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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Are we losing our selves?

Years ago, before Facebook and Twitter (circa 1996), I was encouraged to open an account with ICQ - one of the very first instant chat programs that was exciting the technological world available at our fingertips. It was a novel idea that you could chat back and forth without having to experience delays in the conversation that was inevitable by using e-mail.

At first, I got busy connecting with lots of friends and thoroughly enjoyed this new way of communicating. 

Until...... one day, I saw a post by a young man whom I knew in 'real time'. This individual came across as confident, self-assured, poised, and a lot more mature than I knew him to be in real life.  I knew him to be shy, retiring, and lacking in confidence. He was also a bit of a loner and didn't have many friends. 

My first reaction included a sense of relief that, at least, he could communicate on some level with other people. However, I couldn't explain it, but I felt that something was amiss - something was not real and that he was hiding behind a fantasy of his own creation. This became clearer as I began to notice that his 'friends' were people whom he had not met in real life. 

Wondering where this would lead in terms of building real friendship, I started to feel that this was something that would create a real problem in developing real, mature relationships with others, but hoped that some of his online confidence would overspill into his 'real-time' connections with those around him - that he would develop his online skills so that he could enrich his personal life in the real world. 

As I watched over the coming months, I noticed that he became more withdrawn, and even less likely to start a conversation with anyone around him. Instead of developing healthy interactions, he was becoming more of a recluse, and seemed more and more lonely.

At this time, I abandonded ICQ altogether, and didn't become part of the instant messaging community until a few years ago when I reluctantly opened a Facebook account. As well as the immeasurable benefits of Social Media, I also was aware of the potential effects of having an online presence upon my personal relationships and so I was very careful to continue to develop my relationship skills in 'real time' while connecting more and more with others on line. 

It's relatively easier for an adult to achieve this balance because, by and large, we have already developed the necessary social skills needed to enjoy personal relationships in the real world. However, for those who have not yet developed those skills, or have not been able to practice them, it may not be so easy. Although there may be countless Facebook friends or Twitter followers, our young people may be increasingly lonely in their real life. Substitution on Social Networks cannot be compared to the satisfying ongoing friendships that we can experience - and the personal growth that goes along with those relationships. 

This short video clip explains what could happen to many of us - adult and younger - if we don't find the balance between 'real-time' friendships and online connections. I've noticed that some of my Facebook friends spend a great deal of time chatting and posting..... and then, I reliazed that my own time on these similar activities was increasing. See the video clip here.

Consequentially, I now make a conscious choice when, and for how long, I will be on those sites. I usually have a purpose for being on - to check in with friends, say hello, share a few things, and then log off. The sense of freedom that I experienced told me just how much I had become addicted to the whole culture. 

If we can remember that all Social Networks are only TOOLS - then we can begin to place them in a context where we use them to enhance our lives, rather than allowing them to rule us. 
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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Please Yourself!

How often we fall into the trap of trying to please others!

I grew up with the understanding that if I could please the people around me, this was a sign of success. I would find myself changing my behaviour to match the requirement of the person with whom I was interacting. I told myself that I was ‘keeping the peace’, ‘making people feel good about themselves’, or ‘being flexible’. It did seem to work for a time, but it was exhausting!

This starts very early for most of us. Our well-meaning parents and teachers smile at us when we offer behaviour which they find pleasing; and withhold their smiles when we offer something that is not pleasing to them. We love the feeling of approval when someone flows their love towards us…. and so we strive to repeat the behaviour in order to experience that flow once again. Before we know it, we have fallen into a pattern of being people-pleasers.

I believe it may have been Sir Winston Churchill who once said, 'You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time.... but you cannot please all of the people, all of the time'. I have come to realize that you can't actually please even one person all of the time. 

Different people require different things from us. We find that we have to be willing to ‘jump different hurdles’ to meet with their approval. Problem: when we have mastered one set of expectations, they up and change their requirements!  When we continually accommodate our behaviour in order to make others happy, then gradually, piece by piece, we lose the reality of who we are. We can keep it up indefinitely, but at what cost to our own mental and emotional health and growth?

There is always the hidden dread that we may one day find ourselves in the company of several people, each requiring a different set of behaviours from me, all at the same time, in the same room. How would I react then?

Once I embraced my truth that I had not come in to this life to make the happiness of those around me dependent upon me, I found a sense of freedom. Sure, it meant that I had to give up seeking the approval of others but that, in and of itself, gave me a sense of relief. It also meant that I would sometimes meet with the disapproval of others, but it was more satisfying to live with greater authenticity.

Someone once said to me that other people’s opinions of me is none of my business. Since then, I have heard this advice often, though maybe in slightly different ways. The freedom that comes with developing a sense of self-worth that is not dependent upon the whims and expectations of others is something to be treasured.

I am attempting to incorporate the idea and adopt the attitude that, with regards to people’s comments about me, or my behaviour, ‘Praise and Blame – they’re all the same’.

If I can retain my equilibrium regardless of the conditions around me – including the opinions of my companions on this journey of life – then I will come to know that I don’t have to wait for any conditions to change in order to be at peace within myself. I will be able to maintain the alignment with the best that is within me, and will finally be practicing unconditional love. 


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