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An Open Letter To the 5 Year Old Me

An Open Letter To the 5 Year Old Me

What would you tell your 5-year-old self if you had the chance to write a letter to your past self? Here’s my letter.

Dear 5-year-old me,

You’re 5 and all you care about right now is football. You love it. You just discovered it and it’s like a drug. No. Wait. I don’t want talk about drugs. Football is… REALLY FUN. Yeah. That’s better.

Sometimes you think about becoming a professional footballer and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Why do you play football? Because you love it. No other reason Let yourself just love it.

Remember that you are good enough

When you get a little older you let kids boss you around. There’s one kid in particular. He barks orders at you and you follow them. Most of the time you’re easy going. You don’t mind.

Is it ok of this kid to boss you around? Is it ok for you to let people boss you around? Are you telling yourself that you’re not worth as much as they are? If you ever tell yourself that, don’t believe it. It’s not true and it never will be. You’re worthy. You’re enough. Forever.

Sometimes what seems wrong at the time, will turn out to be the best that will ever happen to you

When you’re 9 Mum and Dad decide they want to move. When you’re 10, we do. You cry. You beg and plead. You hate that you’re moving away from your friends. You feel like mum and dad ruin your life.

This is one of the best decisions mum and dad ever make. I promise you. I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you the reasons why. When you get upset, read this letter. Trust mum and dad. Trust me. Trust yourself.

Going after what you really want will change you

When you’re 11 you win the Maynard Cup. Well, the team does. You probably don’t even know what that is right now. You will soon. Wanting to win it becomes a dream for you. It’s the first dream you ever have. You’re desperate to win. You have to win.

It consumes you. It’s all you can think about. You even do things you’ve never done before like imploring your teammates to NOT dive into tackles with a certain player. He’s brilliant so you NEED to be sure they know what they’re doing. You won’t risk the alternative. You won’t risk losing.

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When you start behaving differently, and for the better, you know you really want something. You hop on your dragon and fly around the Milky Way and pluck stars from their constellations. That’s how it feels to achieve a dream.

Write about what you love

You’ll never enjoy “creative writing.” Whatever that means. You just never know what to write about. You feel stuck. You’re nervous about your exams. You don’t fail at anything and you don’t want to fail at this. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to fail?

“Write about football.” That’s what mum and dad say. You can’t believe you’d never thought of it. It was so simple. They really mean “write about what you love.” Because of your essay in your exam you win the creative writing award. You’re shocked. You want to win the sports award. You don’t. The creative writing award is the award to win. Trust me. If you write, write what’s in your heart.

If you get lost, always try to find a way back to who you really are

When you’re in the classroom on your first day at secondary school you don’t want to talk to anyone. But secretly you want to talk to someone. You can’t, though. You won’t. A kid named Steven comes up to you and says “hello!” in his squeaky and obviously-not-broken voice. The sun rises from the horizon and bathes you in its warm glow. A friend.

From then on you always made an effort with the new kid. Always. You were the one that said hello. You were the one that made him feel welcome. You were the one who made him feel like he wasn’t all alone. I’m proud of us for that.

Steven helps you. He helps you get into trouble. The teachers tell you off for talking. You get detentions. You suffer academically. When you think of mum and dad, shame crawls over you.

Mr. Cross was your favourite teacher. And you were his favourite student (it’s ok, Sir, you can admit it). That’s why he notices you getting into trouble. That’s why he cares. He sees things in you that you don’t see in yourself. Not yet.

Do you know who you really are?

You and Steven queue up for class in the computer room. A computer room was actually a novelty back then. If only you could see the world now! As you walk in Mr. Cross pulls you aside. He towers over you like a dictator. But also like a father. He bends forwards. He looks you in the eye. He says: “I’m getting really sick of you.” He walks away.

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You’re stunned. You’re stunned that he talked to you like that. You’re stunned that he cares that much. And you’re stunned that you agree. You’re sick of yourself. You’d been letting Steven pull you towards the abyss. You’re pretending you don’t care about all the stuff you do care about. Respecting people. Getting A’s. Being you.

None of the stuff you did with Steven felt right. Trust your gut. You know who you are and you know who you’re not. Act on it.

Look up to your mother’s strength

Mum gets cancer. You cry when they tell you. It’s ok. Let it out. But they’re going to need you to be strong. I know you’re young but you can do it. You visit her in the hospital after her operation. She’s just lying there. There are so many wires. You feel sick. Again, it’s ok. She’s ok.

Chemotherapy is a bitch. Not that you and I know. But mum knows. It drains you. So how she came with us and dad to watch the Harlem Globetrotters I’ll never know. That’s one of my favourite memories ever and it never would’ve happened if our mum wasn’t our mum. She’s strong. Stubborn, even. That’s probably an advantage when it comes to dealing with cancer. There was no way she was going to let this beat her.

Deal with problems how mum deals with cancer.

Sometimes you won’t get what you want and that’s ok

You make the east of England basketball squad. Woo! Check you out. Even though you went to trials in a full kit and sweatbands. Nobody picks the kid who does that. You’re not really sure you deserve to be picked. Everyone else is tall or has muscles or a beard. You’re just a kid. That’s how you define yourself.

In the penultimate practice game, before those who went onto England trials were picked, you play brilliantly. You don’t miss a shot. You’re in the zone. You’re the Grand Master and the other players are pawns. You’re happy.

In the final practice game the coach tells you to focus on defense. Just defense. So you do. You do exactly that. Your man barely touches the ball. He doesn’t score. For a small white kid lacking in athleticism you do ok. The game ends. I can’t even remember who wins. The only thing left to happen is for the coach to name the players going to England trials.

The locker room is a prison of anxiety. Only 2 people don’t get picked. You’re one of them. You’re not good enough. How do you feel? Like a hot poker has been driven between your ribs? Like your gut has been sliced open?

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One of the player’s dads, who was friends with the coach, came to every single practice. The coach already knew some of the players. You weren’t tall. Or athletic.

Those are excuses. Not reasons. Sometimes you sweat and you hurt and you give everything but you still get brushed aside. You didn’t make the team because you weren’t good enough.

And that’s ok. You don’t deserve to have what you want just because you tried hard. I’m not saying that to depress you. I’m saying it because then you’ll do things you love and not worry about the results.

Even then you still won’t be chosen. But that’s not the point. You’ll choose yourself. (shout out to James Altucher.)

Don’t expect that others will treat you like you would treat them

You go to college to do a Sports Science BTEC rather than stay at school and do A Levels against the advice of everyone. No one listens to advice anyway and no one should. Going to college is what’s in your heart.

The older kids at college don’t seem to like you. They’re clique-y. You still want to be wanted at this point without ever thinking if you like who you want to be wanted by.

You’re the only first year to be picked for the first team. Even though you’re still small and can’t jump.

The first team train on a Tuesday night and every time you wake up in your bed on Tuesday morning you dread what’s to come. You play against some of the best players in the country but your spirit is wrestled to the ground and left to cower. You don’t understand why they don’t like you. You’re desperate to fit in and you’re unhappy you can’t. The worst thing is that you look up to them. As basketball players. They’re the best players you’ve played with. And they treat you like you treat yourself when you make even the smallest mistake.

You want one of them to take you under their wing. To ask you if you’re ok. To stand up for you. To care about you. How many times have you truly cared about yourself? You would have mad friends with the new guy because you know what it’s like to be on the outside. To have your heart screaming but have your brain shutting it up. You would’ve wanted to save them.

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Some people would do exactly the same as you because you’ve both known the same pain. How else could you love a stranger? The older kids don’t do what you would do. They don’t do the right thing because the right thing is your right thing. They did their right thing. And that’s ok.

I’m going to have to go all Good Will Hunting on you and say this: It’s not your fault. Forgive them.

Stop holding yourself back

On your first day of work you arrive early. An hour early. You sit in the car with a blank face and a wire crossed mind. What have you done? You’ve never had a proper job before. “What’s an office like? What are the people like? What will I even be doing? What will my boss be like? How much is lunch? How many times am I going to mess up?” Those are 6 of the 453,962 thoughts that go through your head in the car. How many of them are positive? How many of your thoughts are ever positive?

Later in the day you’re sitting at “your” desk and you get that all too familiar feeling. You need the toilet.

What on earth are you supposed to do? Do you have to ask? What will your boss say? What will your team say? Will they ask you where you’re going? Will everyone in the office simultaneously stand up and accuse you of slacking off? Will the CEO ride in on a white horse, put his joust to your neck and fire you?

Breathe. You’re not that important. You’re paralysed. You look around for help. Help with what? Justifying your decision? TO GO TO THE TOILET?! You don’t want to ask because you don’t want to look stupid. You don’t want to stand up and go because you don’t want to look stupid.

What would happen if you stopped overthinking? Eventually, SOMEhow, SOMEway… you go. You make a run for it. You do your thing. You walk back. You sit down. And SOMEhow, SOMEway… the world is still spinning. People are still doing their jobs. The CEO is nowhere to be seen.

Stop holding back. Stop stopping yourself. Stop wearing a mask. What would happen if you were the Real You?

In the end you have to learn your lessons nevertheless

I don’t even know what this letter is trying to say. Maybe it’s just therapy for the 24 year old me. Maybe I’m trying to say all the clichés you’ll learn: You’re ok. You’re enough. Be kind to yourself. You learn the most when you’re wading through shit. If you let yourself. Be not a victim but a Man. The “you” that you pretend to be is no match for the Real You.

Don’t believe any of this. Seriously. Find out for yourself. Live for yourself. Stay curious. Stay playful. We learn through play and you probably play more because you’re 5 and I’m 24.

Love, your future-you

Featured photo credit: PhotoPin via photopin.com

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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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