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    HOW DID WE COME TO MISTAKE SELF IMPORTANCE FOR INDIVIDUALISM?

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    From the bustling streets of the city to the quaint corner shops, modern urban life is a tapestry of interesting places and diverse individuals, each with their own peculiarities and preferences. Sitting on my balcony observing the world below, I thought back to a recently overheard conversation at a nearby café – a seemingly trivial exchange that revealed a deeper societal shift.

    Customer; ‘With the scrambled eggs, can you cook them without milk?’

    Server; ‘Oh, we might. I’ll ask the kitchen. Why … are you lactose intolerant?’

    Customer; ‘No, I just don’t like milk in my scrambled eggs. It makes them too lightly coloured.’

    Customer; ‘And with the toast, can you put the butter on the side?’

    Server; ‘Oh, okay. So no butter then?’

    Customer (annoyed); ‘Yes, I want butter. I just want to butter it myself the way I like.’

    Customer; ‘And actually, while I have you, can we move to the table over there, by the window?’

    Server;‘You mean that table for six? For the two of you?’

    Customer; ‘Yes, thanks so much.’

    Fortunately I had not eaten my own breakfast yet as I may have actually puked it.

    This exchange serves as a warning of a broader cultural phenomenon which we should strive to stamp out. Born out of the groundswell of the US self-help industry, the ‘toddler-adult’ mentality has somehow crept past border control. This 1970s and 80s movement was meant to encourage and arm the meek, draw out some confidence in the under-appreciated and subversive, and remind us all of our inherent value as individuals. Somewhere along the way, it became distorted and misunderstood, leaving many of us to somehow conclude we were the only person on the planet.

    The personal finance and wellness industries have since played their part in reinforcing this; what was initially intended as a gentle reminder of our self-worth has transformed into a belief that we are not just important, but more important than others. Life has now become less about recognising our needs, and more about unabashedly pursuing our wants, while pushing others aside and shedding any guilt associated with our demands.

    Luckily the view from the balcony offers a unique vantage point – it’s a space that encourages reflection and contemplation, and from here I can ponder how on one hand, the celebration of individuality has led to personal empowerment, allowing us to express and assert ourselves authentically, but on the flip side, it has fostered a sense of entitlement, blurring the line between what we truly need and what we mistakenly desire. In the pursuit of the ‘more more more’ we’ve lost sight of the satisfying simplicity of having everything we need – the ‘enough’.

    Our importance shouldn’t lie in our sudden ability to grant every fleeting wish, but in our capacity to connect with others, to empathise, and to contribute meaningfully to the fabric of society. True fulfillment is found not only in the pursuit of our individual desires but also in the cultivation of a collective well-being, to value the moments of shared experience and the joy that can be derived from acts of goodwill, empathy, and genuine human connection. 

    Can you count five random acts of kindness you have performed? I’m struggling.

    So, let us step each out onto our own metaphorical balconies, embrace the beauty of both our individuality and our interconnectedness, and from this viewpoint, find harmony both within and with the world around us.

    And meanwhile, just get over ourselves. 

    Derek Green
    Derek Greenhttps://theescapegoat.com
    I'd rather die wandering than die wondering. Read more of my travel escapades at: theescapegoat.com

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