Can definitely say school days were tough. Not because I was a loud or unruly kid but because I was too quiet. Bullied by other kids and misunderstood by the teachers. Of all the years in school I remember only one teacher fondly and with great gratitude. She didn’t do anything special, she was just attentive to us all. Eleni was her name. She took note and did what she thought would be best for our needs and that was only possible because we were 8 in class.

Alienation and bullying at school did make me even more introverted and antisocial than I already was, crashed the little self esteem I had and caused serious anxiety and depression. So much so that I was labelled as a ‘problematic’ kid.

You don’t need to be black, poor or disabled to be discriminated upon. It is enough to be ‘different’ and be unable to speak when stressed, otherwise known as selective mutism. I thank my teenage hormones that allowed my pain to be expressed with anger and not self harm. Sure enough, I became a rebellious teenager and was lucky to come out of it relatively unscathed. It was a long journey to learn social skills and am still learning at age 57.

School does shape you. For me it made me totally reactive to authority, the status-quo, the main stream, stereotypes and the politically correct. I question everything, even my own intentions. Our world is relative, complex and hard to navigate. We each decide upon our constants and carve our paths accordingly. Mine are the truth, love, beauty and justice, whatever that means for me.

All the feel-good stories we tell ourselves are but that, to make us feel good. When the going gets tough there’s very few people there. We are basically on our own. And if not ‘strong’ enough, be that physically, mentally, emotionally or skill wise, we’re pretty much done. Being weak = less chances of survival = death

People create relationships with other people for certain reasons, one of them being common interests. Another may be that the other person is fulfilling some of our emotional, psychological or physical needs, in other words they provide us with love and acceptance, pleasure, acknowledgment, a sense of belonging, help or material safety. Once these needs are no longer met or there are no more common interests, conflict arises and paths diverge.

Genuine altruistic behaviour even though it exists, is rather rare, therefore it makes sense not to place our bets on it. Living our lives from a victim’s perspective doesn’t help much either. Not that a good cry and feeling-sorry-for-oneself is not satisfying yet it is absolutely useless in the long run.

Behaving from a basis of entitlement is another bad practice because after a while other people begin to feel annoyed, fed up, cheated upon or angry. Once we’re talking about entitlement, where exactly does it come from? What makes us think the world owes us anything? Is it society’s politically correct decided upon norms and values? Our own sense of self importance, inability or victimhood? Whatever...

The most important thing is not whether the world sees us as ‘strong’, ‘competent’, or ‘valuable’, but how we perceive and experience ourselves, even most importantly how we feel about ourselves. Not how significant we are, that doesn’t matter, it is all too relative, but what we believe about our own person and how we relate to ourselves.

Do we have a good relationship with ourselves? One based on truth and honesty? Love, compassion and understanding? Do we encourage ourselves to grow and evolve, learn and appreciate the world around us? What kind of relationship we have with ourselves is highly dependant on what kind of relationship we had with our parents or early caregivers and what we observed and learned in our early environment. We tend to repeat the same patterns simply because that is what we learned, know and are able to replicate.

We can’t behave in ways we don’t know, makes sense. To change a dysfunctional relationship with ourselves we first need to see and recognize what was dysfunctional in our own family and environment first. Make an honest evaluation of the skill set we were equipped with or not and work on acquiring what we may miss or struggle with.

The blame game is totally useless, can tell you that for sure, so forget about it. Blaming our parents, teachers, other children, adults, society in general or our fate, if we believe in that sort of thing, is a total waste of time and energy. A waste of our life!

You don’t get along with someone? Either learn the skills to do so and improve the relationship, make the commitment to do so, find the solutions needed or walk away. You don’t get along with your boss? Either find a way to not let it affect your health, learn strategies to deal with them, find solutions to work around them or find another job or start your own business. Don’t get along with your family? Weigh how much you value the relationship, learn what you need to learn to make that relationship work, ask for professional help if you need some, give it all you got and if it doesn’t work out distance yourself.

It may sound way too simplistic and perhaps even cruel, but if you boil things down this is what you get. Of course it is not simple, of course it is way more complicated, of course there can be much more at stake, of course I do not understand your situation and you don’t understand mine. But if we both are to be honest, we both know that at the end of the day there comes a moment where we need to make a decision, even if that is not to make a decision at all.

Whatever you do, please do not go down the slippery slope of complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. You know and I know it hasn’t helped much, has it? It has only disempowered us, made us weaker, less self-reliant and resilient. It has brought us in a place of helplessness we didn’t or don’t like, to a point where we hated or hate our lives and ourselves.

And please do not go riding that high horse of self entitlement either. Nor take the path of high expectations that the world out there will see your worth and come asking for you to show what you’ve got or are made of. You could wait forever...

Siding with the underdog I hear you ask? Fighting for your rights? Yes, by all means as long as you’re aware those people with whom you feel you have so much in common, will turn at you at lightning speed as soon as you dare express a view that diverges from the accepted-for-the-group norm. That is also true in small towns or communities, if you happen to be a newcomer and don’t abide by the ‘accepted’ norms, so be forewarned.

Did I hear you mention ‘ideals’? What about them? Do they even exist or are they fabrications of specific needs, social events and circumstances? Are they your own to begin with or did you borrow them from someone else you admire or share common ground with? The important thing is to know your values. The brick and mortar of your own moral structure of ethics and to act accordingly. Be true to your beliefs but not be so rigid you won’t revisit them, improve them or change them altogether need be.

Religion you said? Yes, that’s a big blessing for some and disappointment for others. Personally whatever creates division between us and them is of no value to me. Whatever religion uses words of threat I run away from. Religion today is of more use to create a sense of belonging and a political agenda than having any deep spiritual value. The way I see it, it is another ‘feel-good’ and political mechanism. A failed one may I add. One that builds togetherness by spreading division and separateness.

Why am I so bitter? I am no more bitter than an animal that has been attacked, bitten and beaten. I learned a thing or two in the process, got a few scars, and avoid things, people and circumstances that may turn out to be repeat experiences. Being by nature too innocent, trusting and naive, I learned the hard way. Yet many of these scars are of my own making, created out of my own fears and lack of self esteem.

All beings with a descent sense of self preservation and survival avoid recognizable threats and things that are harmful or negative and this is what I do. I have decided to focus on what makes my heart happy, what I enjoy, love and value. Most importantly I have decided not to waste a second of my life on useless, unnecessary or negative things or people or things that don’t serve my best interest and purpose.

I have come to learn when and what to sacrifice in my present and understand the value of delayed gratification. The damage of the blame-game can do and how it can act as a distraction for never taking constructive action. I learned the value of self- reliance and individual responsibility.

Learned that taking time for reflection before reacting is a good idea as it is to analyze a situation from the point of view of al involved. That it is easier to work on solutions and strategies to correct or improve a situation than it is to destroy everything, cut all bridges and start all over again.

That this is not a fair or just world and that you have to fight very hard to get justice. That sometimes you have to show greatness of spirit and allow your enemies to save face, not so much for them but for your own peace of mind.

Most importantly I am grateful to have found and experienced what human ‘diamonds’ are and learned not to let my experiences with human garbage destroy the beauty and value of those rare and valuable relationships. I learned that such valuable relationships need to be cared for, nurtured and protected from any selfishness or lack of attention.

Having said that I have also learned that giving unconditionally is not always what it seems and that giving to feel liked, appreciated or loved, often ends in disaster. So does giving out of fear that if you don’t, something bad will happen to the other person.

When our actions are driven by fear or insecurity it never ends well. This is why learning the art of detachment from our emotions and examining things from a more observing and mindful perspective is a good skill to learn. No matter how good our intentions, how pure our heart, if we act from a basis of fear or sense of lack, results are not good.

Fear takes over when we forget who we really are. When we give away our power. When our locus of control is external rather than internal. When we feel helpless and powerless. When we give in to feelings of inadequacy or the conditioning of old programmings. That is a most serious mental and emotional emergency! That’s when we need to get hold of ourselves, take a good look at those programmings, make a decision to change our automatic beliefs and the things we have taken for granted or accepted as givens and get out of zombie mode.

There’s an inner steering wheel inside each and every one of us. We can’t allow anyone else or group of people for that matter steer it for us. We need to be fully ‘sober’, clear minded and in control or at least strive to be as much as we can if we want to create and live a life that has heart and meaning for us. If we want to be able to say at the end of our days we lived most of our lives at a reasonably conscious level. That we didn’t follow this or that in a state of ‘hypnosis’. That we didn’t let our lives take a certain direction due to blind belief, reactive state of mind or hurt emotions. That we questioned everything, ourselves included. That we lived our lives ‘awake’.