Our first years of life are filled with learning. We know nothing and therefore everything is new and our brains are sponges that soak it all in. Personality and sense of self develop on top of it.
Of course we’re constantly learning all through life (good Lord willing), but the first 18 years where we’re legally classified a minor are the most foundational. Our first 18 years is where we rely most on our culture to guide us.
The below items are things that I was taught that for one reason or another are no longer beneficial ingredients in my world. They were taught to me by our culture & society -- school, parents, friends, neighbors, television, radio, newspaper, magazines, advertising, government, etc. Some of them I probably even taught myself.
What you were taught was certainly different, but in my adult phase of life I’ve learned that each of these is, at best, out-dated or inaccurate and, at worst, toxic filth perpetrated to strengthen the ruling elite.
Things I'm Unlearning
- Change your oil every 3,000 miles
- Cooking is done in the microwave
- Skinny is beautiful
- Do what you’re told
- Conform to society
- If you don't go to school and get good grades then you won't get into a good college and won't get a good job
- Get a job (working for someone else)
- USA is best country in the world
- Government is here to help
- The rules are for your benefit
- Without rules there’d be chaos
- Fear those who don’t look like you
- Other cultures are (scary/wrong/weird)
- People are supposed to get married and have children
- A house looks like this
- Driving a car is how we get around town
- Renting an apartment is like throwing your money away
- People on TV or radio are experts in whatever they’re talking about
- People like me (Norwegians) are stubborn and don’t express their feelings
- Food Pyramid is for your benefit, not the benefit of the current food production establishment who has pull in D.C.
- Memorization of data is how we learn
- Every vote counts
- Politicians are public servants
This list was sparked after reading Practicing Radical Honesty by Dr. Brad Blanton. The book surprised me because it went much deeper than simply touting the benefits of being honest with everyone all the time. In fact it barely touched on that and instead went looking for the root cause of why we lie so often and how it shapes us.
Practicing Radical Honesty helped me to understand why Americans in their 40s start to re-examine their lives -- where they’ve been and where they’re heading. It’s not so much a “mid-life crisis” as it is an evaluation. It seems it often takes us 20 years post-upbringing to be able to build up the life experiences to see that so many of the things we learned in our first 20 years are folly.
Here's a fun exercise:
Take mental note each time you lie to yourself or other people, even the tiniest lie.
For example, yesterday I was recounting to friends some work I had done the previous week. I'd done this work Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday but decided it was easier to just tell them that the work was done every weekday last week. I did this because conversationally it was simpler, but then that got turned into the story in my head. I began believing that my business benefited from me working 5 days last week when I only actually worked 4 days. Will my business thrive if I only do 80% of the work while convincing myself I did 100%?
I constantly lie to myself and others, usually in ways that are meant to make me look better, but often the lies are negative and restrictive like "That attractive woman is way out of my league. She'd never want to go out with me."
Why do we do this? Does it even matter?
It does matter. Over time we create our own personal story that's not a true reflection of who we really are. We become convinced that we're smarter than everyone else, a better driver of our automobile than everyone else, or shy or unattractive or anxious or whatever.
Our personal narrative then defines us and restricts our world.
I don't know about you, but I don't want my world restricted.