppy

You probably felt good looking at that.7 Now does that feeling mean anything? Fuck no, it’s just a puppy. But a lot of people ascribe profundity to any and every emotion that arises.

It’s a simple but often disastrous error. They assume that because some emotions are incredibly important and vital, that all emotions must be incredibly important and vital. And that’s simply not the case. A lot of emotions are pointless or—and here’s the kicker—merely distractions!

Yes, you heard me. Emotions can also be distractions. From what? From other emotions.

Part of developing a strong sense of emotional intelligence is being able to discern which emotions that you experience are important to act on and which emotions should be acknowledged and felt and nothing more.

See, there’s another subtle little trap with emotions. And that’s the fact that analyzing one emotion will generate another. So you can end up in this endless loop of self-inquiry, which, after a while, will turn you into a really self-obsessed person.

But wait, hold on, this one deserves its own section.

Caveat—The Endless Navel-Gazey Spiral of Doom

There’s an old apocryphal story from 16th-century India where a young man climbs a large mountain to speak to the sage at the top. Supposedly this sage knew, like, everything and stuff. And this young man was anxious to understand the secrets of the world.

Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, the sage greeted the young man and invited him to ask him anything (note: this was way before Reddit threads). The young man then asked him his question, “Great sage, we stand upon the world, but what does the world stand upon?”

The sage immediately replied, “The world rests upon the back of a number of great elephants.”

The young man thought for a moment, and then asked, “Yes, but what do the elephants stand upon?”

The sage replied again, without hesitation, “The elephants rest upon the back of a great turtle.”

The young man, still not satisfied, asked, “Yes, but what does the great turtle rest upon?”

The sage replied, “It rests upon an even greater turtle.”

The young man, growing frustrated, began to ask, “But what does—”

“No, no,” the sage interrupted, “stop there—it’s turtles all the way down.”

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, I compared self-awareness to peeling an onion, that whatever you’re thinking/feeling, there’s always another layer underneath, and the deeper you go, the more layers you peel back, the more likely you are to spontaneously burst into tears.

The self-questioning involved in self-awareness can lead to this kind of endless spiral. Layer upon layer upon layer. And, in many cases, not only do deeper levels not elucidate anything useful, but the mere act of peeling them back can generate more anxiety, stress, and self-judgment.

For example, here’s me spiraling through layers of questioning while writing this section right now:

  • Layer 1

    I’m aware that I’m writing this sentence right now—I feel tired, a bit cloudy-headed, but also anxious to make progress on this piece before I go to bed tonight.
  • Layer 2

    I’m aware of my own anxiety and worried that this is a bad trend in my recent work habits. Why am I up working at 1:30 AM anyway? I’d probably write better if I got some sleep.
  • Layer 3

    I’m aware of my self-judgment. Perhaps I am being hard on myself. What’s wrong with working at 1:30 AM? I have done this plenty of times.
  • Layer 4

    I’m now aware that I am aware of my montage of feelings and feelings about feelings and feelings about feelings about feelings.
  • Layer 5

    I’m also aware that my Layer 4 awareness is hardly comprehensible.
  • Layer 6

    I’m anxious about the comprehensibility of my levels of awareness.
  • Layer 7

    I feel that perhaps I am being over-critical, blah, blah, blah…
  • Layer 193

    This shit is turtles all the way down, isn’t it?

A lot of people get caught in the trap of always looking one level deeper. Doing this feels important but the truth is that beyond a certain level, it’s just a navel-gazey spiral of doom. It’s turtles all the way down. And the act of looking deeper itself will sometimes generate more feelings of anxiety, despair, and self-judgment than it relieves.

Self-awareness turtle on the road
The secret of the universe is just a damn turtle.

When looking at layers of intention and motivation, it’s best to just go a few layers down until you start repeating yourself.

You may be anxious about your relationship with your mother. Let’s say that anxiety stems from the fact that your mom is hyper-judgmental and you fall into this unconscious habit of desperately trying to prove to her that you’re not a piece of shit. This need to prove to her that you’re worthy is underpinned by your desire to be loved. This realization then makes you more anxious—an anxiety driven by the desire to please your mother, which is underpinned by your desire to be loved—we’re spiraling now. It’s time to just draw the line and say it’s turtles all the way down and move on. You want love from mom and that’s that.8

And with that, I’m going to stop thinking about this section and just go to bed.

Level 3 – What the Hell Are Your Blind Spots?

The more you become aware of your own emotions and your own desires, the more you discover something terrifying: you are full of shit.

We realize that a large percentage of our thoughts, arguments, and actions are merely reflections of whatever we are feeling in that moment.

If I am watching a movie with my wife and I’m cranky because I had an argument with my editor that afternoon, I’ll decide that I hate the movie. And the more my wife tries to convince me the movie was good, the more I’ll relish the fact that I get to argue with her about it—because it suddenly becomes a way to justify my anger.

(By the way, if you ever wondered why we tend to fight the most with the ones we love the most, this is partly why: we can use them as an emotional punching bag to validate all the crap that we are feeling, whether they deserve it or not—usually not.)

We all think of ourselves as independent thinkers who reason based on facts and evidence, but the truth is that our brain spends most of its time justifying and explaining what the heart has already declared and decided. And there’s no way to fix that until you’ve learned to recognize what the heart is saying.

I’ve written quite a bit about how flawed our conscious minds are, both in my book and on this site. But to give a quick synopsis:

  • Our memories are unreliable and often flat-out wrong, especially when it comes to remembering how we felt at a certain time or place. Our ability to predict our thoughts and feelings in the future is even worse.
  • We constantly overestimate ourselves. In fact, as a general rule, the worse we are at something, the better we think we are, and the better we are at something, the worse we believe we are.
  • Contradictory evidence can often make us surer of our position rather than inspire us to question it.
  • Our attention naturally only focuses on things that already cohere to our pre-existing beliefs. This is why two people can watch the exact same event and come away with two completely contradictory memories of it (think of two opposing sports fans both convinced they saw the ball land in or out of bounds.)
  • Most of us, when given the opportunity, will tell small lies to improve our results. Sometimes (i.e., usually), we’ll even tell these lies to ourselves.
  • We are abysmal at estimating statistics, making cost-benefit decisions, or reasoning about large populations of people. It’s actually both depressing and hilarious how bad we are at this.

I could keep going, but I’ll stop there. Basically, the point is that you suck, I suck, everybody sucks. Humans kind of suck. All the time.

And that’s OK. The important thing is just that we’re self-aware about it. If we know our weaknesses, then they stop being weaknesses. Otherwise, we become enslaved to our mind’s faulty mechanisms.

Self-awareness double exposure concept with lady portrait silhouette and woman in forest

Freeing ourselves from the twisted confines of our mind comes down to a few things:

  1. Hold weaker opinions. Recognize that unless you are an expert in a field, there is a good chance that your intuitions or assumptions are flat-out wrong. The simple act of telling yourself (and others) before you speak, “I could be wrong about this,” immediately puts your mind in a place of openness and curiosity. It implies an ability to learn and to have a closer connection to reality.
  2. Take yourself less seriously. Most of your thoughts and behaviors are simply reactions to various emotions. And we know that your emotions are often wrong and/or meaningless. Ergo, you should take your shit less seriously.
  3. Learn your bullshit patterns. When I get angry, I get argumentative and arrogant. When I get sad, I shut down and play a lot of video games. When I feel guilty, I word vomit my conscience all over people. What are your tics? Where does your mind go when you feel sad? When you feel angry? Guilty? Anxious? Learn to spot your coping mechanisms because that will tip you off next time you’re distracting yourself from your feelings. I realized years ago that when I’m healthy and happy, I enjoy playing video games a few hours a week. But when I start binging on a game, staying up all night and skipping work, it’s almost always because I’m avoiding some problem in my life. This has become a huge cue for me to sit down and figure out what’s going on with myself.
  4. Recognize the problems you create for yourself. My biggest problem is probably not being able to talk about my anger or sadness. I either escape through video games or become passive-aggressive by sniping at people around me. Both of these tendencies don’t help me. And I’ve learned to recognize myself when I start doing them. I’m able to say, “Hey Mark, you do this shit when you’re sad and you always regret not talking to someone.” Then I go talk to someone.
  5. Be realistic. It’s not about removing your faulty psychological reactions. It’s about understanding them so that you can adjust to them. The same way we all have some skills and activities we’re better at than others, we all have emotions we’re better at than others. Some people are bad with happiness but good at managing their anger. Others are terrible with their anger but relish their happiness. Other people never feel depressed but suffer uncontrollable guilt. Others never feel guilty but struggle with feelings of depression. Where are your strong emotions and weak emotions? Which emotions do you respond poorly to? Where are your biggest biases and judgments coming from? How can you challenge or re-evaluate them?

This, of course, is much easier said than done.

How to Increase Your Self-Awareness

I’m not a huge fan of giving advice in the form of “do X so you can achieve Y and feel Z” or whatever. Everyone is at a different point in different areas of their lives, so it seems a little presumptuous of some random jackass on the internet (me) to tell other people exactly what they should do.

That said, I realize a lot of people need a little more guidance in this area because it can be so confusing (and scary) when you start to uncover parts of yourself you didn’t even know were there. 

So here’s a short list of things you can do to start to become more self-aware in your everyday life.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is simply the practice of observing what is going on in your mind, body, and environment with focus, clarity, and, importantly, acceptance of what is happening.

You must focus with some degree of concentration on what you are thinking and feeling at a given moment. Then you must clarify those thoughts and feelings: where do they occur in your body, how exactly do they feel—warm/cold, tight/open, exciting/fear-inducing etc.—are they fleeting or enduring, and so on.

Meditation, as I’ve already alluded to, is one such tool to help you practice being more mindful.9 But meditation as a practice by itself is not the goal. Again, it simply teaches you how to be more aware of what you’re thinking and feeling, usually while you’re sitting quietly without any external distractions (but meditation can technically be done in any environment). 

The goal is to take the self-awareness skills you learn from meditation and apply them to your everyday life, being more focused with more clarity and more acceptance of what is going on at any given moment.

Write Things Down

Keep a journal, start a blog, send emails to yourself, scribble in a notebook—however you do it, writing is a lot like meditating with an active brain component added in. 

That’s because writing has a way of forcing you to focus your mind and get clear about exactly what it is you’re thinking and feeling (see a pattern here?). 

As the author Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

You don’t have to write beautifully or even all that well in order to get the benefits of this. The simple act of organizing your thoughts on paper is often enough to give you more clarity about your thoughts and feelings than keeping it all bottled up between your ears.

A lot of people email me every day seeking advice and I’m always amazed at how many will end a long email with, “I know this is long and you probably won’t reply, but just typing it all out gave me a lot of perspective on my situation.”

The reason is that they had to make sense of their problems in their own head before they could put them into words and send them off in an email.

Simple but effective.

Get Honest Feedback From Others

Asking someone you fully trust to point out your blind spots can be a really powerful way to up your self-awareness game—but it can also be incredibly painful.

Others often have a better perspective on us than we do, especially friends and family close to us. Asking them in a simple and safe way (by “safe,” I mean not exploding and threatening to castrate them with a spoon for insulting your honor) can lead to great gains in self-awareness.

This is a pro-level move and I don’t recommend it for everyone, at least not at first when you’re just starting to uncover some Real Shit™ about yourself. 

If you go to your best friend or a trusted family member and ask them to be completely honest about who you are as a person, your personality, and/or some part of your life you’re not sure about, what they have to say probably isn’t going to be all that easy to hear. 

Look, all of us have some unsavory parts of ourselves we’d rather forget about. We all have demons. We all do stupid shit we regret. We all hurt other people at some point. 

So if you’re not ready to have someone judge you for all of that, well, work on mindfulness and writing first. You really need to be able to a) trust someone to tell you the truth and b) not feel attacked when what they tell you is hard to hear. Not everyone can do that easily, but I think it’s something to work towards.

The Goal of Self-Awareness Is Self-Acceptance

There’s a certain type of person who will read all this and think about it and recognize their shitty emotions and recognize their shitty thought patterns and recognize all the little selfish tricks and traps their mind places and do all the work and practice the self-discovery and open themselves to their emotions and their big takeaway from all this will be: “I’m a piece of shit.”

They will see all their internal flaws, and come to understand their biases and irrational mechanisms, and they will get a handle on their distractions and their weak emotions.

And they will hate it. All of it. It will cause them to hate themselves.

Obviously, walking around and calling yourself a piece of shit for every other thought or emotion you have is not exactly what we would call the zenith of emotional health. In fact, this tendency is, ironically, downright shitty itself.

Judging yourself for mismanaging your emotions or for having biased and selfish thoughts is a bit of a trap because when you make that judgment, it feels like you’re being self-aware. You’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I was really kind of a dick at that meeting because my ego was threatened. I’m such a piece of shit.” And there’s a little round of applause that goes off in your head because you feel like such a goddamn saint for recognizing how flawed and shitty you are around others.

But no, that’s not the point.

The research bears this out, too: self-awareness doesn’t make everyone happier, it makes some people more miserable. Because if great self-awareness is coupled with self-judgment, then you’re merely becoming more aware of all the ways you deserve to be judged.10

These emotional outbursts and cognitive biases, they exist in everyone, all the time. You’re not a bad person for having them. Just as other people aren’t necessarily bad people for having them either. They’re just human. And you’re just human.

Plato said that all evil is rooted in ignorance. If you think of the evilest, shittiest people imaginable, they are shitty not because they have flaws—but because they refuse to admit that they have flaws.

I saw a news story recently about some looney conspiracy theorist who believes that all mass shootings are staged. This guy actually travels to communities where these mass shootings occurred and confronts the victims. He stands in front of parents of dead children and calls them liars.

I cannot imagine a greater definition of “evil” or “piece of shit human” than this guy.

Yet, his evilness is not a result of conscious choice so much as an unconscious choice. He’s unaware of the irrationality and derangement of his own thoughts.

He’s barely on Level 1. Level 2 probably terrifies him because admitting the reality that mass shootings—these horrible and senselessly violent things—can occur all around him, and without reason, threatens him in some unspeakable way that his mind cannot handle. And he’s definitely nowhere near Level 3 where he’s able to actually recognize that his conspiracy theories are elaborate networks of irrational beliefs and impossible assumptions designed to protect himself from these feelings on Level 2.

When looked at this way, you almost feel sorry for the guy. You see how much he must suffer psychologically and how that psychological suffering drives him to do horrible, horrible things to the people who are legitimately victims around him.

Welcome to empathy.

Empathy can only occur in proportion to our own self-acceptance. It’s only by accepting the flaws of our own emotions and our own minds that we are able to look at the flaws of the emotions and minds of others, and rather than judge them or hate them, feel compassion for them. “Oh, he’s fucked up, too. I used to believe shit like that. I wonder what he’s running from?”

This isn’t to say that empathy and compassion will solve all the world’s ills. They won’t. But they certainly won’t make anything worse.

And here’s where that old cliche comes in, about only being able to love others in proportion to how much we love ourselves. Self-awareness opens us up to the opportunity to love and accept ourselves. Yeah, I’m a biased fucknut sometimes. Yeah, I mishandle my emotions on occasion. Yeah, I’ve got some vices.

But that’s okay. And because I’ve come to terms with those flaws in myself, I’m able to come to terms and forgive those flaws in others. And it’s only in this way that any real love becomes possible.

When we refuse to accept ourselves as we are, then we return to the constant need for numbing and distraction. And we will similarly be unable to accept others the way they are, so we will look for ways to manipulate them, change them, or convince them to be a person they are not. Our relationships will become transactional, conditional, and ultimately toxic and fail.

Footnotes

  1. Silvia, P. J., & O’Brien, M. E. (2004). Self-Awareness and Constructive Functioning: Revisiting “the Human Dilemma.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(4), 475–489.
  2. Sutton, A. (2016). Measuring the Effects of Self-Awareness: Construction of the Self-Awareness Outcomes Questionnaire. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 12(4), 645–658.
  3. Ridley, D. S., Schutz, P. A., Glanz, R. S., & Weinstein, C. E. (1992). Self-regulated learning: The interactive influence of metacognitive awareness and goal-setting. Journal of Experimental Education, 60(4), 293–306.
  4. Pryor, J. B., Gibbons, F. X., Wicklund, R. A., Fazio, R. H., & Hood, R. (1977). Self-focused attention and self-report validity. Journal of Personality, 45(4), 513–527.
  5. Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Self-regulation and the executive function of the self. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of Self and Identity (pp. 197–217). New York, NY: Guildford Press.
  6. Curtin, M. (2016, July 21). In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for This Many Hours. Inc.
  7. If not, then you’re a terrible human being.
  8. In her book Insight, Tasha Eurich points out that people get caught up when asking “why” questions too much. “What” questions, on the other hand, get to the root of the problem faster. In this example: Why are you anxious about your relationship with your mom? Because I need love. Why do you need love? Because I need to feel secure and safe. Why…turtles turtles turtles… Instead, if you simply ask what you would need to not feel so anxious about your relationship with your mother, you quickly get to “I need love from my mother” and you’re both more self-aware in the situation and you have a tangible problem to solve instead of gazing at your navel in an endless turtle dive.
  9. For more on mediation, see my guide, Meditation: Why You Should Do It, as well as Shinzen Young’s book, The Science of Enlightenment
  10. Silvia, P. J., & O’Brien, M. E. (2004). Self-awareness and constructive functioning: Revisiting “The human dilemma.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(4), 475–489.

Who else loves self-improvement ?

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Pandemic life has taught many of us to appreciate moments in life that might otherwise pass us by. I’ve been trying to pause and take note of how I feel at the end of the day, often as I walk in the park or one of my nearby neighborhoods.

With that in mind, here’s a tip inspired by The Art of Stopping Time, a book by Pedram Shojai: whenever you visit a place that’s new to you, consider the sense that you might never be there again.

Just imagine: this might be it! Your one and only opportunity in a lifetime to visit this particular place. How might this realization make you feel?

What, you say you aren’t traveling much now? That’s okay.

This “new place” could be anywhere: a part of the woods you’ve never seen on your next nature hike, for example, or even a street in your neighborhood you’ve never driven down before. The point is to create awareness and appreciation.

I wish I’d had this concept in mind many years ago when I was traveling to several new countries every month. Looking back now, I can remember dozens of highlights that might fit the category of “never returning.”

In Somaliland, I rode several hours in a crowded minibus, listening to people chatter away. We stopped for food (goat stew! I’m a vegetarian, but it was interesting to observe) and drank from a shared bottle of Coca-Cola. Those were the days…

In Bosnia, a totally different part of the world, I traveled overland (this time on a full-sized bus) from Sarajevo to Herceg Novi. The city itself was magical. It felt like one of those “Land Before Time” moments.

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As interesting as those experiences were, I don’t know if I’ll ever repeat them. In fact, almost certainly I won’t. Even when I return to traveling more often, Montenegro and Somaliland aren’t that easy to jet off to.

Not only that, even though I can remember dozens of highlights from my adventures, I’m sure there are hundreds—thousands even—that I’ve forgotten or simply don’t come to mind when I think about this concept.

That’s why it’s good to consider the concept while you’re in a new place. It might help you remember it later, but even if not, you’ll have the moment of appreciation while you’re there.

Oh, and I like thinking about this idea for travel, but technically I suppose you could apply it to anything, even not something related to being in a particular place.

Whatever you’re doing or experiencing today, you might never do or experience it again. Let it sink in and consider how it feels.

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Image: Ender