Have you ever wondered who was it who decided that being fat is unattractive and that we should all have six-pack abs instead?
I did. Although I haven’t found the answer yet, the thought made me question the messages which bombard us every day. Messages with hidden meanings, creeping up on us from various channels.
These influences are not confined to just the media or advertising. I grew up believing most of the things my parents and older ones told me, whether spoken or unspoken.
I hope to share how we’ve unconsciously believed in subtle messages which influence the choices we make every day – without realising that some of them are just lies. Here goes:
1. “SPM (or academic education) is everything”
Again, I’m not advocating against education, but there’s more to life than just academia. If we look around us, we see so many tuition centres promising the moon. We see students who commit suicide when they miss their straight A’s.
Perhaps it’s time we asked ourselves – have we misplaced our priorities?
I, for one, did not even get half the A’s in my 10 SPM subjects. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t make it in life, nor did it mean that success would be out of reach.
Personally, I never really enjoyed the subjects in school, except for Mathematics and the languages. After completing my SPM, I had the best five years of my life, studying journalism and linguistics. I thrived at them because the subjects were what I loved. I was motivated because I loved learning, instead of just chasing the A’s.
I think this is extremely important because it’s easy to forget why you’re studying in the first place. If you study just to chase the grade, you’ll never truly enjoy learning. There’ll always be others smarter than you.
Education, after all, is not confined to just the academics. A truly holistic education is a balance of the physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Staying physically healthy, eating well, meeting and communicating with real friends (not Facebook friends), having meaningful relationships, and learning spiritual lessons are all equally important.
2. “Money makes the world go round”
Although money is a necessity, again, it’s not everything. But sometimes, we unconsciously live as if money is all that matters.
We overwork ourselves, chasing that bonus at the expense of family time, or we become unreasonable and yell at the poor cashier who mistakenly forgot to return our 10 cents change.
I grew up believing that money could change my life if I worked really hard. This was unconsciously propagated through influences from different people.
However, now, as a 30-year-old, I’ve tasted both extremes. I’ve had times where I enjoyed a little bit of luxury, but also times when my bank account balance dropped down to two digits.
I realised it didn’t matter how much money I had. The key is to be content with what you have, rather than simply being rich. I didn’t need a lavish home or an expensive car.
One of the happiest families I know live in a plain, minimally-furnished home. The children are the most polite I’ve known, and thankful for even a simple nasi lemak.
What I especially love about them is that even from a young age, they already care deeply for other people. They’re not hooked on to devices or material things, but relationships.
They’re an inspiration to me with regard to how to view money. I realised that I could just be as happy regardless of how much money I made.
3. “You need a boyfriend/girlfriend”
From peer pressure to the movies, everyone was giving relationship advice/suggestions. It started from when I was as young as 13.
The advice started rolling in since my high school friends were dating at Form 1, right up to my well-meaning college housemate as a young adult. She thought I needed a boyfriend so that I wouldn’t have to take the bus to college (free driver, geddit?).
Even later in life, my 42-year-old colleague assumed that I didn’t know the challenges of parenthood at an older age. He rebuked me for not getting married earlier (dear me, I was only 22!).
These are all good intentions, but I believe that fulfilment is not found through a partner. I mean, they’re just human, and they too can fail us. In fact, I shudder to think of a man who thinks his fulfilment is found in me – he’ll probably be the most clingy future husband!
Before I risk sounding like I’m anti-relationship, I better explain. I was single for some years before getting attached at 28 to my best friend. It was a natural progression of our friendship since we were young.
But I think the most important part of our relationship was that we both understood that our fulfilment is found in God alone, and not in each other. When you’re in a relationship because you genuinely love your partner and not just as a response to peer pressure, your perspective changes for the better.
4. “Your social media likes and shares reflect your likeability”
Social media addiction is no longer a secret, and we see it every day – sometimes, even in our own hands.
The Star newspaper reported Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari as saying that “80% of people use the Internet for social media access with average usage of over four hours a day”.
It’s scary, but everyone knows a friend who spends hours crafting their photos and messages on social media for acceptance. Then we realise that we too, are trapped by FOMO (fear of missing out) on our friends’ activities. We habitually check and fiddle with our phones, even when there are no notifications.
Social media isn’t necessarily a true reflection of what someone is going through. I know people who are depressed and deeply hurting, but would only post happy pictures on social media. I think this makes their condition worse – research shows that social media addiction causes depression and anxiety problems.
I refused to let social media determine my self-worth. I constantly reflect and ask myself, “Why am I posting this?” If it’s just to gain likes, I stop myself from posting, even if I really wanted to.
I know it’s unhealthy when I constantly keep tabs on my social media posts (I currently have push notifications off). Life is a lot more than just digital gratification. Go out – talk to real people, listen to their problems, share yours, and appreciate the human touch.
5. “Follow your heart”
This is perhaps one of the most repeated advice I’ve ever heard. I think it’s a lie, even though some may beg to differ.
Here’s why I think so – I believe that we’re not perfect, no matter how old we get. There’s always going to be someone wiser than we are. In following only our heart, we lose the benefit of advice and counsel from older ones, who may have gone through similar experiences.
Now I know that as young adults we don’t like the word “counselling” very much, since it makes it sound like we need help. But don’t we? We have to admit, we don’t know everything – that’s why we have Google.
But Google can’t help you with deciding whether this job is right for you, or if your partner is promising more than he or she can really do for you, yada yada. 🙂
I lost count of how many bad decisions I’ve avoided thanks to the counsel of older ones – from my older sisters, to aunts, and uncles. As the younger generation, we sometimes make impulsive decisions. We should consider another person’s perspective, to avoid making bad calls. I don’t mean to say that mistakes can’t teach us anything, but some mistakes can be costly, and its best to skip them if we can.
The views here are entirely my own, and I hope that it’s helped you in some way. Feel free to disagree, and perhaps share other lies you’ve stopped believing too!