If we are to find our way out of shame – it will be together.

Photo by Daniel Ruffles – http://www.danielian.co

Some of you will be familiar with the title above. It’s Brené Brown’s wording, not mine unfortunately. I’ve had several of you tell me you’re now reading Daring Greatly because of my recommendation, and I love it! I hope you all get as much out of it as I did (and do – I’m on my 5th listen at the moment!).

I’ve been thinking a lot about connection, awareness, understanding and our phone use. To elaborate, my thought process started with thinking how quickly technology has progressed in the last few years, but mentally we are not keeping up. We are not mentally evolved enough to cope with the constant, if self-inflicted, barrage of social comparison which is leaving many of us running for the safety of a ‘digital detox’.

As I have said previously, social media and texting aren’t all bad, but we aren’t making the most of its benefits and instead choosing to bury ourselves in comparisons, unrealistic expectations and engaging with the misery that comes thereafter. Whilst our faces are pointed towards those small screens and our thumbs are close to getting a scroll related repetitive strain injury, we are missing out on each other and missing real connections. We are oblivious to those around us and have no awareness as to the impact (or lack thereof) we are having on others.  We aren’t having the open and real conversations that we need to have to enable us to be happy, healthy and have good solid relationships. People can seem like they have it all as we scroll through their media posts, because they are manipulating our view of them, but these people can be hurting and we have no idea.

Sometimes, it can be us causing the pain. As I have expressed previously, I, or rather, Nerissa (my chimp for those just joining), have been prone releasing the firing squad, and texting was usually our weapon of choice. With having a phone at the ready it is so easy to fire at someone without thinking of the consequences as, I think, it allows us to feel almost anonymous. My new rule? If I wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, I should not say it on text. You may not know what’s going on with someone – what you have flippantly sent across cyberspace could cause someone a lot of pain. I did this a lot in my previous relationship when I believed he didn’t care about me. 100% of the time I’d regret it, sometimes immediately even as my thumb was still hanging over that ‘send’ button. Nerissa could fire off an aggressive or inconsiderate message, without even a second to consider the consequences. And the damage was done; now they really don’t care. Classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy! (I’m so manipulated by phone use that my urge to find a ‘face palm’ emoji to put here is huge!)

On top of these, there’s the constant expectation of texting – we are now so aware 24/7 when we aren’t being messaged – we are carrying around a constant reminder of our expectation to be contacted. It’s an unhealthy expectation – I think most of us have had that moment when we’ve not had our phone for a while, during appointments or work for example, and then come back to see that there aren’t any notifications so there’s no little hit of dopamine. I’m working on removing this expectation. If I text someone, I will not keep checking for responses and I don’t have push notifications activated on any of my social media. My main thing is that I don’t want to predominantly text. If it’s a conversation, if it’s long winded or if it’s important I’d rather we talk on the phone, or preferably in person.

These things I am working on, or have new ground rules for, have all been aspects that have been affected by my self-esteem problem. I’ve spoken with friends lately about the bizzare things that mental health issues make you say and do. You just become a different person (or chimp!) entirely. This is something Brené speaks about in her book. Shame, which in my case was not feeling worthy, made me want to make others feel as bad as I did. Others may hide or switch off emotionally and mentally. When the thing we are searching for is connection and understanding, it is somewhat backward that our shame reactions cause us to disconnect and feel alone. It can be frustrating when it feels like we aren’t understood or that there’s no one to talk to about it. This, certainly for me, could make my behaviours spiral, once again feeding into that negative loop. I originally wrote another passage here, but I haven’t spoken to the person involved about it, and not sure if they’ll allow me the chance do ever do so, so it didn’t feel fair to just throw it out to the world.

I have been having some amazing conversations with friends these last few weeks, they’ve been real, raw, interesting and I have wanted to indulge for hours. Seeing and being with people is so much better and being present in your now is so much better. It’s just showing me how much more present I want to be in real life and paying attention to those around me, rather than at a phone. I spent so much time comparing myself to others, thinking I wasn’t good enough in one way or another, but I am learning that I am pretty awesome as a person and I don’t want to be anyone else. If people don’t want to see me or be with me in real life, I no longer believe I lose value because of that. I love myself and they’ll be the ones missing out on all the love I have to give.

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