Friday, December 30, 2011

Reasons to Bond Over

When you and another person bond over something that you both love, it doesn't really matter why you love it. You can have fun riding bikes or making crafts or watching a marathon of your favorite TV show because your bond is about doing the activity together. When you and another person bond over something you both hate - a required class or the way people with glasses are portrayed in the media - it becomes more important that you agree on why you hate this thing. It may be your reasons that you actually bond over.

Suppose that Ashley has a very hard time tying her shoelaces. (And let's assume that she can't just practice and learn how to tie her shoes). As a result, Ashley hates gym class because it's really embarrassing to not be able to tie her sneakers. Now, many people would say that Ashley isn't alone because a lot of kids hate gym class.  But the truth is, someone in Ashley's position would not necessarily bond with kids who hate gym class for other reasons.

A lot of kids hate gym class because they don't like sports. Ashley may be really good at sports and love to try out for a team if only they didn't require her to wear sneakers. Some kids hate gym class because other kids bully them or pick them last. But it's possible that all the kids, even the ones who are teased, pick on Ashley about her shoelaces. It is also possible that Ashley picks on kids who are not athletic. The kids who don't like gym may be popular and think they're too cool to participate, or athletes could rule the school and the kids who don't like gym may be unpopular, and we don't know which group Ashley fits into.

If Ashley is athletic, she won't bond over hating sports.
If Ashley is not arrogant, she won't bond over being "above" gym class.
If Ashley is popular outside of gym class, she won't bond over feeling like an outcast.
And if Ashley is the only one who has this particular problem, she won't bond with people who bully or criticize her for it.

This is just something to keep in mind, before you tell someone that they are not alone because there are other people who feel the same way. If everyone loves a particular type of lemonade, and you hate it because it's not sweet enough, your first thought might be to bond with other people who hate it also. But what happens when you learn that the other people who don't like it think that it's too sweet, that they're petitioning to make it even less sweet than it is now?  Would you still be able to bond with them, or would you actually have more in common with people who like the lemonade the way it is? When it comes to disliking things, it's our reasoning that really matters.

Pride and Other Emotions

People are always telling me that I should feel proud about things that I don't feel proud of at all.  I only feel proud of achieving something that I wanted to achieve, something that I enjoyed the process of.  For me, pride must be linked to another positive emotion.

Back in high school, I was in a state theatre competition each year. There were three rounds of competition, and at each level, three schools were selected to advance to the next competition. Most of us had a high stake in the competition and were disappointed about not advancing. But to me, advancing was never about winning - it was about making the competition last longer. In addition to the competition play, my high school had a play from September to December and another play from January to March. But after that, there were three months of school without any theatre, just waiting for summer vacation.  Our first round of the theatre competition was at the beginning of March, but if we had ever made it to the third round, the competition would have lasted through April.  It would have been the most fun year ever.

That was why I wanted to advance. Not because of the achievement, but because it meant more theatre.  That was the award for me.  I liked the idea of winning, but if there was only one round of competition and the play ended there whether we won or lost, I would not have cared as much as I did about winning. And if the rehearsal period was stressful rather than fun, then a part of me would have been happy that we didn't advance.

Here is a personality quiz question I found that explains it perfectly:

If you got accepted into a very special all-girls school, you would feel:
a. Nervous
b. Bummed
c. Proud
d. Excited

My answer was "bummed" because I didn't want to go to an exclusive all-girls school. But if I had wanted to go, my answer would have been "excited." I never would have answered "proud" because my reaction would be based on how much fun I expected to have at the new school. I would only feel proud if I also felt excited; if I didn't want to go to the school, I wouldn't care very much about the achievement of getting in.

Pride is something that I experience if it is linked with another positive emotion.  I don't feel proud about achieving something if the process wasn't fun.  I don't feel proud about getting into to programs that aren't going to be fun.  And I don't feel proud when I hear something positive about a school or program I was in unless I enjoyed my experience. I do feel proud of things that I wanted to do, things I enjoyed working for, things that I would go back and do again. It doesn't work that way for everyone, but this is how it works for me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holistic Experiences

In my last post on vegetables, I mentioned that I experience things holistically, and I'd like to elaborate. A holistic experience means taking everything into one experience rather than separating the individual parts. Like, if you were having a really fun time at a party and certain music was playing, you might always think of the music in a positive way, even if it wouldn't normally be your favorite kind of music.

I always remember these fruit drinks that tasted kind of like fruit smoothies. Most of them had some type of benefit - they were packed with certain vitamins or are designed to boost your concentration or immune system.  My first introduction to these fruit drinks was during my preparation for the SATs in high school.  My mom found the drinks in the store and bought them for me to improve my concentration and keep my immune system intact during all the stress. I though of these drinks as medicine. Even when I bought them years later, I just couldn't drink them like juice - I couldn't get past the feeling that these drinks were like medicine and not something that a person drinks for the taste.

This is probably the most extreme example, but generally speaking, what I like depends not only on taste, but on my perception of the food, whether I've always thought of it as something that tasted good vs. being told I should eat it because it was good for me.

I would be curious to know how this affects other people's likes and dislikes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Maybe Vegetables Aren't So Bad

For most of my life, I didn't like vegetables.  My mom said that when I was very young, I loved peas and carrots so much that she would add more of them to my soup.  She said I began to reject vegetables when I began watching Sesame Street and got exposed to the idea that kids don't like vegetables, but adults push kids to eat them because they're healthy.  Somewhere inside, I still feel this way - if someone is pushing me to do something because it's good for me, I figure it must not be something that I would want to do on my own.  It's hard to like vegetables in a culture where "Eat your vegetables" means do what you're supposed to do before you can get what you really want.

Once we were teenagers and the whole "kids don't like veggies" phase died down, the cool thing to do was eat salad. I don't like salad (or any kind of dressing), and the pressure to eat salad turned me off to it even more.

The first vegetables I really loved were avocados. Homemade guacamole, to be precise.  Unlike broccoli, carrots, and green beans, I never faced a pile of avocados on my plate that I was "supposed" to eat. My parents had always loved guacamole, so I always thought of it as a fun food. Once I tried it, I was hooked.  Soon beans and guacamole became staples for me.  Discovering that one of my favorite meals - a meal that could be made into a seven layer dip for a party - was actually a healthy one, made me reconsider my judgement of vegetables. I used to think of vegetables as just salad, but now I've discovered eggplant parmigiana, spinach pie, veggies dipped in hummus, caramelized onions and peppers, oven-roasted  veggies, and more.

I have a much better understanding of what I like and don't like based on the actual flavors of the food, not what other people tell me I should and shouldn't eat. If you experience things like food holistically (like I do), it can be hard to make that distinction, but trying different foods will help you figure it out.  With all the unwanted pressure to go on diets and care about calories, there are still times when I want to reject all vegetables. But I can't. Because guacamole is still at the top of my list.