One frosty night, not so long ago, I was scrolling upon my phone in lieu of sleep. The app was named Instagram, the posts were endless and the quotes were #deep. Upon my casual perusal I stumbled on a few words that caught my eye. ‘Five by Five’. Those 3 words stared me straight in the face as an image flashed to my frontal lobe:
Faith! Her catchphrase has boggled our noggins for decades. I, myself, accepted it as another one of Joss Whedon’s linguistic inventions and thus questioned it no more. He likes a bit of insular lingo, and Faith has a devil-may-care demeanour. Phrases that don’t make full sense align well with a psyche that spares little thought to philosophy, I thought. Until, in my 25th year, I saw this:
It’s a pretty solid perspective. I like the logical take on how pointless it is to worry because a lot of problems are inconsequential. The apathy suits Faith very well, as she puts little stock into personal relationships anyway. What if 5 by 5 made sense after all? Maybe Faith just had an idiosyncratic way of saying ‘not bad thanks mate, you?’.
You’re not sold, I know. It could well just be a happy accident from the wordsmith we know to be Whedon. In any case, there’s a nugget of wisdom there that I’m content to dip into some hypothetical BBQ sauce.
As a child, I expressed my many opinions with characteristic frankness. In the moments after another judgement left my lips, my older (and wiser) brother would remind me of an old adage: ‘Everyone’s a critic‘.
It’s a playful saying with truthful undertones: it’s easy to criticise. Understanding and evaluating take more effort, so the unevolved among us will sway towards harsh judgement until we fully develop our capacity for empathy. While empathy is embedded in 99% of the population – 1% are sociopaths – there are those who purposefully disregard the feelings of others in favour of self-absorption. When somebody puts you down, it hurts. After acknowledging that fleeting feeling, you have the power to choose how it will affect you.
I’ve said ‘undeserved’ criticism to highlight the need to differentiate between constructive critiquing and an insult. If you’re yet to conquer your insecurities, you could be prone to feeling attacked without due reason and therefore it’s imperative to see if you’re being unnecessarily defensive out of self-consciousness. The Baz Luhrmann song, ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen‘ includes life advice such as “Remember compliments you receive – forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how”. While I can’t work some Eternal Sunshine’-esque magic on your memories, I can proffer some protips for self-preservation. The most relevant of which is this:
People tend to criticise what they fear or desire in themselves
If you really analyse the meaning behind the words, you start to realise how much truth the saying holds. Most of us have been bullied at some point, particularly as children, when we’re told it’s due to jealousy. This doesn’t make sense to someone with low self-esteem: “why would they be jealous of my poor background?” In this instance, the person slinging insults around could be trying to hide their own low socio-economic status by targeting someone else. Somebody who is kind and susceptible to what other people think of them will usually be the target for negativity. If you feel like you’re used as a cure for other people’s insecurities, take comfort in the fact you have an inner strength that other people both fear and desire to acquire for themselves.
A few years ago I taught myself to recall the above quote whenever a conspicuously petty remark was made, and it was interesting to see what traits people feared in themselves and which they desired to possess. None of us are immune from making mean comments occasionally, so when I slip up I analyse my own negative talk to see where it’s coming from.
People will sling verbal arrows at you in both casual and premeditated ways but if you do your best to accept yourself, undeserved criticism won’t hurt your warriorself.
In February 2015, this had been spray-painted onto the side of a building in Manchester’s Gay Village. It’s an expression of solidarity with everybody in the LGBTQ community as well as a universal message of hope and unity lasting unto eternity.
I remind myself of this quote whenever I get pangs of self-doubt. The words you tell yourself are important in achieving your goals: if you believe you can, you will succeed. There will be plenty of people around to dish out some ‘realism’ to make you feel small but sensible career choices are illusory. Train yourself to be the voice telling you to keep going in the direction of your dreams. After all, you gain experience in trying to achieve your goals, and everything you wanted from accomplishing them! I think we owe it to ourselves to persevere.
Doing what you love is sometimes hard, always worth it.
Sometimes people use loyalty to bind you to the toxic relationship you have with them. Ignore them, you don’t need the approval of anybody but yourself. It’s an act of self-preservation to disconnect from people who treat you badly.
The difference between selfishness and self-love is that the first is done at the expense of what’s better for yourself and others, while the latter is a necessaryact of self-care.
Feelings of guilt
For years I let feelings of guilt trap me in toxic relationships (platonic and romantic) and trick me into uncomfortable situations until I realised it’s okay to value your own mental health. Remember to always balance what’s best for everybody involved in every conversation, long-term relationship or ordinary situation. Sometimes you should champion your own needs and sometimes other people take priority -trust your judgement and intuition.
Reject expectations if those ideals hinder your life rather than exalt your happiness. An example would be how women are conditioned into passivity as though they are merely vessels for another person’s happiness. If somebody wrongs you on purpose, you are justified if you show them that actions have consequences. Actively try to accept yourself for who you are as an individual and you will succeed. Cancel out the negative self-talk chipping away at your self-worth because if you set aside limiting beliefs, you can do whatever you want to do. In fact, that’s what you should be doing. You are worthy and free to believe in yourself so you can make the most of life’s blessings.
I’m just about old enough to remember life before it was dominated by social media. I can recall signing up to MySpace on an ordinary day in 2006 and promptly befriending my brother’s ex-girlfriend. She was a nice person and a younger sister never forgets their brother’s cool female friends so I saw nothing strange in this at the time, and I was about to find out how different social etiquette is online.
The next day, my 14 year-old self was delighted to receive a notification in the form of a comment:
“Welcome to MySpace. Though I warn you, it can get quite addictive!”
Needless to say, her words have proved prophetic in the current climate of social media reign – sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc. are no longer means of entertainment but daily cruxes of our lives. In fact, I’ve started to notice an increase in the number of people who tell me they use Facebook as a necessity but would rather it wasn’t so. I may not be one of those people yet (as my current open tabs’ will testify) but I sympathise with this view.
A historical tale
When the mass-conversion from MySpace to Facebook occurred circa 2008, our social networking needs evolved in shape. Facebook used to be the plainer, more bureaucratic platform for social interaction whereby personal information triumphed over creative self-expression. Partially because the marketing team thought it would be wise to condense certain aspects so they could appeal to an older and more sensible generation, thus eradicating the ‘song’ feature that enabled us to convey the dominant emotion of the day. Besides, it only takes a few years for teenagers to evolve into adults and therefore the promise of a huge scale of Facebook converts was inevitable.
Today, it’s a reality.
Nevertheless, I outline this abridged social network timeline as a member of the colloquially termed MySpace generation, – probably because ‘Facebook generation’ has zero poetic appeal. If we could allow ourselves some imaginative scope however, we might say the term ‘MySpace’ is a concise reminder of the postmodern myth of the Self and society’s ever-increasing proclivity for capitalising on the allure of personalisation in a disinterested world. My space; my sphere, welcome to my world, my hopes and dreams, my opinions, my body, my thoughts, my friends, my likes and dislikes, me me me.
Nowadays self-expression is only permitted where it’s statistically useful and therefore we’re encouraged to ditch the typing in favour of clicking ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ on a wide range of consumerist choices so companies know what sells and what sinks. Using social media is less fun this way.
Facts about ourselves that have little use to companies, corporations and other big bad’s are no longer catered for in headings sections. This is sad. Once upon a time you could attempt an authentic portrayal of yourself by publicly noting your favourite quotes and the people who ispired you.
Sadly, those days have gone. No longer will you roll your eyes upon reading Marilyn Monroe misquotes or a teenage nihilist’s ode to Nietzsche and maybe that’s okay.
On the other hand, wise words carry a certain wisdom that selecting your favourite brand-of-whatever for statistical purposes does not…
As an adolescent I can certifiably say I’d obsess over select quotes and analyse whether I agreed with it entirely, before vowing to live by it. Admittedly, my beloved ‘SHIT HAPPENS‘ sign on my bedroom wall is the first thing that comes to mind but there were other pearls of wisdom too.
Personal growth doesn’t have to be corny or false and self-love may sound like unrealistic spiel but remaining open to evolving as a person is half of the work.
are some of my treasured quotations sifted from a saved file, previously paraded on Facebook:
Killing time is an atrocity, it’s priceless and it never grows back
Live your life and forget your age
You are enough
Never think of failing – you don’t need to
No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent
We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with
Picture yourself as the kind of person you wish to be, affirm that you are that, then practice being it
The question isn’t ‘who’s going to let me?’ it’s ‘who’s going to stop me?’
Spend life with who makes you happy, not who you have to impress
If you want to get somewhere, you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never give up
2 great forces operate in the mind, fear and faith. Fear is very powerful but faith is more powerful.