This Article Is Not About Mental Health
I have a confession: I lied to you in the title. This article is most definitely about mental health, but you wouldn't have read it if I said that, so here we are¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Now that I have your attention, let’s discuss our mental health.
In this article, I wanted to tackle a subject many people avoid—cognitive dissonance. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. To explain this theory in simpler terms: when someone learns of information or facts that challenge a deeply held belief or idea, a conflict develops in their mind. To bring order (cognitive consonance), one might either flat out ignore the conflict or they might change their belief to restore balance.
When unsure of a topic, I learn as much as possible, and then I try to apply what I’ve learned to real-world examples. Concerning cognitive dissonance, we don’t have to look much further than the internet for notable examples on any given topic.
Take this person below, for example. This woman, who I’m sure is a fine person, says she is an animal lover (Picture 1). I even believe it because she wrote to Vogue magazine slamming them for promoting rabbits as ethical meat (Picture 2). Then she responds to someone talking about hosting a steak fry (Picture 3). If this animal lover is so invested in protecting and conserving animals, why is she morally or ethically okay with hosting a steak fry? It strains credulity.
I’m not trying to slam her; it’s just an example of how someone can have opposing views on the same topic and reconcile when it suits them. Turns out she is an aspiring country singer who was hosting the steak fry for a promotional show. She decided her career was more important than her beliefs about animal cruelty.
There is a crisis of integrity in our society today. Instead of sticking to our morals and principles—we are reconciling those beliefs in order to advance an egocentric agenda. Why else would people who care so deeply about the environment also go on vacations?
In this following example, we observe a self-righteous prick who loves to talk about his selfless environmentalism while taking yearly vacations with his family. So, which is it? Is he an environmentalist, or does he want to go on vacations? My view on this is simple: you don’t get to go on yearly (and apparently long) vacations and call yourself an environmentalist. Those fake environmentalists who flew 118 private jets to the COP26 Climate Summit emitted over 1,000 tons of CO2 into the air fit into this example as well. Can’t have it both ways—sweetheart.
I think I’ve made my point with the examples—now we move on to how we can fix this situation. Unfortunately, it will take work and a shit load of willpower. First, we need to start being honest about everything. Then, when faced with facts, we need to work on doing a deep dive to reconcile some of our beliefs instead of just ignoring them and kicking the can down the road.
One of the most critical pieces of mental health is introspection. I’d even go as far as to say that I believe introspection is the most important. If you cannot do an honest and thorough examination of yourself and your emotions, you are equally unable to practice positive mental health living.
When you see the empty grocery store shelves, don’t just go home and complain about it on your social feeds. Instead, go out and plant a garden. I don’t want to hear from the apartment crowd on this one because my partner, Christopher David, grew a whole damn garden in the apartment with some grow lights. Use your space and work within your limitations—don’t just use them as an excuse for inaction.
Continuing with the theme of cognitive dissonance, another area we need to work on to improve our mental health is not ignoring when someone does something to you that you are uncomfortable with. I’ve written in previous articles about the need for boundaries in every relationship of your life. Your boundaries should be reasonable and enforced 100% of the time regardless of who is violating them. When I say reasonable, I mean you can’t have a boundary, for example, where no one is allowed to touch you, but you’re allowed to touch other people. That boundary is unreasonable.
If someone violates your boundary, you must take swift action to establish how you feel and what you need to be changed to correct the situation. If the people you are with respect and value you, they will respect your boundary and adjust their actions accordingly. On the contrary, should the person belittle or mock your boundary, it’s time to evaluate your relationship.
Firm boundaries do not make you selfish or self-centered—it is self-love in its purest form. Take up your own cause because if you show respect for yourself, you will, in turn, show others how you expect to be treated. Never allow your peace to be interrupted by anyone else’s bullshit—especially someone who isn't helping you push that rock up that fucking hill.
There will come a time when you are faced with the cognitive dissonance of thinking you have a friend when what you really have is someone actively keeping you down. You have two choices: pretend everything is okay or come out of that mental corner swinging. Whether through their own pathological needs, or your lack of self-respect, they have remained in your life too long. It’s a tough choice to create consonance once more by living your life unabated by harmful people; just as spring cleaning leaves you with a renewed sense of spirit, so too does trimming away attachments holding you down.
Collapse is all around us, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. So what do we do when all we’ve known is rapidly disintegrating faster than we can comprehend or keep up with? We could crawl into a ball and cry until the end of time, or we could grab our mental health by the balls and prepare ourselves for a future with less. Do yourself a favor and choose the latter. Take the time now to work on your mental health so that when collapse really gets going, you can help those around you who did not have the foresight to prep their mental health in addition to their pantry.
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