Day 101: The Man and the Manliness of Praise P.5; ‘Candle’

‘Virtues are acquired through endeavor, which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues can but encourage one’s own efforts.’

– Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine.jpgFor the final part of my series on praise I would like to discuss the act of praise in particular as it pertains to men. I’d also like to issue a warning about the efficacy of praise and the discretion of its use. And finally I’d like to issue a challenge to everyone to become a bit more active in their mindset of praise. We’ve got a lot to go over people so let’s get started.

 

 

The Manliness of Praise

Though I know the majority of my readers are women (as seems prevalent among the blogging community) I cannot ignore the fact that I am a guy and I feel that more men should be able to write and find community and find relevant posts for themselves. And though I may direct this portion towards men in particular I believe there could be benefit in everyone reading this, as it does not necessarily only apply to men and it can also help understand a bit of the male psyche.

I believe that while men may have no issues giving or receiving praise from women, we are particularly restrained when it comes to praising our fellow man. I know I have definitely shared more positive words with women than I have with men and I believe this could be true for many others. The causes for this I think are rooted within our views of masculinity and other men.

See for the most part, guys view others guys primarily as competition versus ally, which is man2man.jpgusually the reverse for women. We are still tuned to want to hunt and provide and fear the scarcity of resources, including praise and success. For many men success, respect, and praise are all ‘points’ to be won and to offer someone praise is to ‘give up’ precious points. Yes, it is true that praising someone is to recognize that they particularly excel either in a particular skill, characteristic, or trait. But success isn’t a game to be won and simply because someone excels in something does not mean there are no opportunities for you to excel in the same thing or something else altogether. The truth of the matter is respect is something we have plenty of to go around and offering praise, while raising one person, does nothing to lower another. In fact the man you are praising most likely doesn’t even think to keep ‘score’ with you so this worry that prevents you from sharing some positivity with your fellow man is just keeping a valuable asset out of the hands of someone who might really need that affirmation.

Further, I challenge men to consider that it is actually the higher man who is able to comfortably, confidently, and consistently offer his fellow men words of praise. Humility, self-awareness, and the desire for improvement are all valuable traits to have in anyone, regardless of gender. Especially for a man who might be hesitant to offer a compliment because of lowering his value I say that it actually shows you to be someone who possesses these three traits. It is honorable for a man to be able to find excellence in others and respect and recognize them for it. Further it shows that he has thought about the traits he wishes to possess and it portrays it in his search for examples of such. Often times offering a kind word can also open the door to improvement. Praising someone for something you admire and wish to also possess can facilitate growth in the greatest way – by finding someone whose example you can follow either in the form of formal tutelage or in spirit.

I also believe that when it comes to men and the manliness of praise, praising another person in particular for their values also reflects positively on the one praising. Remember ‘it takes one to know one’? When you genuinely and sincerely and specifically praise someone for their values or virtues and it is convincing and thorough, you are also broadcasting that you too are someone who recognizes this trait and strives to possess it in its highest form as well. When you can honestly and without judgement or fear of feeling lesser or inferior recognize the great values and traits of others, you are indirectly glimpsing at the greatest version of yourself in various forms. It keeps you focused on your goals and directs your mindset to be seeking and improving on these aspects yourself.

A Warning on the Efficacy of Praise

As powerful and as positive as praise can be, when used improperly it can also be praise.jpgdestructive and have negative effects. For one, remember that praise is first and foremost for the benefit of the one being praised. Any ulterior motive or agenda, wither implicit or explicit, detracts from the value, the worth, and the sincerity of the act. This can jade our opinion of others and make us feel wary or suspicious of any kind words. It also reflects a manipulative and less than honorable image for the one who uses praise for their own benefit. So always be forthcoming with your words and intentions. Sometimes we may also be tempted to offer praise even to someone who may not necessarily deserve it simply because we wish to be kind or perhaps because we think they need it. While the person may honestly need some words of encouragement, if you are not careful to choose something truly noteworthy and simply make something up, you could make this person feel worse than if you had said nothing at all. Remember that the efficacy of accepting and internalizing praise is also predicated on if we believe that we truly deserved it or not. If they don’t deserve praise for that particular thing but you still wish to say something positive, choose something else. Undeserved praise serves no one in any way. And finally, in regards to back-handed compliments, remember that a compliment should be a compliment and an insult should be delivered to the front of the person, and not to their back. If someone is feeling particularly proud or excited about something and you decide it’s up to you to restore ‘balance’ with your back-handed compliment you could seriously damage their self-esteem or their enthusiasm. Praise positively, peeps.

A Challenge

Yes, I believe it is time we all put our money where our mouths are, so I am issuing this challenge to you all for the weekend with the understanding that I will of course also be engaging in it as well.

The challenge is simple. It deals with changing our negative mindsets to find the positives in our every day and then actively sharing what we see. Over the course of the weekend, preferably once a day, compliment the following people in your life:

  • A family member or friend: This is the easiest one of course, but it is also a great way to strengthen your relationship with the ones you love.
  • A co-worker: For most of us these are the people we will spend the second most amount of time in our lives with so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to improve relations and morale with your office mates.
  • A business you patronize: In a world of TripAdvisor and Yelp and viral reviews it’s a shame that we are more likely to share complaints and negative experiences over positive ones. Your local business thrives on word of mouth and needs the support of the community to survive. Try to spread a good word about a business you frequent not only on some form of media but with friends, family, or even just let them know you think they’re doing a great job.
  • A young person or beginner in some field: Remember from the early on in the series that the young and the novices are the ones who benefit from positive encouragement the most. So take some time to provide that boost of confidence they need to believe in themselves.
  • A stranger: Perhaps one of the hardest to do and yet the easiest in terms of finding something to compliment. Brighten someone’s day with as simple a remark as ‘I love your tie or shoes or etc’. Try to be specific to show that you are genuine and paying attention.

Thus concludes ManVsLoneliness’s seminar on praise. Hahah. I hope it helped in some way and I hope you take on this challenge.

Day 101

Man: 81 Loneliness: 20

Uh…candle.

Day 100 Supplemental: The Man and the Ill-Meaning Praise P.4; ‘Clumsy’

Elvis Costello.jpgI was out on a date one night back in the heyday of my Tinder, okCupid, and CoffeeMeetsBagel craze when the girl I was with told me I was (and I quote) ‘the heaviest guy she would still find cute’. Now…correct me if you think I’m wrong…but I’m almost positive she was trying to compliment me. I think in her head she was thinking ‘oh yeah, that went perfectly’. I’m pretty sure she was trying to make me hear ‘I think you’re cute’ but what I did hear was ‘you’re not too fat yet chubby!’ Okay the chubby was harsh, even for the imaginary her in my hypothetical mind. But still.

We have all been on at least one side of the ‘back-handed compliment’. Some of us may Kate Winslet.jpghave given these very such passive-aggressive remarks before in the past, others of us may have been the unwilling and unwitting recipients, and a good number of us will have at one point or another been on both sides in different situations. We may not always be aware our good intentions are being marred by adding just a bit too much information or we may be very, very much aware that we are trying not so subtly to jab at the person when we deliver our contempt masked as a compliment.

We’re not all evil and cruel creatures. But we might think like them sometimes. Our negative-focused minds may not know how to give an honest compliment without lacing Billie Piper.gifit with a bit of bitter cynicism simply because we aren’t even aware we are doing it in the first place. Our propensity to focus on the negative aspects of things may be why sometimes we can’t help but add a little backhanded slap to the face when we’re really trying to offer a pat on the shoulder. The problem is back-handed compliments very rarely feel like praise and most always are heard as criticisms and insult. Remember that while your mind is sub-consciously focusing on delivering the negativity, your poor unfortunate recipient is very consciously focused on receiving it.

I believe one of the reasons why we might purposely give a back-handed compliment is a sense of ‘balance’ or a fear of ‘imbalance’. You may feel a certain level of insecurity or competition with this person. Giving a compliment to someone elevates their status, at the very least in your eyes. Praise literally ‘lifts’ a person up. We might not want to, by extension, feel below someone, so we purposely wrap our well-meaning praise with a bit of criticism to drag that person straight back down.

Now to be fair, criticism does have its use and necessity in society as well. We can’t just go around telling each other how incredible we are. That’s how we end up with things like ‘participation trophies’ and believe me, there isn’t a single part of me that agrees with or patrick-stumpappreciates those. Yes we all need to be realistic about ourselves and should be able to take criticism as well as compliments. The problem is back-handed compliments are neither. They aren’t the positive, image reinforcing, inspiring messages that genuine praise should be. Nor are they the constructive, well-meaning, productive messages of criticism that help to direct our efforts towards improvement and betterment. Back-handed compliments are stuck in the middle and they do a rubbish job on either side. If you mean to criticize someone, criticize them openly and honestly for actual effect and appreciation. When praising someone, especially in an area that you are perhaps passionate in or have some expertise in, resist also the temptation to give someone a back-handed compliment because you think it might diminish your status or stature in that field. Helping to raise someone up by recognizing their efforts does nothing to conversely lower your own contributions. It is simply addressing and acknowledging something that already exists and is already true.

I do also believe that there are times when we are aware of our actions and have no desire or intention of being positive or giving praise at all. A back-handed compliment is really just a subtle insult for someone who for whatever reason a) has some desire to bring you down and b) wants to avoid direct confrontation. Passive-aggressive jabs like this are common, and, not to be sexist or anything, hilarious when it’s between women. I mean…how many times have you heard…

‘I love how you can just wear anything and not worry about it.’

‘You look great in this picture. It must have been a really nice camera.’

‘Usually that looks terrible on people with your body type. But you made it work.’

These are without a doubt some funny and not so subtly hidden jabs but they’re still terrible. Whatever happened to the golden rule, people?! Don’t forget. If you have nothing good to say, don’t try to say it in a good way.

Aside from the first one I shared with you, I’ve been the recipient of plenty of these kinds of compliments that I am not too embarrassed or too proud to share.


‘I knew someone your size would know good places to eat.’ Uhm…there MAY be a correlation but I don’t need you HIGHLIGHTING it. How about just thanking me for the great recommendations.

‘You were too smart to be a teacher anyways.’ I don’t even know how to process this. There MAY be some well-meaning comfort behind this since this was right after I chose to leave education. But you insulted a career I had a passion for, and had I decided to soldier on or go back, have implied that I’d be stupid to do so.

‘Your English is incredible.’ Yo. I was BORN here. My parents weren’t and they STILL speak better than some people I’ve met.

‘You’re a great cook, you dress well, you’re incredibly articulate, are you sure you’re not gay?’ Thank you, thank you, thank you, and WHAT. Listen the common everyday man’s inability to feed himself, clothe himself, or express himself isn’t a statement on sexuality. It’s a cry for help. These should be skills all men aspire to. Why couldn’t you have just topped at three things?

‘You look great in that. Now imagine it with less weight.’ I do. Every morning. Don’t worry folks. I forgot to mention that if you are trying to use a back-handed compliment to draw the person’s attention to some aspect of themselves you are genuinely concerned about and want to address without seeming rude, the odds are if they have any self-awareness they are already thinking about it.


Now what I really genuinely and honestly hope to read from you all are some examples of back-handed compliments you’ve received! They don’t serve much purpose but at least their clumsy attempts at praise could be a good laugh.

Day 99: The Man and the Reception of Praise P.3; ‘Promises’

‘A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.’

-Victor Hugo

victor-hugoAlright peeps, I think we’ve spent enough time patting other people on the back. We are all now fully aware of the benefits and positive effects of praise in reinforcing good traits and improving self-perception. We’ve practiced the art of giving genuine praise and how to find opportunities to share. It’s come now to the best part of the program, which is accepting the praise we receive from others with grace, dignity, and equal appreciation.

We have discussed the benefits praise can offer. It can help cement positive traits or behaviors or affirm certain aspects of ourselves we try to highlight. When offered genuinely and sincerely, praise is one of the best gifts we can give someone and one of the best we can receive. Now if someone were to go to the trouble of finding something you really wanted or needed and wrapped it all up in pretty paper and a bow and was so happy and honest in giving it to you as a gift, would you want to give it back or toss it aside or reject it? Thankfully (hopefully) the answer is no and we don’t really see that sort of behavior in real life, but it is definitely very much the same when we do not know how to accept the praise of others.

Why Do We Struggle to Accept Praise?

As I’ve mentioned certain cultures make accepting praise particularly difficult, especially amongst Asian culture. It is simply not in our nature to accept kind words from others, and we are much more comfortable deflecting them or redirecting them towards others. Many people stumble when accepting praise though for varied other reasons.

Mean Girls.gifOne of the most common reasons we hesitate to accept praise is the fear of appearing conceited. The concern is that by accepting the praise of others we are, by extension, praising ourselves, which can seem conceited or smug. By accepting praise it may seem as though we were seeking it to begin with or that perhaps we were expecting it. By appearing hesitant or struggling to accept it we remain humble.

A sure sign of cynicism when it comes to accepting praise may be in that we fear by accepting praise we become ‘indebted’ to the person who gave it and will be expected to return it in the near future. This is closely related to another reason, which is that we may doubt the sincerity or motive of the person who is speaking to us. We do not want to feel as though we may owe the person anything in any way or we may already be suspicious of them and expect a request for a favor to soon follow should we choose to accept their kind words. To be fair this fear may be legitimate at times depending on the situation as there will definitely be times when some people’s kind words really do mask hidden agendas. But to suspect every opportunity and occurrence of such is certainly no better and may reflect an overly negative or cynical worldview.

If we truly feel that we don’t deserve the praise being offered we will definitely offer someSelf Esteem.jpg resistance in acceptance. This could stem from honestly not doing much to deserve praise but if that is the case this is more the concern of the person offering, as we saw from yesterday. It is the responsibility of the one offering praise to be genuine and sincere. On the receiving end however this could be affected by our self-esteem. If we have a low self-esteem we may struggle to accept compliments even when it is honestly and sincerely deserved. If you cannot believe what they say about you because you don’t see it in yourself, your instinct may be to doubt, deflect, or counter it.

What Do We Do When We Struggle to Accept Praise?

Sociological studies have placed our general reactions towards praise into three categories: acceptance, deflection, and rejection. Most people remain within deflection as the two extremes of the spectrum could seem unappealing. A full on acceptance of praise may, as I mentioned, seem conceited or smug. Most of us possess the social graces to not go off the deep end on the other side either, as a full on rejection is rude and makes you seem mistrusting and makes the giver feel awkward and uncomfortable. There are a couple ways in which we do this to try and diffuse the compliment as if it were a ticking time bomb of undeserved confidence.

We can deny the compliment, rejecting what the person says and questioning their judgement or assessment. This is a common one that, though we may feel is harmless, can actually affect the person who complimented you. They may be shy or uncomfortable themselves, and this was a way of them branching out or working on their own abilities with praise. By questioning them you may make them feel even more uncomfortable. This could also portray you as someone who is mistrusting and can further decrease the chances of you receiving any praise in the future from that person or anyone else.

We may ignore the praise altogether. Either we honestly did not hear it or did not know it was a compliment or we are purposely turning a deaf ear to their words because it is easier than dealing with it head on. This could make you seem clueless or offend them as no one wants to feel ignored, especially when they are going out of their way to offer you some kind and encouraging words that you and they know would benefit both of you.

Didn't Do It.gifWhen we receive praise we feel we do not deserve we may be tempted to deflect it away from ourselves and towards someone else. If the person you are referring to was indeed a major contribution to your efforts and deserves the praise this is of course absolutely fine after you have accepted the praise yourself, not in lieu of. Chances are, despite the fact that it may have been a group effort, you were still part of that group and did have a part in its success. By deflecting the praise you are in effect decreasing your own self-worth and devaluing yourself. Take the moment to recognize that you were influential as well and accept the praise.

Sometimes to avoid those feelings of indebtedness towards the praiser we reflect either the same or a different compliment back to them. This is a way of indirectly brushing aside the compliment and instead reflecting the attention back to the one giving the praise. You may think this is okay as it still creates positivity, but keep in mind that often in the rush and hurry to redirect the attention the actual praise given is…well, less than sincere. You may think that by ‘returning the favor’ you are actually being polite, but if you think about it, it could imply very different things. For one, it may display that rather than taking the time to appreciate the praise and express gratitude you were too busy trying to come up with one of your own, and it may be less specific and more shallow and certainly less deserved. For another, if it becomes very apparent that this is a reflex for you, it diminishes the value of your praise as it seems more mechanical and autonomous than organic and spontaneous.

Perhaps the most passive-aggressive and least constructive method would be for us to minimize the praise given to us. This is best exemplified whenever you see someone who looks particularly well put-together that day and you try to compliment them as such and they respond ‘Oh this? Really? I think I look terrible. I just woke up and put on the first thing I could see. Teehee.’ Look this is clearly a lie. Let’s not try to play each other for fools. Just take the damn compliment Jesus. We know what this is trying to imply. It is trying to deflect the praise while at the same time opening the door for even bigger, greater praise. What we are trying to convey here is that if our very least effort is already praise-worthy, imagine what we would get if we actually tried and how wonderful and amazing we must be to be capable of so much with so little effort! Please. This is false modesty and frustrates the one trying to give praise and puts you in a rather nasty light as well.

How Do I Accept Praise?

Thanks.jpg

Say ‘THANK YOU’ for one! It’s honestly really almost that simple. Set aside your pride or ego, don’t worry about how you’ll be seen or perceived, and the very first thing straight out of your mouth when receiving genuine and sincere praise should always be ‘THANK YOU’. Try it with me. ‘Thank you’. Okay. Now let’s move on.

I want you to understand that no bad will come from accepting a compliment. You didn’t come up with the compliment yourself. You didn’t ask for it. I certainly hope you weren’t fishing for them. This was an honest gift from someone who cared enough to share with you so you should not feel any guilt in accepting it. Also remember that being proud of your work does not make you any more arrogant or any less humble. A little pride in a job well done is good because it is internal motivation to continue. We don’t need to go over-inflating our egos with every little compliment but we can certainly benefit from a healthy controlled diet of praise. It is possible to remain humble while receiving praise with dignity, graciousness, and gratitude.

Remember also that the one giving praise (if sincere) isn’t looking for anything in return, so don’t feel the immediate need to find some elaborate way to thank them or to reflect back onto them. They are happy simply to recognize someone for their contributions and the best way to support and encourage that is to be truly grateful and appreciative. A simple ‘thank you’ definitely suffices to portray this but you can of course embellish to an extent.

Letting them know that not only are you grateful for their praise but how much it means to you would definitely be a welcome way of receiving praise. If it honestly made your day or encouraged you to continue on, let them know the positive effect their words had. It could encourage them to give you praise again in the future as you continue to succeed or it may encourage them to spread the positivity elsewhere. Letting them know why their particular words means so much to you is also a wonderful way to thank someone. If you particularly respect their opinion let them know and know why. If you both happen to be in the same field and you admire their work, letting them know that receiving praise from someone they admire just spreads the warm feelings everywhere.

Receiving praise with a sense of dignity and grace is something we should all exercise and be able to do as well and as often as giving praise. You’ve been made well aware of the promises of praise both as the giver and the receiver and now you can actively and enthusiastically engage in this exchange. Next time we’ll discuss praise’s twisted cousin, the backhanded compliment. We’ll discuss why we might sometimes give them, how to avoid them, and my personal favorite, backhanded compliments I’ve received or those around me have. This should be a hoot and a half.

Day 99

Man: 79 Loneliness: 20

Day 98: The Man and the Act of Praise P.2; ‘Original’

‘When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce’

-Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu.pngSo yesterday we discussed the importance and necessity of honest praise in our lives, both giving praise and receiving praise. Though we may have our own personal barriers or obstacles to the road of becoming effective praisers, we cannot deny the myriad benefits. Genuine praise can, at its greatest, affect the path of a person’s life. It could be the gap between fear of failure and the satisfaction of achievement. It can dramatically alter a person’s self-image and even at its very basest, it can at the least make someone’s day better. Praise also changes our mindset, turning us into more positive people who focus on the best of others. This makes us happier, more charismatic, and increases our circle of influence and friendship. When we praise someone we are engaging in celebrating the very best of our qualities and promoting the kind of world we want to live in through positive reinforcement.

But, these benefits can only come from genuine and sincere praise delivered effectively and personally. Empty praise on the other hand, either undeserved, vague, or with hidden agenda, given at the wrong time or in the wrong manner, can be absolutely destructive. It creates mistrust between you and the other person and it can actually devalue their contribution, skills, or qualities. It is important, therefore, to be mindful and practice how we give praise. Today’s post in my series on praise will discuss what we should keep in mind when giving praise and how to deliver our message of positivity.

Opportunities to give praise abound so we are never short of practice material. We can praise our friends, our family, coworkers, and even complete strangers. When we give generously we receive generously in return and often you will find that as you increase your practice, more opportunities will arise because you will naturally draw more people to you by exuding that positivity in your mindset, actions, and behavior.

How to Find Opportunities for Praise

The first step might be the hardest of all. We have to begin to reprogram our minds to stop focusing too much on the negative. As mentioned this is a remnant of our ancestors’ survival instincts to isolate and commemorate negative experiences so as to prevent them from repeating. The best way to avoid this is to be fully aware and mindful when we are with others. Observe as much as you can as sharply as you can without passing judgement on what you see. You will begin to see so much more positivity in the world and you’ll easily find something to praise someone on if you just look a bit more earnestly.

Think of how the people around you affect you in a positive way. We might not always be able to find something specific about a person to compliment. However, we can think of Two Men Compliment.jpghow our day has been affected by their presence. If someone’s cheerful greeting each morning when you go in to work helps put you in the right mindset to tackle the day, let them know! If you look forward to working with a particular coworker because of their diligence and attention to detail, what better way to ensure this continued positive behavior than with some encouragement in the form of praise. When we focus on positive traits we reinforce them in the people around us and promote them both internally and externally. It speaks not only to the character of the one displaying the trait but also in the person honoring it. When we think this way we are reflecting on what qualities and traits we desire and admire, which in turn can help us become better people as well.

Remember to speak up. I would like to believe that the world is not as stingy with praise as we may seem, and that we do in fact notice every day plenty of wonderful and positive things to recognize in our fellow man. But maybe we are a bit too tongue-tied to express these praises. There could be a couple reasons why we may hesitate to vocalize our thoughts. Shyness could certainly be a factor. Cultural repression. Long-term relationships are often guilty of this as well. If we focus first on complimenting even the small things to those who are closest to us, we can slowly become more comfortable with offering praise to others. And remember that the things that add up to your day with someone special are often not simply coincidence. Your date may look a certain way because they know your preferences and wanted to look their best for you. Maybe there’s a special reason that you failed to notice for why it seems to always be your favorite food for dinner whenever you’re feeling particularly down. Someone cares for you and is trying to anticipate your wants and needs as a sign of affection. Take the initiative and let them know you notice and care and appreciate it before they even have to ask.

Realize that the person being praised and the person you are speaking to do not necessarily need to be the same. Sometimes we may find opportunities to praise others George Costanza.gifwhen they are not around. For example if a friend helps you move into a new place and, at your housewarming, guests admire and appreciate how nice everything looks, do not hesitate to let them know what a great help your friend was. Now there are three benefits in this exchange. The first is that you are again taking the time to notice positivity in your world and sharing it with others. For the person being praised, if you were to tell them this later on, it shows that you so admired and appreciated their contribution that you are still mindful of it and happy to share with others. For the person who heard of your friend’s help, it shows them that you are someone who can recognize good in others and it may inspire them to do the same. Plus they’ve now found a new moving helper. Another way ‘indirect praise’ could benefit others is in giving us an opportunity to speak about others that isn’t idle gossip or harmful rumors. Look I get it. The truth is we love talking about other people. But we are already surrounded by enough gossip and tabloid trash that we forget that we can also do this in a positive way. If we must think of others and speak of them, perhaps we can rewire our negative minds to share the stories that inspire and motivate us versus those that just bring others down. You could even work as messenger and spread praise you hear from others about the person. Perhaps during a meeting you hear your boss praise a fellow coworker’s contributions who happened to not be in the meeting. Imagine how appreciative and motivated they would feel to later on hear from you that they were positively mentioned in the meeting. Praise doesn’t necessarily have to always originate from you but you should still be a messenger of positivity.

How to Give Praise

Now that you’ve conditioned yourself to not only find things to praise others on but to recognize appropriate opportunities to do so, it is time to practice your delivery.

When offering someone praise, try to keep these certain things in mind.

  • Their name
  • The specific thing you saw them do, where, and when
  • To be sincere

If we can attach our words of praise to them personally, it certainly carries much more weight and significance. To say ‘hey guy, great job in the meeting today’ isn’t quite the same as ‘hey Jim, great job in the meeting today’. Remembering someone’s name makes us seem more personable and genuine and attaches the praise very specifically to them. It is also a sign of respect and acknowledgement. You recognize their contribution and you respect them enough to learn their name and go out of your way to let them know what they did that you particularly appreciated.

If praise is not specific, it can seem insincere, and if the praise is sincere, you should know what to say to be specific. The relationship between these two aspects is inseparable. Forcing yourself to be recall as specifically as possible what it is you want to praise helps you remain sincere in your efforts. It could be too easy to simply say ‘oh you look nice today’ but this carries no specificity, no meaning, no sincerity. If however, you particularly appreciate how the red dress draws attention to your date’s lips, or perhaps how her hair seems to be made of angel’s threads, by jove let her know that specifically. Remember that some people may have difficulty accepting praise as much as giving praise but a genuine and sincere compliment is much easier to swallow because they know and believe what you say.

If at all possible, try to attach a particular quality, characteristic, or trait that you admire to the action you are praising. For example, if you would like to praise a coworker on how well they handled the meeting because they displayed strong leadership, add that to your praise. Let them know what it is that spoke to you on a value level. Perhaps your coworker never saw himself as a leader but your praise, attached to a specific quality and action displayed during the meeting, may be all he needed to cement that into himself. This again strengthens positive qualities not only in the people around you but in yourself as well. Similarly, by recognizing that you are someone who admires leadership, you are telling others that you are someone who may possess that quality as well. After all, it takes one to know one!

Weird Compliment 1.gifOne last piece of advice, while generous praise is certainly an admirable trait and act of positivity, try to remain reasonable and sensible. Do not praise simply for the sake of praise. Giving a compliment to someone who does not deserve it could make you look insincere and could make them feel even worse about themselves. Giving a compliment that doesn’t make sense could just make you look weird. I get that we want to be unique and want to make sure that our praise sticks out, but no need to get too Weird Compliment 2.gifcrazy original. Telling someone you admire how they slice a steak could give you some sideways looks. Telling someone you like how they sleep could make you seem like a creep. Telling them you like how they stroke their kitty will definitely get you kicked between the legs. So you know, praise with discretion and at your own risk.

Day 98

Man: 78 Loneliness: 20

Day 97: The Man and the Necessity of Praise P.1; ‘Flattery’

We are motivated by a keen desire for praise, and the better a man is the more he is inspired by glory. The very philosophers themselves, even in those books in which they write in contempt of glory, inscribe their names.’

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero.PNGThough this was inspired by the daily prompt, I find that there are too many aspects to praise worth discussing that rather than create one mammoth post, I will break them into parts of a series which I will write over the next few days.

Praise is often much too scarce in our daily lives. There could be cultural, economical, personal, or relational reasons for this but the fact remains that praise, when genuine, sincere, and deserved, is necessary both as the giver and the receiver. Honest praise is a powerful motivator and an effective way to recognize achievement and accomplishment. It strengthens and lionizes positive traits and behaviors both for the giver and the receiver of praise.

Why We Don’t Praise as Often or as Freely

Yet for as beneficial as they may be for everyone involved we are oft stingy with giving praise and struggle with receiving it. In general, reasons for this could vary.

For one there are often cultural differences when it comes to viewing compliments. For example I have found that people with Asian backgrounds such as myself often struggle with accepting compliments from others. We may be more generous in giving praise, but often times we are trained very early on never to accept any we receive. We preclude any of our efforts with a downplay of our skills and abilities. ‘Oh I cooked but I’m sorry it’s not very good’ or ‘Please come into my house but I’m sorry it’s such a mess and so uncomfortable’. Naturally most guests would feel inclined to then rebuff these comments with positive praise but again we are conditioned to argue Joy Luck Club.jpgand deflect these efforts. This can come off poorly for those who are not accustomed to these cultural differences and it makes those of us raised in this manner very uncomfortable receiving praise even when deserved because we were never taught how to, only how to reject it.

In terms of economics, praise can be seen as a commodity whose value is only directly related to its scarcity. Therefore we may be inclined to give less praise because we do not wish to devalue our opinion. Praise is often also equated to power and position, and in an effort not to put others above us, or at the very least preserve balance, we fear that praising others will ‘value’ them greater than ourselves.

There could also be personal reasons. Aside from my background I am also naturally a very shy person. I do not particularly enjoy social situations and if I already struggle with just the simple timing and delivery of a small ‘hello’, how am I supposed to be skilled enough to deliver an honest and earnest compliment?

bad-reviewsThere are also natural psychological barriers to praise. Our brains are designed to focus on the negative and place more weight on negative experiences as opposed to positive ones. This is an evolutionary necessity that helps us identify and isolate negative experiences so as not to repeat them. Fire bad, sharp edges hurt, wild animals don’t like to be petted, etc. This unfortunately means in our not-so-survival centered world, we are still more focused on the negative. We tell 10 people of negative experiences versus the 1 person we tell of our positive. We are more comfortable complaining to management than we are to call them over to thank them for a wonderful experience.

Honestly, we may not give praise as often as we should simply because we’ve lost the practice in our relationships as well. This is especially true in long-term relationships when we become so comfortable and so used to our partners that we forget to recognize the extra effort they put in every single day. The act of praise, like anything else, is a skill that can be sharpened or dulled depending on the frequency and extent of use.

Why Genuine, Deserved Praise is Necessary in our Interactions

Compliments and praise, more than insult and criticism, get results. Studies have shown that both as a motivator and as an educational tool, positive praise is more effective and more valuable when it comes to encouragement and incentive. This is particularly true for the young and for the novice. While the more experienced and more mature can claim to have moved on beyond the need for praise and/or recognition, the young and the inexperienced crave this as an acknowledgement and affirmation that they are indeed on the right track. Experts are primarily concerned with measuring progress and results. They have Encourage Young.jpgalready done something and want to know how to improve and gauge if their progress is satisfactory in terms of size, scope, and timescale. Novices on the other hand have nothing to compare themselves to and are more concerned with their commitment and suitability. Can I do this, do I want to do this, am I suited to do this. As such compliments are a more effective way to affirm their decisions and choices to encourage and motivate them to continue on. If you are ever in a position to help someone who is feeling discouraged or unmotivated, remember that sometimes an honest word of praise can be all that it takes to fill the gap and allow them to bridge the space between failure and success. And as a parent remember that it can often be much more valuable to focus on catching them doing something good for once.

Praise is a great way to soften otherwise antagonistic relationships. It will come to no surprise for people who actually know me in real life to say that I have an oftentimes contentious relationship with my father. This stems from having two very stubborn very headstrong individuals in one house who believe that they know best and most. But that’s beside the point. I remember that growing up, the majority of our interactions were my father telling me what I was doing wrong and how to do it better. This may have been valuable advice but I was too naïve, too proud, and too resistant to change to really absorb and appreciate it. Because of this, my perspective of my father has always been as more of a detractor than one who would support or encourage me. I’m not saying I need daddy’s approval. I haven’t grown up with that much of a crippling insecurity. I just mean that praise is an effective way to equalize relationships in a way in which I could probably accept more of my father’s advice because I didn’t feel so far below him. This understanding can apply to all relationships. Perhaps you find that with those you are less than close with you are more likely to criticize them, which further strengthens a negative association between the two of you. A simple act of praise can at the very least, thaw an otherwise icy relationship.

1337.pngSimilarly, the act of giving praise can strengthen and increase relationships as well. Compliments reflect respect, and relationships are built on respect. It is simple mathematics. Though we value the constructive criticism of our peers, especially those close to us, I believe it stands to say that most people get close to begin with because of positivity and recognition. It is through that shared act of respecting each other and each other’s works that allows us to enter a relationship where we can be otherwise critical. Praise implies humility, which is a trait we often admire in others, especially people we would like to follow. So a good leader should be comfortable giving praise and recognizing others without fearing for their own power or position. It is also a great way to attract more people and attention. I know that I have built strong, genuine connections through this blog, for example, because of a mutual exchange of encouraging and positive praise. But it is those same people whose opinions I now trust and respect should I ever seek or receive constructive criticism because I know that we have already established a positive rapport.

‘We pay too much tribute to a few human insects when we let their wrong-doing paralyze our faith in humanity. It is a lie of the cynics that says ‘all men are ungrateful’, a companion lie to ‘all men have their price’. We must trust humanity if we would get good from humanity. He who thinks all mankind is vile is a pessimist who mistakes his introspection for observation; he looks into his own heart and thinks he sees the world.’

– William Geroge Jordan

Praise tempers our own natural cynicism. As I mentioned previously, we are biologically programmed to focus on the negative. While this was an important trait for our survival yesterday, it can be a detriment to our relationships today. If we only ever focus on the negatives of the people around us we can feel burdened and heavy, with little to no hope in any redemption. Actively seeking things to praise others with keeps us in a positive mindset that can then carry over into our daily lives and help us appreciate more those around us.

When practiced frequently and with honesty, integrity, and enthusiasm, the act of giving praise can elevate our relationships and our own self-awareness and identity. Furthermore when we can be specific about the positive traits we admire and therefore seek in others, when we recognize these traits we elevate our praise to a celebration of that which we find admirable and noble, versus simple and forgettable flattery.

In tomorrow’s continuation of the series we will discuss how to give praise with integrity and purpose.

Day 97

Man: 77 Loneliness: 20

 

Day 78: The Man and the Wardrobe; ‘Stylish’

Dressing Occasion.jpg

Someone is going to make fun of me for referencing another older post, but it seems to be a running trend with the prompt nowadays. The post in question is this one, in which I discussed the important of humor not only in my dating life but in my socialization and in how I view the connected experiences of humanity. I know, heavy stuff Doc.

Today’s prompt was ‘stylish’, which brought up thoughts of another aspect of my personality that I practically personally tailored (bad puns) to fit my dating life once more. I didn’t just use cheesy humor to get a girl’s attention. In the immortal words of ZZ Top, ‘every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man’. I learned the myriad benefits of realizing that a guy’s outfit could be more than jeans and a t-shirt.

When I was in the first grade I had to wear this shiny gold vest for Easter Sunday. I thought I looked so cool with it on and everyone was saying how handsome I looked. There was a girl in my class who I had a huge crush on. Her father owned the local bakery and I used to go with my parents when they wanted to pick up some bread and biscotti. She was usuallyFrontShot hanging out at the store on weekends, coloring or running outside. I was always too shy to approach her or let alone talk to her. But if I could show her my cool new vest…well she’d have to…uh…I don’t know…my first grade self didn’t know what you were supposed to do with a girl you had a crush on. Maybe she’ll hold my hand. Hahah.

On Monday morning I stuffed that gold vest into my backpack so my mother wouldn’t know I had it with me. As soon as she dropped me off at school I asked my teacher if I could use the restroom. Inside, I slipped on this very shiny very sparkly golden vest over my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt. I was a 6 year old little boy in Power Rangers sneakers, blue jeans, a TMNT shirt, and a gold Easter vest. I thought I was the bomb. As I strutted my walk back into class with that runway look I very quickly realized otherwise. My guy friends were confused and dumbfounded. They stared and poked at the vest and wondered why I was wearing it. I could hear the girls in class looking and giggling at me. (See, making them laugh since day one.)

My teacher came over to me and in her teacherly way simply said, ‘Why Man, that’s a very nice vest. Why are you wearing that to school today?’

‘I don’t know,’ I wanted to say. ‘Love makes you do stupid things?!’

‘I…I have a party to go to after school,’ I lied.

Obviously, or well maybe not obviously but hopefully, my fashion sense, much like my comedic timing, has improved over the years. It was, after all, something I actually wanted to study and know more about and get better at.

I went through phases, just like anyone else growing up. Later on in elementary school I
got into the skater look. Long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve on high-school-metop. I got so lazy I just started buying shirts that just looked like it was two layers. In middle school I was very into the Asian motif so a lot of dragons and flames and ninja designs. It was bad. In high school I would change almost weekly. One week I’d try out the Seattle grunge look. Ripped jeans, plaid lumberjack shirts. Another time I’d be uncomfortably, unnaturally preppy. Polo shirts with the collar popped and a stupid jacket tied around my shoulders. I’d wear the jerseys of teams I didn’t follow whose players I didn’t recognize. I am so eternally grateful that my mother put a very quick and definite end to any possibility of me getting some obnoxiously long black trenchcoat like I saw in The Matrix because my dumb impressionable self was convinced this was the coolest jacket in the world. I would have even walked around with my arms folded behind me like Morpheus. I was most comfortable in jeans and a button up with the sleeves rolled. That’s what carried over mainly into college. College was also where I started to really want to dress smartly, dress like a guy who knew what the hell he was doing. Threw out all the skulls and dragons. Threw out the skater shirts. (Donated to Salvation Army, don’t worry.)

I started buying jeans that I realized didn’t always have to come in bright blue. Khakis. Chinos. Short-sleeve polo shirts, long-sleeve button ups, three-button henleys. I loved my assorted blazers and suit jackets. I learned to dress for the season and dress with variety. And you know what, girls did notice throughout all the years. If you show up over-dressed, like say a gold vest to homeroom, you’ll stick out for all the wrong reasons. But if you just do enough to be the best dressed guy in the room, you stick out for the right ones.

Say what you will about anything else, but I can at least say for certain that the women I’ve dated were sure of two things. 1) I was funny. And 2) I dressed well. Who wouldn’t take a little extra time to notice and appreciate when a guy shows up at your door and it looks like he spent more than five minutes deciding what to wear.

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There are so many benefits to a well-stocked and versatile wardrobe. Functionality is of course still the most important thing. I would never support a fashion choice simply for its aesthetic versus practical use. A good wardrobe and a good sense of how to use it means you’ll never be caught unprepared. You’ll have the right clothes for each season and every weather type. You’ll be able to dress well for any occasion, from the most casual to the most formal. You can sell with much more confidence any image you wish to portray. A good outfit can also help a man hide some flaws and accentuate some strengths. I have particularly broad shoulders, so I like to wear clothes that accentuate that. This may sound weird but I am also a big fan of my forearms, which is why I very rarely wear sleeves to the wrist. I usually roll sleeves on my button ups or pull them up on sweaters and the like. Since I am tall,especially for a Filipino, I am very particular about my pant length. Too short, like how a lot of Asian men (especially Korean) like to wear it, makes me look awkward and gangly. Too long means the pant bunches up and makes me look saggy. But a pant with just the right length that ends at my shoe makes me seem like just a tad bit more of a commanding presence. You’d think with my little extra paunch I’d want to wear oversized shirts or baggy items to hide that, but I know it just makes me look frumpy and wrinkled. So a goodfitting shirt is actually better because it can help to narrow my profile a bit by aligning closer to my pants.

As the fall season approaches in the East coast I look forward to my cold-weather wardrobe coming back into circulation. I tend to sweat easily so I don’t get too fancy in the warmer months in terms of clothing. Material is more important and I am particular though to make sure I wear things that are almost always 100% cotton. In the winter though I get to dress my smartest. Layers are my friend. Collared shirt, vest, blazer. Plain tee, sweater, scarf. Cardigans. Long manly winter coats. No marshmallow jackets here.

How to Roll Sleeves.jpg

Honestly, I don’t know when or why or how not caring about your clothes became synonymous with ‘manliness’. I feel sad that so many guys think the best way to show off masculinity is to try really really hard to dress like a homeless person. When did knowing about the benefits of different kinds of materials and shirt styles lose its prowess in the circle of men. Why is it nowadays it’s either basketball shorts and t-shirts or fedoras and trenchcoats.

A man dressing well is manly. It speaks so much to a person’s knowledge, skills, and talents. It’s an unmistakable first impression. We don’t even need to know too much or have too much in our wardrobe. It’s not difficult for a guy to master the basics of smart dress for men. Even though I’m not actively going out and trying to find someone and telling myself I’ll find the love of my life at this particular moment I still like the fact that I learned the skill and ability to dress well enough so that no matter who looks, hopefully, if they appreciate something like that, they could still say ‘there goes a stylish man’.

Day 78

Man: 60 Loneliness: 18

Day 76: The Man and the Continued Act of Gratitude

In continued recognition of how incredible the WP community is, I’d like to recognize two awards given to me by two awesomely talented bloggers. It’s been an incredible honor to be nominated for the Sunshine Blogger and Versatile Bloggger awards in the past and now I am pleased to acknowledge a second Sunshine Blogger Award nomination from SHAYM and the Blogger Recognition Award from Cosmic Explorer.

Most of the blogs and bloggers I would like to nominate have already been so by either myself or others.

My initial response and nominations for the Sunshine Blogger Award can be found here. My nominees were: WanderlustBreath MathKnowMyHeartInsidious Temptation, and kStan(ly) kSays. If you have not yet had an opportunity to explore their blogs, I would highly recommend taking the time to.

As such, I still would like to honor the nominations by answering the questions.


Blogger Recognition.png

The Rules for The Blogger Recognition Award

For all the nominees for this award, here are the rules, if you choose to accept (Please do):

  1. Write a post to show your award.
  2. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  3. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  4. Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.

How my Blog Started

By now this story is very familiar. But, inspired by a comment from a reader, I’d like to discuss my hopes for where this blog could go. I haven’t forgotten my roots and the reason why this all started. I am still constantly battling, just getting better at fighting and recognizing my enemy. But as I’ve continued to write and evolve, I’ve started discussing movies, shows, food, music, it’s awoken this dormant desire to write and share that I didn’t think I had the skill nor the energy for. And blogging is not easy! I am surprised how much I enjoy it, how much time I freely give to it. You all know how this blog started. But even I don’t know where it will end. Maybe there’s a whole story to be written about my experience with Beautiful. Maybe I’ll want to be recognized for more than heartbreak. All I know is now I am beginning to realize that as I write, I’m also in the back of my mind writing to maybe discover a new path, a new future.

Advice to New Bloggers

  1. WRITE! Write when you don’t want to write. Write what you’re afraid to say. Write what’s too painful, too stupid, too hard to write. This is like any other muscle or any other skill. It needs constant stimulation. Write when there’s nothing left to write about the feeling of not knowing what to write. Your job isn’t to evaluate your writing. It’s not to judge before the fact. Your job is to write. Let it out and then see what happens. Then adjust. Then revise. But you can’t fix what isn’t broken. So break yourself writing.
  2. BECOME INVOLVED. I thought the self-contained microcosm of Man would be enough for me to fight Loneliness. But I craved and needed feedback and acknowledgement and growth, which can only come from an equal audience. This is an incredible community of writers and creators. Take advantage of that. Become involved. Share and spread love. Read other blogs. Consume. Then, share. Comment. Discuss. Converse. Your blog cannot exist on its own. It needs others. Rivers flow both ways.

Gratitude

Thank you again to Cosmic Explorer for this nomination. Your blog has been such a fun and positive reminder of the power of gratitude and curiosity. I also weirdly, geekily, and obsessively love all the blog post pics. I can’t outrun my anime nerd past. Hahah.


sunshine-blogging

Another Sunshine Blogger Award nomination! This time from SHAYMÂ. You know, I’ll be disqualified for this if Loneliness gets too many wins. Hahah.

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person that nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions from your nominator.

The Questions

1. What’s your favourite quote and why?

First off, love that this used the European spelling for ‘favorite’. I’d use it but…I’m a Joy-sey boy. They’ll spot me lying and faking. Hahah. I have a lot of favorite quotes.

When it comes to cooking: ‘a recipe is just an expression of a moment of time’. Cook to your feelings and passions. Recipes were made to be changed.

My favorite toast, ‘May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we may know them by their limping.’

On dealing with rainy days, ‘There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.’

2. Do you read books? What kind of books and why?

Books a plenty! I like to read memoirs by people I admire to learn how to live a life to similar ends. I believe literature is a good way of supplementing knowledge we don’t yet have. That’s why when I was younger I wanted to read about noble heroes and love and things I didn’t have but wanted. Now I read Kazuo Ishiguro who teaches about loss and disappointment. I read Christopher Moore for realistic love.

3. Who’s your favourite author.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Moore, Nick Hornby.

4. Books or Movies, which is your preference? Why?

Original medium! I don’t like movie versions of books and I definitely don’t like book versions of movies. Yes, that happens. I think the original creators had a very specific vision in mind. Movies capture great plot and action. Things that move quickly and need grand stages. Books let us get into the minds of characters. It’s about human interaction and emotion. Motivation. An inner monologue we get to listen to that an actor can’t express on screen. I find books give me the best and most memorable characters. But I get more easily lost in movies, immersed in environments, plot, and action. I’ve also cried for movies, but never through books.

5. What was the toughest decision you’ve ever had to make.

My career choice. The day I decided to walk away from teaching, I felt like I lost a significant part of my identity. Being a travel agent certainly didn’t fill that void. It was an act of desperation. This new job is a bit better, but it still doesn’t feel authentic. It’s the only part of me that I don’t feel actually follows who I am. I’ve yet to make a decision on career choice that I really believe in.

6. What does your blog mean to you?

It is my salvation. My refuge. I pour everything into this. Every thought, worry, fear, belief, hope. It is routine and discipline when I feel chaotic or uncontrolled. My constant. It’s also my stage and my soapbox. And, ironically considering you all don’t actually know who I am, it’s my identity. Hahah. I like being Man. I thought I was ManVsLoneliness, but I’m beginning to extract the loneliness from me, realizing it is not a characteristic but a symptom. And now that I am beginning to identify my enemy, I can face it better.

7. Who’s your favourite person and why?

Uhm…I don’t…really…know…That’s a strange question. I like…the Doctor though? Does that count. Tenth one. Eleventh one can suck it. Twelve is cool too. Jackie Chan is a martial arts hero for me. Stephen Chow is a genius. Daniel Craig could kill three men with his bare hands but he looks at me with those schoolboy baby blue eyes and I’d run away with him. Is that weird?

8. Is there anything like “best friends”? what is your own idea of one. 

Mos def. Best friends are family you make. You need to form an actual bond. Choose to be close. Choose to trust each other. Every single day, you continually choose to have this friend in your life. And specifically for me, I think of best friends as people who can turn to you for advice and who you can turn to as well. And, this is very important, friends don’t stroke your ego. They need to be the ones who keep you grounded. Friends who find you perfect are dangerous. So you know, punch each other to the ground every once in a while.

9. Do you think that sometimes sacrifices aren’t really sacrifices. Why?

YES! And I cite EVERY Disney movie EVER. Tangled? When Finn gets stabbed but is MIRACULOUSLY saved by Rapunzel’s tears? WHAT IS THAT?! I want a doctor to come in and be like, ‘Actually ma’am the knife missed literally every vital organ. This wasn’t your love. It was bad aim. He was, after all, stabbed by a 100 year old witch. Probably couldn’t see very well.’ Most sacrifices in Hollywood and literature nowadays are too afraid to be actual sacrifices. Sacrifice is final, ultimate, absolute. For a sacrifice to really be considered a sacrifice, there has to be zero chance of salvation. There are way too many examples of sacrifices just being ‘noble’ or ‘honorable’ but they’re also painful and very sad.

10. Describe my blog. 

Fascinatingly diverse. It’s like someone spilled excellent examples of various writing styles and genres all over your blog. Personal, reflective, humorous, inspiring, poetry, prose, it’s all there. Honesty in execution. Just keep writing because you have not yet exhausted all your talents and I am eager to read more.


Day 76

Man: 58 Loneliness: 18

Day 73 Supplemental: The Lover’s Guide to Swedish Furniture Making; ‘Fragile’

ikea-summer

Call me crazy, but there’s something about a bellyful of crawfish and the smell of balsa wood that get the romantic juices flowing. Hahah. So let your friendly neighborhood Man share with you some of his secret insider tips to successful romantic dates at your IKEA.

First off, I want to make this very clear, I was doing this waaay before the movie (500) Days of Summer used IKEA as the setting for one of the sweetest movie date scenes I’ve ever seen. The movie came out in 2009. I saw it for the first time on DVD, though we’ll assume it was released on DVD the same year. I was 19 at the time. I was already dating and driving when I was 18. So you know…just saying. I didn’t copy nobody! This is all genuine, 100% Man. But (500) definitely nailed it too. Just watch:

I will always promote IKEA as an excellent date option that is creative, unique, romantic, and very personal. I wouldn’t make this the first date (unless there’s some sort of established inside joke or connection or you know, you met there) but it is definitely a great date to get to know the person and harmlessly imagine the future. It’s a no-risk, high-reward, low-pressure situation. So let’s call that oh I don’t know…date 5 or 6?

Crawfish Sign.jpgFirst, let’s grab dinner at the Cafe. Did you all know that IKEA has a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Great food, incredible cost. Very DIY. Grab a tray for you and your date and get in line. I recommend the standard meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce. Perhaps the two of you can also share a smoked salmon plate. And, trust me on this, IKEA has some of the best fries ever. Very much like Belgian frites, the fries at IKEA are thick cut but twice-fried for a super crispy crunchy outside and a light, fluffy, warm inside. There are some very nice desserts but please, take my advice, pass on it for now and save it for a little afternoon coffee date. Dessert comes later!

I like grabbing a meal from the IKEA Cafe for a couple reasons. Yes, the food is actually surprisingly good. And yes, the cost is incredibly economical. It was a godsend for a piss-poor college student. But it is exactly that college dining mentality I wanted to recreate. The fine dining and gourmet restaurants are all good and fun. First couple of dates, you want to bring out the best. In everything. Your personality. Your interests and hobbies. Your mannerisms. And of course, the food. But life isn’t always about the best. The best is easy to get used to. You want to know that the two of you are going to be okay with…the medium. Not bad. Not the best. But medium. That’s why I like to take a date here. It’s nice to date someone who knows how to appreciate a fine meal. But it’s equally nice to date someone who can still appreciate meatballs at a furniture store. It’s a…’can we be comfortable with each other’ kind of thing. Who doesn’t want someone who can rock the LBD at Le Grand and a plaid polo and jeans at IKEA? I don’t think I could date someone who only wanted one or the other.

Alright you’re full, you’re happy, you need something to do. Time to explore! IKEA is literally a playground for adults. There are the scattered apartment configurations (780,Ikea Showroom.jpg
550, 400, even 280 sq foot models!) and then there are all the model offices, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. I love walking through all of them. You get a real feel for the personality of a person during these visits. Their style, their preferences, and their priorities. You sit in the model kitchens and you see how the two of you could work together. How do you orchestrate your movements in those tiny kitchens. I go to the fridge. She goes to the stove. For a brief moment we are only inches away from each other. We could get closer…we could touch…get lost…ah! But don’t spill the sauce. Don’t burn the roast. And we need to get the ice from the freezer. So we keep dancing around each other. In the offices, we talk priorities. Whose office are we in. What do we do in this office. Who do we do it for. What are we dreaming of. I see past, present, and future. In no certain terms, with no judgements or conclusions, we talk about where we see ourselves. I admire a woman with direction. In the bedrooms words are picked carefully. This bed is comfy. Why don’t you try it. How do you sleep. Which side of the bed. Check out this killer walk-in closet. It even has a viewing mirror and a chair. So for example…maybe I sit here…and you say something like…’I need help picking an outfit for this meeting’ or ‘what should I wear to tonight’s party’ or ‘what do you think of this I picked up today’. What do you think of that arrangement. Play house for a little bit. Have fun. Pretend and let the fantasy live in IKEA. No one has to bring it out, no one has to assemble it just yet. Let me pretend to cook for you at the kitchen island. Let’s entertain guests in our tiny-ass apartment. Let’s check out the plates and silverware.

ikea-sundaeAlright! You’ve successfully navigated the maze of the IKEA showroom. I mean come on…the metaphors practically jump off the screen at you by this point, no? Let’s get our just desserts for walking together all this time (hitting you over the head yet). Right after the registers is the IKEA snack bar. Dollar hot dogs, cinnamon buns, please don’t ever get their abomination of a pizza, and of course, frozen yogurt sundaes and cones. Dollar dollar billikea-cone y’all. I personally prefer the cone. Your date may want a sundae. Strawberry or chocolate sauce with that?

You just had an incredible time at the same place you bought your dorm room furniture. Who knows. You may have to return one day to pick up furniture for your apartment. Or just go back because it’s fun and it’s playful and the showroom changes all the time to showcase the new designs.

Just remember. Be careful. Like our hearts, the furniture may be ömtålig. (Check the Daily Prompt to figure out what that one says in Swedish.)

 

Day 55: The Man and the Most Painful Relaxation p.3; The Stomach and Spleen

In the last part of my Yin Yoga series we will discuss the importance and significance of the Stomach and Spleen meridian lines as well as how to get the most out of effective, mindful, and consistent Yin Yoga exercise.

If you’ve had any chance to try any of the poses, you’ll notice that the majority of the strain and development doesn’t come from the pose itself but from the prolonged practice of holding them. Remember that this is a form of deep stretching and meditation meant to gradually lengthen and open the joints and increase flexibility. Unlike other forms of yoga that rely on extreme poses in shorter bursts of time, this is a much slower practice. The difference is while the extreme poses stress and develop the muscles, Yin Yoga’s slower practice focuses on the tendons, ligaments, and the fascia.

Improvement in these areas requires more consistent practice, and to really see a tremendous amount of change requires a consistent practice over a period of time. As little as 30 days and as much as 100 days can make a world of difference. What I am currently doing, and what I would recommend, is to begin with a commitment of 30 days consecutively. Each sequence is only about ten or so poses, and even at the max of 5 minutes (though benefits can be seen with as little as one) you are still only looking at about an hour’s worth of meditative practice or as little as ten minutes.

One of the poses that has consistently killed me has been saddle. Surprisingly it wasn’t my back that felt the pressure but the stretching in my feet. When I started I could barely sit on my feet and even begin to lean back. At this point I am further back and supporting myself on my hands with straight arms. I am hoping to eventually move to my elbows, and then a full saddle. The importance is to remain consistent, keep practicing, and to never pass judgement on progress.

After the 30 days has passed you will see a vast improvement in flexibility and health. After that, the 100 days challenge does not necessarily need to be consecutive. Set a reasonable goal such as 100 days of practice within 120 or 150 days. Again the most important thing is consistency, mindfulness, and no judgement. Allow yourself to have days when you are not able to practice. And choose based on what your body tells you you need. Remember that certain poses are good for certain organs and meridians. Pick and choose based on energy, emotions, and what you feel you need. The stomach and spleen poses we are about to discuss are consistently on my routine because I have always had a weak stomach since I was a child and the spleen is important for my work and keeping energy levels up.

The stomach (yang) and spleen (yin) meridians are associated with late Summer. The stomach of course receives, stores, and partially digests food particles which it then passes to the small intestines and spleen. On a more metaphysical level the stomach represents how well one can assimilate joy and contentment. It absorbs our thoughts and mental attitudes about life and the Earth and helps to determine where we stand. How well we as a person nurture, nourish, and feel secure about ourselves and our lives dictates how well the stomach can balance and support the flow of chi. When we are balanced we feel centered, grounded, and fulfilled. Imbalances in the stomach meridian can result in lethargy, weakness, and digestive problems.

The spleen, including the pancreas, is about storing blood, forming antibodies, and fighting off harmful bacteria. It is concerned with the absorption, transformation, and transportation of food, water, and energy (chi). When we are deficient in spleen chi we feel sluggish and fatigued both physically and mentally. the spleen is also said to house the thought processes, and if we think too much the spleen may suffer. Over-thinking (like worrying) leads to spleen chi deficiency.

The Poses

Dragon PoseDragon Pose: Similar to the Swan Pose except the front leg is not twisted and resting on the floor but out in front, foot flat on the ground and the knee either in line with the ankle or a bit forward. Back leg is straight and resting on the thigh.

 

 

Saddle PoseSaddle Pose: This pose stretches the feet, ankles, thighs, and arches the lumbar. Start by sitting on the top part of your foot and feel the stretch. If it’s okay, sit fully back and feel the stretch in your thighs. If still comfortable, go ahead and lean fully back and either support yourself on your hands or go fully back to your elbows.

Dragonfly PoseDragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.

Corpse PoseCorpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.

That’s it! All the meridian lines discussed in Yin Yoga and a bit of insight in the mental and physical states while practicing. I hope this was informative and interesting and whether you have had prior yoga experience or not, this is a wonderful style of yoga exercise and meditation that is a bit easier on the body but with far reaching benefits.

Day 55

Man: 39 Loneliness: 16

Day 54: The Man and the Most Painful Relaxation P.2; The Liver and Gallbladder

Today in part two we will discuss the liver (yin) and the gallbladder (yang) meridian lines. The liver and gall bladder correspond to the wood element in Chinese medicine and it is said that people with a strong wood element have clear vision when setting goals, an ability to plan and execute decisions, and a clarity and decisiveness when arguing. I also want to discuss a bit more on the mental aspect of Yin Yoga to balance out the physical. Once you are comfortable with achieving the poses and can rest comfortably for some time in them it is time to extend the practice beyond just what your body is doing and feeling and begin to take mental inventory of the thoughts and emotions that arise.

What should I be thinking about while practicing Yin Yoga?

Nothing. Which is the hardest thing to focus on, to be honest. There is a very significant difference between empty thoughts and and empty mind. In meditation, empty thoughts are the distractions. The sound of traffic passing by. Self-consciousness. Impatience. Groceries. The ambient noise in our minds that we have become much too accustomed to. An empty mind is one that is void of thought and 100% present. This is a very difficult concept for many to think about.

For example, if I said to you right now to close your eyes and think about nothing for even a minute, could you? Try this experiment and see how long it takes before the first errant thought enters your mind. It might even be the thought of ‘is this nothing?’ which, unfortunately, isn’t. Yin Yoga is often also considered an exercise in practicing and developing patience because it requires us to hold these poses and try and maintain empty minds much longer.

The difficulty is human nature wants to classify and define every experience. We cannot simply let things be, which is the goal of meditation. We want to quantify and judge, when the goal of meditation is to pass no judgements.

Aside from the regular thoughts that bombard our mind, there will be more specific to your experience with Yin Yoga. More than just thinking about work or relationships or dinner, you will find that Yin Yoga, because of its structure and the way it stimulates certain body parts and emotions, adds a whole other set of thoughts to wrestle yourself free from.

First there are the physical thoughts. You will be tempted if in a group to look around. You will think about others and their poses. Why are some in deeper poses than you. Do you look silly or foolish. Should the pose be like x or y. This pose hurts. How much time is left. How much time has passed. Etc.

Do not judge what others do or look like when practicing and meditating. It is not your concern. Some are naturally more open or closed and so the bodies reflect that. Pass no judgements. Take the time in the beginning of each pose to be mindful and purposeful in setting up your pose and make no judgement of what you are able to do. Understand that Yin Yoga is about deep relaxation and gradual opening. If it hurts, back off. But do not be lazy. Keep mindful of the 80% rule. 80% of your edge to promote growth and progress but remain comfortable.

Then there are the mental obstacles. Insecurity. Frustration. As you try to think of nothing, which is an entirely new experience for you, you will get frustrated as thoughts enter your mind. Then you are not only trying to free yourself from the original thought, you are now also trying to free yourself from the thought about the thought! This can become a vicious cycle that spins out of control and completely uproots your practice.

You must allow your thoughts to be like clouds on the breeze. When practicing your meditation think of your mind as a large empty field. As a thought enters, do not focus or linger on it. Do not judge yourself for thinking. Like a cloud, do not concern yourself with where it came from or where it goes. Let it touch you briefly and do not attach yourself to the thought. Let it blow by. Attach no value to your thoughts. Eventually the thought will leave, like a breeze crossing over a field.

The Liver

The liver is central to blood regulation and storage. Because it is the primary factory of the body, with its wide reaching functions, it is especially important to keep it balanced and working well. The liver is responsible for the distribution and regulation of chi. When the wood element is weak, people can feel indecisive and stuck. They may become more angry, arrogant, and/or short-tempered. Depression or long-term frustration can hinder the liver’s ability to distribute vital chi to the body, resulting in lethargy, exhaustion, and forgetfulness.

When the liver chi is stagnant, symptoms like paranoia, insomnia, nightmares, pale complexion, dizziness, and pale lips and nails may appear.

The Gallbladder

The gallbladder aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients and neutralizing of fats and acids. With gallbladder imbalance there is a tendency to be emotionally frustrated, resentful, and irritable. You may also have digestive problems and experience bloating or gas. A strong liver and gallbladder can prevent cramps, headaches, and migraines.

The liver and gallbladder are associated with spring, wind from the East, and the color green.

Frog PoseFrog Pose: Start in child’s pose and, while leaning forward, spread the legs apart while still sitting on your heels. Aids in digestion and opens up the hips, especially the abductors.

 

Sphinx PoseSphinx Pose: Unlike in other forms of yoga, in Yin Yoga the legs are completely relaxed in the Sphinx pose and there is a natural, comfortable arch in the back from being completely held up by the arms alone.

Swan PoseSwan Pose: Provides stretching for the quadriceps and hip flexors along with a moderate backbend for compression. You should have one knee against your chest with the foot between the hands and the other leg extended straight back with the bottom of the foot facing to the ceiling. Note that you are NOT resting your back leg on the knee but rather right above it on the thigh.

Shoelace PoseShoelace Pose: Also known as zipper. Great for opening the hips and decompressing the back if leaning forward is possible. Begin on all fours and then cross one leg in front of the other. Sit back in that position and try to keep the legs in their place. Knees should be directly on top of another and you should be flat on both sit bones, not leaning to one side. If necessary, use a prop to elevate the top leg and keep it parallel to ground.

Dragonfly PoseDragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.

Banana PoseBananasana Pose: Lying flat with your buttocks firmly planted on the ground, begin to slowly move your arms and legs to the right. Do not twist or roll or allow any sit bone to rise up unevenly. As you approach your first limit and surpass it, slowly continue to reach further up and out to the right. Switch sides.

 

 

Reclining TwistReclining Twist Pose: Start by lying on your back. Roll to your right side and keep your right leg straight in line with you. Take the left leg and raise your thigh perpendicular to your spine and place it over your right leg. Your left arm will extend straight to your left side, twisting the body. Do this on both sides. Modified version as shown where both legs are thighs perpendicular to spine.

Corpse PoseCorpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.

Day 54

Man: 38 Loneliness: 16