“Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain
Yes, I’m still here. And I come bearing news.
News such as the fact that 50% of you won’t finish this article. 90% of you will be thinking of something else while you’re reading it. 100% of you will quickly realise I made these figures up.
So, try something new right now, you saucy go-getter. Focus your attention solely on this article for three minutes.
For this blog, is about being in the moment.
Stressing About Tomorrow is Ruining Your Today
Do YOU spend too much energy worrying about the things to come?
Do YOU fail to enjoy a Sunday night because you’re worried about Monday?
Then YOU, are a worrier. And you’re missing out on the here and now.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, it pays to think about how we’ll approach certain situations when they come around. Perhaps you have a job interview tomorrow, (you should probably close this and start preparing if you haven’t already) or a big deadline at work next week. By all means, consider how you’ll handle them if they require preparation. But don’t spend too long fretting about it. You need to instead play a game of would you rather.
Would you rather… enjoy the moment you’re in right now, or mull a future event over and over in your head? If you do choose the second option, pretty soon you’ll be too stressed about it to even properly engage in the now.
Take it from the person who once sat at the dinner table at home, quietly having an internal meltdown about his dissertation due in a month’s time. The person who had such a panic, that they booked a train up to university the very next day, two weeks before anyone else went back, to work on said dissertation. And who subsequently got a 60 in that piece of work.
Bit of a waste of time really.
So how do you get yourself out of that rut and into the present moment?
Get Some Perspective – Your Problems Aren’t all That
We have a habit of building things up to mean far more than they really do.
Take that deadline at work you’ve probably spent all week stressing about. Your boss has made it seem life or death. They live and breathe their job, and have decided you must share in their worries. So that stress gets passed on to you, and you become caught up in worrying about how you’ll manage to get everything done right and on time. Maybe it’s getting to the point where you’re staring at the ceiling, 12:30AM, midweek, and you just. Can’t. Go to sleep. So, what should you do?
Well, the genius behind innocent smoothies’ revolutionary Tone of Voice has some solid advice here.
“Stare out into the cosmos. Remembering how small and accidental you are reminds you that what you’re doing isn’t that serious or difficult.” – Dan Germain
These things on your mind have been faced by people in the past and they will be faced by more people in the future. So take comfort in that, then take yourself back to the here and now. After all, you’re never going to be happy anyway.
Remember the Pursuit of Happyness?
Half of the message of Will Smith’s 2006 hit movie was in the purposefully misspelt title. “Happy” is merely a temporary state, much like “sad” and “angry”. So in wanting to achieve happiness, you’re effectively pursuing fleeting moments that won’t last forever.
So in order to fully enjoy these moments, you need to be present in them. That means no distractions and that means not being preoccupied with the past or future. By worrying about next week’s workload, you’re affecting your own number of “happy” moments.
If, like me, you don’t know the first place to look for hints on reducing stressful thinking and being more present, try this link.
Celebrities, sports stars, family members, family friends – role models can come from any direction. We may choose our role models based on their attitude, their success or their impact on our lives.
It’s an essential aspect of life to choose appropriate role models. As many modern-day celebrities appear to let their followers down time and again in the media, is it more important than ever to look closer to home for inspiration?
Role Models in the Media – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Growing up with TV, radio and music permeating every inch of our daily lives, it’s difficult not to become attached to some of the characters we encounter. As a child I idolised Spider-Man following the animated series in the early 90s. Our idols can come from fiction or reality – fictional role models can sometimes be more reliable, as their defining characteristics are mostly constant.
We have some fantastic role models to aspire towards in the media today. Many look to names such as The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, Kate Middleton, Beyoncé, David Beckham, Lebron James and numerous others. These individuals have all achieved vastly different things in their time, but they are generally united by their positive attitude, hard-earned success and widespread impact.
However, negative role models are emerging faster than ever, thanks to the development of social media allowing fame to be achieved almost overnight for some. This has led to millions of young, impressionable teenagers following people who have questionable attitudes, a limited sense of work ethic and an awful lot to say.
These new stars are prone to making some pretty monumental mistakes. Examples are easy to find:
Logan Paul – 15 million YouTube followers, decided it would be okay to film the body of a young man who had recently taken his own life in Japan in 2018
Tekashi69 – 15 million Instagram followers, published a video online of a child engaging in a sex act, currently facing jail, yet still commands a cult following
The Kardashians – with a whopping 465 million combined followers on Instagram, the celebrity family of our generation have made some pretty high-profile errors. Kendall’s Pepsi ad, Kim’s “diet” lollipops, Rob sharing revenge porn, Kim posing as the virgin Mary… this list could continue for a while
Perhaps you and I will dismiss the above listed names as attention-seeking celebrities, but it would be remiss of us not to recognise the negative impact they are having on today’s youth through the sheer reach social media has given them.
The responsibility for guiding young people away from these role models lies with their parents or guardians. A teenager turning to a role model such as those above is down to a lack of guidance or engagement from those who are meant to watch over them. We’re too quick to take the easy solution today – hand a teenager a phone, keep them scrolling social media endlessly, and assume there’s no lasting impact beyond keeping them busy for a while.
Closer to Home
Family and friends are around us day in and day out in most cases. They’re the driving factor behind so much of what we do, and it only makes sense to keep maintain a healthy circle. And this should extend to our personal role models too.
If you’re lucky, your parents will have set you up with the right role models before you were even born. Godparents can be constantly available for advice, present at every family event and generally be one of the most reliable people in your life. What sets godparents apart is the very fact that they are not your parents, and so are able to maintain a considered distance when giving advice.
I’m fortunate to have three exceptional godparents, who I see regularly to this day. Thanks to my parent’s choices, I have external role models who are positive, hard-working and emotionally intuitive.
However godparents can be hit and miss. Some send a card every year, and eventually disappear into the background never to be seen again. Therefore uncles, aunts and older cousins all carry a responsibility towards their younger relatives. If you smoke, it’s likely you play a part in influencing your nephew or niece to consider smoking. If you drink heavily, the same can be said. The actions we take every day can be, unbeknownst to us, shaping the life of a young person near to us.
Your First Role Models
Our parents provide you with the first insight into adult life. They educate us consciously and unconsciously on how to approach relationships, work, education and strangers. These are the role models we do not choose – no matter the relationship a child has with its parents, as long as they are present they are acting as a role model. This is vital to keep in mind as we get older – some of us will soon have our own children, and if we are not prepared to be role models as well as parents, then our children will be at a distinct disadvantage.
Finally, it’s important to recognise that your parents should be the first role models in an ongoing team. As we grow, role models are added to our lives from all different areas. The benefit of having a number of role models is that no single one is perfect. We can’t learn everything from one person, and when they do fail or falter, we will need to look to others for their examples.
Sexual assault is astoundingly commonplace in the UK. You will know a few women who have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, or you may even have been assaulted yourself.
But it’s an issue we continue to turn a relatively relaxed attitude to on a night out. Some creep squeezes a girl where he shouldn’t, and can often get away with it completely.
So what are the facts about sexual assault in the UK?
Sexual Assault in the UK – the Facts
1 in 5 women in the UK have experienced sexual assault since the age of 16.
5 in 6 victims of sexual assault did not report their experiences to the police.
Women are 5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than men.
If you’re sat in an office, or on a tube, or at a coffee shop, have a look around and realise just how many people who may have been affected. Let’s not forget that there will be many people who don’t count being pinched on the bum on a night out as sexual assault (it is).
The reason the number of sexual assaults reported to the police is so low is likely due to these victims being too scared to report these crimes, or having little faith that there will be any conviction at the end of the process.
If you think the UK wide statistics are high, wait until you look at sexual assault at university.
62% of 4,500 students surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault during their time in higher education.
Only 10% of these respondents reported their experience to the university or the police. 56% said it “wasn’t serious enough”.
All sexual assault is serious. It makes people feel uncomfortable, uneasy and powerless. The idea that it is just another risk of a night out is heinous, and serves to reinforce the issue. If you don’t understand the impact it can have, read the quote below carefully.
“My university failed me entirely when I reported my sexual assault, and it was brushed under the carpet. I didn’t bother reporting the second incident. I figured out that I had the emotional strength to do one of two things: I could pursue a complaint against my rapist, or I could finish my degree. I chose the latter and went for counselling after graduating, but I still have not recovered and I think about it literally every day. I am still so angry.”– Revolt Sexual Assault respondent
Sexual Assault and our so-called “Role Models”
Our role models can be a fine moral compass to us in both life and business – I’m all for having good role models. But if we hold celebrities and sportspeople in such high regard, what happens when they are convicted of sexual assault?
This list could go on forever, but I’ve only included those who have been convicted or been forced to step down from roles because of the allegations against them:
Celebrities like these are role models for millions of people collectively, and the celebrity sphere is often where sexual assault receives its highest profile. And the sentences for many are woefully lenient. When the rich and famous we aspire toward are committing sexual assault, this bleeds out into our society on every level.
I’ve left a large number of names off the list because celebrities are obviously easy targets for sexual assault accusations, and a number of cases are too suspect to include.
But the message being sent is clear and toxic – if celebrities are committing sexual assault and getting away with it with no more than a slap on the wrist, why can’t you?
Why do men commit sexual assault more than women?
The only truth is that there is no excuse nor valid reason for sexual assault being committed more often by men than women. Men having an “over-stimulated sexuality” is an excuse with no credibility whatsoever to any human being with self-control.
Men are on average physically stronger than women and once again, to those of a neanderthalic mindset, this subconsciously gives them the disposition that they can take what they want from those physically weaker than them.
Displays of aggressive or over-confident behaviour have previously been seen as an attractive trait, perhaps providing some confusion to those clinging to ties with their ancient ancestors.
There is no valid reason why men should commit sexual assault more than women.
What can you do to Effect Change?
Unfortunately without security footage, or sufficient witnesses, it’s exceptionally difficult to convict someone of sexual assault. But this doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference on an individual level. It’s time to make those committing sexual assault, no matter how minor, feel even a modicum of the shame they impose on those that they assault.
The female and male friends I admire the most are those who won’t let the creeps get away with this behaviour. They grab the lingering hand, and turn around and shout in the face of their would-be attacker for everyone to see. Others are the men who step in right away when perhaps their female friend is worried of a physical retaliation from confronting their attacker. Only by acting can we force these individuals to think twice before making the same mistake again.
The battle against sexual assault is being lost every time we say or do nothing to address it.
If you’ve read this blog and would like to speak to someone about your own experiences with sexual assault, please visit https://www.safeline.org.uk/.
Religion and faith are two different entities. Faith can exist without religion – a belief in a higher power, an incentive to treat others kindly. Religion is a series of institutions which have often taken advantage of this faith, particularly in the poorer parts of the world.
With the exception of Western Europe and North America, religion is growing all over the world. But these statistics are slightly misleading – religion is ‘growing’ due to higher birth rates in Muslim and Hindu countries, so these statistics are based on predictions that their children will also be religious.
But we live in a progressive world, where education and equality are steadily on the rise. As young people take steps towards social progress and acceptance, is religion standing in the way?
Almost 75% of 18-24 Year olds in the UK Declare Themselves as Having no Religion.
In comparison, only 27% of over 75 year olds claim they have no religion. An 81 year old is 8 times more likely to attend Church than a 21 year old. While religion can be acquired at any point in life, typically it is ingrained from a young age. Yet it is plain to see that religion is in no way a dominant force in UK youth culture today.
England’s state religion, Christianity as practiced by the Church of England, has less than 3% of under 24s who acknowledge it as their religion. But the Church of England won’t be giving up so easily – with £72 million worth of investment planned to train new priests and reinvigorate the existing infrastructure.
The World and Religion
Typically the most developed countries in the world value religion the least as a population (with the exception of the US, though their rates are on the decline) . China, Japan, Russia, Germany and the UK all have less than 20% of their populations consider religion as “very important” to their lives.
Less developed areas of the world have far higher percentages. South America, Africa, South-West Asia and Indonesia all reported rates of 70% and above who describe religion as “very important” in their lives.
It’s no coincidence that worship attendance is highest in the world where life expectancy is the shortest – nor that higher levels of education, GDP and income equality negatively correlate with the importance of religion in any given area. People in poorer areas can become desperate for something to believe in, and faith can provide comfort to those enduring suffering.
The issues arise when the religions that these people turn to hold them back from the social progress that is so needed for these areas to evolve.
“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Why has Religious Belief Declined so Rapidly in Areas Experiencing Higher Rates of Progress?
Dated Religious Institutions
The UK is one of the most accepting nations in the world. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s a leader in promoting equality and social justice. However, the Church of England does not permit the marriage of homosexual couples.
There are 40,000+ churches in the UK that permit heterosexual couples to marry. Only 182 of these allow homosexual couples to marry.
There’s not a shortage of faith causing the decline of religion in the UK among young people, but a shortage of progress from religious institutions. Religious progress needs to keep pace with social progress, or it will rightly be left behind. Those churches that have allowed gay marriage have actually experienced growth in their congregations.
Multiculturalism is great – forget Brexit and the scaremongers. The best thing about it is its ability to open our eyes to other ways of living, and other traditions. It brings into question our way of life, and of course comparisons are inevitable.
The more diverse areas become, the more we experience other religions first-hand. As this happens, people inevitably begin to question religion. If there are dozens of major religions all contradicting one another, does this not bring into question the legitimacy of any one religion?
Of course among the narrow-minded, multiculturalism leads to conflict rather than increased awareness of other religions. But most children in progressive countries are now being brought up with exposure to many religions, and with no obligation to choose one, they simply aren’t doing so.
“One of the greatest tragedies in mankind’s entire history may be that morality was hijacked by religion.” – Arthur C. Clarke, Author
Is There a way Back for Religion?
I have a degree of faith, but as you may be able to tell, I’m not a fan of religious institutions. I went to a Catholic school, and I was in church every Sunday for a decade as a result, so it’s fair to say I’ve a bias opinion of one particular church. But my opinions on religious institutions are born of the way in which they operate today, and have always operated. They’re often fearful of that which they do not know, and thus oppose it.
The greater the levels of education, wealth and equality present in an area, the less dependent they are on religion. Religion historically thrives in harsher conditions. Yet we cannot continue to allow religious institutions to dictate right and wrong simply because their doctrine provides reassurance to those under its influence.
The only way back for religion in progressive nations is to keep pace with the positive social progress that is ongoing in these countries. Faith has a place in many people’s lives – but religion less and less so with each generation that passes.
Admittedly I’m no vegan. You couldn’t part me from a mouth-watering burger or steak if you had a can of WD-4O and a plucky attitude.
But it’s actually difficult to put forward a sensible argument condemning veganism at its core. The movement was founded on the concept that animals shouldn’t be exploited for food or any other purpose. Its agenda has since expanded to reducing the impact on the environment, and addressing growing health concerns in the UK surrounding the consumption of meat.
Do bear in mind, this post will focus mostly on meat-eating and veganism, as opposing ends of the spectrum.
So why does veganism get a bad rap, and why aren’t we all switching over?
What’s All the Fuss About?
An estimated 512,000 people in the UK are vegans. It’s the fastest growing lifestyle movement out there – nearly half of these were below the age of 34, and this doesn’t even count ages 15 and below. Statistically, veganism is only going up. And it’s easy to see why.
Top-line impacts of consuming meat today:
Farmed livestock are responsible for 15% of man-made greenhouse gases
Roughly 30% of all freshwater goes to livestock maintenance
Switching to a more plant-based diet could reduce world mortality rates by 6-10%
Processed meat and red meat are carcinogenic (can cause cancer) – specifically affecting bowel cancer
Over 1 billion farm animals, 4.5 billion fish and 2.6 billion shellfish are killed in the UK alone every year
These animals typically die ‘painlessly’, but there are thousands of cases where many regain consciousness before being slaughtered and then suffer rather horrible deaths
I’m all for the consumption of meat, but the volume and manner in which it occurs is cruel. The impacts of meat consumption today are widespread and visible to anyone who knows where to look.
Surprisingly, we’re lucky in Europe (for now).
In 1998 the European commission passed a directive which stated that all animals kept for farming purposes must reflect the “five freedoms” – freedom from hunger and thirst; discomfort; pain; injury and disease; fear and distress, and freedom to express normal behaviour. But if we’re not buying from reputable sources that follow these guidelines, we’re essentially allowing the unnecessary mistreatment of animals to continue.
There are other supposed health risks to eating meat, such as heart disease. However, any research I found on this was either of questionable repute, or in fact research arguing that some meat consumption actually had heart health benefits.
With the massive impacts of meat-eating clear to see, why hasn’t everyone switched over already?
Vegans – Holier-Than-Thou, or Ordinary Folk?
Veganism often gets a bad rap due to the perception of its supporters. Like any movement of significance, it attracts a select few more interested in lording it over others than in educating them. These small groups can stand in the way of their own progress with an idle sense of ignorance. Some say that modern-day feminism has fallen foul of this issue – so much so that, to some, the term “feminist” is seen negatively, despite the fact any decent person should be a feminist by nature.
“I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia” – British rock star Morrissey, 2014, doing his bit for the vegan image.
The vegans I know are in no way like this – it’s a false image born of negative portrayal in the media and some stupid individuals. In film, vegans tend to be the strange hippy providing irritation to our favourite protagonists. In real life, those who express the most extreme opinions are the ones who get the most exposure – because covering reasonable individuals never sold papers.
The Problems With a Vegan Diet
I already know the vegans in my life may dismiss this point, but there are undeniable challenges that prevent many people from switching over. The availability of meat alternatives has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, much like gluten-free products. Yet there are still too few equally enjoyable vegan alternatives to the food that life-long meat-eaters so enjoy.
Granted, it’s a selfish reason. Comfort is the enemy of progress here, and as more alternatives have become available the number of vegans has increased exponentially. We’ll likely see vegan/vegetarian diets overtake meat-eating in our lifetime, with the number of vegans in the UK having increased almost fourfold in the last decade alone.
But as it currently stands, eating a vegan diet can cause:
Deficiencies in vitamin D, which we get through meat, fish and dairy products. This has been linked with cancer and heart disease
Deficiencies in vitamin B12, which can cause loss of function of blood and nerve cells
Deficiencies in calcium. Many vegans don’t meet their calcium requirements through diet alone, leading to a 30% increase in fracture risk among vegans when compared to omnivores
You’ll either need to be getting plenty of sunlight (vitamin D, best of luck in the UK!) or be taking supplements in order to meet these requirements.
As a result, there is a significant food-management aspect of veganism. It is entirely possible to get all your necessary nutrients through veganism and supplementation. However, it’s currently not easily accessible enough to the ‘casual’ vegan of the future, uninterested in too much effort but aware of the impacts of eating meat.
If you’re looking to change over without too much sacrifice, you’re likely better off going vegetarian. There are over 3 million vegetarians in the UK, some 5.7% of the population. As a result, there are plenty more options available for vegetarians than for vegans, making it a more manageable lifestyle, without the same deficiencies as vegans.
Veganism as a concept is in my opinion the way towards a more balanced compromise. Our current environment is in significant decline. The emergence of factory farms have created conditions akin to torture for billions of animals that are recognised as “sentient beings” by the EU. Veganism could massively reduce our impact on the environment and stop the existence of these farms altogether.
Surprisingly, this isn’t an advocation of going vegan. I support eating meat sourced from animals leading healthy lives and being killed in humane conditions. These animals wouldn’t exist without the meat/dairy industry – but I have doubts they’d choose to exist in the current factory farm climate.
Veganism is more of a response to a world too far gone in the other direction. Having done the research, I’ll be doing my best to ensure that the meat and dairy that I eat is responsibly sourced. The additional cost associated with free-range/organic products should simply lead to a reduction in the frequency with which you buy them.
It’s possible to still enjoy meat while also making a real impact on reducing the suffering of these animals, and reducing the meat industry’s effects on the environment. It doesn’t need to be one or the other.
A close friend of mine has been asking me to write about this – it’s obviously a sensitive topic for some, so I’ll do my best to handle it as such. A broken family is an extremely personal experience, and in many cases the manner in which it occurs is unique to the individual.
As such, rather than talking in too much detail about the effects of divorce on my own family, I’m instead going to explore the effects of divorce on young people. How does divorce mould their own experiences and relationships?
Growing up Fast
The biggest effect of a parents’ divorce on young people is the speed at which they achieve emotional independency from their families. Across adolescence (roughly 11-21) young people naturally become more disaffected and rebellious. In most families, divorce or no, you will see children begin to distance themselves from their parents affection – it’s almost a rite of passage.
These natural tendencies become amplified by divorce. Young people can feel betrayed by the broken parental commitment to one another, and pull away from family involvement. In speaking to my own friends who have experienced their parents’ divorces, it appears they’re often disillusioned with their parents.
And it is tough.
Growing up, many of us see our parents as a unified source of strength that can be relied upon. Divorce tends to pull this veil away, revealing the understandably very human nature of adults. As such, a sense of emotional independence comes along quickly for those involved.
Young adults affected by divorce tend to rely more on their social circle. They also tend to pronounce their individuality in a more intense manner, and are more opposed to their parents, having seen their imperfection at an earlier age than most.
But this acceleration through these 3 steps can lead to an effect much like skimming through a book. Sure you might think you know what it’s about, but you’re guaranteed to have missed some key pages, and these missed learnings tend to reveal themselves later in life.
Divorce will almost always have an impact on future relationships, whether we realise it or not.
A study from the National Institute for Health and Welfare found that children of divorce were more likely to get a divorce themselves, or to choose not to marry altogether. Unfortunately evidence suggests that those affected by divorce can experience less optimism, trust and satisfaction in their relationships than their more nuclear counterparts.
Understandable really. After all, many have already seen first hand that relationships don’t always last forever. In the case of an affair causing the divorce, these young adults have grown up with a role model who has shown that commitment is non-essential.
But this research all feels a bit doom and gloom. Are children of divorce really condemned to be emotionally detached future divorcees, or to not marry at all?
Imagine the scenario. Your parents have had a divorce, because your father has left your family for woman X. Eventually, your mother will get together with the man that woman X left to be with your father. Pretty crazy, right?
This actually happened to a friend of mine. But so far as I can tell, he’s not emotionally detached, or disinterested in marriage. What he sees for the future is rather contradictory to the research above. He’s committed to creating a supportive and healthy family environment when he does choose to have children. Having experienced what an affair/divorce can do to a marriage, he’s more driven than anyone else I know to ensure that never happens to his own family.
And this resonates with my own experience of divorce. Feeling the effects it can have on the children involved first-hand is a huge incentive to make things work in the future. Knowing that you are statistically at more of a disposition to divorce over other people is part of the solution. It’s similar to knowing you are more susceptible to certain health issues – you’re subsequently aware it will require your attention to manage the risk.
Reducing the Effects
How the parents interact post-divorce is a strong defining factor in how significantly the children involved may be affected. It’s never an easy thing to present a united front off the back of a failed marriage. But without a united front, elements of competition and resentment can creep in, which seep into the fabric of a young person’s upbringing. That’s why it’s so critical for parents to, at least on the surface, set aside any differences in aid of supporting the upbringing of the family members who don’t get a say in the divorce.
Ultimately, divorce is part and parcel of modern society – it’s what you make of it that counts. Yes, it’s unfortunate that it can force young people to grow up too quickly, or that it can affect their future relationships. However it can also bring with it a sense of responsibility, and an understanding that their future relationships will require nurturing. This understanding is a fantastic tool to have if similar events are to be avoided in future.
Your friends are a reflection on you as an individual.
On more of a positive note than usual, this week I’m talking about keeping a healthy social circle.
But what makes a great friend?
Great friends will challenge and support you simultaneously.
Your best friends often know where your strengths and weaknesses lie even better than you do. They will push you towards what you should be doing rather than what is easy, and they’ll also guide you away from making poor choices (like the time I wanted to go into the Music industry).
Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ people, who are more concerned with keeping you happy than making sure you’re striving towards your goals. If you find that there’s occasional friction, that’s not always a bad thing. This probably means your values are being stress-tested by those who have your best interests at heart.
Keep a good mix of friends. Hanging out with all like-minded individuals can leave you in a positive feedback loop. Yes it’s nice to hear how well you’re doing, but you’re not going to learn much new. My idea of a great friendship group has a plethora of different characters. Some are overly positive, or have a wicked sense of humour, or go out too much, or never go out (guilty), some are artistic, and some are all about business.
So, how important are friends to us?
In 2013 the University of Virginia used MRI scans to monitor brain activity when giving test subjects an electric shock vs. when giving their friends an electric shock. Brain activity when the test subjects themselves were under threat was almost identical to when their friends were under threat. Interestingly, there was no significant brain activity registered when strangers were shocked in front of the test subjects. Our brains react the same way to danger posed to our friends than danger posed to ourselves.
It makes sense that our friends should therefore be considered an extension of ourselves – and hopefully if you have a varied mix, they should be capable of bringing out different aspects of your own personality. In turn, this will help you become a more rounded person.
“When we develop friendships, people we can trust and rely on who in essence become we, then our resources are expanded, we gain. Your goal becomes my goal. It’s a part of our survivability.” – James Coan, U.Va psychology professor
I count myself lucky with the friends that I have, though I know I don’t say it nearly enough. While they can be overtly teasing, I strongly suspect they desire what’s best for me. I used to think my goal for friends should be that they were ‘cool’, perhaps so that others would see me with them and that this reputation might rub off on me. But there isn’t much cool about trying to be something that you’re not. I like comics, History books and Playstation. I’m definitely not cool.
And neither have my friends always been cool. After all, it’s not a criteria for friendship. For instance:
One of my best friends spent much of his teenage years chubby and catastrophically shy around girls.
One would have a single Kopparberg at pre-drinks, before spending his evening asking girls to kiss him on the cheek in an attempt to pull.
One defecated himself in the refectory rather than risk the cut-off time for food, because his mother didn’t raise no quitter.
One was quietly sick in his drink on a night out and, when a girl unknowingly asked to try some, he proceeded to gulp down the whole thing so as to avoid the embarrassment of telling her what had transpired.
Sure we weren’t always cool, but we’ve always managed to be confident and relaxed in each other’s company. This has been a critical factor in allowing us to grow into our own individuals. After all, your friends really need only be people who make you happy while challenging you to grow. There shouldn’t be any other criteria.
Don’t just fall into a friendship group that doesn’t necessarily fit you. Circumstance can be both wonderful and limiting. Provided you’re not a total sociopath, it doesn’t take much to make new friends, and it can make a huge difference to your life. If you don’t feel supported in your goals, or don’t feel any drive from those around you, you could be in the wrong circle.
Once you have this sorted, so long as you’re looking after those in your social circle, you’re sure to always have people around to look after you. A little bit of give and a little bit of take.