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5 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn From Keanu Reeves

5 Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn From Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves: actor, producer, musician, meme, conspiracy theorist and notorious introvert. Throughout his life, Keanu seems to have experienced more extremes than any one person could handle. From achieving fame to losing those closest to him, Keanu Reeves’ story is arguably more interesting than any of the roles he has played in his long acting career. Here are five lessons we can learn from Keanu’s extraordinary life, and apply to our own to make the world a better place:

1. A Difficult Start Does Not Define The Rest Of Your Life.

Born in 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mother Patricia Bond (née Taylor) and Hawaiian father Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Keanu Charles Reeves’ life began with an instability that would last throughout his childhood and teenage years. When Keanu was three-years-old his father, who would later be placed in prison for selling heroin at Hilo International Airport, abandoned their family.

In 2000, Keanu told Rolling Stone: “Jesus, man. No, the story with me and my dad’s pretty heavy. It’s full of pain and woe and f*cking loss and all that sh*t.”

After the divorce, Patricia became a costume designer and subsequently travelled around the world with her children. Keanu, his sisters and their mother lived in Sydney, Australia followed by New York City and eventually settled in Toronto, Canada, locations based largely upon who she was married to at the time. Keanu attended four high schools in the space of five years including Etobicoke School of the Arts, which he was expelled from.

Keanu would later tell Kevin J. Koffler: “I was just a little too rambunctious and shot my mouth off once too often. I was not generally the most well-oiled machine in the school.”

Keanu was often far better at sports than his academic studies, possibly due to his dsylexia. He was especially good at ice hockey which he once planned to play professionally but an injury prevented his dream from coming true.

Having performed in various theatre productions since the age of nine, Keanu had had the acting for the majority of his young life by the time he reached his fourth high school Avondale Secondary Alternative School which he later dropped out to pursue a career in film.

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Although Keanu didn’t begin his life in a stable, typical family environment he grew into a man who takes responsibility for his own life and decisions. Where many may have sunk into the backgrounds of the various places they visited or even resented their upbringing, it seems that Keanu chose to find stability in chasing his own aspirations.

Many of us begin our journeys on rocky ground, but you get to decide how the rest of your life will be.

2. A Generous Spirit Can Be More Rewarding Than Riches.

After moving to LA in 1986, Keanu scored his breakthrough role in a movie entitled ‘River’s Edge‘. He then went on to appear in both Bill and Ted movies, Point Break, Speed, A Walk In The Clouds, The Devil’s Advocate, The Replacement, and of course: The Matrix. It’s estimated that Keanu made about $10 million up-front having stared in The Matrix, which increased to $35 million when the back-end deal was made. After the sequels, Keanu is thought to have made about $110 million, $75 million of which he reportedly gave to the special effects team and costume design department. He also bought the entire stunt team their own Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Regarding Keanu’s generosity, a Reddit user wrote: “A family friend builds movie sets, doesn’t design, is one of the poor dudes that just builds. Anyways he worked on the set for the Matrix and Keanu heard about family trouble he was having and gave him a $20,000 Christmas bonus to help him out. He also was one of the only people on the set that genuinely wanted to know people’s names, would say hello and mean it, and would talk to people as they were his peers and not below him just because they were practically making nothing to build a set. I’ve never heard anyone say Keanu is douche, seems like the nicest person in Hollywood from a second hand experience.”

Over the years, Keanu has given millions to charities including PETA, the SickKids Foundation, and Stand Up To Cancer. His sister Kim has been battling Leukaemia for ten years, and Keanu has ensured she has all the help she needs by donating $5 million. He also set up a private Cancer Foundation that aids a few children’s hospitals as well as cancer research. Keanu never attaches his name to his charitable donations or gifts and never takes credit: it simply seems to be a part of his life.

In a 2003 interview with Hello! Magazine Keanu said: “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries.”

Have you ever imagined how you would spend your money if you were to win millions? Would you buy a huge house, an array of sports cars, pay off your debts or ensure your friends and family are set for life? I know I would do all of those things! Of course, I would also give money to charities, but would I give as much as some others would? Should I?

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There are many difficult questions that arise when we consider how rich some people are in comparison to billions of people who can barely get by or the causes that need constant funding to make the world a better place. Keanu is undoubtedly a generous, wonderful spirit who will hopefully inspire more people to share their wealth, whether they are wealthy in money, time or spirit: will you?

3. Let Passion Drive You, Not Money.

Although it may seem like a great motive to act, few people go into the profession for the money. Keanu is a prime example of this and always seems to have put his personal ambitions, morals and preferences before simply taking a job to make money. Even early on in his career he would often only act in commercials that he himself liked.

Perhaps the most famous example of Keanu’s ‘do what you love’ spirit is found when he dismissed $11 million to be in the Speed sequel or a chance to star alongside Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in the 1995 movie Heat. Instead Keanu chose to partake in a small production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Canada.

Of Keanu’s performance, The Sunday Times theatre reviewer Roger Lewis said: “He quite embodied the innocence, the splendid fury, the animal grace of the leaps and bounds, the emotional violence, that form the Prince of Denmark … He is one of the top three Hamlets I have seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet.”

Of course, money and passion are not exclusive: it is entirely possible to have both. However, many people these days are pressured to believe money is far more important than happiness. After all, happiness can not feed you, happiness can not put a roof over your head and happiness cannot ensure you live comfortably.

Money may be a fantastic motivator for many but despite the financial losses you may endure: do you really want to waste this one life you live being miserable but comfortable? Or do you want to live by your own terms, follow your passion and take a risk that could result in a combination of everything you’ve ever wanted?

4. You Will Lose People, But Do Not Lose Yourself.

Before Keanu really became the incredibly famous actor he is today, he starred in the 1989 Steve Martin comedy Parenthood. Through this film Keanu met a man who would soon become one of his greatest friends: River Phoenix.

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“Actually, I met Keanu through my ex-girlfriend Martha [Plimpton] while they were doing Parenthood — they were sucking face regularly,” River once told Interview Magazine. “My brother, Joaquin [Phoenix], otherwise known as Leaf, was also in it. So, Leaf and Martha were his buddies before I was even a friend of his. Then I met up with him on I Love You to Death. And I liked the guy. I wanted to work with him. He’s like my older brother. But shorter.”

Keanu in turn told reporters: “I enjoyed his company. Very much. And enjoyed his mind and his spirit and his soul. We brought good out in each other. He was a real original thinker. He was not the status quo. In anything.”

After starring together in I Love You To Death, the pair worked together on Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, where they would often spend nights on the street to get into character, however River went further into the seedy underworld than his co-worker and friend. River began using heroin and later overdosed in 1993 on a lethal mixture of cocaine, morphine and valium outside The Viper Room. Keanu rarely talks about his friends’ death.

Later that same decade, as Keanu began production on The Matrix, he met a young actress named Jennifer Syme at a party. By the time The Matrix was premiering around the world the two were deeply in love and expecting their first child. However, in December 1999 Ava Archer Syme-Reeves was stillborn.

Unable to recover from the grief of losing their child, the couple broke up and Jennifer became a record executive and assistant to Marilyn Manson. On April 2, 2001 Jennifer passed out at the wheel of her Jeep Cherokee and collided with three parked cards, rolling the vehicle and killing her instantly. Police found several prescription bottles in her car, whilst toxicologists found a concoction of cocaine, clonzepam and cyclobenzaprine in her system.

In an interview with Parade in 2006, Keanu said: “I miss being a part of their lives and them being part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here – what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be.”

“I don’t want to flee from life, I know the beauty of it,” he continued. “I’m trying not to be alone so much. And, man, it’s a struggle. I want to get married. I want to have kids. That’s at the top of the mountain. I’ve got to climb the mountain first. I’ll do it. Just give me some time.”

There are times in your life where you will experience loss, pain, suffering, loneliness and devastation. When you are lost on the darkest paths of life, remember that you are strong enough to reach the end of the road. You are never alone, you can ask for help, you will get through this and come out into the light a braver, better person than you were before.

5. Be Excellent.

“Positive energy brings good feelings, and dark energy often means harm. But the destruction in dark energy is also a subtle aspect of construction, like how even forest fires have their benefits. Sometimes enemies are our best teachers, people can learn from their mistakes, destruction sometimes means rebirth.” – Keanu Reeves.

Despite the many tragedies that have woven their way into the seams of Keanu’s past he remains a positive force in this world. He is a generous, genuine, passionate and remarkably strong individual who breaks the mould and boundaries that are often imagined between the famous and the public.

Keanu is proof that a difficult start does not necessarily mean you will have a challenging life, and it certainly doesn’t entitle you to a bad attitude. There are many people around the world like him who would donate their time, energy and money to help those in need because life – not money – is their passion. And yes, sometimes you will experience real heartbreak and devastating events that will threaten to break you: but like Keanu says: you must be excellent to each other, and to yourself.

Featured photo credit: Keanu Reeves via moviestarspicture.com

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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