Friday, December 5, 2014

Silver Linings Makeover

I am so done with self-improvement.

Thank God.  It was exhausting!  What with the constant recognition of my shortcomings, the seeking of remedies, the futile attempts at changing ingrained behaviors and personality traits, and of course, the forgetting of what I started only to blunder into another reminder of my imperfection.

I really hate being a work-in-progress at my age.  Truly, truly, I do.

But that’s OK.  They’re all in the past now, my foibles.  Something to chuckle about over a snifter of brandy.  A fleeting wisp of whom I once was.  A ship smoke on the horizon (thank you Pink Floyd).

But how can it be, you might ask.  How can someone so faulty, so incomplete, so blemished, so, so… Hey!  Watch yourself!   

But it’s a fair question.  How can a person be so swiftly transformed?

Easy peasy!  Modern science has relieved me of the burden of trying!  I’ve learned that I need only quit struggling and live my life without further concern for those around me.  Other people can just deal.  Take me, my idiosyncrasies and faux pas for what they are – signs of my bright, charming and capable alter-self.  Ha!

Oh yes.  Science to the rescue! 

Researchers in the Psychology Department at New York University report that holding a “silver lining theory,” that is a sort of common-sense belief that being socially inept, for example, holds a hidden benefit of some sort, actually proves itself to be true!

That’s right, according to these guys:  Believing that a negative personality trait has a positive ‘silver lining’ is enough to boost performance in that area.

Psyblog reviewed the results of the study in their article entitled, “How to Turn Character Flaws into Strengths with One Easy Mental Trick.” 

It’s perfect!  It plays right into my strong suit – mind games.  I fool myself all the time:  This bite-sized Snickers won’t lead to another; no one notices my white roots; Words with Friends is a worthwhile use of my time.

I couldn’t wait to start hoodwinking myself right out of my imperfections.  Better living through chicanery!

“People know that a weakness can also be a strength but these results show that if we actually believe it, we can use these beliefs to our advantage.” 

So says Alexandra Wesnousky, the study’s lead author, who probably believes that her penchant for flimflam is a virtue:

In her experiment, participants were manipulated into believing they were impulsive.

Then half were told that there is a scientifically proven link between impulsiveness and creativity.  The other half were told the link was rubbish.

In fact, until this study, there was little evidence either way — the ‘science’ was fabricated to help people believe – or not – in the connection.

But then get this – The results of the experiment showed that participants who accepted the association between impulsiveness and creativity performed better than those who did not on a subsequent test of creativity!

Go go go, you implusive you!  You can invent anything you want!

Now this study only tested the silver lining relationship between impulsiveness and creativity, but participants freely advocated all sorts of unseen benefits to personal traits they thought of as negative. 

For example, those characterized as careless claimed a hidden benefit of being good-natured.  OK…

Your mom says you’re lazy, but no!  That’s not the whole story.  Lazy’s happy ending is patience!  Yeah, that’s the ticket!

You annoy your co-workers by being over-analytical?  Ha!  At least you’re thorough, unlike some others unnamed here.

Pessimistic?  Realistic!  Shy…modest.  It’s all good.  No character development required!  My kind of problem solving.

It’s not important whether the silver linings are ‘true,’ just that people believe that they are. 

Oh, I believe.

And that’s the scientific Zen of my makeover – recognizing that I’m already there.  My flaws are virtues:  My tendency to know-it-all is counterbalanced by my generous habit of correcting others.

Take that, you smug self-help gurus!  So what if I blurt out the truth in situations that call for a polite white washing of the uncomfortably obvious.  That only means I’m insightful.

The beauty of my penchant for procrastination?  An enviable ability to live in the now. 

Socially inept?  So what?  The merits of solitude are many.

And the upside of being a curmudgeon?  Isn't it obvious?  An irascible sense of humor!