There are life skills that are crucial to being a functional adult, such as doing taxes and time management. Then there are life skills that are not necessary, but can bring you great joy. Being able to flip a pancake without making a mess falls in the latter category. You could use an instrument such as a spatula or a plate to help, but it takes away much of the satisfaction. Here are some tips on how to flip a pancake successfully.
Firstly, the bottom side of the pancake needs to be cooked enough that it will maintain its shape during the flip. You can judge this by looking for bubbles rising to the top surface and checking that the top is not runny.
Secondly, the pancake must not stick to the pan. Use plenty of oil to start with on a non-stick pan, then slide the pancake around in a circular motion to confirm that it will easily slide off the pan.
Thirdly, the flip must be a smooth, rounded motion so that the pancake flips just the right amount. Tilt the pan forward so the pancake sits near the rim, then flick your wrists upwards so that the pancake slides up the rim, making an arc in the air, flipping 180 degrees. With careful hand-eye coordination, catch the pancake in the middle of the pan just when the uncooked side is facing the ground.
But above all that, the most important factor is confidence.
If you are not confident enough and don’t flick the pan enough, the pancake will not make a full 180 degree turn. It will quickly fall back into the pan on an angle, crumpling or folding it. If it wasn’t flipped high enough, you won’t have enough time to catch it properly and it may land on the edge, making a big mess.
If you are overzealous and flick it too hard, the pancake will go flying off or it will turn too much, causing the same problem as above.
Much like so many other things in life, finding the balance and having just the right amount of confidence can bring you great joy in the form of a delicious pancake.
Each and every one of us have two selves: the self we truly are in our mind and hearts and the self we present to the world. Let us call these the inner self and outer self. For the most part, we know both our inner and outer selves quite well, because we know what we are thinking and feeling and we consciously control what image we show to other people. But because we cannot read minds, we usually only know the outer selves of other people.
Our inner self is somewhat difficult to change consciously as it is mostly shaped by our natural personalities, our upbringing and environmental factors such as life experience. On contrast, we have the ability to change how others see us through various ways. We wear smart clothing to suggest we are well-cultured, we tell jokes to give the image of a funny person and we emphasise our strengths while downplaying our weaknesses and insecurities to show our best possible side. Because of this, it is unfair to compare yourself (your “inner self”) to others (their “outer self”). The “perfect” person you are comparing yourself to may just be an outer shell shielding that person’s weak, insecure inner self that is no better than you.
We all have our own demons and insecurities, but no one wants others to know as all we see in society are strong, charismatic, charming outer selves and we seem so weak in comparison. In the end, we all live behind masks to try fit into a world full of masked people, too afraid of showing our true selves and being hurt.
Then how can we truly connect if we are all pretending to be different people? Always remember that others are just as afraid of lowering their mask as you are. You cannot expect the other person to open up to you first when you are not prepared to yourself. On the other hand, you cannot be hurt when they are reluctant to open up just because you have. To show your inner self means leaving yourself to be vulnerable, so it is understandable for people to take time for it to happen. All you can do is to let yourself be vulnerable first and show the other person that you are just as weak and scared as they are. That is the cost of connection.
Mirrors are perhaps one of the most useful yet underrated inventions that we use every day. From shaving in the morning to fixing make-up during lunch, the modern man or woman will use a mirror (or some other reflective surface) at least once a day. Mirrors show us an accurate reflection of the world that we cannot see. We can only look forwards and need a mirror to reflect light going the opposite way to see behind us or – more importantly – ourselves. To do this, a mirror must directly reflect every photon (particles that make up light) at exactly the right angle so the image is not distorted. If the mirror is not completely flat or perfectly polished, light will not be reflected at the exact angle and we will see a distorted image – much like looking into a mirror at the circus. Therefore, one could say that a perfectly flat, clean mirror is absolutely honest, as it will reflect exactly as it sees.
However, this statement is not entirely true as what you see in the mirror is a mirror image of reality. This may seem trivial, but it has significant consequences. This is most obvious when you hold a book up to a mirror. Without training, it is very difficult to read something that is mirrored. This is why Leonardo da Vinci wrote his notes in mirror image. This phenomenon of something becoming completely different is also seen in chemistry. Because of the way molecules are arranged, it is possible to have a property called chirality – where two molecules with the same elemental composition are built in the mirror image of one another. Essentially, it is as if the molecule can be either left- or right-handed. It turns out that even if the composition is the same, two molecules of different chirality (called enantiomers) can act completely differently. This effect may be as simple as changing the way a liquid polarises light to making a drug completely inert or even toxic. For example, the amino acid carvone that gives the spearmint taste only tastes like spearmint if it is L-carvone (“left-handed”), whereas D-carvone (“right-handed”) is tasteless despite having the same molecular formula.
Since the topic of chirality is rather technical and hard to understand, let us move on to the field of literature. One of the best examples of how mirrors can completely change something is seen in Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Lewis Carroll understood the significance of mirror images in chemistry and wrote this novel to portray how quirky and strange a “mirror world” may be. Through the Looking Glass is a sequel to the famous book Alice in Wonderland and describes a world that is the mirror image of Wonderland. Carroll cleverly wrote the first book so that it would be the opposite of the first book. The first book starts outdoors, is set in the summer, uses changes in size as a plot device and focuses on the theme of trump cards. The second book starts indoors, is set in the winter, uses changes in direction as a plot device and draws on the theme of chess. There are even characters such as Hatta and Haigha who are the mirror images of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare from the previous book. Although they are very similar, they are just not the same and hence Alice does not recognise them. Perhaps the line that best shows Carroll’s understanding of the dangers of mirror worlds is this: “Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink”.
The field of psychology is also heavily interested in mirrors. It is a well-known fact that our brains recognise the purpose of mirrors. If you put a mirror in front of someone, you know that the person will examine themselves, groom themselves or simply make funny poses. A simple experiment shows how used to mirrors we are. If you angle two mirrors at right angles and fit a transparent sheet of glass in front of the two to make a prism shape, the image you see through the glass is a reflection that is not mirrored. Because it is not mirrored, you can hold up a book to it and still read it fine. This is known as a non-reflecting mirror. An interesting experiment shows that if you make people use this kind of mirror, they become incredibly confused as they are too used to using a mirror image to see themselves. Even though the reflection they see is a “truer” image, because their brain automatically flips the mirrored image, they become uncoordinated and keep moving their hands in the opposite direction.
As mentioned at the start, mirrors are a human invention. Although reflection occurs in nature, such as on a clear surface of water, animals generally are incapable of using mirrors. This is such a universal fact that animal psychologists use a mirror test to determine whether a specie of animal is self-aware or not. The test is done by showing an animal a mirror. Most animals will see their reflection and automatically believe that it is another animal, as they are incapable of thinking that it is a reflection of themselves. Hence, they will try to threaten, attack or flee from the image they see. But if you show a higher-order animal such as an ape or dolphin a mirror, they will start to groom themselves as they realize that the mirror is simply showing themselves.
This is what sets us apart from animals. Not only are we capable of recognizing ourselves in a mirror, but we have the ability to go one step further and reflect on ourselves using the mirror of our minds. Some people may take a look at the person in this mirror and be content with who they are. But some will gaze into the mirror and, much like the animals in the mirror test experiments, see a completely different person they do not recognise. This may cause disappointment, frustration or even disgust as we realize that we are not who we think we are or aspire to be. Then again, sometimes you will gaze into the mirror and see a person that has strengths such as courage – a person you could be if you realized your true potential. The most frightening realisation would be to discover that there is no one in the mirror.
Lastly, we could consider the mirror of behaviour. Goethe said that “behaviour is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image”. The corollary to this is that human beings read behaviour to try and interpret another person’s character. One can use this to greatly improve the relationship and connection with another person. Mirroring is the act of subtly copying the other person’s behaviour to build rapport– where an empathic bridge is constructed between two people. Rapport is particularly useful in jobs that involve earning the trust of strangers in a short time, such as in healthcare or business. By matching the other person’s body language, such as posture or actions like taking a sip of water, the other person will open up more easily to you. The same applies to verbal and emotional mirroring where you subtly reuse the words the other person spoke and reflect their emotions such as excitement. Obviously, one must be subtle with mirroring as a direct imitation will appear mocking and strange. If you are able to subtly copy their behaviour, the other person’s subconscious mind will be tricked into thinking that you are similar in character and trust you more. This skill is extremely useful in improving your interpersonal and social skills.
A mirror is a paradoxical object that is absolutely honest yet relatively deceitful. Reflections in the mirror are true yet completely different. If you take a peek into the mirror of your mind, perhaps you will see the person you think you are now or the person you could be in a mirror world. If you are happy with what you see, then cherish that and be proud of who you are. Otherwise, you can always do what Alice did and jump through the looking-glass to find an alternate you – the best you that you can be.
Have you ever had a day (or in some people’s cases, their whole life) where you cannot help but think that everyone is judging you because your hair just does not look right? Almost everyone has at least one “bad hair day”, when they feel self-conscious about their appearance and how others in society perceive them. Depending on the person’s general confidence level and self-esteem, the effect of a bad hair day can range from being harmless to completely ruining someone’s mood.
A psychologist named Professor Marianne LaFrance at Yale University decided to study how physical appearance affects people’s feelings. She separated 120 volunteers into three groups. Group 1 was asked to recall a bad hair day, group 2 was told nothing (control group) and group 3 was asked to recall a day in which they had difficulty opening a package (bad experience unrelated to appearance). She then measured the change in mood among the participants to see how the memory of a bad hair day could affect mood and self-esteem. To no surprise, the results showed that those who recalled a bad hair day suffered from much lower self-esteem and mood. Group 1 felt less smart and confident compared to the other groups and felt “embarrassed” in general.
The reason for the drop in self-esteem is that we are socially educated to feel that we are judged on our appearance. We have an inherent belief that an untidy appearance will mean that others will judge us as being unorganised, unprofessional and not trustworthy. This applies to anything that might potentially affect our image, such as an embarrassing moment or an unsightly accident. We become fixated on this idea and shine a “social spotlight” on ourselves, thinking that any embarrassing moment for us will be instantly judged by those around us. In psychology, this is known as the spotlight effect and it can be quite a powerful effect.
But here is the kicker: nobody cares. We have a psychological tendency to overreact to such situations where a spotlight might be turned on us, when in truth, others do not notice it as much as we think they do. There have been many experiments (mostly involving university students) where surveys showed that fellow students barely paid attention to or had little recollection of another student’s embarrassing moments or dishevelled appearances. Although it may have been the most embarrassing moment in the person’s life, to other people, it is at best a comedic happening that fades away in their memories.
So the next time you feel that others are judging you and you feel the blinding spotlight on you, just remember: the greatest, and only important judge of your character, is yourself.
If I was to put a yellow ball in front of you and ask what colour the ball is, you would confidently say “yellow”. As you say, the ball appears yellow, but the answer is technically wrong. Strictly speaking, the ball itself is not yellow – it is merely reflecting the colour yellow. The ball only appears yellow because we see the yellow part of the natural light spectrum bouncing off the ball. We cannot say that the essence of the ball is “yellow”. For example, if you were to look at the ball through a red lens, the yellow light would be filtered and you would see a black ball. A person with a certain kind of colour blindness would say the ball has a bluish hue. A butterfly, which sees the ultraviolet spectrum as well, would see a colour we cannot even name.
Human beings judge objects using the vision. We describe an object as we see it and store that information in our brain to define the object. For this purpose, the fact that a colour blind person or a butterfly sees the ball a different colour is irrelevant to us. All we need to know is that object appears yellow to us. But this is only the case for objects. Let us imagine the ball is a person. If everyone in the world sees you as a yellow ball, would that make you a yellow ball? Of course not. However, people worry too much about how others see them. Although other people’s perception does not change our true nature in the slightest, we even go as far as erasing or abandoning our nature to look good in front of another person. Thus, whether our essence is white, black, red, blue or technicolour, when others see us as yellow, we have a tendency to try desperately to become yellow.
If the world says you are a yellow ball, act crazy and be a red ball. There is not a single reason you should have to hide your true nature. Have confidence in your essence. There is nothing wrong with that.
Two psychologists, Bob Josephs and Pran Mehta, performed an interesting experiment studying the how extroverted and introverted people react differently to a rigged game. They told a pair of participants to play a game where they had to draw lines to connect numbers in sequence as they popped up in a grid. They also told them that it was to study their spatial awareness and intelligence. The pair were given the game in a competitive setting at the same time so one could tell if they were “winning” or not. The grid could be easily rigged to determine who would win. Josephs and Mehta posited that men and women with high testosterone levels would have high confidence in their spatial awareness, while those with low testosterone would be the opposite. What they found was quite interesting.
When those with high confidence in their abilities lost a game, they were more distressed relative to when they won (as measure by their cortisol, a stress hormone, level). Those with low confidence were more distressed when they won a game. Furthermore, after winning a game these participants would show a fall in their ability to reason and solve logic problems.
The reason behind this perplexing result is likely to be a cause of “mismatch”. It has been hypothesised that human beings are very protective of their self-identity and when this is challenged, they try stubbornly to rationalise their identity even if it means a negative outcome. For example, a person who believes they are not creative will dress and act to show this trait, even if it means others will see him in a negative light. In the case of the game, the participants were confused as they won the game when they believed they would do badly. This same effect has been found in studies looking at pay raises. Those with self-esteem issues are less likely to be satisfied with a raise as they feel that “they do not deserve it”. They are also more likely to quit after a raise rather than before. It is quite possible that this would also apply to students with low self-esteem, as they would expect lower grades and (subconsciously) actively achieve lower grades to satisfy their self-identity.
In the Peanuts comic strip, the character Linus van Pelt is always seen with his trustworthy security blanket. What is it about a simple blanket that lets certain children feel so safe around it, and why do they become so agitated when it is taken away from them?
Psychologically speaking, the idea of attachment plays a heavy role in the child’s obsession with their security blanket (or any other comfort object, such as a teddy bear). An infant’s perception of the world is very limited and it cannot understand the concept of “self” until it develops further. In fact, it is theorised that an infant believes that whatever it wishes, the mother (still considered by the infant as “self”) will bring it to it, thus creating an illusion of omnipotence. When the realisation that there is something other than “me”, the baby becomes frightened. It suddenly understands that the mother and it are not one, but two separate beings. At this point, it loses the sense of omnipotence and realises it is dependent on others, creating a loss of independence.
Losing its independence and a large portion of itself (the mother), the baby becomes confused and anxious, a phenomenon paediatricians call infant’s lament. The baby tries to comfort itself by attaching itself to its first “not-me” possession – such as a blanket or teddy bear, also called a transitional object. This then allows it to be separate from the mother for periods of time. The transitional object is a reminder to the baby that it still has some control over life and some independence, which gives it comfort and allows the baby to sleep better at night (literally). Thus, the security blanket is aptly named, as it provides the baby with the confidence and security to adapt to the new world, allowing the baby to grow and develop into a social being.
When the baby develops into a child, it develops its own sense of self-confidence so that it can detach from the transitional object. However, some children never detach themselves and the security blanket persists for a longer time. Unfortunately, this is often found socially unacceptable and seen as a sign of weakness. Interestingly, studies show that these children are often more independent than other children, due to their ability to be less dependent on their parents. The security blanket never criticises or doubts the child’s abilities, therefore gives the child a source of infinite confidence.
Another research by Lucy van Pelt shows that removal of the security blanket from a child results in withdrawal symptoms such as fear, panic, perspiration, glazed eyes and unconsciousness within 50 seconds.