Realize that your real Life is more important than your online World – 4 Mar 15

There are a lot of people nowadays who spend a very big amount of time of their day on their phones or tablets, not working but communicating through social media. I don't think it is bad. I don't say you shouldn't do it. I do say however that you need to be careful not to think everything you read online is reality.

I have seen this happen with many people, especially with those who have a tendency to feeling inferior to others. They read all those great status updates, tweets and statements of others and then feel bad about their own lives.

Maybe some time ago, this happened when people looked at magazines and read interviews with celebrities who seemed to have so great lives, from a perfect body to the loving partner and of course success and money. It was a shock for everyone when such persons then committed suicide – nobody had noticed that their life was actually miserable and not glamorous at all, as it was displayed in the media.

Then they looked at their real friends however and could see that they are not the only real people with problems, issues and different moods.

Today, when looking at a lot social media posts, you wonder whether the authors of those texts are always-happy, super-perfect ideals or actually real human beings. And that's where I think the danger lies.

For those who like comparing themselves to others, the result can easily be to feel bad. Now these others are not anymore celebrities whom they have never seen but their real friends and acquaintances! Now it seems like everyone around them is really living in a wonderful heaven-like world, experiencing so many fun things and getting so much love from everyone – just they are not.

I would like to recommend everyone who has such feelings to take the eyes off the screen for some time and actually meet the people whose lives they follow online. Get in touch with real life again and see that you can write anything while not writing what really moves you. Obviously, many people would like to share their good moments online while going through bad times on their own! They don't want pity or words of compassion in a fictional world when what they really need is a shoulder to cry on!

This world online is great, you can be in touch with people all around the world and see what they are doing – but don't forget to live a real life, too, meet people in flesh, too, and be yourself, a human being with emotions of all kinds!

Beauty comes in all different Shapes! – The Harm of wrong Beauty Ideals – 28 Aug 13

Yesterday I explained how many people, especially women, compare themselves constantly to others, taking self-esteem out of these doubtable victories and feeling bad when they believe they lose that comparison. Apart from the fact that this makes it difficult for you to feel good when you are alone, you also need to realize that the beauty ideal that you are following brings a whole lot of further problems.

I think we don’t need to spend much time on discussing whether the beauty ideal to which most women compare their own bodies is realistic or not. The images that the media displays are modified with computers, the women who are displayed wear heavy make-up, the light is in their favour, they don’t act in real-life situations and it is their profession to look like that. The image that you thus normally see displayed on posters, in magazines and on TV burns itself into your mind and makes you forget that this is shown to you to make you purchase whatever they are selling. You take it for the norm, for how you and every woman should look like in order to be called beautiful.

Mainstream media doesn’t take into account that there are people of all kinds of different body shapes! The people, men and women, whom you see in the end are only a very few selected ones, sorted out with strict criteria which a majority of people cannot fulfill.

The result is clear: people all over believe that this is normal and try to look the same. If they cannot reach there, they believe they are not beautiful – although it is mostly really impossible! And this fact that it is impossible frustrates a lot of women who are honestly trying with full effort to lose weight, to get into the same shape as the women on the screen! They cannot achieve that because their body structure for example is different!

Seeing this, many just give up completely. They see that the only way to be called ‘beautiful’ is to look like that – but they won’t ever reach, so why even try? They don’t have any enthusiasm or reason to work out, to move and to do something for their body. The only reason that they see would be the competition and the goal to reach but if it is anyway impossible, why even try? They know that they can never win.

The solution to this problem – apart from changing the way society works and promotes unrealistic beauty ideals – is to change the way that you look at exercise, healthy nutrition and your body in general. You need to realize that you don’t eat healthy in order to lose weight just to look like someone else. You also don’t move your body, run or swim in order to look like anybody else. You should not do all of this for anybody else but for yourself!

Do it for yourself! Eat healthy because you feel better! Work out because you get a good mood and feel your body again! YOU are the one that benefits from a healthy weight, nobody else! Do it because you love your body, because you love yourself!

If enough people act like this, we might even get advertising companies, the movie industry and the general thought of society to realize that there is beauty in each individual, in all different shapes that exist!

Comparing with other does not increase or reduce your Beauty – 27 Aug 13

Yesterday I mentioned that people get very stressed simply because they constantly compare themselves to others in all regards. The area of life in which especially woman make most comparisons is of course beauty. This kind of comparison however is, in my eyes, the reason why there are so many women with low self-esteem and a bad body-image for themselves.

The main problem is again the comparison with the outside. It is nothing unusual that a woman comes into a room and screens the place for other women. It sounds like cliché but a majority of women will admit – at least to themselves – that they do look at other women’s bodies and faces, comparing their dress, their slimness, level of fitness, hairstyle and even make-up to their own. Depending on the result of their little check, their self-esteem either rises a bit or falls. They feel more beautiful if the woman in front of them is heavier, has an acne problem or a bad hair day. In the same way however, they feel conscious about their weight or whatever they believe is their problem zone, if the woman seems more beautiful to them.

While I am talking about women here, this is not only a problem for the female gender! You might not talk about beauty when men do the same thing but what happens is not different in any way! Men look at other men’s abs, their muscles, their toned biceps and triceps and then of course the air of nonchalance or that confident smile and they feel the exact same thing!

But does beauty only work when you win in comparison to others? Do you really only feel beautiful when you look at another woman and feel that she looks even less like a movie star or supermodel than you do? Do you really think that you are only beautiful if you look like the women whom you see on posters and in TV advertisements?

I understand that there is a certain feel-good factor when you win in a comparison, even if it is just in your own mind and there are no spectators to witness your victory. You should however realize what you are really doing there and reflect a bit what your beauty ideal really is!

The fact is that this beauty ideal is not realistic, as every media channel uses computer programs to ‘optimize’ the looks of their models and actors. You however take this ideal as a goal for how you would like to look and simultaneously measure other people on this ideal as well.

Again, the question is how much you really have to look on the outside in order to define yourself and identify who you are? Do you have to think ‘I am slimmer than Heather, have better skin than Mary and fuller hair than Louise’? Wouldn’t it be enough to just think ‘I am beautiful’?

I cannot stress often enough that beauty is not only on the outside and that everybody’s perception of beauty is different! You have to feel beautiful when you are standing alone in a room, too, when you have nobody to compare to! And you should feel beautiful if you are standing in a crowd full of superstars. You are unique and you are beautiful.

Stop comparing yourself to others and be happy! – 26 Aug 13

In the past week I wrote about competition at the workplace which can even make people fall into depression, have a breakdown and burn out. This competition is not only at the working place however, it can be in every other area of your life as well – if you want to live in this constant pressure! It is really pretty much up to you: how much do you want to compete and compare and how much do you want to focus on yourself?

It is really no wonder that a lot of people get stressed because in today’s society it is normal to compete with each other. For competing you need to compare yourself with others in order to find out who is doing better or worse. You can do that in nearly every area of life and many people are doing exactly that. They don’t only have a competition with their co-workers but they compare how far their own career went with how far their former classmates have come. They compare how fast or long they can run on the treadmill in the gym with how fast their friends can. They compare not only how much they earn but also how much their partner earns with how much their neighbours earn. They compare their own looks with the looks even of complete strangers! They compare what they are reading in their free time with what other people at the pool or beach or in the metro are reading. Am I more intelligent? Am I more successful? Am I more beautiful? Am I faster, higher, better?

Only if the answer to each of these questions is ‘Yes!’, they will be satisfied. If you also have the tendency to do this, you will know exactly what I mean. You permanently make comparisons, repeatedly looking at yourself and then at others, getting a positive push for your mood if you win that comparison and getting upset if you don’t.

The problem is that you are thus concentrating completely on others and identifying yourself through these comparisons. Who are you? I am faster than Jack in running, I am more successful than Jasmine at work, I am a better parent than the Millers next door! It is all on the outside, defined by how far others have come and where you are. You don’t actually relate to your inner values, you maybe don’t even know about them because you are constantly focusing on the outside.

You cannot always win and obviously, losing again and again creates more and more stress! Perfectionists and people with a high level of self-expectation will feel this even more, all adding to the pressure that today’s hectic life anyway creates. This is how even someone who does not have a very high-profile job or even someone who is not employed or working at all can also face burnout.

You have to learn to value yourself because of who you are. You don’t need to always be the best and the first – in fact, you cannot! Nobody can! Accept that you are doing your best and that your talents may not lie on all fields at the same time.

If you need help in changing this habit, try meditating every day for at least a short time or try reminding yourself several times a day that you should not compare yourself to others. Whenever you feel down, find out why – is it because you feel inferior to someone else? Get out of the feeling, remind yourself that you both are humans and thus of the same value, just with different qualities.

Stop comparing yourself to others and be happy!

When Achievements and Success are more important than Happiness – 20 Aug 13

Yesterday, when I told you of our new project, I mentioned that a lot of sports create a feeling of competition that children will still get enough of in later life. While a sportive competition can be fun and is not always something to avoid, the competitions that people face ‘in real life’, especially at the workplace, create lots of unhealthy pressure and stress!

Actually, it already starts in school these days. There has of course always been an atmosphere of competition when it came to the announcement of marks. Every student tries to find out how well the classmates did, compares his achievement with his friends and tries to bet as well or better than them. This natural competition however is fuelled and enlarged by the education system that provides awards in all kinds of areas, always honouring ‘the best’, making everyone else long for the same kind of appreciation for their accomplishments.

This is school, still a protected environment with regulated ways and a clear frame. It provides the base for what you will experience later, in the wild of real life! If you haven’t learned until this point that you are only worth something if you make accomplishments, you will have to learn it the hard way.

You find a job in a big company because you believe that gives you good career possibilities – a chance to make more and more achievements. You give your best and maybe it follows, an accomplishment, the best sales of the region, the highest amount of profit of the year, you are awarded the ‘newcomer of the year’ in your company, you get honoured again, maybe combined with a pay raise. If you are second, you don’t. If you are only in the mid-range or one among the last in the statistics, you are nothing. You don’t get attention, you are not very much appreciated. You are there and that’s it.

I think I don’t need to explain what kind of working climate this creates, what kind of feelings this gives to those who don’t win! This is what modern society teaches people: You are good if you are the best. You are good if you are the number one. If you are in the higher range, your ego gets artificially boosted so that you perform even better, bringing even more income and profit to the company.

Some people will run among the first and the best, performing until they cannot do it anymore, breaking down under the pressure. Others will try and try to reach there, always in mid-range, never really getting there, getting depressed because they just never get the appreciation that they are so much striving for. And then there are those who never have a chance, who are always at the bottom of the statistics. They either live in fear of being replaced or they get numb to the competition that is happening around them – because they won’t ever make it to the top.

We cannot go on like this! We have to stop, take a break and realize that we cannot anymore identify ourselves only with our achievements. It won’t bring us happiness and it won’t make anybody love us any more than they did before. If you believe that your company loves you because you are bringing income, realize that you are only loved and valuable as long as you make that profit.

This may sound hard but I think you need to realize this in order to save yourself from a breakdown due to this artificial pressure! It doesn’t matter whether you are successful in this competition or not, do not place your complete happiness in this game! Don’t search for appreciation there! You have to build a network of family and friends and a strong inner self-worth that is independent of such competition. Otherwise you will fall and it will hurt. Make sure your complete self-esteem does not arise from your achievements at work. Look at who you are, realize that you are you and that this information in itself is enough to make you feel good. You don’t need to be the best. You don’t need to be the first. Enjoy the game if you like it, play along as long as you have fun. And if you don’t, just don’t play along.

Helpful but difficult – Comparisons of Countries and Cultures – 15 Jul 13

In the past week I wrote a lot about parenting and asked people to cut down their ambitions and reconsider how much they really need, so maybe they can spend a bit less time working and a bit more time with their children. When I wrote this, a mother told me about her own situation and said ‘I know that we have a lot compared to a poor family in India…’ This sentence made me think about such comparisons and I would like to share those thoughts with you today.

The main question is: can you compare a developing country like India with western countries at all? Or can you compare the situations of people in these countries with each other?

Of course until a certain point you can and it is often good to do so. It is unavoidable when you live in both countries and I have thus done so many times. How do people live in both countries, what do they think, how much do they earn and own, what is important to them, which worries and which habits do they have?

Seeing poor countries from a western point of view mostly means to get a reality check. You realize that you get mostly worried about issues that are not really very important. You believe you don’t have enough clothes in your cupboard but then you see that others only have one or two sets of clothes. It is not your life that is at stake when business is running a bit low while others don’t have anything to eat if they are too ill to work for a few days. People in other countries fight hunger, they are persecuted due to their religion, race, gender or opinion, they are oppressed and they have to fear for their lives.

Such a comparison thus makes you see your own life in a better light and from a different point of view. You appreciate what you have and maybe reconsider your behavior with the people around you.

While these comparisons are valid and can have a very positive effect, it is very difficult to make direct comparisons when you go deeper because the differences are just so huge! There are so many factors that play a role in your perception of the two sides that you could write an essay of several pages about many of them.

Let me give you an example. You say that poor Indian people have much less than you, living in a developed country. That may be fully right if you speak in financial terms but you cannot conclude that these people have much more worries than you! Their life may be harder when it comes to money but they may be mentally much less stressed than you! You have hundreds of responsibilities and tasks, you want to be perfect, you do everything yourself and you have very little support of relatives.

You may not even be able to imagine the mental peace that many poor people have simply because they know that they don’t have that much to lose. Similarly even people who have a bit more may be much more relaxed than you – because they are less attached to material belongings and have a huge family that gives them emotional support in whatever they do.

You know, I don’t want to tell you how you should see the world. You can decide upon that yourself. I just want to express that for me there is no way to call one or the other country better, that comparisons are sometimes difficult to make and most of all that you need to be with a country’s people for a longer time to be able to even start such a comparison.

Do you make yourself unhappy by comparing too much? – 4 Dec 12

Yesterday I wrote about our massage therapist and mentioned that she is a happy and open person about whom you would not think that she was illiterate. She really does the best of her life, even if she did not have the chance of a good education. When pointing this out, I had to think of all the people who have so many more opportunities in life than she has but decide to be unhappy nevertheless. How come they are unhappy? They compare themselves constantly to others whom they believe to be having a better life.

That is a problem of quite a lot of people and sometimes they don’t even realize that this is the real reason of their unhappiness. They sit around, watching others and pity themselves that they don’t have as much as them. It is usually simply about money, wealth and financial success but is sometimes even extended to non-material achievements. How come he is so rich while doing nothing and I have to work and still don’t earn as much? Look at her, she has so many friends and all of her relatives love her while I have only one friend and all members of my family keep fighting with each other! And my neighbours are on holidays again – how many times a year can they afford to travel like this?

This and other comparisons can be heard, sometimes open and more often well hidden behind other statements. A fuelling factor to such a point of view is in my opinion a high amount of time spent in front of a TV, especially watching soap operas. Something that is the main means of entertainment for a lot of people is in my eyes responsible for many people’s unhappiness. Someone who tends to compare his own life to the life of others, sees the perfect life of the people on the screen and longs to have their lives. It is and remains a fake world however and one can never reach there. If you try to be like the people on TV, your life will never be completely satisfactory. Their life is not real and it won’t fulfill you. You will remain comparing and finding faults in your own life.

What is the cure to this problem though? Many people like to give the following advice: look at those who don’t have as much as you have! Well, yes, of course that can help! If you have ever seen someone who really suffers of hunger, you will think twice before complaining that you don’t have the money to go eating out every weekend! But it is not a long-time solution! You will still keep on comparing to those who can eat out daily! That won’t make you happy on the long run.

No, I believe that the only solution is to stop comparing. The real issue is not that you are comparing yourself to the wrong person. The problem is that you are focusing on the outside, looking at what others have. Instead you should look at your own life and see what you have! Look inside your heart and realize that you are wonderful just as you are. Then look at what you have and tell me honestly, isn’t it enough? Are you not alive and don’t you have love in your life? You should be able to enjoy being yourself without having to compare anything with others.

We all are different and we all have different needs. When we focus however on our real self, we will realize that we are happy with just who we are and don’t need to look at anybody else.

Envying the shining Life of Celebrities? – See the Reality behind the Facade! – 14 Mar 12

Lately Ramona and I were talking about some celebrities who died, not only in the last year but in the past years. The most recent one was Whitney Houston. I had heard her name and maybe I had even heard her music before but as I don’t really listen much to western music, I did not know how much famous and successful she really was. When Amy Whinehouse died and Ramona played some of her songs, I had absolutely no idea who she had been, as well as I did not know Heath Ledger or any of his films. I did know about Michael Jackson and his music though and when I heard that he had died, I knew it would be news all around the world. When we talked about these celebrities we could not avoid but notice that they all and so many more late celebrities had some problems with alcohol or drugs.

It may not have been the cause of death for everyone that they were too drunk or that they had too many drugs but it strikes you when you see that so many celebrities died young and what they have in common is their extensive use of alcohol or drugs. Even if you see among celebrities who are still alive and very popular you will find that a big part of them has a history of drug abuse, rehabilitation, alcohol issues and very often even charges filed against them because of alcohol or drugs.

This realization stands in a very big contrast to the usual picture that people have of celebrities. What do we see of them, usually on TV or maybe in a live show? We see a bright and shining face, looking healthy and happy. They smile, they laugh, they look gorgeous. Female bodies are thin, they wear stunning dresses and they amaze their audience with their performance and appearance. Male bodies are muscular and their smile has the power to let women close-by faint. From time to time however you notice that there is a body too thin to be healthy, that there is a bit too much make-up that is covering something up and that a smile looks too forced and not natural anymore. You can glimpse tired eyes, the hint of something that is going on behind this shining façade.

And then there are reports of accidents in which stars were driving drunk. There are stories of celebrities getting into fights, obviously under the influence of drugs. You hear about court verdicts that they have to complete their rehabilitation and from time to time you hear about a case in which one of them died, young, alone, with drugs or alcohol fresh in their blood.

At this point there should be the realization that the life of a star is not as shiny as you imagine. At this stage you should see that your life is not as bad in comparison as you always thought. I hear people complaining that they would like to live like the big stars, that they would like to be famous like them and most of all that they would like to have money like them. What they don’t see however is the life that comes along with all of this. It is a life in public pressure, a life that may be full of parties and things that look ‘fun’ from the outside but which often feel very empty from the inside. Many stars are alone although they are always surrounded by a crowd. They pretend to be living a good life but often the reality is that they are not happy.

So before you compare yourself the next time to one of those celebrities and before you start complaining about your life, think how good you actually have it. You can go wherever you want, you can have friends without thinking they are only your friends because of your fame and you don’t need drugs and alcohol to cope with your life. Be happy, realize that you have a good life and live it!

Personal Followers – always able to approach their Guru – 14 Jun 11

Personal Followers

Yesterday I described mass followers, people who like to be one of thousands of followers. There is another type of follower who has quite the opposite attitude: the personal follower.

Personal followers don’t like to see a big crowd surrounding their guru. They want to be special and know if they are one of several thousands, they cannot be special. This is how they usually search for gurus that only have a limited number of disciples.

This has several advantages, the most important one being that they have a personal relationship with their guru. They want to get close to him and they are able to. They want him to know who they are. This gives them the feeling of being special and getting a special honour. They cannot only take pictures of him on the stage, from far away or buy his pictures at his events but they can actually take pictures with him, sitting by his feet.

Their guru is really approachable for them. They can see him also when he does not have a very big event. They can visit him at his home or Ashram, have a private talk, they can phone him if they need him and have one-on-one talks to have their questions answered and to get advice. With a guru of the masses, this would not be possible.

As this guru does not have a lot of followers, they feel special about being among the only ones who can do that. It is like an exclusive club that they are in. I also compare this way of having a guru to going shopping in a small boutique. You get personal attention and the feeling that you are special. You are in a special shop and a special customer.

When you talk to personal followers about other gurus, they may listen and even encourage you to go to another guru. For themselves they know however that there is no guru greater than theirs – because they have a personal connection. At the same time they believe that you will never have this because they are just lucky to be exclusively chosen by their guru.

In the end, it is great for both kind of gurus that there are mass followers and personal followers. In this way small and big gurus can both make their business. Small boutiques can exist next to big shopping malls because there are customers for both.

Mass Followers – Following Celebrity Gurus – 13 Jun 11

Mass Followers

Today I would like to write about a type of followers who like to be one among many, the mass followers. They like to be among thousands of other people when they go to their guru. They rarely or never see their guru up close because there are hundreds or thousands of other people sitting in between them and their guru. Nevertheless they are happy and satisfied.

These followers like to talk with other followers about their guru and like to tell how many people have come to his events, proud that they have been one of them. Their guru will seldom or never know their name and will never be aware that they are supporting him continuously with donations and by buying his products. These mass followers like it and the bigger the crowd around their guru, the happier and prouder they are.

They are even more proud if they see that celebrities go to these gurus, too. And celebrities mostly go to such gurus who have thousands of followers – they get publicity, too! So it is not rare that these gurus can call politicians, film stars and other popular members of society their followers. Mostly they and very rich business owners are the only ones who get close to this guru. A normal mass follower with an average income does not have a chance to really get close.

Rich followers however, who have a big name and palace-like houses, can even invite their guru. They have enough space to accommodate the guru and whoever is coming with him. It is very expensive to invite and organize the program of such a guru and the higher his standard, the prouder are the mass followers that he is their guru.

The regular and not-that-well-situated followers are very happy if they sometimes get a glance or a smile of the guru. They do every effort they can to get close to their guru and if they have only a small success, if they only get a small sign of recognition, they believe themselves to be very special. They think ‘Oh, I was in every lecture in this area, now he knows me, too.’ And of course, the more people there are, the more special such recognition is! They are a little bit like groupies for a rock star. They cannot really sit and have dinner with their star but they feel special among all followers.

Whenever you meet mass followers, they will talk about their guru because they think everybody should know this great person. If you don’t have any interest in their guru, they wonder very much why. They believe he is such a great personality, how can it be that you are not interested?

I also compare them with people who like to go shopping in big shopping malls. Mass followers like to be a part of that crowd. The more the better.

 

We have spent a very nice weekend with Jochen and Renate here in Wiesbaden. We even did some sightseeing in Wiesbaden and discovered yet another great ice-cream parlour.