Finding Your Place On Life’s Spectrums

 

“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye.”

 

Let’s just consider this quote from The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. Did it hit home with you? Our culture has become driven by achieving the extraordinary. And if you’re not, you don’t feel like you’re doing enough. It’s easy to feel inferior. But why does everything have to be so extreme? 

It doesn’t.

Looking at life as a series of spectrums rather than extremes, and, more importantly, finding your place on those spectrums, can help you find satisfaction and happiness – and ultimately become the best form of YOU.  

The word ‘spectrum’ is often associated with the autistic spectrum, so let’s use that as a springboard to explore various spectrums further. 

 

Our lives aren’t linear – and nor is autism

It used to be common belief that the autistic spectrum was linear – ranging from ‘less autistic’ to ‘more autistic’.

But this is too extreme. The autistic spectrum is actually more like this: 

Now, it’s imperative to remember that all autistic people are different and each person can have several of these traits, some being stronger than others, as demonstrated here:

How do we apply this to other areas of life, though? First of all, you have to abandon the idea of ‘extremes’. Then, you need to realise that you’re not just one ‘thing’ – you’re made up of many different parts, and they all come together to make you… YOU.

Let’s take a look at a couple of spectrums that run throughout our lives to dive a bit deeper into this. 

 

Playground mums

 

This is based on an article about different types of playground mums, but it could very well be playground dads too. So, if you’re a playground mum (or dad!), which types do you identify with? The WhatsApp mum who needs her group of other mums to hand to make sure she doesn’t forget what’s needed on the school trip? The Activewear mum, who’s always heading off for a jog or a workout after the school run? Perhaps you’re the Good enough mum who ticks all the boxes, is a great mum, but doesn’t win the prize for the best cake at the bake sale. Or maybe you’re the Clipboard mum, who organises everyone else and heads up the PTA to raise funds for the school. 

Remember, though, just like with the traits on the autistic spectrum, you will identify with several of them – not just one. Maybe you’re a WhatsApp mum with a sprinkling of Craft mum when you get enough time outside work and running the kids here, there and everywhere. You don’t have to be just one ‘thing’. 

 

Business people

 

Within a company, you’ll find lots of different types of people. This is normal. A range of people is needed to make a business work. And, while you may not agree with everyone’s approach to business and work, it’s really important to remember that none of these are wrong. They are just different. 

So when ‘skin-of-my-teeth’ Tony is giving you palpitations because you’re a super-organised 9–5er, try to remember that he is just different to you… he still does a good job because it’s how he performs optimally. If you made Tony work 9–5, he’d be totally frustrated and do a rubbish job. And think how useful someone like him is when an urgent project comes through! 

Where do you lie on this spectrum? What makes you perform to YOUR best?

 

Now we’ve explored a couple of these spectrums, let’s consider where all this is leading… 

 

Finding YOUR place and YOUR best

Trying to be something or someone else is never going to work if it’s not who you really are. And why should you? Finding your place on life’s spectrums means that you get to grips with who YOU are. And, by doing that, you can be the best version of yourself. This leads to you being happier and more satisfied, rather than feeling inferior and like a failure. 

And, don’t forget: life changes and so will you. You may find yourself taking a slight side-step or a huge flying leap into another part of a spectrum. A new job, having a child or needing to look after a loved one are just some of the things that can fundamentally change our lives – whether it’s voluntary or not. But it’s important to recognise and accept the shift. 

 

One thing that’s always needed – RESPECT

As with everything in life, RESPECT is essential. Take another look at those spectrums. Have you noticed something? All the different parts make a whole. Your place on a spectrum or in life may be different to that of others, but it in no way means that other people are wrong. Our communities are made up of lots of different people – all as important as the next. Everyone has a contribution to make and we need to understand – and respect – that. 

So, have a think about your place in life’s spectrums. Remember, life isn’t linear, so shouldn’t be full of extremes and feelings of failure if you’re not achieving ‘the best’. Recognising who you are and achieving YOUR best will lead you to being happier, more satisfied and more fulfilled.

 

We’d love you to leave your thoughts in the comments sections below. Where do you feel you lie on these spectrums of life? Can you think of other spectrums? 

You Can Frighten Yourself… But You Can’t Tickle Yourself

 

Think about this for a second – you can frighten yourself… but you can’t tickle yourself. Odd, isn’t it? Why would our bodies prevent us from feeling the positive effects of being tickled, but make it so easy for us to scare ourselves silly? It’s the same with laughing. Have you ever sat all day giggling to yourself? No. And you’d be seen as strange if you did. But we bet that you’ve spent all day worrying about something before… so much so that you ended up frightened. 

Why does this happen? It’s evolution. In caveman times, being hypervigilant and alert was the way to survive against physical threats such as predators, and the brain was hardwired to provoke urgent responses and keep us safe. It’s what we term fight or flight. Nowadays, the same level of physical threat doesn’t exist – so we find ourselves responding to the negatives, but not needing the physical response, so it manifests in over-worrying and negative thought patterns.

Psychologists called it ‘negative bias’ and it means that our minds and brains register the effects of negative stimuli much more strongly than positive. Our bodies do too – we cry, we shout, we feel physical pain. Although we have phrases like ‘jump for joy’, we could probably count the number of times we’ve done it in our lives. And that’s not because we’re sad or pessimistic – it’s just that our bodies are scientifically programmed to respond more strongly to bad news than good news.

This is why the media is largely full of negative stories – because they get more attention than positive ones. In daily life, one bad point in an overall good day can take over and be the thing that we remember most and dwell on.

So how do we handle it?

 

Ways to beat the brain

While this is how we are wired as humans, there are ways that we can beat the brain leading us towards a downward spiral:

◾ Recognise it’s normal: We often beat ourselves up for having a negative outlook on life. But, actually, that’s what we’re supposed to do – or WERE supposed to do to stay alive. Recognising that it’s normal is the first step in giving yourself a break. 

◾ Focus on the positives: Nobody wants to simply be told to ‘look on the bright side’ – it’s truly annoying when you’re finding things tough. And mental health issues like depression certainly can’t be solved by simply cheering up. But where and when possible, trying to recognise the positives of a situation can really help change your state of mind.

Distract yourself: When you find yourself ruminating on negative thoughts, actively do something to distract yourself. Choose something you like doing like reading, listening to upbeat music or going for a walk. Mindfulness activities are also becoming an ever more popular way of coping with the strains of modern life.

Replay the positives: Think about the last time something bad happened that you replayed in your head time and time again. A comment from a colleague at work, cross words you had with a friend. Why not do it with the positives too? Next time you get a compliment, replay it over and over again and concentrate on the feeling it provokes in you. 

This can be tough. There’s no denying it. It takes significantly more effort to look and recognise the positives than to dwell on the negatives. But being proactive can have huge benefits for your health – both mental and physical. 

 

We’d love to hear about times when you’ve turned your thinking around to focus on the positives. Share in the comments below.