Becoming an Adult

So I drove my car a while ago around our subdivision just to practice maneuvering in narrow roads. When I walked back to the house, I felt a sense of independence and freedom, knowing that I can finally drive wherever I want, whenever I want. The feeling of being an adult is finally sinking in, and I like it. Yeah, I am a little scared, but that’s just something you have to deal with.

Being alone in our house for a few days gives me enough time to reflect back on everything that has happened, and how I’ve dealt with these things as they have passed. How much have I changed with the way I think, I talk and do? In 3 years, a lot of things have happened and I’ve dealt with them in…different ways. Through this, I am finally learning about the reality of this world, absorbing like a sponge while I remain true to myself.

I believe I have condemned my own self for too long, resulting in a long period of identity crisis. I knew who I wanted to be but neglected my own desires for myself because they seemed radically different from what I was seeing in my environment. Such condemnation wasn’t helpful when I was exposed in different stressful situations, to say the least. I had no real sense of boundaries nor a clear vision of my values. I was living a lie for years.  Perhaps it was my own unconscious self that manifested when I choose this degree that I am currently taking, despite Psychology being the third of my choices. Maybe deep inside, I was realizing that I was not going to spend my 4 years in college wasting time away in a degree that I chose for practicality. Maybe I foresaw that I wanted to see through these four years actually learning something that I can love and advocate for.

I didn’t know who I really was and what I stood for. I had a clouded judgment of my skills and my own character, seeing myself high up on a pedestal. Thus, I didn’t know how to handle problems when they came my way. This resulted in what would be a long duration of being depressed and losing a sense of direction in my life. This was when I felt as if death was the only option because no one can save me. I saw myself as a worthless person not worth saving, at all. I was too deep in the rabbit hole, romanticizing every wound that I inflicted upon myself.

At this point, all these things that have happened to me have reduced themselves into mere stories—significant, but now they’re just stories. They have helped me understand what are the things I value in life and they have helped me understand my own self in their own ways.

I have learned that despite being weird, I am pretty average. I am different only in the sense that I have rather unconventional preferences in the environment that I currently live in. I don’t believe I have “special” talents or skills. I just like doing what I put my mind into and fighting for what I love. Generally, I’m an average 18-year-old girl with a predisposition to occasional insanity. (The only thing “rare” about me is that I’m an INFP.) I sort of tip toe around the issue of being “special” because I used to see myself as one. Things happen to you as you grow up though, and the following quote then makes sense:

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
― Chuck Palahniuk

I still believe in the importance of individuality. But in order to develop your character, there is a certain kind of harshness that you need to see yourself with to critically evaluate who you are right now and what needs to be done. Through this, you discipline yourself enough to realize the harsh truth that the world doesn’t really care about who you are but what you do for it.

I’ve learned that there’s nothing bad about finding people who are just as weird as you are. People you can talk to for hours about the state of the country or about the paranormal, people you can talk to for different ideologies and opinions—I have developed a tolerance for this kind of diversity because of my genuine interest to learn about different kinds of perspectives. At the same time, I’ve learned how to set boundaries to keep my open-mindedness in check, a safety net to look after myself while I plunge in on someone else’s world. I still have some work to do with regards to my impulsivity and occasional hot-temperedness but at least I’ve been making some good progress. For one thing, I’m not passive-aggressive. (All that CBT reading has led me to learn cognitive reframing and in that way, I am learning to have control in what I do and say and not feel like a victim.)

I’ve learned that it’s important to have a critical eye and an honest mind. It is also helpful to put your feet on the ground. At the same time, there’s no harm in taking care of your soul and letting your head fly to clouds sometimes. Mental toughness is essential but sensitivity and vulnerability are things that should be nourished as well. Your family is your lifeline, your friends and special one your life support—all these matter to your wellbeing and you matter to them as well.

Above all, I’ve learned that you either survive or live. And I have chosen the latter. It’s a constant refining and retuning of your own philosophy that you live by. You will be haunted with the idea that death is always an option and that’s fine. Because at the end of the day, you chose to live. Perhaps this is what it means to have become alive once again.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ― Howard Thurman


IGNORANCE IS BLISS: Looking Into the Willful Ignorance Phenomenon

As a kid, I was ostracized for wanting to know more about the world. At least, this was the case when I lived in the province for most of my childhood. I was discouraged from reading books throughout the day for wild explanations that include that I might go crazy from all the information that I’m learning.

Such anti-intellectualism isn’t restricted in provinces; even metro cities across the country are affected by it. There are plenty of blogs out there to point this out, such as GetReal Philippines, Filipino Freethinkers, (another blog), etc. This means that people all over the country, at this point in time with the advent of technology and information in their hands by the way, choose to remain ignorant. And of course, it is not restricted in our country, but is a phenomenon that occurs everywhere. So, why do people choose to encourage anti-intellectualism?

Willful Ignorance

There are three kinds of ignorance, as stated by James Carse, Professor Emeritus at NYU. What are these kinds of ignorance? It includes the following:
  1. Ordinary ignorance – basically, the absence of knowledge which can be fixed by education. (ex. Learning history, science, trivia and facts.)
  2. Willful ignorance – knowing something but choosing to pretend you do not.
  3. Higher ignorance – hard to achieve but it’s the kind of ignorance that allows us to be open and curious in the face of knowing that we do not know

Ordinary ignorance can easily be resolved through education; this is generally how we start out as kids, ignorant but curious. Higher ignorance however is far more superior to the three other kinds because of the lifetime desire for learning more, and claiming not to know everything, despite learning about everything. It brings up a famous quotation:

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. Socrates

Among these three, what’s describes the anti-intellectualism scenario the best is willful ignorance. One scenario can be seen in the United States: politicians go around and proclaim that global warming is a hoax, and even anti-vaxxers’ influences are rubbing off on middle-class parents as they stop giving their kids vaccinations. The media has a big role to fill for information gathering, especially social media. Sadly, because of different biases and mispracticed journalism, the media is scattered with different kinds of information that lead the public to be misinformed. Thus, despite the fact that we have all the data to gather, ignorance still remains as a choice. So why does ignorance prevail?

Psychological Perspective: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a theory stating that incompetent people cannot recognize how incompetent they are. Interestingly, these people have false feelings of confidence, feeling as if their knowledge is accurate when in fact, it is not. The underlying problem of this effect is an ignorant mind that pretends to know it is everything: willful ignorance.

This brings up the point that the key to an ignorant mind is misinformation. When we look inside an ignorant mind, it is filled with unnecessary cognitive clutter, beliefs, heuristics, and hunches that may actually appear as if they are right and accurate knowledge. It could be that the ignorant mind was raised not just by the environment, but how their mind was built, backing up ideas with purpose-driven reasoning.

Another factor that comes to mind is how a person is defined by values that describe who they are to outward question them is to question their very being. I think this factor best describes the workings of a willful ignorant mind, for it show that no matter how much information is present at hand, these facts may be bent to a great extent to satisfy a person’s subjective worldview. One such example is a study conducted in 2006 by Daniel Kahan, a professor at Yale Law School, concerning public perceptions of nanotechnology among uninformed respondents. Interestingly, despite the respondents not knowing anything about nanotechnology, it did not take away whatever biased thoughts they had about the subject regarding its risks and benefits.

“When Kahan surveyed uninformed respondents, their opinions were all over the map. But when he gave another group of respondents a very brief, meticulously balanced description of the promises and perils of nanotech, the remarkable gravitational pull of deeply held sacrosanct beliefs became apparent. With just two paragraphs of scant (though accurate) information to go on, people’s views of nanotechnology split markedly—and aligned with their overall worldviews. Hierarchics/individualists found themselves viewing nanotechnology more favorably. Egalitarians/collectivists took the opposite stance, insisting that nanotechnology has more potential for harm than good.
Why would this be so? Because of underlying beliefs. Hierarchists, who are favorably disposed to people in authority, may respect industry and scientific leaders who trumpet the unproven promise of nanotechnology. Egalitarians, on the other hand, may fear that the new technology could present an advantage that conveys to only a few people. And collectivists might worry that nanotechnology firms will pay insufficient heed to their industry’s effects on the environment and public health. Kahan’s conclusion: If two paragraphs of text are enough to send people on a glide path to polarization, simply giving members of the public more information probably won’t help them arrive at a shared, neutral understanding of the facts; it will just reinforce their biased views.
The Filipino Perspective: The Environment
Anti-intellectualism seems to persist in the country because of the belief that people who are intelligent are elitists. But by assuming ignorance is restricted by class issue, the opposite of it would be describing that people who are ignorant are poor.
“However, this does not imply that the poor are incapable of reasoned decision, it simply means that they are forced to unfairly work harder than richer people (as in all other things). Access to information is a class issue; ignorance is not. It is often the case that people who have the privilege of access to limitless information simply reject it on principle, because of dogma, superstition, and blind allegiance to authority.”
If anything, this anti-intellectualism stance has kept the country from progressing, as it discourages critical thinking. This scenario is evident during elections, with millions of Filipinos voting for politicians that campaign their personality rather than their platform. Perhaps religious fanaticism is a factor for the disregard of critical thinking, with our country being rooted to following faith blindly rather than making an analysis of faith. Our society is becoming more and more emotional and vindictive, with no more space for critical thinking.
As long as the country patronizes ignorance and puts the value of intelligence aside, it will take us longer than we want to in reaching a First World Status. With the rampant information provided to us by the internet, if anything, the people are growing more biased and subjective with their views, which leads us to question the value of critical thinking in our country—or rather, the saddening lack of it. It’s a new year once again and the world is advancing, but are we up for this change? We will have to see for ourselves.

Facebook Hiatus for a Reason

I’m not going to use Facebook for a while, for a good reason. I noticed that I go to this site every time I needed to boost my self-esteem. I need to take a break from updating everything that I do just for a quick like because it keeps me from dealing with an internal issue that has been bothering since forever.

I have a dilemma when it comes to trusting myself. This comes from years of self-doubt, lack of confidence and that tiny little voice I have that dislikes everything I do. This has to be something I have to work on because from now on, life’s only getting shittier and it should be me that should adjust to it–for now that I’m starting out as a small fry. I need guts to be able to do this, and boy, this is the one thing I’m scared of having to learn, but I need to do it.

No guts, no glory.

Talking it out with a good friend of mine has helped me put things in the proper perspective. You see, after my 18th birthday, I was able to be on my own, with my thoughts, wondering and wondering. Ruminating. And what happens when you ruminate? Naturally, you feel sad. Good thing she was there to help me, and tell me that I should live out my own tales, whether they may be good or not. AT least you’ve got stories to tell!

Lastly, this advice was the one thing that convinced me the most to finally stop using Facebook for now, and start to develop my own confidence:

“The way we learn to trust ourselves is to trust ourselves. I’m not being a wise guy, I swear. What I mean is that trust builds through experience. You learn from everything you do (or don’t do). You did it right, you did it wrong – doesn’t matter because whatever happened adds another page to the history of what you know about yourself and how to live. Of course, you have to stay focused on what’s going on inside you and reflect on your behavior to get smart and gain self-trust. You can’t keep your radar on only sometimes, then turn it off when you feel like it. Like that video camera, it has to keep running 24/7. By staying in touch with your emotions, including your longings, fears, and reactions, you know exactly where you are in situations and relationships. You’re like a computer, always integrating new information into programs to keep up to date. Trust comes from being well informed, which means being open to information – whether it comes from within or without – not from burying your head (or heart) in the sand and certainly not from salving your wounds with food.

Mostly trust comes from analyzing actions and consequences. You can’t regularly ask other people if you did okay, whether you were right, or how they think things went and expect to develop self-trust. When clients ask me what I think, I often tell them that when I analyze things I build my character, but when they analyze themselves they build theirs. Nice girls are often very, very unsure of themselves. Are you? Being a second-guesser, you ask other people (who usually don’t have the psychological savvy to turn the question back to you) what they think, further undermining your own views. And round and round you go until you don’t know which end is up.

In order to develop self-trust, you have to take a hiatus from asking people their opinion about things you do and say. Taking a break doesn’t mean you can’t resume after a while and balance out others’ opinions with yours. But you’ve got to get out there and use your own noodle for a while to teach yourself you’re fully capable of deciding for yourself your worth and value, whichever way the coin flips. Sometimes you’ll be thrilled to discover that you’re a pretty good egg after all; other times, you’ll be disappointed that you let yourself down. Either way, the learning is yours and no one can take that away.”
Karen R Koenig

Have fun, me! And don’t think so lowly of yourself so much.