Pippi Longstocking – and Female (Human) Authenticity …

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When I was a girl, the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books where especially well-known and widely read. As a girl you would learn from the series ‘Pippi Longstocking’ with fun and independent thought that being a girl would not necessarily mean being soft or weepy or helpless.

On the contrary: the song that came with the movies I watched long after reading the books, “I make my world just as it pleases me … ”
(my translation from German) encouraged girls to do what men in patriarchal society have done for centuries, if not thousands of years:
set your goals and try to reach them, your way.

Authenticity in Everyday Life – A Challenge?

I heard a TEDx talk the other day by a Harvard Business School professor, about trust and how to build it. She identifies three pillars for building trust, one of them authenticity.

What she goes on to say and what I agree with in every particular is this:

  • Authenticity means: “Be you.”
  • Easy to do, she adds, when you are with people who are like you.
  • But, “being you” can be a challenge, when you are different in some contexts, she adds, too.
  • It can lead to being tempted to subdue and hold back our own true and individual selves in contexts we seem not to fit into completely.

To me that is a very true and a very important statement. I am at odds with my surroundings to some extent, very often: I am not your average girly woman weeping into the silk handkerchief waiting to be rescued.

I was raised on just this idea: be independent and know that the ‘Cinderella complex’  is not just an invention, it’s there. You can prevent it.

Diversity: by Tolerance

I am an M.A. of literature and philosophy, yet I am passionate as well about technical matters, devices, coding, digital technologies, you name it.

As such I have worked around and with scientists as well as developers who in many respects think and live differently.

I love diversity!

But living it in surroundings with all manner of people who are not always sure how to understand you, when you are so ‘different’ to them, compared – is not always easy.

Men, Women…? – People!

I also think that I am not the only person ever to have felt this way:

The duality and conflict can be hard to bear, at times when there is awareness of it:

    • I may be at odds with my surroundings in some contexts.
    • That does not make me ‘wrong’. Just different.

So, how much adaptability is needed – and how much is good for me?

I’m sure that men are often faced with this conflict in the opposite sense: they are supposed to be always strong, superior and ‘ready’ – even if they don’t feel like that – at all…

And ultimately, not only as men and women but just as human beings in different parts of the world: being at odds can become a new but also fruitful feeling to start realizing who you really are.

The strength to ‘be yourself’ in any surroundings sometimes is hard to find; but worth it.

Being ‘Right’ – or Being Yourself – and Be Human

For a long time I have thought about and observed what people do, what they think, what they fear at times, what makes them cry, what makes them laugh – and I have the strong impression that in many cultures emotion, as a concept, and emotions as individual ‘moving aspects’ in life are highly underestimated.

Partly, any culture in the world has its own rules about what is accepted behaviour and which emotions are acceptable to display. Often there are differences between the sexes in these rules. In patriarchal societies, very often for women to become angry or furious, enraged and loud, is considered ‘unladylike’, at least. In former times, women often were condemned for being crazy and eventually were locked up.

On the other hand for men, being sensitive and easily moved to tears in such societies can mean to be considered disturbed of mind or at least a ‘problematic case’.

We have come a long way, partly because psychology and its insights helped. Partly, because social scientists looked closer at those rules. Because people ask and asked questions and started doubting customary ‘truths’.

We know more about what is human, what is perhaps just this ‘little wonderful difference’, that the famous French saying puts so nicely into perspective.

But many people out there believe, that everybody should be more or less the same, do more or less the same things and then will live happily and healthily ever after.
This is not true. Although we are human beings and there exist lots of similarities, as regards cultural tradition, region of birth and upbringing, gender and family – yet in detail each and everyone of us is as unique as their fingerprints.

As a renowned food chemist put it (paraphrase):
“Many health rules are built like this: When they started researching who had the healthiest feet in the country and then found that such people usually wore size 32 shoes, they made it a rule that everyone should wear size 32 shoes. But if your feet are bigger, this rule won’t fit you.”

Therefore it can be very important, to observe these two things:
Learn more about emotions, as Daniel Goleman called it first, develop your EQ, the emotional intelligence, as opposed to the IQ. The IQ tests certain functions of the brain, bluntly put, analytical thinking.
But humans are more complex than just their IQ results. For quite some time, IQ tests are ‘out of fashion’, and rightly so.

Another problematic ‘fashion for behaviour’, for ‘personality traits’, if any, in certain countries, especially in polite society, for centuries, has been taken from business:
be always cool, calm and collected so as not to appear too eager about a deal.
This almost inhuman dictum may well be at the root for many apparent ‘disorders’ being diagnosed these days, in children or adults.

Secondly, question rules that force you to be, or feel, or behave outwardly what you do not feel inside, at all.
If people have been treated with electric shock therapy for certain ‘mental disorders’ in the past century, it is a ‘shocking’ way to reveal the underlying dogma:
be right, be like everyone else, otherwise you will be ‘made to fit in’.

Another fine simile for this is the story of the farmer, who thought it might be interesting to put a piglet in a box so it would grow into a square pig. That worked nicely.
But one day, the farmer opened the box to take his square pig to market – and with a little ‘plop’ it rounded out again and was natural and pig-like.

So, I think, find out what and how you are, apart from the general rule or rules and be true to yourself, to become human and perhaps healthier than ever before.

Trust – and How to Build It

Trust is crucial, is precious and not always easily found.

If we trust a person, we may feel a little as if there was a rock around we can rely on,  eternal almost, always there. Someone we could talk to about what moves us. Someone who would not use us or our emotions, perhaps. Who’s there when the times get tough, or who we know will tell us the truth, no matter what. About themselves – or about us.

Trust is not always ready-made, but can be built. But how to build it? What is it, really?

I recently came across a video by a speaker of the TEDx series of talks. As far as is known to me from research, the series and the organization are independent of any ideology or creed. And the sole purpose is to provide  a platform for people to exchange ideas. Although the speaker’s and my life’s choices are completely at odds, I admire her talk, her way of getting the concept across, and ultimately, providing a sound idea of how to build trust. As I think she has put it in a nutshell, I like to share it here: