Time for a pop quiz! Answer these three questions as quickly as you can without looking up the answers online.
Who was the 7th president of the United States of America?
What is the capital of Kazakhstan?
In what year did the Aztec empire fall?
Stumped by any of those? No worries, they were designed to be just a bit too esoteric for most of us to have the answers readily available in our minds. And what of it? By popping open Google and simply typing “7th president,” “Kazakhstan,” and “Aztec fall,” within a matter of seconds you’d learn the answers are Andrew Jackson, Nur-Sultan, and 1521, respectively.
So now you know those three facts. Get on with your day and think about them no more. But then in a few days, ask yourself again who was America’s seventh POTUS, what city is the Kazak capital, and in what year the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan fell, ushering in the end of that empire. It’s quite likely that the answers will all be gone from your mind.
Why? Because they were never really stored there in the first place. And that, in a nutshell, is the Google Effect.
What Is the Google Effect, Scientifically Speaking?
The Google Effect, or digital amnesia is, in simplest terms, the failure of the brain to commit to long-term memory that information it knows will be readily accessible whenever wanted. Which sounds negative and often is.
But at times it is a helpful mechanism, for indeed you don’t need to forever remember the address of a bakery you may never visit again, the name of an actress who played a minor role in a show you just watched, or the proper amount of oil to use in a recipe you’re following for a special occasion.
Then again, what about that information that would be of great benefit for you to possess indefinitely? Things like the stance of a given political party on a myriad of pivotal issues, facts and dates about major historical events, information that may impact health and wellness, like various first aid protocols, and on it goes – this information (and an inconceivable amount more) is just as readily available as the bakery’s address, actress’s name, or oil measurement, yet if it goes the proverbial way of in one ear and out the other, it matters not.
You may well lack the luxury of a web-connected computer, smart phone, or tablet at the very instant you need to cast a ballot, settle a debate, or treat a cut or burn, so unless you have committed information you read online into your memory, it’s just as if you’d never seen the info at all.
Why do we go to school and study? To hone, sharpen, and fill our minds. In a paradoxical way, the Google Effect is the opposite of education: it is quick answers that will not be remembered and will therefore be useless in the long term, whereas schooling is slow, steady, and methodical, but leaves its mark in your brain.
Will the Google Effect leave a mark on how younger generations learn – or fail to – going forward? It’s a real concern, and yet another example of how our ever increasingly digital world presents benefits and problems for us all.
The Google Effect Has Been Recognized for Years
While the long-term impacts of the Google Effect are not yet known, you should know that it has been a recognized phenomenon for well over a decade.
Even going back to 2011 you can find scientific journals that were publishing papers on what we today often call the Google Effect or digital amnesia, such as an article published by Science in July of that year.
It stated, in part: “The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information …. the Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.”
When you think about that, the concept of information stored outside of ourselves, you begin to see the real dangers of the Google Effect. Because let’s be honest: calling information “stored collectively outside ourselves” is just a polite and euphemistic way of saying “things you don’t know.”
And you can’t make sound, informed choices based on things you don’t know. Let’s acknowledge that while Google and other search engines are great ways to find information, without our taking the needed steps to internalize what we read on the screen, it does not translate into knowledge. So, let’s talk about the steps you can take to overcome that Google Effect.
How to Stop the Google Effect from Altering Your Brain’s Memory Making Abilities
The first way to combat the ephemeral nature of search engine result information is to be present in your own mind as you search and read. Don’t just use the quickest search terms, and instead write out the full query, then read the answer back to yourself.
As an example, instead of hammering out “7th president,” type out “who was the seventh president of the United States of America,” and then, once Google (immediately) delivers your answer, say aloud to yourself “the seventh president of the United States of America was Andrew Jackson.”
You can also use a technique like tying the newly acquired information to a physical space or act, say by tapping three times on your desk and saying “I was sitting at my office desk when I learned that Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of America.”
Better yet, write the new information down. And that means with a pen and paper, not by merely typing it. Your brain creates a stronger connection to information when you have actually committed it to paper with your own muscles moving a pen or pencil.
Best of all? Learn the information you need to commit to memory from a source other than a search engine. If you want to do a deep dive into a topic, do it in books or journals or by consulting an expert. Learn a route by actually driving or walking it. Learn a recipe by cooking it, not just reading it. And so on.
And when in doubt, remember that repetition works. Read that fact on the screen, like about Andrew Jackson being the seventh president, again and again, in different tones and cadences, several times over.
Want a bit of proof there? Ask yourself who was the seventh president of the USA this time tomorrow.
Overthinking is a common problem that can affect just about anybody. And overthinking can focus in on just about anything. For example, you might get caught up worrying about what your boss, your friend, your sister, your boyfriend, or your neighbor really thinks about you. You might read way too much into the comment your mom or your teacher or your coworker said, just now, last week, or even, years ago. You might become so overcome by making plans—and considering all the options—that you literally can’t make a decision. Or you might feel confused or regretful about something in your past, present, or future that keeps you up at night, turning whatever happened (or didn’t or might) over and over again in your head.
Overthinking, which also is sometimes called overanalyzing, ruminating, or beating a dead horse, is a malady that can strike at any time and center on just about anything, big or small. Self-doubt, pessimism, and anxiety all play a role in this type of cyclical thinking. For some people, it sneaks up on them only occasionally. Others might feel like they’re in the grip of overthinking day in and day out. Just about everybody else falls somewhere in between.
But whether you’re prone to chronic overthinking or it’s rare for you, getting stuck in your head is something most people have experienced. Getting stuck in overthinking can be very frustrating, overwhelming, paralyzing, defeating, and counterproductive. And when it happens, most of us want out. Unfortunately that can be exceedingly hard to do. But with the right tools, it’s possible. In this comprehensive guide, learn how to stop overthinking. And discover how to calm your mind and think clearly instead.
Overthinking can slowly develop over a few hours or days or it can happen in a flash. Either way, once you’re in it, it can be hard to recognize and even harder to get yourself out. But there are effective ways to ease yourself out of this type of toxic thinking—and to prevent yourself from going down this path again in the first place.
Understand Why and How Overthinking Happens
There are many, many ways overthinking can manifest into your life. You might start on one thing, and then end up questioning just about every choice you’ve ever made—or are about to make.
For example, say you have a presentation you’re doing the next week at work. You might start worrying about how it’s going to go, then start questioning all the details of the presentation and how well you will deliver it in front of your boss. This might lead you to thinking you might get fired (or want to quit) or that you never should have taken this job (or career path) in the first place.
In other words, you can head down a rabbit hole that leads to all kinds of unexpected places, few of which are usually helpful, realistic, practical, or relevant for your decision-making, mental health, or life in general. This happens because our worries, stress, self-doubt, and fears start creeping into our thoughts, quickly magnifying what might otherwise be a straightforward situation. And left unchecked, these ideas can take over, steamrolling our common sense, our patience, our trust in ourselves (and in others), leaving us to question, doubt, and worry and catastrophize about anything and everything.
Identify your triggers
Know your own brain. Once you start overthinking, these thoughts tend to snowball. So, you might begin by trying to decide if you’re going to take a morning or an afternoon flight to visit your parents. Soon enough you might be questioning the whole trip—or if your parents even really love you in the first place. But if you can find patterns in when these issues come up for you, you can start heading them off from the beginning so that you don’t get trapped by overthinking.
To do this, look for triggers. Do you tend to get wrapped up over practical things, such as making plans with friends, or are you more likely to overthink about issues relating to your work or romantic life. For example, if someone you are dating doesn’t text back right away, do you tend to work that into something much bigger in your brain? Awareness can help keep you grounded and focused on the one thing you need to do or decide. Keep circling back to remind yourself that you may be overthinking an issue—a sign that you are is if your thoughts are making you increasingly distressed. If you know that you tend to overthink certain things, you’ll be more able to stop yourself before you get in too deep.
Focus on the one thing
Keep reminding yourself of the facts of whatever you are thinking about. What is it that you know. Then, aim to let anything that’s supposition go—at least for the moment. Check in with yourself. What is realistic; what is fact; what is practical; what might you have blown up in your mind? Ask yourself “What are you assuming?” What are you questioning that might not really be valid.
Consider how you are talking to yourself, too. Then, begin to tease out what is unkind, unhelpful, self-sabotaging, and getting you off track. And keep returning to what you know is true or whatever issue you need to resolve. Then, aim to discard the rest, especially anything that is based in self-doubt, unrealistic, or worst-case scenario assumptions.
Give yourself a schedule
Set a timer. If you feel you need to think about something, give yourself a set amount of time to do so. This strategy works even if you feel you need to worry or fret over something. Give yourself, say 5, 10, 30 minutes to do so. Then, tell yourself you are moving on. When your mind returns to the topic. Gently, say, “Nope, we’re done with that for now.” You can even give yourself time the next day, or later in the week, to think on it again, if needed. But if you can schedule it, then you are also giving yourself breaks when you are not going to be stuck in that thinking.
The same idea works if there is a decision to be made from this thinking. Give yourself a timeframe for making the choice. You can literally set a timer. Then, when the time is up, make your choice and move on.
Change your scenery
Often, you can release yourself from overthinking just by giving yourself a change of scenery. Go outside, go to the grocery store, go to a friend’s house, bike around the block, even just go in the next room. Putting yourself in another setting can help shift your brain out of overthinking, give you a fresh perspective, or simply knock you back into reality.
Practice positive self-talk
Consider how you are talking to yourself while overthinking. Consider if negativity is clouding your judgment. Often, this type of thinking goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem, which becomes a habit of undercutting yourself and not thinking you are worthy, important, valued, or good enough.
So, notice when your thoughts become uncharitable or toxic toward yourself. When you hear yourself say, “I can’t do that” or “I will fail” or “They don’t like me,” counter that with “I can do that,” “I will succeed,” “I am loved,” and “I am good enough.” Consider what you would say if a friend was in the same situation, and use the words for yourself that you would say to that person. Often, we’re the hardest on ourselves, but we should be giving ourselves the same love, consideration, encouragement, leeway, and support that we would give to others.
Self-care is so important for kicking overthinking to the curb. This type of thinking can happen any time but it’s most common in times of stress and when you’re not taking care of your basic needs. So, give yourself good, nutritious meals and snacks. Get regular exercise and good sleep. Sleep is particularly key to stopping overthinking. When we’re over tired (or hungry or not physically active), our thinking is bound to suffer. Practice stress relief techniques, too, such as yoga, deep breathing, mediation, going on a walk, and giving yourself breaks. Incorporate into your day whatever activities make you feel at your best, relaxed, and refreshed.
Talk it out
Talking out whatever you are overthinking can quickly help you get your thinking back on track. So, call a friend, a coworker, your sister, your mom, or a therapist. Get a fresh perspective on whatever it is that you’re caught up in your head about. Sometimes, hearing yourself just say it out loud (or writing it down and reading it back) can be enough to shake you back to reality.
Make plans with friends, get out of the house, or just get out of your bedroom (or your office). Talking with other people or doing a social activity helps you put things in perspective, or at the very least just get out of your head. You don’t even need to talk about whatever it is you’re overthinking for this approach to work. Just letting yourself emesh into whatever social interaction or activity you’re doing is often enough to jolt you out of the worries in your head.
Curate productive distractions
Give yourself background noise. This technique can help to keep your thoughts grounded. Listen to music or podcasts or watch tv. Give yourself something else to think about. Even if you start to overthink, having a favorite song or show on can help bring you back from getting too deep in your head.
Address your anxiety
Everyone experiences some anxiety now and then but if yours feels overwhelming, it’s probably a good idea to seek outside assistance. Often, overthinking is tied to anxiety. If you are having a lot of anxiety with your overthinking, consider talking to a therapist who can help you develop your anxiety coping skills to make your symptoms more manageable. Self-care, intentional thinking, reading, breath work, and behavioral therapy can all help quite a bit.
Key Takeaways on Overthinking
Don’t beat yourself up about overthinking—or your anxiety. Overthinking is just your brain’s way of telling yourself you are worried or stressed or uncertain about something. Honor those feelings, then aim to address what you can and let the rest go. Instead, of thinking and thinking and thinking about something and getting yourself nowhere, except into a frenzy. Think, what can I do about this? And is this thinking helpful or truthful or accurate or kind? Then, focus on the practical, take whatever steps you need or can do, and then, move on.
Overthinking doesn’t have to control you. Instead, realize that you are the director of your thoughts. So, edit out the ones that don’t serve you and focus on the ones that help the star of the show (that’s you!) thrive and shine. Moreover, have compassion for yourself as you work on these skills. You might still occasionally fall into the overthinking trap. That’s okay! Just keep working on modifying your thoughts and soon enough, you’ll leave overthinking in its tracks.
Perhaps no single word in recent times has been thrown around the pop culture lexicon with as much controversy and magnitude as “conservatorship.”
The institution of conservatorship has existed in some form or another since the formalization of law and order. In essence, it grants authoritative powers to a guardian over another person or organization’s personal and professional affairs. Mostly, this is due to that person being too old, too young or too sick to make their own decisions , and is generally meant to protect them.
However, as we’ve seen in very public cases, like, most notably, the one faced by Britney Spears, there’s something particularly visceral about the full extent of what a conservatorship could entail, especially when grown people — in particular women — have to fight tooth and nail to escape them.
As a result, there has been a collective examination of the entire concept of conservatorship and how its ostensibly protective merit is often manipulated and distorted to control women and suppress their mental health struggles. The most recent example of a conservatorship in the public eye coming to a cathartic close, after Britney, is the case of Amanda Bynes.
Why Did Amanda Bynes Have a Conservatorship – And Was It Really Necessary?
On March 22, 2021, a Ventura County judge officially terminated the conservatorship for Amanda Bynes, who had been placed under her mother’s “protection” over nine years ago. As mentioned, this comes directly on the heels of Britney Spears’ conservatorship ruling in November, which finally put an end to the legal arrangement that had been controlling Britney’s personal care and wealth for well over 14 years.
In Amanda’s case, many members of the public didn’t even know she was under conservatorship until it was announced she was filing to terminate the setup. Unlike Spears, Amanda didn’t have to go through a tedious, drawn-out struggle in the public eye to get the motion passed in her favor. Her demand was granted only a month later, with the actress finally granted the ability to decide her own state of affairs.
Amanda’s decline from A-list teen sensation to a person publicly dealing with many issues surrounding mental health and addiction has been well-documented in the media. Since 2010, she has quit acting, been arrested multiple times for offenses like driving while intoxicated, and been admitted to psychiatric facilities to get the help she needs and deserves.
In August 2013, Amanda’s mother Lynn was ordered by a court to take over her daughter’s personal and financial affairs, with the judge citing that Amanda “poses a substantial risk to herself, to others, and to property.” Though Lynn did seek consultation from legal professionals over how she could best oversee Amanda’s estate and guardianship, she remained the primary conservator.
Despite losing decision-making power over her own life, Amanda tried her best to improve her condition. She went to rehab, focused on her sobriety, pursued fashion as a professional pathway, and even found love. When it was reported she was trying to end her conservatorship, her loved ones and supporters couldn’t be more ecstatic. Even her mom and dad, who were said to have maintained a positive dynamic with Amanda throughout the ordeal, were on board with the termination.
The family lawyer, David A. Esquibias, told TMZthat the petition to end the conservatorship had been “years in the making” and that both Amanda’s mom and dad had “realized the significant progress [Amanda] made in coping with bipolar disorder.”
When the judge officially decided to discontinue the arrangement, Amanda, via a statement from her lawyer, said, “I would like to thank my fans for their love and well wishes during this time.” She also thanked her parents for their support over the last nine years. She concluded by saying she’d like to continue prioritizing her well-being and is excited about the new chapter in her journey.
In the last several years, I have been working hard to improve my health so that I can live and work independently, and I will continue to prioritize my well-being in this next chapter.
Britney Spears’ conservatorship, unlike Bynes’, had been so controversial and protracted, it effectively shattered the relationship between herself and her father, Jamie Spears, for good.
Spears’ conservatorship order was established in 2008 in the wake of her public breakdown, which included psychiatric restrictions and orders around her children’s safety. Much has been written about this period in Britney’s life — who was to blame, who should have provided support, to what extent should the public have weighed in, the responsibility carried by her loved ones — but the fact remains that Britney wasn’t given the resources she needed to heal. She was left to fend for herself, and therefore submitted to the legal protocol purported to heal her.
Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it […] I’ve lied and told the whole world, ‘I’m OK, and I’m happy.’ I’m not happy. I’m so angry. It’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.
As mentioned above, a temporary conservatorship can be beneficial in a few ways to help someone slow down and restore their mental faculties, but if a stipulation runs too long, it may endanger stripping those under protection of not just their autonomy but any semblance of inner peace they might achieve.
In Britney’s case, her family and legal team should have realized and recognized Britney’s progress as she was starting to demonstrate sound capabilities. Instead, they forced her to work in endeavors she had no passion for, prevented her from participating in rehabilitation, kept away her children, and governed her reproductive health. This took place for nearly 14 years, and it took a documentary and a global movement to reverse the damage.
Why Breaking Away from Conservatorship Is So Important
Not all conservatorships are equal — everyone will have a different experience, and for many, it is a necessary course of action. What more of us need to acknowledge, however, is how there’s a broader distaste for women going through mental health illnesses, and how, if they cross a supposed limit, they are punished, imprisoned, and in many ways, infantilized.
There is a way to help these women without trapping them in devastating circumstances that steal their lives for far too much time. On many occasions, as we’ve seen especially with Britney Spears, long-term conservatorship is just a convenient way to control women, their day-to-day lives, their long-term visions, their key relationships, and everything in between. The focus should be on nurturing these women, empowering them to fight their mental health struggles and helping them reclaim their right to freedom — not to keep them locked in the same situation, devoid of any agency or ownership.
The internet is always one click or swipe away, full of any information you can dream of. There are YouTube channels that condense sophisticated concepts, podcasts played at twice the speed, easy-to-follow online or courses, and even next-day delivery on paper books, if you prefer the old-school approach.
Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates went as far as to say: “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” Although that might be an oversimplification to prove a point, there’s no denying a thirst for knowledge is a good thing. But like everything in life, there is a catch. With so much information at your fingertips, where do you begin? What does effective learning look like anyway?
In this article, we’ll guide you through microlearning, an approach to knowledge that focuses on short bursts of focus. The stereotype of hours and hours hunched over a mountain of textbooks doesn’t have to be the case, and thanks to microlearning, you can make great progress while having fun.
What is a microlearning strategy?
The way that people consume content has changed through the use of modern technology.
When studying a topic, whether you’re doing some corporate learning or studying in school, you might move between a brief video on YouTube, a concise blog post, reading a long-form textbook, or looking at graphics that present complex topics in visual form.
Content is available in a multitude of forms, to suit a diverse selection of learning (or E-learning) styles.
Studying in short bursts
The micro in microlearning applies to how short spells of study are.
Talent professionals consider 13 minutes to be the maximum amount of time for microlearning. Effective lengths range from 10 minutes, to between two and five minutes. That’s a noticeable difference compared to old-school education set-ups, where lectures might last an hour or more.
Information presented with microlearning is highly specific. Unlike conventional learning, microlearning breaks topics down to the essentials. For example, think of how a search engine works: if you’re interested in productivity, you might search for “productivity tips for remote workers,” or something equally niche. Because of millions and millions of results online, you’re then presented with a blog post that covers that exact subtopic, without having to spend hours researching productivity in general.
The popularity of mobile apps has made microlearning even more efficient. Gamification, in particular, is often used in conjunction with microlearning. Gamification is the process of adding gameplay elements to non-gaming environments, allowing users to pick up new skills in bite-sized chunks, whilst having fun at the same time.
A great example of that is using an app, such as DuoLingo, for learning a new language. Bite sized courses and other traditional Elearning courses encourages learners to build their skill development and to enjoy it at the same time! What’s more, by combining these short bursts of learning with an effective time blocking strategy can benefit learners even more.
How effective are microlearning strategies?
The question is, can microlearning really replace hours of study?
You won’t necessarily use microlearning to earn a Ph.D., but for many causes, particularly workplace training and job aids, microlearning is incredibly effective. In fact, an organization’s microlearning strategy, or an alternative, gamification, can keep learners engaged for better than traditional learning environments.
Gamification built by instructional designers has been found to increase performance rates by 35 percent. Learners prefer these upgrades, and with many services, content is refined for maximum efficiency thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence.
One of our favorite microlearning examples from pop culture is DuoLingo, which is always studying the best scientific approaches to language learning. They discovered that 34 hours on their platform is the equivalent of a full university semester, showing the power of microlearning content.
It’s worth noting if you use the app to get access to these “knowledge nuggets” for 10 minutes per day, you can achieve this success in just six months. Microlearning focuses the mind in pretty amazing ways!
Other studies have found that microlearning helps to avoid fatigue that comes from learning new information with traditional e-learning. Not only that, but the variety of media used with microlearning, and short lessons, support the process of integrating knowledge from short-term to long-term memory, improving retention rates.
In one study with primary school students, microlearning led to an 18 percent increase in efficiency when compared to traditional methods.
Benefits of microlearning
Although a relatively new method, microlearning already has a wealth of research to demonstrate its benefits. That’s due to its basis in cognitive science, which explores the role of the brain during learning processes, and the ways to optimize information retention.
One of the biggest neuroscientific “hacks” of microlearning is making most of the “spacing effect,” which has been shown to boost memory retention, ahead of cramming masses of information all at once.
Away from the scientific benefits, microlearning has multiple benefits for those looking to boost their knowledge or learn new skills:
There’s a difference between learning a language to become fluent when arriving in a new country, and spending free time using a language app in preparation for a vacation. Getting to grips with certain areas of study can be immensely time-consuming, but with microlearning, you’re able to absorb key concepts much quicker.
Ease of access
Gone are the days of having to access a physical library, borrow books, and spend time searching index pages to find relevant information. Microlearning is accessible and information is easy to find. Plus, many modern courses are made by experts who know what concepts to distill, meaning a lot of the hard work has been done for you.
Microlearning is incredibly versatile — because learning in digital format, you can learn on your mobile device.
And the nature of short-term content means it’s easy to spend a couple of minutes learning something new in a brief video or app while on the daily commute, or waiting at the dentist, or on a lunch break.
Microlearning makes the most of a diverse wealth of tools, rather than long strings of text, or a traditional lecture format. With imagery, animations, and interactive elements, the overall process of learning becomes more fun and entertaining, which boosts engagement.
Enjoy a buffet of knowledge
A lot of microlearning techniques are used by employers and institutions looking to maximize engagement. But as a solo venture, microlearning is a great opportunity to test the waters and sample areas of learning, before taking a deeper dive.
Turning to another Greek philosopher, Plutarch, it’s important to remember that “the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” In a hyperproductive culture, it’s tempting to go all-in when learning a new subject, to fill the vessel with as much information as you can find. Unfortunately, this might lead to some form of informational burnout. Microlearning is a more patient way of kindling the fire of curiosity, which, in the long run, is more likely to keep you moving towards your goals.
Microlearning: Best practices, microlearning courses and more
There’s an important distinction between self-learning for personal interest or development, or learning for a work role or career change.
Many big companies, such as Google, provide microlearning courses where all the content is ready-made. The same applies to online courses that allow you to pick up new skills, from programming to graphic design.
Self-learning is different. You’re responsible for choosing which topics to cover, and it takes more planning and research before you begin. The below steps will provide a solid starting point in order to start microlearning on any topic of your choosing and will apply to both self-study and other forms.
1. Find your “why”
In the words of Viktor Frankl, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” This applies to all areas of life, including your education. Before scheduling or choosing topics, spend time considering why you want to study, why you want to learn. Are you looking to level up in your career? Are you looking to get more control over your life by learning productivity tools? Are you looking to increase your self-awareness?
Tapping into your emotional motivation will give you the best shot at a successful microlearning practice. After all, the days of sitting at the back of the class, zoning out, and wishing to be somewhere else are long gone. You’re in the driving seat. Where would you like the journey of learning to take you? For more information on goals, check out our blog SMART goals.
2. Explore topics and intentions
Once you find your why, you’ll start to have an idea about what you wish to study. Clarity at this stage is essential, as it will inform how you apply microlearning to piece together various pieces of the jigsaw. So, begin with an overall view of your personal education — what skills are you looking to develop? What would you like to learn?
You might end up with a list of various topics, from nutrition to languages, to depth psychology or time management.
Remember microlearning is all about digestible chunks — rather than trying to study everything at once, pick one or two key topics that you wish to commit to for a period of time.
3. Refine the niche
Once you have topics in mind, zoom in on the specifics to get the most out of microlearning practices. In my experience, over time you will begin to spot patterns and networks of content when you start to explore a topic. I’ve found this to be the case with psychology. You might start with a single person’s work — such as Abraham Maslow — which opens doors to other areas of study.
Begin, though, by getting specific. For example, productivity is a huge umbrella topic. If that’s on your list, you can further refine the topic. Are you looking for better time management? Tips on how to improve focus? Guidance on scheduling or structuring a to-do list to avoid overwhelm? The clearer you get on the specifics, the easier it is to identify which areas to study.
4. Consider your learning style: DIY or ready-made
Are you someone who feels comfortable working out your own “curriculum” by cherry-picking different topics? Or does your motivation and goal require a clear direction? Deciding your best course of action means looking at whether you’ll also be responsible for the topics you choose, and the overall direction of self-study.
If you do feel comfortable setting your own microlearning curriculum, start to piece together a list of topics to explore in your own time, either by online research of blogs or YouTube videos, or podcast episodes.
If you need something with more structure, an option is to explore online courses whether experts in the field have already curated content.
It’s worth noting that the more familiar you are with a topic, the better idea you’ll have of what you don’t know, and what areas interest you.
5. Set a schedule
The next step is to set your microlearning schedule. How will your study fit into your calendar? This will fit into the bigger picture of how you’re structuring your time. Do you have space? How many hours per week are you looking to study? At this stage, you might notice you have free time (such as a daily commute) or see the need to carve out space.
Let’s say you choose to spend three hours per week learning a new language, and two hours on productivity. That gives you five hours of microlearning per week. How you then break this down is up to you and your schedule — will you do 30 minutes or each, five days per week? Or alternate daily?
Once you have added your microlearning practice to your calendar, defend it, and honor it. And, make sure you have a plan for when you show up to learn. Know what videos, what courses, what blog posts you’ll read in that session, so you are purposeful with the time you’ve set aside.
Microlearning combines new technology, cutting-edge science, and a diverse range of content styles to make learning easy, enjoyable, and engaging. There’s never been a better time to learn.
Now you’re equipped with microlearning practices, the next step is to fill your cup from the fountain of knowledge, and drink in the wisdom, one sip at a time, without oversaturation or information overload. So what are you waiting for? Go make Socrates proud.
A common stereotype with depression is how it looks from the outside.
Often these stereotypes are perpetuated by the media. For example, images of head in hands despair have long been linked with stories on depression or suicide, inspiring a campaign, Time to Change, to challenge these portrayals in the media.
Their campaign’s mission highlighted an important truth: “People with mental health problems don’t look depressed all the time.” So while yes, depression often is debilitating and stops people from functioning at a day-to-day level, it doesn’t always look this way.
In fact, there’s a term for it: high-functioning depression.
What is high functioning depression?
Firstly, high functioning depression isn’t an official diagnosis. It’s a term given to people who are experiencing symptoms of depression while performing at a certain level of functionality. The difficulty with this type of depression is that it often goes undetected by friends and family, or even the person experiencing it themselves.
The closest diagnosis in the DSM-5 (the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental illnesses and mental disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association) is persistent depressive disorder. This is also known as dysthymia or chronic depression. Rather than acute and severe, this way this type of depression affects people is long-lasting.
According to Mayo Clinic, “though persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, your current depressed mood may be mild, moderate or severe.” Those with high functioning depression might maintain relationships, careers, pay the bills, build a family. But subtle feelings of disinterest, low mood, anxiety, apathy, or meaninglessness follow them around like a dark cloud.
Symptoms of high functioning depression
Because many people have internalized the misconception that depression has to look a certain way, those who experience high functioning depression might not be aware of it.
A mental health professional might tell you that it could be that something simply “feels off,” or that happy moments in life, from big celebrations to simple joys, aren’t fully enjoyed or appreciated.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
In the U.S., it’s estimated that around 1.5 percent of the population, close to 3 million people, feel depressed and experience persistent depressive disorder. When it comes to this type of disorder, a sign of depression is low mood that has persisted for over two years.
Other symptoms of high functioning depression include:
Chronic sadness or feeling down, without an obvious cause
It’s common for people to think “I’ve got no reason to be depressed,” and to ignore chronic low mood when there’s no apparent cause. Because high functioning depression is present over a long period of time, many people even get used to, or adjust to, the symptoms, without knowing exactly when it started.
Some people may feel that it’s just the way they are, and that they don’t need to seek treatment for a clinical diagnosis or emotional support.
How do I manage high functioning depression and boost my mental health?
I want to offer an unconventional view, one I stand by with every cell of my being. I believe depression is a great teacher, and if approached with curiosity and humility, it contains its own solutions.
In the words of M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Travelled:
“Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cure. The fact that they are unwanted makes them all the more a phenomenon of grace—a gift of God, a message from the unconscious, if you will, to initiate self-examination and repair.”
I grappled with depression for the majority of my life. At times it was more intense than others. In some peculiar way, the times when it was more intense, and really got in the way of life, were the most important, because they made me fully aware that I had to self-examine and repair. This is a catch with high functioning depression — it might not reach that tipping point, or it might take years of struggle to really begin to explore.
With that in mind, I’d like you to approach these steps with an open mind, and be willing to consider that high functioning depression has its own form of intelligence. In other words, to have faith that actually, you can learn to understand it, to grow, and heal through it.
1. Accept its presence
Something called you to read this article. Maybe it was because you are concerned about a loved one. Or maybe there’s a part of you that suspects you’re experiencing functional depression and would like to dig a little deeper.
That’s an incredible first step, as it shows a willingness to acknowledge where you’re at, a powerful first step in all change. By accepting that you are experiencing high functioning depression, you might feel grief, anxiety, or even relief. Start by being totally self-honest.
The “persistent” in this version of depressive disorder is often due to the symptoms not being intrusive enough to seek immediate action. If you can acknowledge where you’re at, right now, you can take action before the symptoms increase.
2. Be honest about how high functioning depression impacts your life
The more subtle the symptoms, the more subtle the impact. Once you’ve accepted the reality of depression, the next step is to explore all the ways your life adjusts around it. Do you socialize less than you’d like to? Is your creative expression stifled? Are you unable to find joy in life’s simple pleasures? Do you lean on substance abuse to get through the days? Do you experience overeating, insomnia?
This process won’t be easy. But it will give you a clear idea of the way your life is affected and, on the flip side, the way your life will be improved once the healing process takes place. This can be used as motivation by the person struggling to get support or to place more attention and focus on doing the necessary work.
3. Consider your steps for support
The next step is to start to piece together a plan of action.
It can be difficult to know where to begin, or what steps to take, once you acknowledge that high functioning depression is a problem. Consider getting professional support, whether through treatment programs, through talking therapy, or getting in touch with someone that can provide medical advice. Consider talking to a close friend about your experience. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.
This process really depends on how much you feel you’re able to work through the symptoms. Often people with severe depression need support because they’re at such a low point, daily functioning is impossible. If you feel able to do the work, then a good starting point is to look at your life from a wide perspective, to identify what could be causing it.
4. Deconstruct the experience
An issue with stigma is that it can make a diagnosis feel overwhelming, or like a life sentence. I’d encourage you to view this kind of depression as one part of a greater whole. Don’t worry about having to pinpoint exactly why persistent low mood is there, but instead, look at different life areas, such as:
Do you have a healthy diet and avoid overconsumption of alcohol? Are you getting regular exercise? Do you monitor your screen and social media use?
Are your relationships nourishing and mutually supportive? Do you have healthy boundaries, or are you overextending due to people-pleasing? Are you expressing your needs?
Are you spending time connecting to yourself, and to nature? Are you aware of your values and guiding principles? Do you know what’s most meaningful to you in life?
Is your work fulfilling? Do you have a healthy work and life balance, or are you overworked? Do you feel supported by your team?
Are you able to identify and process your emotions? Do you fully feel your emotions? Have you resolved grief or trauma?
This process is worthwhile for anyone. But if you’re experiencing high functioning depression, it can highlight where you need extra support from others, either through people you know, or through a professional.
The awareness levels around mental illness and mental health awareness is improving all the time. But there’s a long way to go, especially when it comes to misconceptions and stereotypes.
And as important as it is for people to be aware of symptoms to understand and support others who are suffering, it’s just as important for people to be fully informed in order to make sense of their own experience.
I’m a big believer that there are always, always positive steps forward, no matter where you’re at. The basis from this “Ground Zero” is one of acceptance and compassion. But in acknowledging your experience of high functioning depression, there’s an opportunity for deeper understanding and exploration of all the factors in your life that could be contributing to this mental health condition.
Even if there’s a one percent boost by making one change, that’s a success. Even if you learn a small lesson about yourself by looking into your inner world, that’s a success. Acknowledging that you could be experiencing high functioning depression validates years of struggle, and is also a success.
Start from ground zero
Start from Ground Zero. Know that change is always possible.
And, most importantly, know that YOU deserve happiness and fulfillment in this life. It is possible to learn how to beat depression. Acknowledgment is the first step in moving towards that.
At age 12, Jade Colcombe, a girl from Tonypandy, Wales, was cruelly bullied by her classmates who teased her – and sometimes threatened her – every single day.
As her peers spent their time in class, making friends and hitting the books, Jade’s life was a living hell. Little did she know that the tables would turn.
She was taunted and harassed by her fellow classmates and would be told she looked like a man and was made fun of for her ‘tomboy’ fashion. She recalled to the Daily Mail that it would start right from the opening bell.
”I’d walk into the room and the ‘popular’ gang would sit and snigger just because I didn’t have expensive clothes or wear make-up,” she said.
I was called ‘buck-tooth’, because of my teeth, ‘Dalmatian’, because of my beauty spots and ‘man’ because the hair on my arm was dark and noticeable.
– Jade Colcombe
“There have been times where I just felt like breaking down and crying.”
Desperate, she’d skip school and fake illness to avoid the torment. However, when it was clear it wouldn’t stop, the straight-A student quit school for a different one.
Sadly, the torment continued at her new school, with kids teasing her clothes and calling her ugly. For Colcombe, that was rock bottom.
“At my lowest point, I refused to talk to anyone because I feared that they would just laugh at me,” she admitted.
She found a new stage
Ironically, her family and friends urged Colcombe to enter the ‘Miss Radiant Photogenic UK’ pageant to help her build up her confidence and prove her haters wrong. With nothing to lose, she entered and, amazingly, won. Just like that, a switch was flipped and a queen was born.
Shortly after, Colcombe won the Miss Supermodel Great Britain title at Dream Street’s Miss United Kingdom pageant.
With that, the quiet girl had found her voice.
“For the first time at Miss UK, I actually spoke in front of an audience without getting upset or really nervous about it.”
Colcombe says that she has one special thank you for her success.
“To be honest, the bullies did me a favor.”
And now that I am entering national pageants all over the UK, I really feel like I’ve beat those bullies and proved them wrong.
– Jade Colcombe
Lean into your greatness
Next up for Colcombe: climbing 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Noah’s Ark – a children’s hospital in Wales. The cause holds a special place in her heart: Her little sister Lexi, who has an incurable form of epilepsy, was saved by doctors at the hospital after suffering several seizures.
While climbing the world’s highest free-standing mountain is a tall task, Colcombe says that she’s already conquered the worst.
I beat my bullies, so with the support of my family, beating Kilimanjaro should be no problem.
– Jade Colcombe
No one should go through what Colcombe did. Sometimes children can be really cruel. However, past that struggle is the giant inside you. With help from family and friends, one timid girl tapped into a force stronger than any taunts or teases, and now she’s unstoppable.
Whether it’s your skin color, weight, or age, don’t let anyone make you feel less than the force of nature you are.
More uplifting news:
Look beyond appearances
Physical beauty is nothing compared to a good heart.
Motivation is the “why” behind human behavior. It is the energy to act, the driving force behind the things we do.
Without this energy and desire comes a lack of inspiration, or the feeling of being unmotivated. This can lead to procrastination, a general lack of vitality, as well as less willingness to grow or seek out new and challenging opportunities.
Human motivation is intertwined with self-development and psychology. Within the field of psychology, motivation is separated into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation can be described as doing an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence or from fear of negative outcomes.
Extrinsic motivation refers to an engagement in activities due to the influence of outside factors, or “extrinsic motivators,” rather than doing them for the simple feeling of satisfaction they bring.
Examples of extrinsic motivation might include studying for a test because a fail would force you to repeat a grade, or working out early in the morning before work in order to fit into a wedding dress. Unlike intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivators are not done for their own sake.
Although studies have found intrinsic motivation to be a more effective form of motivation, extrinsic motivation has a wealth of benefits as well. In recent years, more and more studies have found its value… when used skillfully.
In this article, we’ll explore the subtleties of extrinsic motivation before providing tips on how to integrate these insights into your life. Not only will this give you a clear overview of the “why” of your behavior, it will offer steps to boost your motivation in all areas of life. What more motivation do you need to read on?
What is the definition of extrinsic motivation?
The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines extrinsic motivation as “an external incentive to engage in a specific activity, especially motivation arising from the expectation of punishment or reward (e.g., completing a disliked chore in exchange for payment).”
Extrinsic motivation is tied to the outcome. The activity isn’t performed from enjoyment itself, but because of the result the action will bring. Studies in behavioral psychology have long associated motivation with the dynamic of reward and punishment — where it was assumed people are incentivized to avoid pain or pursue some form of pleasure.
However, recent research has shown the truth is more complex. Self-determination theory, created by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (who created the categories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation) explains motivation as existing on a spectrum. Extrinsic motivation is separated into four groups:
External regulation (external): Activities are carried out purely to satisfy external demands, such as requests from a boss or instructions from a teacher, or for external rewards. It lacks freedom or willingness.
Introjected regulation (somewhat external): Activities carried out due to external pressure, such as avoiding feelings of guilt or shame, or looking to attain ego-enhancements or pride. Although internally driven (and psychological in nature), it still feels restrictive or lacking willingness.
Identified regulation (somewhat internal): This action is more autonomous, due to finding personal importance in an activity. For example, a child studying for a spelling test because they see the overall value of writing. Although requests or demands to act are external, identified regulation has an element of willingness due to an interest in personal growth.
Integrated regulation (internal): This is the overlap between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Integration occurs when someone has fully internalised extrinsic factors, and now takes on the activity fully as their own. This is the most desirable form of extrinsic motivation.
These behaviors move up the scale in terms of how much the person experiences a sense of freedom or autonomy in their behaviour. The first feels completely outside of control, the last feels harmonious, and borderline intrinsic. In experimenting with these above types of extrinsic motivation, Ryan and Connell (1989) referred to this scale as the “continuum of relative autonomy.”
The value of extrinsic motivation, then, is related to this degree of autonomy.
The difference between internal and external motivation
To be clear, extrinsic isn’t the same as external.
Not all rewards are located in the outside world, but rather, exist as inner experiences or feelings. Internal rewards are psychological, while external rewards are tangible, such as money or a certificate of study. Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal reward, including the joy of the task alone. Extrinsic motivation can be driven by internal rewards, external rewards, or a mix of both.
If you’re on the path of self-development and are interested in exploring the reasons behind your behavior, noticing this difference requires reflection and self-awareness. That’s because it might appear you’re intrinsically motivated, when in reality, there is confusion between the internal reward you’re expecting to receive once the task is complete.
Using some personal data as an example, I’ve noticed there have been times where I’ve written articles that, unconsciously, I was looking for some form of validation or praise. It wasn’t my only motivation to write (it’s a practice I find highly rewarding). But at times, when I write a piece that I’m proud of, and the response is less than expected, I become aware of my inner desire for external rewards.
The creative process can be a liberating and joyful experience. But once that creative work is released into the world, the ego can hijack the process, and seek acclaim.
Extrinsic motivators: a closer look
The most common example of extrinsic motivation with a tangible reward is working for money. Many people work in jobs they don’t love due to the guarantee of a paycheck at the end of the month, with the salary, and the security it provides, being enough incentive to turn up each day and work. In terms of internal rewards, or psychological rewards, someone might work in a role due to its acclaim, status, or respect.
A modern form of extrinsic motivation is FOMO — or fear of missing out. During the worldwide lockdowns and restrictions during 2020, FOMO wasn’t much of an issue. Yet now things are opening up, it becomes easier to feel a subtle pull to keep up to speed with what others are doing. Social media shows a constant reel of people’s lives and everything they’re up to. FOMO is the motivation to take part, even if it’s an activity or experience you’re not internally motivated or enthusiastic about.
Although it’s a slang term, FOMO has genuine consequences on wellbeing and behavior. Due to its rise in recent years, FOMO has been scientifically researched, with one study finding it to be “identified as a meaningful extrinsic motive.” Although FOMO is a relatively new phenomenon, acting to maintain self-image, or fit in socially, is part of the human DNA. Ryan and Deci refer to this as ego involvement, “in which a person performs an act in order to enhance or maintain self-esteem and the feeling of worth.”
Extrinsic motivation is also linked to social media and modern smartphones. Our devices and apps are filled with external rewards that provide dopamine hits — think of “likes” on social media, or design techniques, such as the infinite scroll, that keep your attention. Chamath Palihapitiya, the former VC of growth at Facebook, went as far as to express guilt because “the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.”
When it comes to people behaving the way they do, with mental clarity and a strong sense of connection, it’s unlikely most people would choose to spend hours upon hours browsing Facebook or Instagram. Yet once in those feedback loops, the extrinsic rewards affect motivation by getting you hooked to a burst of feel-good chemicals or social validation.
More on extrinsic rewards
Extrinsic rewards aren’t always negative, and their role in motivation is often complex. Think of a student studying to get good grades. If it’s a subject they don’t like, there’s a chance they won’t find much joy in studying itself. Yet the outcome of getting good grades, and progressing in the academic ladder, is enough to make the extrinsic reward a solid motivation.
Like all aspects of human behavior, there are many layers involved. It’s not as straightforward as motivation being intrinsic or extrinsic or motivated internally or externally. There is overlap. For example, in a work setting, someone may be motivated to work extra hard to receive a financial bonus (external reward). They may also have the desire to receive praise from their boss (internal reward). The work they’re doing could be aligned to their values, too, making it intrinsically rewarding.
Another daily example is completing a chore — such as taking out the rubbish or cleaning the flat — which is motivated by the sense of satisfaction that will result once the job’s done. It’s rare these activities are enjoyable. But it’s part of life that there are many occasions in which we have to work through unpleasant, boring, or mundane tasks.
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation: the benefits
In our article on intrinsic motivation, we explored why having intrinsic interest in taking an action is more effective for success over the long run, rather than relying on external factors. Research and peer reviewed studies into motivation has found this to be the case, and much more effective than the approach of avoiding punishment and chasing rewards. Studies find that extrinsic motivation is effective short-term, but loses its impact over longer periods of time.
However, extrinsic motivation isn’t useless. The relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is known as “synergistic combination.” There is a sweet spot, where the internal and external elements of motivation combine and enhance each other — think of the example above, of someone working for the satisfaction of the job, plus the desire to receive a financial bonus.
It’s unrealistic to expect to enter a flow state all day, every day, and to feel intrinsically motivated to carry out every activity. If we waited to feel an inner desire, it’s likely we’d end up procrastinating on many tasks. So while extrinsic motivation isn’t as effective long-term, the short-term effects can be harnessed, under the right circumstances.
There’s a significant difference between relying purely on extrinsic motivation for a full-time job or study, compared to being extrinsically motivated to carry out certain undesirable tasks. A good example of this is treating yourself when you’ve completed a certain task. For example, “once I’ve written 1,000 words, I’ll have a cookie.” Or “if I do my tax returns, I’ll book myself a massage.” And so on.
As long as you’re not using these techniques all the time, their short-term effects can be used skilfully. And keep in mind the four types of extrinsic motivation and the scale of autonomy. You want to avoid external regulation as much as you can and aim for identified regulation and integrated regulation. It’s not quite intrinsic mutation, but the more autonomy in a task, the more fulfilment.
How to make the most of extrinsic motivation in 5 steps
So, how can you implement this knowledge? How can you find the sweet spot of synergy, and move towards implementing the best kind of extrinsic motivation? What is the best way to stay motivated? Below are 5 takeaways from the above research, distilled into practical tools:
1. Examine your motivation inventory
Earlier, I mentioned that extrinsic motivations can be confused with intrinsic motivations. The first step is to examine your motivation inventory, which means looking at all the areas of life in which you take action, and building clarity around the “why” of your behavior.
When looking across the different areas of your life, consider what motivates you. Are there activities that are clearly intrinsically motivated, those you’d do for free in your spare time? Are there obligations or areas in which you’re extrinsically motivated, but lack inner enthusiasm?
This examination also boosts your self-awareness. It allows you to take more conscious control of the way you’re acting. You begin to notice the whys behind your behavior, which gives you the chance to change.
2. Explore what needs to be changed
Once you have examined your motivations, and where they reside on the spectrum, the next step is to see what needs to be changed. What enhancements can you make? Are there adjustments in your approach? Do you need to swap some external motivators for more intrinsically motivated ones? For example, quitting a class you don’t find interesting, and replacing that with an activity you find internally rewarding.
Are there areas of life where you’re constantly taking action due to introjected regulation, to avoid guilt or to find praise? Are there certain areas of life where you feel you’re only acting because of external pressure? People-pleasing is a common cause of acting outside of what feels fully aligned for the sake of ego involvement.
When reflecting on your motivation inventory, consider what actions you’re doing because of others, and consider letting them go.
3. Adjust your mindset
Integrated regulation demonstrates that it’s possible to internalize a cause, even if the motivation starts externally. For example, internalizing the goals and ethos of a company. This is a shift in mindset, rather than a change in environment. To adjust your mindset to maximize integrated regulation, consider how the activity aligns with your core values.
For example, you might work in a job where the work itself isn’t exciting. You could consider a job with different challenges, of course. But are there other options? Could it be that you’re part of a great team, and your values of connection and supporting others adds a level of intrinsic motivation to do your job well?
This step is designed to look below the surface to discover causes you can connect to, to make what you do more fulfilling and enjoyable. A student might connect with the values of learning, a churchgoer might connect to values of community, even when these acts in themselves aren’t particularly enjoyable.
4. Use extrinsic rewards skillfully
I used the example of writing 1,000 words and earning a cookie earlier. This is a practice that can be used to boost motivation (and… eat cookies). You’re bargaining with yourself, but it does work. If there are areas in life where you’re struggling or procrastinating, consider setting up extrinsic rewards to give you a boost.
Word of caution: this isn’t to be overused. I had a friend who once used the extrinsic reward of a pint of beer and a takeaway after successfully going to gym class! You can see the issue there. So consider, how can I maximize rewards and use them intelligently?
Using extrinsic rewards for motivation doesn’t have to be a daily occurrence. It could be that you work hard for a few weeks and get ahead with your projects, feel satisfied with the levels of productivity and self-discipline, and take a weekend vacation, or completely “switch off.”
5. Know what you want from life
This last step is really the foundation for all of the above. I’ve mentioned core values and self-awareness. It goes without saying, inner clarity around what is meaningful, what motivates you, and what your values are is crucial in order to orientate yourself and know when you’re on the right track.
In today’s society, it’s easy to be motivated extrinsically. Without awareness, the default setting is to act in accordance with social or cultural demands, or peer pressure. You might feel motivated to get ahead, be a success, even if it doesn’t feel quite right. This can keep you in a rut, chasing money or praise without examining the underlying why.
With added clarity, you’ll know what you want. Then you can understand your deepest motivation, or what your Big Why, and gradually align your life with that.
The beauty is, once aligned, motivation takes care of itself, and it builds momentum. When momentum builds and motivation flows, that’s when you start to believe in chasing your dreams. You’re almost exactly where you need be. Take the first step.
Your friend or someone you know has gotten fired from every job they’ve ever had. Their dates always flake on them and their friends always betray them. The common theme: it’s never their fault and if you press them on it you’re the one to blame.
According to a team of psychologists in Israel, these types of people may have a toxic personality disorder called “tendency for interpersonal victimhood” (TIV), which they describe as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships.”
People with TIV wholly and truly believe they are never wrong and that their victimhood is a core part of their identity.
How to tell if someone ‘plays the victim?’
Not everyone who feels victimized is toxic. Bad things do happen and it’s okay to be upset about it.
Rather, TIV occurs when someone constantly feels like a victim and they bring others down with them.
Rahav Gabay and her colleagues determined that people with TIV tend to have four dimensions:
Constantly seeking recognition
Of all the allegedly horrible things that happen to someone with TIV, people never apologize to them. Worse, they don’t even acknowledge their wrongdoing.
While apologies can be hard to come by, this only becomes an issue when the person who plays the victim is in desperate search of recognition for the supposed bad things that are done to them.
A sense of moral elitism
People with TIV are never wrong. In fact, their moral compass is better than everyone else’s and they use this assumption to manipulate others into their own perspective.
This behavior may be a defense mechanism as a way to maintain a positive self-image.
Lack of empathy for others
Everything that happens to TIV people is the absolute worst and no one else’s pain or suffering matters, or so they think. This can especially be toxic in a relationship as TIV people only care about their own problems, never others’.
The route of this behavior can be that since the person believes they have suffered so much, they don’t think anyone else deserves empathy for their suffering.
This lack of empathy can also show up in a group or national level in the form of “competitive victimhood” or an “egoism of victimhood” where members of a group cannot see things from another group’s perspective.
Rumination about past victimization
Since romantic relationships never worked out in the past for TIV people, there’s no chance they’ll work in the future. This is a fallacy as the past doesn’t dictate the future, but it’s a core belief of people who always play the victim.
Always ruminating about past grievances and thinking it reflects the future is something perpetual victims tend to do.
Why TIV is toxic
People who always play the victim are extremely difficult to deal with because they’re selfish and never wrong.
They’re also obsessed with seeking revenge for those who’ve wronged them and may punish others who had nothing to do with it just because they’ve been wronged before.
Forgiving is part of growth
We all play the victim from time to time. Sometimes bad things really do happen to us and it makes us sour.
The problem is when the victimhood because constant and when the person never learns from their mistakes. It’s also problematic when they never forgive others – you don’t know what everyone is going through and nobody’s perfect.
Ultimately, the problem with playing the victim is it doesn’t allow you to learn or grow from the past. If you don’t acknowledge your faults, how can you make adjustments for the future?
If you know someone who’s always playing a victim, it might be time to reduce your relationship with them or have a frank discussion about it. Life is too short to be surrounded by toxic people.
My mom prefers to act as though we have a great relationship. She pretends, she tells stories, then she covers up her lies with bigger lies. And back when I thought it was possible to move the dial on our relationship, her default move was to play the victim.
Outgrowing my childhood wounds
I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because after all, she was the self-proclaimed ‘best mom’ who did ‘everything for her kids.’
The truth, unfortunately, was far from it.
So, with her strong denial of my reality and her inability to let go of the selfishness, control and manipulative behavior that caused so much pain in the first place, healing the fallout from our relationship was a journey I walked alone.
Sometimes, the apple can fall far from its tree
Healing from my relationship with my mom meant being brutally honest about my childhood. As anyone who has a tough relationship with a parent will tell you, it’s not easy to admit. You almost feel ashamed that your story is different than the beautiful nuclear family that’s so readily advertised, so your first instinct is to hide it.
Shortly after my mom’s divorce, her best friend (and our aunt) came for a visit. She sat with me and asked how long I knew about my mom’s affair (which, to make things more complicated, was with my dad’s sister’s husband). I let her know that my mom told me about their relationship when I was about 5. She was baffled that an adult would share something so heavy with a child.
Granted her surprise, I skipped the details about how my mom not only blatantly continued her affair in front of my sibling and I, but she also used us to lie to our dad on her behalf, treat her lover like a father (while she vilified our dad), and spend the majority of our free-time with the two of them while they played house.
“Promise, to never be like your mom”
Even with the little my aunt did know, she still found it revolting enough to have me promise that I would never be like my mom.
I think about that day often. It was about 15 years ago, and I’ve come a heck of a long way. I’ve put in a lot of work to end the generational trauma of affairs, violence, chronic lying and shame induced manipulation tactics– and frankly, it’s the best gift I could have given myself.
So, no matter what your pain, how similar or how different it may be than mine, I wish the same healing for you.
Learning to re-mother myself
With a mother that was entirely preoccupied with her affair and her societal image, and a father I watched dwindle into an alcoholic, then into a violent threat in the household, good parenting was hard to come by.
But none of that really became apparent until I entered my first serious relationship. It was then that things started bubbling up. I was anxious. The feeling of someone walking away felt like being abandoned. My anger was always just one misunderstanding away and I had a complete inability to self-soothe. I felt like a child masquerading as an adult.
It was only when I started walking the path of self-development that I learned the vocabulary I needed to address the root causes of my issues, many stemming from my upbringing.
I learned about my attachment style and how it repeated itself in romantic relationships, I learned about co-dependency and the necessity of boundaries and I learned about how my anger was really just poorly veiled sadness.
But, I didn’t just wake up with that knowledge, I found them in the pages of books that changed my life. Here are a few of the books:
-Healing the Wounds of Childhood by Don St John, Ph.D.
-Unconditional Forgiveness by Mary Hayes Grieco
-Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
-Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix
-Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
Through this work, I found validation, empowerment through information and the tools I needed to parent myself.
I also combined this with journaling and affirmations, a powerful combination of tools that allowed me to rewire my psychology and take small, daily steps towards betterment.
Positive change slowly but surely happened
It was only when I was well on this journey of understanding and resolving my earliest experiences that I started to find relationships that were of a higher quality.
Since then, many mentors have appeared in my life who later shared about their similar childhoods, I’ve stumbled upon podcasts and other nuggets of information that have helped me change in massive ways, and best of all, I’ve learned to love in a way that doesn’t hurt.
I guess it’s true what they say, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,’ and I believe that you being here and reading this is a cornerstone to your healing journey.
It will not be easy, but it will most definitely be worth the inner peace that you find on the other end.
In my journey, I’ve learned to own my story and integrate it into my life’s narrative in a way that strengthens my purpose. Now, when I see dynamics similar to my own, I can’t look away. So, here I am creating. I hope this helps.
The year is 2019, and 81-year-old, two-time Oscar-winner Jane Fonda is being arrested for the fourth week in a row. Her crime? “Non-violent disobedience.”
While being arrested, Jane takes the time to thank the BAFTAs for her lifetime achievement award– she will not make it to the awards ceremony, because she is protesting climate change outside the Capitol Building.
But Grace and Frankie star Jane Fonda’s history as an activist stretches back four decades. She has been both loved and hated for her dedication to her principles, but remains passionate about the issues she supports today as she was when she began her journey.
Today, we see activists marching the streets of America and the entire world on the single topic of climate change, but Fonda’s colorful journey is one to explore.
How did she become such a fearless crusader?
Jane’s first act of activism
As the daughter of Hollywood royalty (her dad was Oscar-winner Henry Fonda of 12 Angry Men, On Golden Pond), Jane grew up in the spotlight before owning it herself.
She built a career as a starlet and sex symbol by starring in films like The Chase and Barbarella, but though she was born in the shadow of her father’s success, Jane has always been determined to blaze her own path.
Jane made her first public display of activism during the Vietnam war, using her high profile to bring attention to the causes she was passionate about– and faced major backlash for doing so. Despite this, she forged a critically-acclaimed career, winning her first Oscar and refusing to star in movies that she didn’t feel held value for the public. This decision led to her second Oscar win, for a film about a Vietnam vet’s struggles.
Jane then branched out into comedies, starring in the hit movie 9 to 5 with close friend (and future Grace and Frankie co-star Lily Tomlin) and built a work-out video empire.
Then she announced her retirement. Things seemed over for Jane– but that was far from the truth.
Second act: learning from her mistakes
Jane Fonda became known as “Hanoi Jane” for her Vietnam activism and many say this was by far the most overboard she has ever gone to raise awareness of an issue she supports. In fact, this is where she started to gain enemies toward her activism.
In 1970, Jane was falsely arrested for drug trafficking and detained, although her bag contained only vitamins. It was a moment that would set the tone for her future protests and arrests.
Jane’s loyalty to the USA has been questioned for many years. Many see her alleged “Anti-War” protests as “Anti-American” because she seemed to blatantly speak against the U.S. Soldiers
In later years, Jane has reflected upon and apologized for posing in the iconic picture:
I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.
Jane Fonda to Barbara Walters
Second act: Growing from mistakes
The mistakes she made in her youth have led Jane to be more informed and to think more carefully and critically about the causes she supports.
Today, she is still out and about doing marches and “Fire Drills” to raise awareness of climate change, with support from other famous friends like Joaquin Phoenix and Ted Danson.
Jane has said in numerous interviews that she doesn’t care to get arrested as many times as it takes to make her point, while acknowledging that her privilege as a celebrity affords her the ability to do so. Spoken like a true activist.
Though critics of Fonda say she goes overboard with her statements and actions, those closest to her say that her activism is what keeps demons at bay and keeps her going and youthful.
It’s time for a third act
“I divided my life into three acts of 30 years each because every 30 years, I tend to change.”
Jane Fonda, HBO
Jane emerged from retirement in 2005, reinvigorated by years of experience out of the celebrity world. In addition to acclaimed performances on the stage and in film, Jane and best friend Lily co-starred in 7 seasons of Grace and Frankie. The show follows two best friends whose marriages have abruptly ended due to their husbands’ infidelity, as is all about them rediscovering their joie de vivre.
As Jane told HBO, “At the beginning of my third act, I realized — holy sh*t — I don’t know who I am. I was 60 and thought, I have maybe 30 more years. Third acts are important and can pull the rest together. So, I went about studying myself, which meant studying my parents and grandparents. Those are the people who determine who you are — who you then spend the rest of your life healing from. One of the things I hope people come away feeling is a need to examine their lives.”
This is a profound personal development statement that rings true to most all people of any age and in any stage of life.
Through this realization, Jane has made peace with herself, ending her marriage and embracing her third act as a single woman.
I’m single, which makes me very happy.
Jane Fonda, Vanity Fair
She has also gone deep into contributing to the following charities:
Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
Elton John AIDS Foundation
Los Angeles LGBT Center
Peace Over Violence
What we can learn from Jane
While not everyone agrees with Jane’s personal beliefs or motivations, we can all learn from her approach– fearlessly embracing her opinions and living in accordance with them, whatever the cost.
One of the rights we all hold dear is the right to speak our opinion, and to be heard. This is not a right to be heard if and only if you support one cause or the other, but a right that we all possess. We can see that Jane Fonda simply followed what her heart believed, and that can be interpreted many ways.
Jane’s story teaches us that our story doesn’t end when we are struggling or when we reach a certain age. Through each act of her life, she experienced highs and lows, made mistakes and learned from them.
In your second and third acts, you, too, can grow and adapt while still being true to the beliefs and convictions that make up the core of who you are.
I love mistakes because it’s the only way you learn. You don’t learn from successes; you don’t learn from awards; you don’t learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that’s the truth.