Healthy Self-Esteem: An Alternative to Self-Pity vs. Narcissism

self-esteem


Many people live their lives with very low self-esteem.

They think that they are inadequate in achieving their own dreams, goals, and values; thus, they find themselves in a constant state of self-pity, disappointment, or even self-hate.

The problem with this view is that it is rarely an accurate depiction of reality. Instead, our self-perception has created the fact.

Low self-esteem often turns into a feedback loop of negative attitudes→ negative actions → negative results.

And once we have recycled this process over and over again (hundreds, if not thousands of times), we begin to accept it as the only possible reality that exists, which is often not the case.

Negative self-esteem is a process that can be broken out of, but we have to do it mindfully. Some people begin to do some self-reflection and they notice the negative affects of their views and beliefs. But, in a fit of desperation, they go to the other extreme and begin to turn selfish and narcissistic.

They start to think the whole world should bend to their will and that they deserve everything (because maybe this will finally bring it to them). But just like the self-pitying individual, the narcissist will also find themselves unsatisfied.

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Practice is More Important Than Theory


“In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.”

Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut



If you read and talk about personal development too much, then it can begin to turn into a kind of mystical abstraction. The more you try to intellectualize about it, the further away your goals seem to become.

This is why you should view your personal development as a “practice-based philosophy.” The very nature of the subject “personal development” requires that you are capable of putting your values, beliefs, and ideas into action. Action is the primary requirement. Without action, you’re in a place of personal stagnation.

Have you ever heard of a “keyboard jockey?” A keyboard jockey is an individual who spends more time typing on their computers about how to do something than actually practicing it in the real world. It’s a term that first became popular in the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) community.

Whether or not you agree with PUAs, they were right on this one. They understood that in order to learn something, or get better at it, you need to go out into the “field” and practice it.

Michael Jordan didn’t become a professional basketball player by reading books about basketball. Gary Vaynerchuk didn’t become a Wine expert by reading books about wine. And Style didn’t become a Pick-Up Artist by reading books about seduction.

    Nothing can replace practice and personal experience.

So what happens when we don’t practice and just theorize?


The downfall of too much theory: “paralysis by analysis”

In effect, we begin to think about a situation so much that we actually inhibit ourselves from ever taking action. We get an idea for a new business, then the very next day we think of 2 or 3 other possibilities. Eventually, our list keeps piling up, but we never follow through on any of them.

Paralysis by analysis is especially prevalent in today’s world because we have so many damn choices. There are so many different foods to eat, girls to date, careers to choose, places to see, music to listen to, etc. Sometimes there are so many possibilities that we don’t know where to start. So we just do nothing. We become so overwhelmed by the amount of choices we have that we’d rather not make a decision. Perhaps it’s because the “opportunity cost” of missing out on all those decisions is too much for us to bare.

The more we ruminate on our options, the more likely we are to suffer paralysis by analysis. This is one very obvious way that too much theorizing can greatly inhibit our personal development.


When you take action, you learn what you really want

Often we don’t really know what we want (let alone how to get it) until we get a taste of it. This is why experimenting with new experiences can be so beneficial. Sure, we may have some rough moments along the way, but that will just give us an even better idea on what we want and don’t want out of life.

Sometimes it’s better to let the bad things happen rather than keep theorizing and worrying about them inside your head. You may find:

  • It wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be.
  • You gain experience and learn from it in a way you never could just by thinking about it.
  • You build resilience – “what doesn’t kill you often makes you stronger.”
  • You develop a deeper understanding of your preferences and values.

Now, I’m not saying we should act recklessly without any sense of caution, but I do think that often the things we worry about are more harmless than we make them out to be.


Beliefs should be practical and flexible


“Truth is what works.”

William James


Beliefs are only as valuable as they are practical. You can theorize about alternative universes and multiple Gods all you want, but if you have no access to the truth, and it has no bearing on how you act on a daily basis, it shouldn’t really matter (at least not from a personal development perspective).

Sure, it may be fun to think about all these unknowns, and it may even make us more critical thinkers, but if these questions begin taking up too much energy and time, then it is probably best to re-focus on more practical matters. Focus on the ideas that bring you results and ignore abstract matters which are often inconsequential.

I recall the earlier years of my conscious pursuit for personal development. I began to become really infatuated with Buddhism, eastern philosophy, enlightenment, and seeking an “absolute truth” about the nature of reality and consciousness.

I would go to my universities libraries and take out books on all kinds of stuff, not excluding astral projections, the afterlife, paranormal activity, philosophy of mind, etc. It was a long and tiresome journey, and nothing very fruitful came out of it. I eventually had to abandon the pursuit, accepting the fact that there are some things I don’t know and can’t know, and those things aren’t worth obsessing over.

Since then it feels as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Being able to accept that you “don’t know and can’t know” everything is one of the most liberating feelings in the world.

It’s also the best reason to keep your beliefs flexible. It would be pretty presumptuous to think you can discover (and settle) for a few beliefs and principles and live your whole life in accordance to them. The universe is way too complex and humans are all too fallible for us to base all of our decision-making on a few static principles.

That’s not to say we should abandon all principles and values, only that it is important not to be bounded by them when they no longer apply. That is the big idea behind being ground in practicality vs. being grounded in theory.

You may make it a general principle “not to kill others,” but if you find yourself in a situation where someone was attacking you, then you may be willing to kill them in self-defense. In the same way, there are situations I may not even be able to imagine where I may need to compromise, adjust, or abandon certain values depending on the circumstances.

I want to finish by saying I believe choosing practice over theory also opens us up to more possibilities and more freedoms. Being completely fixed on our principles makes us stubborn and narrow-minded. But giving ourselves the flexibility and freedom to adapt to our surroundings allows us to navigate throughout life much more effectively.

Imagine a tree in wind:

The more hard and rigid it stands, the more likely it will break when met with wind or resistance.

The more flexible it is, the more it will bend with the wind or resistance, not break, and persist another day.


The same is true for our beliefs. When we remain firm and stubborn, we are more likely to fight resistance and hurt ourselves. But when we allow ourselves the freedom to be flexible, we can more easily bend (or adapt) to the resistance.

The lesson? Don’t cling to superficial beliefs, but what is most practical – swallow your ego and do what works, not what you want to be true.


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Transcendent Man

Transcendent Man


Transcendent Man is a 2009 documentary on the life and ideas of Raymond Kurzweil, a renowned inventor and leading contributor to the field of artificial intelligence. The theme of Transcendent Man is based on Kurzweil’s theory of singularity. Kurzweil believes that within the next century human life will be completely emerged and interconnected with machines and computers.

Some of his predictions for the future include:

  • In 2020, one personal computer will have the same processing power as a human brain.
  • In the 2020s, a computer will pass the Turing Test. The Turing Test is when a human communicates with one person and one machine, and if the person can’t tell which is the machine, then the machine passes the test. This is considered the standard test in A.I. when determining if a machine is conscious or not.
  • In the 2030s, nanotechnology will be used to carry out many of our medical procedures, including brain scans, administering medicines and antibiotics, etc.
  • In the 2030s, mind uploading will become possible. Mind uploading is when we can upload our brain’s biological data into a computer.
  • In the 2040s, through the use of nanotechnology and mind uploading, people will spend most of their time immersed in a virtual reality (Kurzweil has cited the movie The Matrix as similar to how our virtual realities will be).
  • In 2045, $1000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human combined.
  • In 2045, The technological singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Humans won’t be able to comprehend what machines are communicating unless they merge their brains with computers (because of how much faster thoughts and information will be processed once we reach this point).

Why does Kurzweil expect so much technological growth within the next half century? It has to do with what he calls the law of accelerating returns. In this law, Kurzweil describes how the rate of change in information systems tends to increase at an exponential rate.

This can be observed in both evolutionary theory (there is exponentially more gene diversity today than there was during the beginning of life, and remember genes are nothing more than encoded information that makes up our biology). And the same phenomena can also be observed in technological growth (technology feeds on technology and gets increasingly more powerful).

For example, today a person in Kenya with a cellphone has more access to information than the U.S. President did 10 years ago. That is how rapidly technology is evolving today. Similarly, during the late 1960s, Kurzweil recalls working with a computer in MIT that was the size of a whole room; today, the technology in most of our cellphones is 100 times smaller but 100 times more powerful.

Kurzweil imagines technologies will continue to get more powerful, more compact, and more affordable. At some point, Kurzweil predicts we will be able to infuse nanotechnology into our bloodstream, technology that is more powerful than the computers we are using right now. This nanotechnology can be used to fight diseases and protect us from illness. As the process continues to develop, we will eventually reach the point of singularity – where technology has completely outpaced the evolution of human life.

In order to adapt to such a new standard-of-living and culture, Kurzweil believes that humans are going to need to fully merge with their technology. It’s hard to imagine what it may be like. Perhaps a Google-like search engine implanted into our frontal cortex, new memory chips being added to our hippocampus, or a high-resolution camera being attached to our occipital lobe. These are just some ideas floating around, but the possibilities are virtually endless.

Interestingly, if you ask your parents or grandparents, they will probably remark on how amazing technology has become over the past few decades. But according to Kurzweil, the children being born today are going to see even more incredible mind-blowing advancements being made throughout their lifetime. It’s all due to this law of accelerating returns, and the idea that technology continues to build off of older technology.

One of the most surprising predictions Kurzweil makes is the notion of immortality. When technology officially outpaces evolution, Kurzweil believes that humans will have the capacity to use this technology to prolong lives indefinitely. Kurzweil imagines an alternative lifestyle where we live in virtual worlds (kind of like the online game “Second Life”). This could be a viable alternative to biological decay and death – and even Kurzweil himself believes that there is a good chance he will be able to live forever in such a world. It would be just like a customizable videogame, where we can choose different avatars and download ourselves into almost any environment we can imagine.

In fact, Kurzweil believes in this notion of immortality so strongly that he keeps himself on a strict medical regimen to improve his chances of living until the singularity hits. According to Transcendent Man, Kurzweil’s health routine used to include 250 pills, 8-10 glasses of water, and 10 cups of tea every day. He has since cut down his pill intake to 150 pills a day – which is still quite the feat. Kurzweil has also teamed up with “anti-aging” doctor Terry Grossman to help prolong his life as far as possible. The two have collaborated on 2 health-related books, their latest called Transcend: Nine Steps To Living Well Forever. It includes various advice and tips on diet, nutrition, aerobics, weight-training, supplements, relaxation, and the future of medicine.

If all of Kurzweil’s dreams come true, he will live forever, and also be able to resurrect an avatar of his Dad who he has been saving information on all of his life. To do this, Kurzweil has literally collected a room full of documents, letters, and photos of his Dad which he believes he can one day use to create a digital file. Perhaps then – in virtual land – he can meet his Dad once again.

Imagine how remarkable this would all be if it could come true.


How much is Kurweil full of it?

If you are reading these ideas and predictions for the first time, I’m sure you’ve thought “Wow!” at least once or twice mixed with some feelings of skepticism and doubt. I agree – these ideas can be hard to swallow. But I think Kurzweil is at least partially right that technology will continue to merge with human life, and the implications might be massive and unpredictable.

Although Kurzweil’s ideas may sound extreme, he is a man with a fairly good reputation of predicting future events and being on the cusp of the latest advancements in technology. When Kurzweil first started, he became known for developing a “text-to-speech” reader for the blind (an invention that won him the National Medal of Technology from then President Bill Clinton). Kurzweil is also widely known in the music industry for his development of Kurzweil synthesizers and electronic keyboards (I’m fortunate enough to say the Kurzweil K2000 was the first electronic keyboard I ever owned).

Kurzweil has received numerous awards from universities and science academies over the years and is typically a well-respected figure in the fields of artificial intelligence and technology.

But the thing I’m most concerned about with Kurzweil’s endeavors is his fear of death, and his seeming motivation to do all of this to save his father. Many of Kurzweil’s critics claim that he is overly optimistic regarding the capabilities of technology over the next century. They also claim that he is underestimating the potential of this technology to be used for evil (think – The Terminator).

Despite Kurzweil’s obvious intelligence, he may be a man ridden with some issues he isn’t willing to accept the reality of. I hope that if his quest for immortality doesn’t come true, that he is a man who can still face his death with dignity.

If you want to learn more about Kurzweil’s personal life and career, Transcendent Man does a good job of going over these personal matters that drive Kurzweil’s genius and more about his theories and ideas on singularity.


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5 Lessons I Learned In School And Now Want To Forget

school


At a very early age in our development, many of us are expected to go into educational institutions that prepare us for the real world. In theory, we should prepare young individuals with the life skills they will need to be successful as they reach adulthood. Subjects like science, math, English, and history can be seen as fundamental components to a well-rounded individual – and crucial for social progress into the future.

An adult that doesn’t understand basic math or English will likely suffer due to their lack of knowledge. They will have a hard time adapting to a world that expects you to be able to keep track of your own finances, or write an e-mail to a family member, friend, employer, or politician.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the educational institutions we have now are the only (let alone the most desirable) way to teach children these fundamental skills. In fact, our educational system today seems to come with many drawbacks and unhealthy assumptions regarding how to properly educate children.

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STOP Meditation: Daily Injections of Mindfulness

mindfulness


The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook is a helpful guide that covers many different techniques in mindfulness. It includes exercises we can practice during meditation, but also outside of meditation by adding more awareness to our daily actions.

The main goal is to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they take place in the present moment. And when we become more aware of these things, we can live more consciously and better adapt to our environment and situation.

One of the techniques in the book is a very short exercise called a STOP Meditation. This is a technique we can use at any point in our day to help remind ourselves what we are doing. It’s a very simple and easy exercise to practice.

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