Categories
Be Happy Self-Help

Don’t Put a Label on Me!

Don’t Put a Label on Me. Don’t put me into a box and stick a label on it before you even get the chance to know me. I am not the same person I was when I was 20, 30, 40 years old. I am the sum total of my genetics, my upbringing, but also the books I read, the countries I traveled to, the ups and downs that came on my path. I can be reliable and predictable and also spontaneous and unpredictable. I respect people and choose not to worship them. I am a giver but I need to give myself enough time and space to advance my interests too. I am nice and lovely, but I can be dangerous too. Today I can decide to be as exuberant and as colorful as I want and tomorrow, I can decide to be as dull as the grey sky if I feel like it. I don’t gossip, but I read and write. I am all of that and more and a constant work-in-progress. So please, don’t put a label on me.

Don’t put a label on me. The problem with stereotypes.

Don’t put a label on me – Photo by Yarruta via freepik.com

A stereotype is defined as a simplification of reality, a rigid categorizing – and often discriminatory – representation. A stereotype is a fixed, overgeneralized belief about a particular group or class of people. By stereotyping, we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group have.

Stereotypes are like air, invisible but always present.

Unknown Author

For example, saying that women have no sense of direction, that girls suck at math or that football is a man’s sport, are stereotypes. Stereotypes can be positive or negative. Negative stereotypes about women and minority groups are easy to spot, more pernicious are the positive ones, such as men are not in touch with their emotions, black people are good athletes. They don’t seem so pernicious because their content is complementary, but stereotypes are bad even when they are good.

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Adichi Chimaamanda

Stereotypes can be linked to any type of cultural membership, such as nationality, religion, gender, race, or age, but it is important to note that there is a difference between cultural generalizations and stereotypes. Cultural generalizations allow us to understand the patterns of cultures to which one belongs (nation, age, gender, etc…) and it provides the basis on which one can understand other cultures. Cultural generalizations involve categorizing members of the same group as having similar characteristics. Generalizations are flexible and allow for the incorporation of new cultural information. They are a type of hypothesis or guess, of what we expect to encounter when we interact with a certain culture; and this is a good thing.

Generalization is a concept that is flexible and can subsequently lead to increased cultural awareness and thereby improve intercultural relationships. Generalizations become stereotypes when all members of a group are categorized as having the same characteristics. Stereotypes are typically inflexible and resistant to new information. They can, and often do lead to prejudice and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Cultural stereotypes do not allow for individual differences and interfere with efforts to understand an individual on a personal level.

Stereotypes make us lazy and encourage nonchalant judgment because we assume things about people based on stereotypes. It drives and nourishes racism, sexism, and all form of discrimination. I have a strong aversion to labels and being put into a box and I don’t allow people to do that to me. As soon as someone puts a label on you or throw you into a specific box, you lose your identity as a unique and free individual who may or may not fit into that stereotype, and who is free to be whoever they want to be.

Don’t put a label on me. The problem with being put into a box.

Don’t put a label on me – Photo by Yarruta via freepik.com

The problem with being put into a box with a label on it is that it considerably restricts your freedom to think and act the way you want. We are all unique and different from each other. What makes us different is not the color or our skin or our geography, it is the fact that there isn’t another person like us anywhere else. All around us, there are spheres of authority always dictating what we should do, how we should act, and what we ought not to do. Aside from the formal structure like laws, there are also informal powers dictating our actions lifestyles, speech, thought patterns, education, cultural upbringing, religion, politics, etc… This invisible current forces us to travel a certain path, act a certain way, and be a certain type of person. Much of our individualistic tendencies do not develop as freely as we think because we have to conform to societal expectations of ourselves and stay well within the groupthink model.

The next question you should ask yourself is who has an interest in putting people into a box and stick a label on it? People who seek power and control do thrive on sticking a label on you. Because it is easier to control people this way. Once you belong to a certain box you are expected to walk on a straight and narrow line. Venturing outside that path is frown upon. Dissenting views and actions are not allowed because dissent is being viewed as being disloyal to the group. Nowadays if your thoughts and ideas are not in line with the rest of the group you will have to face the new social media Thought Police, because the chance is you are going to get canceled and censored. From a difference of opinion, you can quickly move to fragments of intolerance to violent factions. And just like that you have a 1984-Dystopian-type of society where it is not very pleasant to live in and where Big Brother is watching you all the time with the Thought Police ready to storm in and take you away.

This phenomenon is very much into your face in the political arena, where everything is partisan, and where groupthink ideas are shoved down your throat. The ideas of the group are sacrosanct even if they go against your personal interest because the group knows what’s best for you. When you submit to the group you acquiesce to everything that the group asks you to do. You don’t have to use your ears, your mouth, or your brain anymore. The group tells you where to look and what to see. And if you dare to look the other way and start questioning things, they tell you what you are seeing is not what you are seeing and they proceed to interpret what is going on for you.

One way to free ourselves from the shackle of societal restrictions that impede the originality and flexibility of each person would be to develop our individualism and sense of freedom. Freedom of expression is the lifeblood and cornerstone of a free society, without the freedom to think and express ourselves freely, there is no free society. So, we’d better start thinking for ourselves quickly before it becomes illegal. Don’t get all romantic about your ideas or the ideas that the group promotes. You are not married to those ideas. Some ideas are good and others not so good. Stay free to adhere to the ideas that are congruent with your outlook in life and toss aside anything that makes you uncomfortable.

People should be able to stand for what they think is right. They should be able to fight for what is honorable and acceptable and they should have the freedom to reject what is slimy and unacceptable. The problem these days is that everyone believes that they hold the absolute truth of the matter; except that no one can legitimately claim to have such clarity of mind that they know the absolute truth. Truth is a very fluid concept, what’s true today may not be true tomorrow.

Things change all the time. It is perfectly fine to have strong convictions about this and that, but you should do this with humility. You should hold those convictions and make them contingent on whatever facts, data, arguments, life experience, etc… that come your way with the result that your original convictions can be shaken and made less potent.

You can stand your ground and be open-minded enough to seek common ground. And, don’t try to put a label on me, because I won’t let you.

Joanne Reed

And this my dear friend is your Quest.

Personal Note

DDI Chat – Personal Growth – One-to-one Chat with Joanne Reed

In addition to publishing my articles on my website, I have also been publishing on Medium. I have been working closely for the past months with Data-Driven Investor (DDI) Publication.  DDI has recently launched a new marketplace/platform where people can book a paid one-to-one session with an expert of their choice.  DDI asked me to join their panel of advisors/experts in the Leadership, Coaching, and Personal Growth category.  Here is my profile. If you wish to book a one-to-one chat with me you can do so on this platform.

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com

Categories
Self-Help

Positivity vs. Negativity – Battle of the Fittest

Martial Arts

Art takes many forms; as an author, I consider myself an artist. In my free time, I am also a ‘martial artist’. The term ‘martial arts’ is closely associated with the fighting arts of East Asia; the term is however derived from Latin and means ‘arts of Mars,’ the Roman god of war. I practice Muay Thai (also known as Kick Boxing); the word ‘muay’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘wavya’ which means ‘bind together’ and the word ‘thai’ refers to the country Thailand. Its generic name means ‘unarmed combat,’ a true test in any battle of the fittest.

Muay Thai in Namsan Park, Seoul

Martial arts have health and spiritual benefits; the spiritual benefits include teaching self-respect, respect for others, patience, humility, self-control and modesty, the health benefits derived from the conditioning that helps keep the body fit, strong and properly toned. To be effective, a good Muay Thai fighter must keep his physical and mental condition in balance, he must move with speed, but also show common sense and intelligence, he must train both his mind and his body with dedication, concentration, and discipline. Muay Thai also develops a sense of brotherhood, a fighter will help others when the opportunity arises, and will never resort to fighting unless there is no other option available.

The history of Muay Thai can be traced to the middle of the 18th century. During battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam, the famous fighter Nai Khanomtom was captured. The Burmese knew of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and gave him an opportunity to fight for his freedom. Nai Khanomtom managed to knock out ten consecutive Burmese contenders. Impressed by his skill, he was freed and returned to Siam where his fighting style became known as Muay Thai and later recognized as a national sport.

Getting Balanced

If you ever feel a bit off-balance or stressed-out I recommend you find a Muay Thai class and develop your fighting spirit because, perhaps without realizing it, we are all engaged in fierce battles every day. These battles occur within us between positivity and negativity. For the sake of this article, I will call positivity ‘Yang’ (positive, bright, masculine) and negativity ‘Yin’ (negative, dark, feminine). Picture those two in a ring; if your first impulse is to cheer and expect ‘Yang’ to win, I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken, in a battle of the fittest, ‘Yin‘ would triumph.

Yin and Yang in the Battle of the Fittest

Battle of the Fittest – Negativity

Our brain has a negative bias, it loves negativity! Our brain is wired with a much greater sensitivity to unpleasant rather than pleasant news. Dr John Cacioppo, the ‘Scientist of Loneliness’ from  Ohio State University, conducted a study to demonstrate this effect by contrasting the effect on the brain of pictures arousing positive feelings (such as sport cars, holiday shots, ice creams, etc.), negative feelings (such as mutilated faces or dead cats), and, for good measure pictures to arouse neutral feelings (of everyday objects, such as dinners plate and hair dryers).

The subjects had their brain activity recorded during the experiment providing data to Dr. Cacioppo to analyze. The results showed very clearly that our brain reacts more strongly to negative rather than positive stimuli. Our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat rather than good news and that information is stored in our short to long term memory. This is why ‘Yin’ has a better chance of winning against ‘Yang.’

Our weighting of negative input is an evolutionary development to keep us out of harm’s way. Back in prehistory, when humans faced life or death situations every day, it was far more important for the brain to respond to negative rather than positive stimuli. If a wild animal charged towards you, you needed to fight or run away and to take that decision in a split-second. But, in non-threatening situations, like being offered food, or a gift, there is no such requirement for speed – your brain can react very slowly. To make matters worse, not only do we react more quickly to negative experiences, we are looking for them all the time. This makes it extremely easy for our minds to get into a negative feedback loop; you are hyper-aware of negativity and when it happens, you react quicker, it impacts you more and you remember it for longer. One scientist described the brain like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. 

Positive Outlook

When faced with decisions or uncertainties, it is natural to have a fear of the unknown, I confess – this happens to me a lot, which creates a lot of anxiety and negative emotions.  Unfortunately, the nature of the world is uncertain; nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, and it is important to maintain a positive outlook.

According to Sadhguru, Indian yogi, mystic, and author:

you cannot overcome something which does not exist. Your fear is always about something that does not exist. Fear is happening because of excessive imagination. It is about things that haven’t happened yet, but you are creating those things in your mind. Fear means that you are producing horror movies in your mind. Produce something else, produce a comedy, a love story, an action movie.”

In the battle of the fittest, it is important to have a positive outlook and understand that we all have a natural tendency to be negative; you must train yourself to be a ‘Yang.’ Being positive, overcoming negative emotions requires dedication, discipline, and patience – just like with Muay Thai – and just like being a successful Muay Thai fighter it is necessary to train your body and spirit to work together, so that when the time comes to do battle against ‘Yin,’ the negative spirit, the odds will be in your favor.

And this, my Dear Friend is your Quest.


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

How to Have Superpowers and Remain Resolutely Human.

Superpowers

How to have superpowers? Galileo said: “Books are our sole means of having superhuman powers while remaining resolutely human. The power of traversing the abysses of space, time, and misunderstanding that gap between our own life, our own self, our own subjective experience and another‘s.”

Happy National Book Lovers Day

National Book Lovers Day

August 9th is National Book Lovers Day. This gives me the perfect excuse to tell you something that you may already know but have forgotten or taken for granted. For this occasion, I organized a round table discussion with some renowned authors, Neil Gaiman, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison (RIP) in order to gather their thoughts on the importance of reading books and the role of writers in society.

The Importance of Books

Author Joanne Reed, “Neil Gaiman; you feel very strongly about the importance of reading and believe our future depends on it. Why is reading so important?”

Neil Gaiman, “Books are the way that we communicate with the dead, the way we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, it is the way the humanity has built itself and progresses. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have outlasted cultures and the buildings in which they were first told. These tales have survived on the shoulders of story-tellers and people who have transmitted them forward.”

James Baldwin: “For me, books are a way to change one’s destiny.”

Author Joanne Reed, “Interesting; throughout history, access to knowledge and education was the monopoly of a very few. Literacy was inaccessible to most and prohibited to many, i.e. serfs, women and slaves, to keep them in a state of servitude and ignorance. Knowledge is power; the ruling classes kept serfs uneducated by design so they could successfully rule over them. Under the feudal system women too had little or no chance of attaining education. In a few cases, girls from upper-class backgrounds enjoyed the benefits of education as there were certain obligation for women of nobility that required them to be literate; but whatever education women had access to was purely designed to help them marry well, or to become a good wife and mother. In the USA, slaves were prohibited by law to read and write. Slave masters understood that control over slaves could not be based solely on physical coercion and it was also understood that literate slaves would eventually demand the same rights that whites enjoyed; I discuss this in Chapter 7 of my book.

James Baldwin: “You cannot underestimate the importance of writing. Writers describe things which other people are too busy to describe. I didn’t decide to become a writer I discovered I was one.”

Neil Gaiman, “Writers have an obligation to write true things. Truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are. Writers have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader is after all a tale they cannot stop themselves reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them arms and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation to not preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our reader’s throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots.”

Toni Morrison, “I agree but wish to add, that if there is a book you want to read that hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one who writes it.”

Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019)

Author Joanne Reed, “Exactly, I always wanted to read a book that inspires and challenges me, a book about important subjects like love, money, and health in an educational and fun to read way; a book that contains a treasure trove of wisdom gathered from people who succeeded in their own Quests, where I can learn lessons from history and can have conversation with philosophers. I never found such a book, so decided to follow the advice of Toni Morrison and wrote the book myself!”

Superpowers Conclusion

I would like to thank my guests for agreeing to participate. In closing, for National Book Lover’s Day, I hope this discussion has reminded you of the power of knowledge and to help appreciate the story teller’s contribution to this art. Books don’t write themselves, and books are how to have superpowers!

Words have tremendous energy and power, they have the ability to educate, to help, to heal, to illuminate the minds.

“Books are our sole means of having superhuman powers while remaining resolutely human.”


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
About the Book

#1 Spot! Sweet! Thank you to my French readers for keeping me there!

Thank you to my French readers! The American Poet and writer James Baldwin said, “you don’t decide to become a writer, you discover you are one.” This is exactly what happened to me!

Thank you to all my readers!

Baldwin also said, “the importance of a writer is to describe things which other people are too busy to describe.”

I became an author because I had things to say. Words have tremendous energy and power, they have the ability to educate, to help, to heal, to illuminate minds and I hope that my book will do a little of that.

After my initial surprise success, I would like to thank my French readers for keeping me in the #1 spot in two categories on Amazon France; Self-help and Longevity. For all of those who purchased my book, welcome on board and hope you are enjoying an epic adventure! Please feel free to leave me some reviews when you have finished reading. For those who are wondering which book to read next, can I suggest mine?!

Sales Rankings on Amazon France

Word of caution: “One must always be careful of books and what is inside them for words have the power to change us”. The future belongs to the curious, those who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke it, question it – over to you.

 Version Française

Le poète et écrivain américain James Baldwin a dit : “Tu ne décides pas de devenir écrivain, tu découvres que tu l’es.” C’est exactement ce qui m’est arrivé !

Baldwin a aussi dit, “l’importance d’un écrivain est de décrire des choses que les autres sont trop occupés à décrire.”

Je suis devenu auteur parce que j’avais des choses à dire. Les mots ont une énergie et un pouvoir extraordinaires, ils ont la capacité d’éduquer, d’aider, de guérir, d’illuminer les esprits et j’espère que mon livre en fera autant.

J’aimerais remercier mes lecteurs français de m’avoir maintenu au premier rang dans deux catégories d’Amazon France : Développement Personnel et Longévité. Pour tous ceux qui l’ont acheté , bienvenue à bord, j’espère que vous vivez une aventure épique ! N’hésitez pas à me laisser des commentaires quand vous aurez fini de le lire . Pour ceux qui se demandent quel sera mon prochain livre, puis-je suggérer le mien ?!

Mise en garde : “Il faut toujours faire attention aux livres et à ce qu’ils contiennent, car les mots ont le pouvoir de nous changer“. L’avenir appartient aux curieux, à ceux qui n’ont pas peur d’essayer, d’explorer, de s’interroger . Etes-vous curieux?


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.