What does vulnerability have to do with it?

Finding a place under the sun, Love, Self-development

We are all aware of the downsides of vulnerability: we could be mocked, disconsidered or even abandoned altogether if we show our weaknesses, fears or negative traits; we could be derailed from our success if we don’t ferociously keep on going; we could be seriously damaged and hurt. Life is a dangerous place out there.

What if I told you that you are missing out by denying or hiding your vulnerability? How so? Well, first of all, connection stems from vulnerability, that moment when we see the human side and common struggles in our counterpart. It is no surprise that the people we connect most with are also our confidants to whom we share our dreams and failures. I only realised this when I saw that as an expat I made friends easily and was surrounded by people but none of them too close. Why? Because our discussions revolved around external facts and fun stuff. We never really talked about anything that mattered.

There cannot be true love either without true sharing since, beyond passion, love comes from our need to protect and nurture our partner. It is often when we see their softer side rather than their achievements, when they confide in us, that our heart warms up to them. There’s nothing more vulnerable than loving someone with all our being while knowing that our feelings may not be shared or that one day it will all end. Without our willingness to open up and invest ourselves fully, we cannot say we truly love someone.

A leader wins the respect and trust of its organisation when he or she is humane, when they acknowledge their mistakes and improve, their limitations as to what they still don’t know and they dare to talk about it. Efficient leaders are liked by their community who can identify with them.

Equally, empathy towards someone’s distress cannot exist without our willingness to experience some negative emotions and put ourselves in the shoes of our counterpart. Lack of empathy leads to tense relationships and frustration, if not end of relationship altogether.

Surprisingly, research professor Brené Brown pointed out that innovation, creativity and change cannot happen in the absence of vulnerability. When coming up with a new idea or product, one must be willing to potentially fail, experience a wide range of negative emotions and be made fun of in order to succeed. Take it up a notch and apply that to your whole life: it takes some courage to take your life to the next level, take decisions regardless of their outcomes and how hurt you might be in the process.

How can we know ourselves and evolve if we never pause to heal our wounds, connect with our emotions, acknowledge our drawbacks and weaknesses and reshuffle plans accordingly? Brown’s study reveals that emotions cannot be numbed selectively so if we choose to not feel vulnerable or any dark emotion, we equally close our hearts out to love, joy or other positive emotions.

I sure don’t want to live in a world with no love, connection, trust, innovation, empathy or respect. Do you? So take a moment to feel, connect, be grateful, share, embrace uncertainty, show yourself.

Hungers game: what drives us (and our New Year’s resolutions)

Finding a place under the sun, My story, Self-development

After you tell me everything you want how about you lie down a bit to tell me why you think you need all these?

Following Santa’s invitation, before we start listing those New Year’s resolutions, how about we think what’s behind them, what really drives our actions and goals, and will they make us feel fulfilled or merely satisfied? Is that what we really want or the same need can be satisfied in a different way? From this perspective, life seems a hungers game, where we continuously chase the ways we can feed the various needs we have. A small challenge awaits for you at the end of this article.

Types of hungers

Coaches Michael Stratford and Deb Giffen in Hungers: the hidden motivators distinguish between three types of hungers which sometimes co-exist:

  • Inner-directed – the Hunger to Receive (attention, love, admiration, recognition, praise, respect, gifts, support, touch, loyalty, information etc): feeds externally to fill an internal void
  • Internal states – the Hunger to Feel (important, secure, valuable, included, unrestricted, loved, at peace, clarity etc)
  • Outer-directed – the Hunger to Be, Have or to Do (successful, in control, right, useful, leader, perfect, responsible, give to others): often linked to an internal hunger and the feeling of void cannot be removed without feeding both hungers.

Whether these hungers were instilled by our childhood, some trauma, the society or our human nature, they need to be fed.

How to feed these hungers

The coaches advise to acknowledge these instinctual hungers, know their intensity and feed them regularly, in various portions and in a healthy way to escape their power. This means also discovering dining in (internal) methods to feed these hungers in order to reduce our dependence on dining out (external) methods. It also means being aware of where and how these hungers are already fed and if in a healthy way. By doing so, we can boost the healthy foods and cut down on for example toxic relationships.

Bingeing as a result of serious long-term deprivation can put our wellbeing on a rollercoaster ride and lead to making the wrong choices. Imagine becoming so deprived of affection that you could commit to the wrong partner while in fact there are many sources of affection such as hugs, playing with pets or even self-care. It takes conscious choice, flexibility to accept the variety of foods to feed on but also a network of support we can rely on.

From hungers to values, vision, purpose and mission

With further reflection, hungers can fine-tune our goals, but also be turned into values and a higher vision, purpose and mission. For example, if someone wants to get a management role, by digging deeper and realising that this goal only hides a hunger for recognition of self-worth, one can find other ways to feed this hunger like being a great parent. By doing so, the person can pursue their goal more at ease and more relaxed as they no longer pursue it in a famished state and this goal is no longer the only source of nutrition for this hunger. Or the person could change their goal altogether as no longer fit or that precious or because they realised it’s not even what they wanted in the first place.

Once a hunger is no longer a one-way street but applies globally, it becomes a value that enriches your existence. For example, no longer chase love for my own comfort but be loving. When we give what we are yearning for we often get it back as well – like when you smile and the person smiles back. When a hunger is fed, we get satisfaction, whereas when we live according to our values, we feel fulfilled.

Then we discover our vision – the type of world we want to live in: I want to live in a loving and caring world. Then we discover our purpose – what we are called to do: have a loving family and show affection and support. And we define our mission – what we’ll do to turn this vision into reality.

I love it how simple the book describes this process: vision=Eyes, purpose=Heart and mission=Hands.

To link your hungers with your vision, try to ask yourself (and those close to you) if in your interactions with people over the course of your life there was a constant message you’ve delivered. Then reflect how is one of your hungers related to this, how it operates and where have you shared this learning with others.

In my case, I was pleased to see that those close to me also perceived me as my personal statement on this blog shows. I believe in a world where we are free and equal to explore (including multiple identities and roles), where we can open our minds, grow and help others grow continuously not only through reason, enhanced awareness, consciousness and reflection, but also by reconnecting to our heart and essence. Life is about continuous becoming, overcoming our fears and limitations and upgrading ourselves, while nurturing loving relationships where we support others to be who they are and in their becoming. So dare to set an example that life can be lived differently. Thinking of this vision, no wonder I worked in training, research, change management, organisational development and communication.

Challenge for you

Baby steps. So coming back to the holiday season, I invite you to take some time for yourself and:

  • List some New Year’s resolutions
  • Try to identify which hunger the top three would feed
  • What’s the status of this hunger: starving, craving, hungry (still under control) or elemental (cannot live without, linked to your purpose)
  • How else this hunger is already fed in this life – also focus on unhealthy junk food you should drop
  • How could you feed this hunger on a regular, healthy, sustainable basis, including dine-in methods independent of external sources: identify concrete actions and timing
  • Who in your community could help feed this hunger
  • Re-assess your resolutions: keep/discard/replace with, change priorities
  • (If you want to go deeper) What is the source of this hunger and How my life has benefitted from having this hunger: experiences, people I met, achievements, learning points

Equally you could analyse any habits that you might not know why you have them. This is how I actually ended up reading this book. I found that I always listen with the intention to contribute and improve which can sometimes be annoying as some people just need to be heard and nothing else. But then digging deeper I also discovered a hunger for control due to a lack of trust that my interlocutors could find a better solution and a hunger for appreciation and proving my worth. When these hungers are fed elsewhere, even through meditation or more gentle self-talk, you no longer act impulsively to have them fed at any occasion despite the circumstances. It does take some discipline to monitor that your hungers are fed regularly and from a rich variety of sources.

Or go through the hungers to mission process.

Happy becoming! Would love to hear about it.

New age experience

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development

What would you have taken up as a hobby in your 40s or 50s if you had known you’d live to be 100? Then it suddenly dawns on you that you will be old for more than half of your life. But are you really old in your 40s or 50s or do you need to redefine your reality?

A change in attitudes and perception is needed, especially when people aged 60 and above are thought to outnumber 10 to 24-year-olds in 2050, according to the United Nations. We’ve been made more aware of our negative attitudes towards age when many of our friends and family suddenly turned old on Facebook with the help of an app. I at least realised I’d make a very sad old lady if I don’t take action immediately. So let’s look at the type of habits or traits that can make aging a more fun experience, with some inspiration from a booklet part of The School of Life series I found in the library on How to age.

But before we begin, you might argue that there have been worst times to be old, like when old people would be thrown off cliffs or eaten because their upkeep endangered the survival of the others. Maybe a bit exaggerated and hard to conceive, when now we have great life care for a global average life expectancy of 72. There have also been better times as well, when the old were cherished for being the exclusive holders of knowledge or when age was a sign of distinction. Words like senate (Latin senex meaning the elder) remind us of the value once attached to old age.

What has happened in the meantime? Our consumerism culture has become highly attached to beauty and our physical self. The rapid technological progress quickly makes any knowledge obsolete so we often mock the old for their old-fashioned views. We no longer live under the same roof with three generations and are deprived of the consciousness of our own ephemerality which would help emphatise. We generally have few interactions or close relationships with other age groups.

So which traits or attitudes should we develop?

Repetition and belonging: tied in with the joy of missing out. As you age, you might want to or have to stick more to the same routines. There might not be as much change, variety or moving around. It’s crucial to feel at ease with your surroundings.

Nurturing genuine connections: whether it’s reminiscing about the past with life-long friends or bonding with new ones you just met. A Harvard study on happiness has shown that overall happiness is dependent more on genuine relationships than any other factors.

Growth mindset: if you’re into exploring, you won’t get bored. So many new skills, places and sensations to discover even after you retire. And then you’ll have so much more time!

Sense of self and gratitude: being aware of your choices and how these shaped who you are can keep regrets at bay. Connecting the dots by looking at your life holistically and feeling grateful for everthing that happened. This is of utmost importance when you have a lot of time on your hands to relive the past. As life becomes more stable and less eventful, filled with small moments, what does the future look like for us if we can only feel thankful for big achievements? But most importantly, you are not your body! Sad sad old age if we see ourselves as just a pretty face and lead an oversexualised life deriving satisfaction mostly from bodily sensations and our romantic conquests, ignoring all other life dimensions. I cannot stress this enough.

Letting go and optimism: we will shed many skins as we get older, so it’s important we don’t hold on bitterly to different versions of ourselves, relationships that end, people who pass away, properties that burn down or money we lose. Instead, look forward to the opportunities that will come to replace them.

Accepting help graciously and our vulnerabilities: there will come a time when some help might become essential, so accepting it as a sign of humanity, love and care is better than rejecting it stubbornly and pushing others away. Having to accept help could prove extremely painful in a culture of continuous empowerment, where we are taught to take pride in our independence and our achievements: need no man, can carry my bags perfectly, see these clothes – I bought them. A culture that despises interdependency like in the form of benefits or pension payments.

Laughing at yourself : when you stumble and fall down and can have a good laugh at yourself you know you’re on the right track. This also reminds me of the silly American series Married with children where Al Bundy makes it throughout his married life through self-satire.

Becoming and not being: realising that in each moment we transform and that there is beauty in every stage of life.

Phones now come with automatic face retouching filters. Time to switch them off: I’ve earned these lines! And I wrote the story behind them.

What top traits did I miss?

Free to love


Dear lady,

Your greatest gift and power is your love – that solar energy that warms up everyone around you, offered in vulnerability as a child, mother, friend or lover.

When you’re keeping that from the world, you’re not being true to your feminine essence. I know you were hurt and your heart shattered and now you’re building walls around you to protect your heart.

“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”


You are probably not aware that you are choosing to be a victim of abuse. This mistreatment is not from a man, but from yourself. You are actively closing, protecting your heart from love, shutting down so your body and heart don’t ache so openly. You may be damaging yourself as much as any man could damage you.

You are actively training your body to feel less, your heart to open less, your love to flow less. You don’t need a man’s raised fist to diminish you,- you are diminishing yourself. You are choosing to stay in a relationship with yourself that diminishes you.

Until you can feel the openness beyond your drama—he loves me, he loves me not,- I’m fine by myself, but I long for a good man—your heart will remain tangled up in abuse. You will habitually choose your 1st stage dependence relationship or your 2nd stage separative independence, until
your yearning for love breaks your heart open beyond the drama of love’s coming and going.

David Deida – Dear Lover

You are love. So love.

Choosing not to choose


I don’t often remember quotes but this one really stuck with me through the years. Dostoevsky once said man was so scared of freedom he invented God. When confronted with freedom and its wide range of choices, it helps to have some limitations or selection criteria – brought by either religion, values, principles or just circumstances. We all need our fishbowl as psychologist Barry Schwartz puts it.

My relationship with freedom and choice is still somewhere in between loving it and dreading it. With every choice you close doors behind you and open a window. I can never decide if choice is more of a blessing or a burden.

The 21st century with its democratic philosophy is very much attached to the idea of freedom, ever since the pursuit of happiness was enshrined as an inherent right in the American Declaration of Independence if not longer. And yet we are dominated by an anxiety of becoming as every aspect of our life is now our responsibility and can be shaped in so many different ways: the school we go to, the country we live in, our partner or our job – and even our identity. The anxiety of choice can lead to a paralysis of action or just going with the flow. Or even when action is taken, the level of satisfaction decreases once you know you missed out on so many options that could have been better. The more options you have, the higher your expectations regarding what you pick.

If you fail, it’s your fault because you made the wrong choice. How do you know it’s the right one? The wide range of alternatives makes it even harder to choose and puts an enormous strain on our energy levels. Soon inertia and change aversion set in. This is why we tend to accept default options, especially if we trust the choice architects or if the choice is too technical for us to make. Give employees the option to choose between 50 pension providers or enroll them automatically on a recommended pension scheme and overall enrolment will be considerably higher in the second case.

Although default options make it easier for us to navigate choices, they impede the learning process and our personal growth. Take GPS for instance. Studies have shown that taxi drivers who find their way around without GPS experience positive alterations in their brain. Choice-making is a good exercise for the brain, but also for our self-esteem and confidence.

The danger with this passiveness of choice is that you risk losing your sense of self. Active choosing brings with it a personal responsibility and close identification with outcomes – and ultimately a strong sense of identity: this is who I am through the choices I’ve made. Not to mention that every choice contributes to self-awareness: knowing what you like or dislike, need, can tolerate, what makes you happy, what are your values and so on.

Behavioural economics has revealed that actually the choice is sometimes not even ours. Dan Ariely talks about the illusion of choice. There are greater forces at play that model our behaviour such as loss aversion. For example, I won a pass to a dance festival I didn’t even want to go to. Because I knew I would’ve lost a pass worth 80 euros if I hadn’t gone, I ended up spending five times as much to get there just so I wouldn’t lose something that I didn’t even have in the first place! We’re also manipulated through framing: would you rather go for a 90% fat-free product or one with 10% fat? And then there is unconscious bias.

So why stress about choices when you’re not even in full control? Well, but you know what? At the end of the day you will regret more what you didn’t do than what you did. There’s no right or wrong – just the best for the time being. No choice is final. Believe in second chances and plan B. Have an open mindset: it takes some failing to succeed.

A wise man once told me we’ll never be happy until we accept, take responsibility for and are at peace with our choices. A wise woman once told me that sometimes when you cannot decide all you need is passion, instinct, intuition. If you too have protected yourself emotionally for too long, your heart mechanism might need some reactivation to become passionate about your options and choices again.

So don’t choose not to choose. Your life deserves your active participation. Just live adventurously. Take a chance on life. Whatever the outcome, you will learn from it and grow. Follow your gut feeling every now and then. Life cannot be lived fully rationally. And forget about the opportunity cost – what you lost by not making a different choice. This is your story. And you’re not the only writer anyway. So take it easy.

Ode to sadness (and pessimism)

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development

Ode to sadness

When was the last time you were sad and felt good about it? Today’s interpretation of positive psychology brain-washed us all into believing happiness is the only acceptable way of living and the supreme goal and slowly let guilt and shame for our own not-so-happy thoughts and feelings creep in. While joy and happiness act as life motivators as shown in Schiller’s Ode to Joy, I’d like us to pause for a moment and rethink sadness, melancholia and pessimism, their value in our life and the dangers of siding too much with optimism and positivity.

It all started with Disney with its they lived happily ever after. But then came adulthood and we realised marriage was just two people asking each other what they want to eat until one of them dies – or finds something better to do. Or better said, what marriage? Because Disney implanted in our brain these expectations of how our partner should be that are not met in reality so we’re nowhere close to marrying anyone. Relationships should be easy as 1-2-3. Nobody told us relationships were all about accepting imperfections, compromising, commitment and living by values rather than chasing immediate intense pleasure, so when things get tough, we can’t really be bothered with working through differences. We’d rather be single than go through the headache. We were sold a romantic ideal we cannot replicate and then suddenly we feel alienated and defective – for not being able to love or commit or connect or accept anything less.

Professionally speaking, we were raised in a meritocratic society, which emphasizes we are all equal when it comes to our chance to succeed and that each of us can get to the top based on our personal abilities – sounds swell! That is also what many uplifting self-help books promote: a sense of opportunity that everyone can make it. Suddenly, you are fully responsible for your fate and for fulfilling your potential, as opposed to ancient times when your fate was in the hands of the goddess of fortune. This meritocratic belief is completely ignorant of any economic, social or even genetic factors that might prevent us from getting anywhere near the top. Just compare the complex career guidance and counseling some children get these days when they graduate from high school with me browsing the brochure of the local university and trying to make sense of the world. Meritocracy also indirectly implies that if those who got to the top merit to be there, so do the ones who haven’t and are at the bottom of the social ladder. Not long before envy and self-esteem issues start lurking beneath the surface and we start being very tough with ourselves.

Why is the suicide rate so high in such prosperous times, where our basic needs are met and we have access to so much entertainment? Precisely because we think we’re fully accountable for our wins and our failures, who we are and where we are, and we ignore the role of chance and other factors. Moreover, we’re an optimistic generation with very low tolerance to boredom, sacrifice, loss or any negative emotion. We seek a comfortable life. We’re the first generation that grew up in times of peace and we were promised a grand life, like in the movies, where we fall in love madly at first sight, it lasts forever, where we do jobs we are highly passionate about, everything is meaningful and intense and we are the masters of our destiny. We seek meaning in our work, forgetting that historically work was just a (rather painful) way to make ends meet. Few of us are happy with our jobs or marriages, yet we cherish these as standard sources of meaning and happiness and judge ourselves against this ideal of normality which has failed most of us. When anything doesn’t fit in those parameters, we are deeply shocked and have an existential crisis. As Alain de Botton, founder of The School of Life YouTube channel points out, bad things are written into the contract of life, a fact stoics like Seneca were very familiar with but which we tend to be oblivious of.

Our society of over-sharing on social media promotes this fake image of prosperity and well-being. Suddenly we have access to information about everyone we didn’t have before and they’re all better off than us. We start wearing masks of happiness, laughter and sink into empty small talk. I still remember when I sensed a melancholic predisposition in a friend in school and how he begged me not to tell anyone because he feared they would all shun him. Cherish those you can open your heart to who listen and understand not only your hopes and dreams, but fears, sadness and insecurities. We all have fair weather friends. Real connection is born when we’re there for each other in rough times as well. We seek relationships where we feel accepted even when we’re less upbeat and where we can talk about things that really matter.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about challenging your fears and limitations, taking the path less travelled, rethinking your world. The problem is when our optimist expectations aren’t in line with reality and that we forget it’s only human to have both positive and negative emotions. I had to be reminded of this myself the other day when I was blaming myself for feeling a bit rundown. I was living under the almighty rule of the happiness imperative, which I hadn’t even realised. Creativity and the greatest insights often stem from melancholy and sadness – imagine a Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending, a disco version of Leonard Cohen or a zenned out Dali. It just wouldn’t be the same. It’s feeling small and mortal that puts things into perspective, what’s important in life, than feeling unbeatable and grand. Imagine all that mental energy we’re using to suppress negative emotions that we could free up and put to better use. So next time you’re feeling sad, embrace it, cherish it – and the lessons it can unveil.

A different personal narrative

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development

Money chasing monkey business - Copy

As the new year unfolds and everyone draws up resolution lists packed with new gym memberships, money-making strategies, remote destinations and language classes, I came across Emily Esfahani Smith and her four pillars of meaning and thought they’d make a good foundation for 2018.

After years of research, Emily argues that it’s not the pursuit of happiness that should govern our life, but the pursuit of meaning. No news there. According to her, meaning is achieved through four pillars:

  1. belonging: developing loving relationships where we are appreciated for who we are rather than our beliefs.
  2. purpose: putting our qualities to the service of the greater good or of others.
  3. transcendence: connecting to a higher reality through art, religion, writing or, for me, dancing.
  4. storytelling: the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

The last one immediately stroke a chord. I’ve always been fond of reading and writing but never thought of what a lousy personal storyteller I was when it came to sharing how I became what I am today or even small things like how’s your new job. When it came to my personal narrative, since I’m a perfectionist, I often concentrated on the shortcomings and areas for improvement: what could/ should be even better but isn’t? A discourse of longing and expectation that doesn’t let you enjoy the present moment even when you have it good because there’s something even better you’re missing on. I call it the anxiety of becoming, where you feel your life takes place in a constant waiting room towards your next destination. I have led a pretty interesting and diverse life so far, so I was always trying not to sound arrogant to the point that I wasn’t really given myself recognition for my achievements or didn’t come across as confident.

Let’s take a friend of mine who was drugged by a mother of a 3-year old while backpacking in Latin America and woke up on the backseat of an abandoned car in only a bikini surrounded by police, her bag gone. Her narrative: I’m better equipped now for further travel (she’s got another four months) and feeling grateful I’m safe and with friends. Needless to say my first reaction would’ve been to get an urgent medical check, file a police report and get the hell out of there. If your narrative is on the negative side even when things are good, imagine how you’d react when misfortune strikes.

The storytelling pillar reminded me of Steve Jobs‘ recount of his path to success and how he connected the dots years later, showing that even what seemed like disasters back then turned into blessings. When you tell your narrative, does your story have a positive sound to it? Does it make you feel content? or is it more whining and complaining? What was awesome about your journey? What has it taught you? How has it contributed to the awesome person you are today? Are you grateful or bitter? Do you take responsibility or do you blame others?

The storytelling concept is not alien to cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, where one’s interpretation of a situation, rather than the situation itself, triggers feelings and behaviors and ultimately, our satisfaction and sense of meaning of our life overall. To improve our storytelling we need compassion and kindness towards yourself and self-love. Mindfulness i.e. a focus on and non-judgemental observation of thoughts, emotions and behaviours, helps identify the basic human need behind them. This need, if unmet, can trigger a certain unkind discourse we tell ourselves about ourselves. It takes some acceptance of vulnerability and understanding that we all share this humanity, where we may feel unworthy or unloved and that’s ok. At the same time, we can limit our frustration with ourselves and be less harsh if we satisfy that need in multiple ways and bring this into awareness.

So this year’s resolution is not to maximise the money-chasing monkey business or fly to remote locations, but to tell myself a different personal narrative and being more grounded. As Marcel Proust puts it, it’s not different landscapes we need, but a different perspective:

“The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes”

The gift

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development, Teaching

On her way‘You ask me what is the greatest happiness in this world?

To hear the hum of a little girl in the distance after she asked you which way.’

Li Po

My dear friend from high school gave me this book for my birthday, The art of happiness by Christophe André, which derives specific lessons from famous paintings on how to experience happiness and pairs them with quotes and intriguing insights. I was a bit nervous how I was going to find the time to go through it, since our generation is ADD-ed all over the place. This quote made me pause for a while. It reminded me of the joy to contribute to other people’s development that I rediscovered while volunteering as a literature teacher and empowerment trainer in Micronesia and when I started this blog.

Most people think they tick this box by parenting, but why say ‘a little girl’ and why is she moving away than nearing if this is about parenting? Parents can get overprotective and prescriptive in their attempts to guide their offspring towards what they think is best for them (see post on Lifetraps of all the ways things can go wrong unintentionally). Our attitude is more neutral and less controlling towards someone we don’t feel we own in one way or the other.

You don’t need to be a parent to make a powerful contribution in someone else’s life. Just by showing kindness, encouraging them directly or indirectly when no one believes in them or by sharing an idea they’ve never thought of before at the right time, you can point them the way. What way? Towards where? To their next stop.

Someone was saying our talent is not a right, but an obligation: it’s a gift that was lent to us for the benefit of the others, not ourselves, and it should manifest itself sooner or later. Nowadays it’s so easy to overlook our talent and feel we’re not good enough at it as we compare ourselves to others incessantly. In the movie Good Will Hunting, the following question is raised: Can you imagine if Einstein would’ve given up his gift just to get drunk with his buddies every night? Similarly, once we get over ourselves as the centre of the universe and having fun while experimenting the world, we realise that who we’ve become and what we’ve learnt is our gift to the world. We have a sort of moral obligation towards the well-being of others and to help them find their way – in a non-intrusive or prescriptive way. And listen to their hum as they stroll away.

He lost his humanity when…

Global citizenship, Self-development

I recently attended Romania’s first peace forum and there was a lot of talk(s) about non-discrimination, extremism, value-based conflicts, but what struck me were this lady’s words: ‘He lost his humanity when he chose violence‘. Jo Berry, founder of Building Bridges for Peace, shared her touching story of when she sat face-to-face with her dad’s killer, 16 years later after he planted a bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference. Why did she do it? Because she chose to. And she empathised.

My first reaction to her choice of words was that surely there’s nothing more human than to react to our surroundings by the emotions we display and that involves anger and yes, that can lead to violence – so why say humanity and violence are incompatible? We’re living creatures animated by emotions. But then I realised that’s the beautiful thing about humans that sets us apart from other living creatures: that we can rise above our instincts through reason, practice, understanding, feeling, empathising. So when the IRA chose to bomb, it was the expression of so much anger that led to the abdication of humanity.

We cannot make peace with the others until we made peace with ourselves: peace in, peace out. A 2004 film I happened to watch a few days later, Crash, was a mix of intertwining stories about how built-up alienation, loneliness, anger, frustration is the source of violence and discrimination. A powerful must-watch film with a witty ending. So when you mistreat a person, you take it out on him or her for all the times you were disappointed, hurt, angry, insecure or experienced an agonising strife for individuality. Our natural preservation instinct is so ingrained in our DNA that it has made us automatically view differences as something threatening and unwanted. Don’t be ruled by fear. It takes a conscious effort to go beyond and understand.  It’s what defines our humanity.

One day after the Manchester bombing, I can’t help but feel angry, but also saddened that someone could feel they had no other choice to express themselves or solve their problem than by killing others. Angry for the lost lives, but also for the racism and division they’ve generated. He, too, has lost his humanity when he chose violence.

Undemonising men and responsibilising women

Finding a place under the sun, Love, Self-development

Responsibilising women‘Men are pigs, they lie and they cheat.’ Now how many times have you heard that one before? One too many. It’s time to abandon the sex wars, so I’ll get straight to the point. Ok, sometimes they do. So do women. The problem is women adopt this victim attitude and blame men by default. What women often forget is that they always have a choice and should take responsibility for its consequences. And that we are all free to be at whatever stage in life we feel ready for.

Number one: let’s take, for example, the case of a man who just got out of a long relationship and isn’t ready for commitment. It’s his right. He’s not there to support needy women 24/7. If he’s true about his intentions and meets a woman who is looking for the real deal, the woman has the choice to have a fling or move on until she finds her man. What some women do is stick around, hoping they’ll win over the guy. Why? Because women have a natural instinct to fix or change men. When they don’t succeed, they cry on their friend’s shoulder that the guy was a scumbag. Why? He was just not ready and said it upfront. There are many other guys who are: plenty of fish in the sea, what made you stop fishing? Your choice! The only thing to reproach a man would be if he was misleading and made the woman believe he was committed when he wasn’t. But then again, women tend to self-induce that impression that the man loves them. Why? Because somehow women have been taught that if a man is mean to them, he likes them.

Number two: cut that ‘I was born to love you’ fantasy! A man is not supposed to love you now or indefinitely. When that happened, life expectancy was low and one of you died in your 30s. A man is entitled to fall in or out of love and so are you. This should not affect your identity or self-esteem. You are still your wonderful self. You cannot define your worth based on someone’s irrational desire or chemistry. That’s insane! How can you blame someone of something they have no control over? Tip of the day: easier said than done.

Number three: women love to have sex just as much as men. They’re not pure and fantasise about getting married and having children all day. They don’t love endlessly: women get bored too, some don’t want children or life-long commitment. Otherwise all men would be saints out of lack of partners in crime. With people tying the knot later or never, women have sex outside of committed relationships. Just because a man came along, that doesn’t mean the woman is by default picturing him as her husband. Or that women want to be tied in shitty relationships just out of fear of being single. However, for women attachment is more powerful and comes easier. If you’re going through a ‘girls just want to have fun’ phase, take responsibility for what it entails.

Number four: you’re in a toxic relationship with an abusive man. You deserve something better. I once read a book called Feel the fear and do it anyway. It might be petrifying and if you’ve been in that relationship long enough, chances are your self-confidence has been torn to shreds. It might be extremely hard for endless reasons, but remember, you always have an option: to leave or stay. 

‘But women are intrinsically emotional. You cannot teach them reason.’ Oh c’mon! No one said women should start being robots and stop feeling. Just by knowing that your worth is not determined by the size of your fan club is not going to make rejection less painful. Who? Me? No, ME. I might still feel disappointed, hurt or even not good enough. I will feel it, embrace it, let it overwhelm me and move on. I owe this to the little girl I once was not to let my life become a complete emotional mess. I hold the reins. It’s always easier to blame it on someone else. I might seem insensitive, too tolerant or blamed for siding with men (when there shouldn’t be any sides because we banned sex wars at the beginning of this post), but I believe there’s always a choice. It’s time to take responsibility for our life and our emotions.