Tag Archives: psychology

The changing timetable for adulthood.

Why aren’t the millennials (defined as the group those who are born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter) settling down? The word “settling down” unsettles this lot. This topic gets quite uncomfortable around the dinner table with parents and quite weird with relatives at a  family function. Most of the time the settling down question is a polite way of asking – “When are you getting married ?”

The earlier generation is not to be blamed because sociologists traditionally defined the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: 1) Completing school 2) Leaving home 3) Becoming financially independent 4) Marrying and  5) Having a child. Well in the Indian context and especially for women milestone 2 might be listed after 4 :).

But what they fail to realize is how the definition of adulthood today has remarkably changed. The 2014 Clark University Established Adult Poll found that the top three markers for adulthood were – 1)Accepting responsibility for self, 2) Financial independence and 3) Making independent decisions.

That’s exactly what the millennials are trying to achieve. We’re in an era of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Jeffery Jensen Arnet a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “Emerging Adulthood”. Emerging adulthood is identified as a stage of – identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities”. Emerging adults are on an intense search for personal authenticity, awareness, and personal definition. Robbins and Wilner in their book Quarter Life Crisis state that twenties are ripe with self-doubt and intense with introspection.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated. The path to adulthood is taken now at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones –  adults could stay single or couples could stay childless by choice.

The “emerging adults” who are in an identity exploration phase, the idea of “settling down” is naturally quite unsettling. But the question is – why do we consider committing to a long-term relationship as “settling down”? Why does it feel like there is a lot to be ticked off from the bucket list before that “settling down” happens?

Wouldn’t it make better sense if the idea of committing to a relationship rather “stir” up our lives with possibilities – bigger dreams and a bigger appetite for taking risks, because now you got a partner in crime.

  • Have a start-up idea – now you have a partner to support.
  • Caught up with wanderlust- now you get a partner to travel with.
  • Always dreamt of publishing your book – now there is someone who pushes you to get it done or even better you co-author with them. Like this couple.

Sharing that wanderlust with your spouse and even your children or allowing your dreams to grow even larger to include your spouse and family – makes your aspirations even more worthwhile. According to a US research, nearly 70 percent of the founders of high-growth successful businesses were married when they became entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos quit his high paying job and started Amazon.com with his wife MacKenzi, immediately after their marriage). Talking about the initial days of Infosys, Sudha Murthy mentioned – “I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape.”  

Think about it – the companionship in marriage should rather unsettle us with new perspectives, new journeys and new experiences. It should not be a full stop to our aspirations but an exclamation mark in our life stories. This would only happen when we free ourselves from the burden of societal expectations on what a picture perfect settled life should look like – considering the fact that the “emerging adulthood” is a new concept and traditional milestones of adulthood are still relevant in the minds of many around us.

Let the path of adulthood be uneven and individually paced – to  each, their own. Let it not be a rush towards ticking off societal check boxes and let committed relationship be an exclamation mark in your life story because as the quote goes:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

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Loving the “Work- In-Progress”.

 

“What do you want to become?” – a question I have been asked often as a kid, and for me it was an easy answer – just that my answer changed as every year passed. The response held true for my state of being at that point in time. The reason why my response changed wasn’t because as kids one is so fickle minded, but rather my inability to accurately predict my future self. Honestly, this is the most irrelevant question we ask kids who are  sometimes as young as 3 years of age. 

I find it irrelevant because I have come to a point where I strongly believe I would never “BECOME”, but my whole life is a process of “BECOMING”. The moment I start believing I have “ARRIVED” would be the point where I literally put a “full stop” to my BECOMING. To quote Leanardo Da Vinci – Art is never finished, only abandoned. So is the case with us humans. The moment we start believing we have figured it all out is the moment we stop giving life the chance to change our minds and evolve beyond our “current” comprehensions.  

Psychologist Dan Gilbert states that “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change”. We are all work-in-progress.

Accepting ourselves as “Work in Progress” also means accepting our imperfections, accepting a bit of confusion that just hangs in there, accepting uncertainty, impermanence and the unknowns in our lives. The reason we find it challenging to accept ourselves as “Work in Progress” is also because the ego soaked society values the illusion of perfection – the so called “arrived/ figured it all out” state and not the imperfect evolution phase.

To accept individuals as “Work in Progress” is critical in relationships as well. We all are bound to evolve – shedding our barks, growing deeper roots, spreading our branches and sprouting new greens. Understanding that people change has to be a basic component of our emotional intelligence. Letting people shed their barks, spread their branches, grow deeper roots and evolve becomes part of the relationship. Expecting people to stay the way they are forever is quite similar to having a “Bonsai” tree at home.  

Waiting for a perfect state of self or waiting for the perfect person to get into a relationship is a delusion. As individuals we are always a “work in progress”, there is no perfect state – we are always in the process of  BECOMING. So when someone says, “I am working on becoming something or somebody before I settle down in a relationship” – Relationship just seems to be a point when you quit your “Becoming”.  This is a “fixed” mindset and it’s always better to have the “growth mindset” in a relationship. Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”. It’s not just unnatural its highly stressful if one is loved for one’s perceived “state of perfection” that needs to be kept in tact forever.

Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”.

Like mentioned before, we are bad at predicting our own future self. We don’t know the extent of change that would happen to us. Hence relationships often fail when the love is for a certain “fixed state of a person” – ultimately breaking up because one has outgrown the “fixed state”.

Our inability to predict our future self  has been studied by a group of psychologists and they term the phenomenon as “End of History Illusion”. “End of History Illusion” states that while we remember our past selves to be quite different from who we are today, we nevertheless believe that we won’t change much at all in the future and hence take bad decisions for our future self based on our current projections.

When we are bad at predicting our future self, let’s be in love with the “work in progress” we are, accepting it wholly devoid of the illusion of perfection. Like in agile development, let’s have a “forever beta” mindset – evolving into something better iteration after iteration. And when in love – accepting being part of each other’s BECOMING, embracing the “Work In Progress”.

The Psychology of your Future Self – TED Talk – Dan Gilbert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let it go – Self Acceptance of the Magic Within

 This article explores the magic of self acceptance and its significance in relationships through the character Elsa from the biggest animated film of all times – Frozen!

elsa-frozen-disney

It has been a year since the Disney movie “Frozen” was released and we have been enthralled by Elsa’s magic. On the streets, in the mall, sleepover – the little girls can’t stop chanting the “let it go” anthem. Frozen has grossed almost $1.2 billion worldwide. The soundtrack has topped the Billboard charts for 13 weeks and still counting. The movie has become the biggest animated film and fifth biggest film of all times. This movie is certainly a phenomenon of our times and performed way beyond the initial speculations of the critics/analysts. When such phenomenon happens beyond cultural boundaries the reason lies much deeper than the business logic, clever marketing, release timing, animation quality or another good story line.

The Elsa phenomenon & the “let it go”anthem

What was it about “Elsa” and what was it about the song “let it go” that connected with each one of us across the globe? Wasn’t Elsa one more  princess from a Disney animation movie that was added to the already  long list of her pretty predecessors? Usually a princess character becomes our aspirational self – someone who is perfect – in her looks and in her very nature. Someone anyone could fall in love with.  She might face hardships with all the villains in the plot, but there would appear help in the form of a  “Fairy God Mother”or the “Prince”.  The prince mesmerized by her beauty and her heart of gold rescues her to live happily ever after. When the show ends , the little girl watching the movie  gasps – “Oh! I wish I could be like her.”

Here is the latest princess Elsa who could be no one’s aspirational self. Well how could she be? She is the one with flaws, one with her own complexities and internal struggle, one without even a smile. She just opts to shut herself out from her sister and the whole world as  she has been asked to conceal her flaws.

“Conceal don’t  feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know.”

Most of us in some or the other way related to her inadequacy and her struggle to conceal her inadequacy. We saw ourselves in her struggle for self acceptance. This princess wasn’t a girl’s aspirational self but she personified a bit of each one of us. The reluctance to accept ourselves as we are, the societal pressure to conceal the flaws and the standards set by previous princesses – the epitome of perfection resulted in the outburst, namely the Frozen anthem “Let it Go”.

 I call “let it go” instance in the movie the moment of her self acceptance – Elsa accepting herself as she is with her flaws. It’s the moment when she pulls her gloves of pretense out and decides to tackle the true villain of the movieher own guilt and shame head on. Our internal struggles might be different with respect to our age, lifestyle and cultures we belong to, but we all felt a moment of liberation with the “let it go” instance in the movie. That universal connect made it a phenomena and not just a  blockbuster.

Disney revealed that in the initial stages of the script, Elsa was the villain of the story – an evil snow queen.   But as the script progressed, they questioned the stereotype on why should someone be a villain just because she’s in a very difficult situation and is repressed? From there on, Elsa’s character took on a more symbolic nature as a misunderstood individual and the world identified with her!

Self Acceptance – The key take away

The key take away of the movie was “self acceptance”. But self acceptance is a term commonly confused with self-esteem. Self esteem is about the how valuable we see ourselves to be , our sense of worth while self acceptance is accepting our worthy and unworthy selves as it is. Self acceptance is critical to happiness. In a March 2014 study by Psychologist who study happiness, self acceptance was found to be the habit that most strongly predicted happiness. But it was also the one that was least practiced. Why is self acceptance least practiced? Because we have been conditioned  to be self-critical. We fear that self acceptance would halt self-improvement.  We want to be our own “self improvement dictators” who pushes the “little child in us” to do better all the time. But believe me the frightened child would not respond favorably all the time. On the contrary, self acceptance is about having self-awareness which provides us insights on why we are the way we are and as Carl Jung said – “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”

Self acceptance and relationships

In a relationship, knowing our own limitations and problems enables us to have a more compassionate attitude toward other’s limitations and problems. Self compassion brings in compassion towards others. When we are aware and have accepted ourselves as we are, we tend to present our authentic self in a relationship – with our vulnerabilities and imperfections. In essence self acceptance becomes the precursor for authentic, compassionate relationships. I truly believe in Brene Brown’s quote – “Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.” 

true belonging