We are becoming lonelier, and it’s killing us. This is the basic premise of an article I was sent this week, supported with lots of facts and figures, and sited social isolation as the key driver. I have a slightly different take on it, that is, people have become something they are not in order to fit into a culture that is not even serving us anymore. People have become disconnected from who they really are and who they were born to be. If you are not connected with your own inner self, how can you truly connect with the world around you?
As a child of the 70’s, I was intrigued by a recent Australian drama series called Puberty Blues. Its focus around the lives of young teens really took me back to that time when we emerge into the world forever changed by our hormones. The show is fairly gritty and depicts the young men as arrogant louts who need to maintain an image of cool by ‘dissing’ the chicks. And the girls of course generally abide by this etiquette of the time and get themselves into all sorts of hot water because they really felt they couldn’t say no to the guys.
What really struck me about this series was an interview I read in a magazine with the young actors who were asked whether the lives they were acting out bore any resemblance to their own. Their answers were heartening, the guys were blown away by how macho and stand offish the young men they play are, the guys of today being much more comfortable with being more tactile around their mates and talking about their feelings. The girls talked about the young women of today being much more comfortable dictating their own terms.
I was listening to an Abraham Hicks talk recently where I heard wise words that really resonated with this. The essence was that we get wrapped up in trying to impart our wisdom to the younger generations, when in actual fact they are born wiser. Knowledge is accumulative in the greater consciousness, our experiences and lessons are woven into the very fabric of life itself and slowly but surely we evolve.
Things change, probably over about four generations, pretty quick really. Technology aside, when I think back to where we were only a few decades ago when I was growing up: Americans was locked in the Cold War with Russia, in Europe we still had a wall around East Germany, South Africa still had a system of Apartheid, being gay was not something anyone (not even a celebrity) admitted to – ever, people still debated whether smoking was bad for your health; and the role of men and women was changing.
Allan and Barbara Pease have written much on the topic of the male/female differences (I like Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps), and I always thank them for introducing the idea to me that all men and women have a degree of typically masculine versus typically feminine traits.
Most of my generation in Scotland were the product of homes where the mum was a housewife and the dad worked, yet we were being educated that woman had equal rights and many are now out there trying to be superheroes, with the generations following looking at the stressed, burnt out versions of their parents and deciding that is not who they want to be. Good.
Being born a woman in this life has been an interesting experience. For all talk of ‘equal rights’, what we saw in the home was not that. We had no template for what it even meant.
This is evident in our corporate cultures today. Even in companies that espouse attractive values, generally the reality is still a construct that fits and plays upon our more masculine traits (particularly in the way decision making takes place) with little time invested in two-way communication and the growth of our people and culture.
I’ve worked closely with senior managers and ‘leaders’ in Executive positions for the last 15 years, I’ve seen women become more masculine time and again in a bid to be successful in the workplace. One was determined not to become like that because of a female boss she’d worked for who was publicly renowned for being masculine in her manner. Yet I'd observe her in meetings with her mannerisms and speech all but saying ‘watch me as I sit here and scratch my imaginary balls as I show you who the alpha dog is’. On the flip side, she’d often talk of her young teenage kids, texting or taking calls from them, and we’d see a more feminine side – but where had that woman gone in her workplace dealings?
It’s an interesting world alright. The point I keep coming back to is this, we were all born with characteristics, traits and talents that – for one reason or another – we have felt the need to cover up or change in order to survive. This does not make for a happy life.
We have organizations filled with people who feel like they are one person on the inside and another to the outside world, turning up each day to a prescribed job description, managed by performance reviews whose outcome must fit a bell curve. Imagine organizations filled with people who are in tune with themselves, bought in to the vision of the organization and allowed to simply let their strengths and passions flow.
How do we get from here to there? We have made some enormous strides in our society, and we evolve – eventually. One person at a time, one decision at a time. So how miserable do you need to be? How lonely? What’s it going to take for you to come out and be who you are? What will it take for you to choose happy?
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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