I don’t go on Twitter very often anymore and it’s for one simple reason: It’s wearing to see people getting outraged for the sake of being outraged.
Genuine outrage, so that very strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation, is highly useful and productive when channelled effectively. Twitter has been effective at times for bringing important causes and issues to our attention. There are people who feel so strongly about a cause or misdeed that they get up and do something about it and they even gather up a tribe of people who feel similarly so that they can make even more impact. We need these people. I would add that I greatly admire who get up and do as opposed to just making noise. Remember back when we were kids and people used to protest a hell of a lot more? Nowadays we can get outraged without having to stretch ourselves. Literally.
In an age of social media where our next round of anger, shock, and indignation, sofa outrage is but a click away. Outrage has become a hobby and a way of passing time for some.
Imagine if in real life we went around yelling our opinions at people, telling them off or ridiculing them for what they say, twisting what they say to suit our agenda of being permanently peeved about something, stirring the pot, or just letting rip and being pissed off all of the time – we would soon alienate those around us plus we might even be perceived to have anger issues. Yet there are people who spend a great deal of their online activity doing just this.
- Do we really need to feel outraged about the fact that a celebrity has named their baby something that we don’t find palatable or worn something that we ourselves wouldn’t wear?
- In fact, do we really need to act as if we know celebrities personally and cuss people who are not fans, and do we really need to keep letting celebrities or people in the public eye know how much we dislike them?
- Do we need to seize on everything that people post and find a hidden meaning?
- Do we need to keep berating the person after we’ve made our point?
- Now that we’ve established that we get outraged by the likes of the Daily Fail, do we need to still keep clicking through and then expressing outrage for the hell of it? Haven’t we figured out that a lot of these media outlets make money out of sofa outrage?
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When I talk to people about their biggest struggles with relationships, an all too common complaint is struggling to deal with someone who is not willing to go the distance with intimacy and commitment. Each time they feel as if they’re making progress, this person gradually or even very sharply rolls things back to what I call their ‘status quo’ in my book Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl.
If you imagine relationships on a scale of 1-10, the type of person who struggles with progression, balance, intimacy, commitment, and consistency – the landmarks of healthy relationships – wants to keep the relationship at 5 and will always find a way to manage it back to their comfort zone. Things get too good and ‘intimate’, they’ll undermine things in such a way that it gets back on their terms but equally, tell them to take a run and jump and they’ll suddenly start blowing hot, have you feeling as if you’re approaching 8 or even beyond that, and then gradually get back down to 5.
It’s understandably frustrating to be in this situation but one of the single biggest changes that we can make to our relationship experiences as well as our self-esteem, is to be more emotionally honest and to basically maintain our integrity.
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Each year I receive thousands of emails from readers sharing stories with me or asking for advice, and over the years, one word has cropped up with increasing regularity – Facebook. Now to give some context here – while I do hear from people in their twenties and thirties, most of the tales of Facebook-related drama come from their forties to seventies. When parents and teens / twenty-somethings share their concerns about Facebook with me or the dramas that they’ve experienced, they’re often under the misguided impression that it’s all ‘youth related’ but actually, people who are much older are going through the same issues:
- Treating what they view on Facebook as fact.
- Spending exorbitant amounts of time on there.
- Conducting entire relationships through Facebook messages.
- Obsessing over how many likes they’ve had on a post.
- Feeling offended that their friend’s list doesn’t like all of their posts, often because they make a point of liking everything so feel that everyone else should too.
- Assuming that everyone else’s life is so much better and feeling inadequate.
- Oversharing of personal information or just not knowing their own boundaries or those others.
- Feeling tormented over their usage but not feeling that they’re ‘allowed’ to stop using it.
- Collecting ‘friends’ and then feeling anxious about lack of actual friendship from these faux friendships.
- Being terrified of defriending and anxiety over not being added.
Facebook is just a social networking website but in less than a decade it’s transformed the way that we interact with friends, family, coworkers and strangers, plus somewhere along the way, many of the people who are negatively affected by their usage of Facebook seem to have come up with new ‘rules’ for living their lives and almost treat Facebook like God or a superpower. In reality, it’s a website driven by all of this information we put on there as well as people’s insecurities and the natural tendency to want to peek into other people’s lives.
Unfortunately Facebook is also being treated as a comparison tool for humans – Am I good enough? Sexy enough? Posting photos that show that I have a fabulous life? Skinny enough? Doing better than _______? Getting more likes than ________?
Facebook has found a way to feed what can at times be our excessive desire for validation. When you have people feeling as if they’re losing their minds over the amount of likes they’ve had on a photo or whether a specific person did or didn’t like what was posted, something is very wrong.
I increasingly hear from people who have temporarily or even permanently deactivated their Facebook accounts because of the impact on not just their emotional and mental health, but also the way that they interact with their family and friends. When you’re having difficulty recognising the BS from reality, when each time you go on Facebook you feel worse because you’re judging you as inadequate in some way, it’s time for you to take a big step back.
Having decent self-esteem involves having healthy boundaries and a fairly good grip on reality.
When Facebook is a drainer or is affecting the way that you perceive your appearance, capabilities, or your personality / character, that’s a code red alert because it means that you’re comparing – measuring you against others for similarities and dissimilarities and then deeming you ‘not good enough’. You may have OK self-esteem in general but Facebook (or similar sites) hit you where it hurts because it’s used as a source of external esteem and when this happens too much, it’s because external esteem is becoming your self-esteem. Your self-image becomes distorted and that only leads to unhappiness especially because comparison actually depresses your confidence levels even further. There comes a point when you have to ask, Is my usage of Facebook worth it?
Stepping back and evaluating your usage is a great opportunity to get some perspective and to reconnect with who you are and the important things in your life. If Facebook is rubbing you up the wrong way, identifying where you’re judging you can provide a starting point for discovering where you need to be more self-compassionate as well as where you need to make some adjustments in real life to feel more content.
Do limit your time on there.
Don’t remain connected to people who you don’t have a genuine connection with and who sap your energy and esteem.
Try to remember that all is not what it seems on Facebook each time you judge you as ‘less than’. Sure some people look like they’re having a great time but you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, a lot of stuff is amped up to gain attention, and in the end, they’re just humans who probably have the same worries.
A source of potential conflict is when you’re faced with a situation where your honesty – that’s the truth with respect – may be met with negativity. It could be that the other party doesn’t want to hear the truth or that they are so knee-deep in something, that they can’t see what you see. You might be considered insensitive even if it’s not what you intended or you may be regarded as a party pooper. When faced with a situation like this, you may be left wondering: Should I say something? Should I give my opinion to my friend (or family member), even if they haven’t asked for it or they don’t want it?
It is hard to bite our tongues when we’re in the process of trying to reduce our own bullshit (BS) and so may feel conflicted and even compromised by ‘letting something slide’. We may even feel complicit in what they’re doing or even worse, we may feel triggered by the whole situation. Sometimes, in fact, often, we are trying to save them from getting hurt or from making a mistake, especially if we’ve been through it ourselves or can just plainly see the writing on the wall.
On the flipside, your honesty may be read as you disapproving of their choices aka criticism. This doesn’t mean that what you have to say is a ‘bad’ thing but they may get very defensive and/or regard you as being disrespectful, even if you’re not.
Sometimes the nature of the situation means that your answer is self-evident. As I pointed out to a reader recently who was perplexed by her friend having a long-distance Skype thing with someone who mysteriously cancels each time a meeting is on the cards (Catfish alert – check out the MTV show), the situation in itself and the way that this person was going on about it was evident of the fact that he’d been having too many tokes of the fantasy crack pipe.Equally, it’s unlikely that your friend or family member is going to cartwheel around when you tell them that you can’t stand their partner, that their marriage is a mistake, or that you don’t think that they’re up to their new job/career/moving plans.
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Sometimes when we become increasingly self-aware and we’re making changes in our lives, we also become increasingly aware of where other people are not so self-aware and who we believe could do with making some changes of their own. We might want them to feel the benefits of what we’re doing or, we may become a little too preoccupied with pointing out their deficiencies.
The thing is, just like when it gets on people’s nerves when we ride people’s arses like Zorro over mistakes that they’ve made – ‘You made a mistake!’, ‘Learn to spell!’, ‘You shouldn’t be ________’, or when we keep going on and on and on about that thing that we’re really passionate about – ‘I don’t mean to keep going on about this but you really should join this group / attend this church because I think that you would really benefit from it’ – we can end up alienating rather than being of any help or support.
If we’re going through a particularly honest phase, we can end up coming across like the BS police, somebody who has decided that they have the authority to maintain other people’s reality’s, possibly because we think that we’re maintaining ‘law and order’ and that we’re doing it for the greater good of everyone else, the person in question… or even ourselves.
When we engage in this type of behaviour, it’s really important to examine our motives because the truth is, sometimes we police other people’s BS because we’re trying to keep our own reality neat and in order. It’s as if we can’t cope with the possibility that this person might be deluding themselves or even trying to BS us. We forget that we’re in control of ourselves and our own reality. We forget that we can take care of ourselves.
Yes of course we should highlight BS that has the potential to cause us harm / impact us negatively or could cause major problems for someone else (for example, if somebody is being fraudulent) but policing people’s realities because it’s a distraction from ourselves or because we like to be right and we like to try to control the uncontrollable isn’t helpful or nice. It may also be a case of trying to impose our values on someone else (trying to get them to change) when if we recognised those differences, we could respect our own values and live our own lives.
It can be hard at times to know whether to bite our tongue and say ‘Bygones’ or whether to speak our mind and run the risk of causing offence. Due to the nature of what I do, I can smell a funky story from a mile off… but it’s not my place to point out each and every incidence of it. Equally, I read things online all the time that set my BS meter off the charts but unless it’s critical and helpful for me to point it out, I move onto something that I do enjoy reading.
The truth with respect runs the possibility of hurting a person’s feelings but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell them. What it does mean however, is that we must question the necessity of what we’re saying and how we say it (language, tone, manner, setting). Does it matter and if it does matter, why does it matter? The more we ask the question of whether it truly matters is the more authentic the occasions when we do speak up. We can’t leave no BS stone unturned, simply because it would be exhausting and it would look like we were doing it for our own ego, not for anyone else’s well-being.
Calling people out on stuff is a form of criticism and over the years as I’ve learned to receive and give criticism, I’ve realised that genuine criticism comes from and is given by people who genuinely want to see a person succeed and who aren’t basing the need to say something or the desired outcome on their own personal agenda.
In the end, it’s most important for you to know and live your own values so that you can live your own life authentically and happy. As long as you know what’s what in your own life and align yourself with similar people, you won’t need to keep trying to enforce your reality on others.
Look out for the follow up post to this on tips on how to avoid being the BS police.
Like millions of people before me and the many who will follow, somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that pleasing people was the key to my happiness. Yes, like the typical people pleaser, I believed that meeting other people’s needs, expectations, and wishes, was somehow going to meet my own needs. What I failed to realise is that people pleasing runs counter to having good self-esteem and being able to be happy.
My needs are my needs for me to meet. Other people’s needs are their needs for them to meet. That and “NO” isn’t a dirty word, the sky won’t fall down, and we have two hands for a reason – why overfeed others and coddle them while starving and neglecting ourselves?
Let’s be clear about what people pleasing involves so as not to mix it up with doing stuff for others just because and yes, occasionally inconveniencing ourselves to help somebody out.
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Up until my mid-twenties, I had this pervasive belief that if only I’d had one of those great childhoods that I saw on TV or that I imagined everyone else was having, that I’d have different types of problems – maybe Happy / Together People Problems? – and that I’d also be a happier person. I imagined I’d have more confidence, that I’d be able to cope with disappointment, criticism, conflict and making mistakes, and that I could lean on my family whenever I wanted while having my pick of healthy relationships. I imagined that I’d have more options and opportunities and that I’d basically like myself a whole lot more.
I’m not alone in this thinking. Hell, my own mother had it, so when we had aspects of our childhood that were ‘better’ than hers, like having a good education, material goods etc., she just didn’t ‘get’ why the hell I had her type of problems.
Baggage Reclaim is full of people who have struggled with aspects of themselves but here’s the interesting thing: they come from all walks of life and backgrounds. One of my closest friends has a totally different upbringing to mine. Both parents still together and happy, idyllic childhood (her description), not really wanting for anything whether it was emotional or financial – we’ve had similar self-esteem and relationship issues.
It’s not that having a rough childhood doesn’t impact your self-esteem – quite the opposite – but it doesn’t mean that having a great childhood (whatever that looks like to you), is a ticket to emotional freedom either. I’ve often had readers say that they almost feel guilty for not being able to claim that they’ve had something terrible happen to them!
Self-esteem is about how you think and feel about you, how you react to the things that you experience in life and how these are perceived and tallied up with your sense of self. It’s about whether you consider you to be a worthwhile and valuable person and in turn, it’s about having confidence in you and to be you.
You could end up not liking and loving you even if you had both parents love and support throughout your childhood and didn’t experience any major trauma. If you treat feelings and thoughts as facts even when they’re not, if you have unhealthy and conflicting beliefs that undermine your sense of self and your choices, if you internalise what happens to and around you as an indicator of your worth, capabilities and options, ‘great’ childhood or not, your self-esteem will be impacted.
Sometimes the reason why self-esteem takes a knock is because a person takes disappointment badly because they’ve possibly been sheltered from disappointment or they had certain expectations of themselves or others which may not have been realistic.
A childhood that’s free of neglect, abuse and trauma isn’t an automatic precursor to high self-esteem. It helps a great deal because you’re certainly far more likely to have self-esteem issues if you experience these but, if like me (in the past) you’ve been dining off the long-held belief that your life would be so much better ‘if only’ and that you would be exempt from the choices that you’ve been inclined to make, watch out. It’s this kind of thinking that can leave you feeling powerless.
How you feel about and perceive you is down to your beliefs, which drive your choices and actions. Your childhood tells part of the story but not all of the story and in the end, all it takes is to have one experience as an adult that you struggle to recover from, such as heartbreak, a loss, a bereavement, ‘failing’ at something, a trauma, for a judgement to be made that alters your perception of you and your options, which affects your choices, which has far reaching consequences.
Across all people who struggle with their self-esteem is the need for approval, validation and an excessive reliance on external esteem – people pleasing. Poor childhood or not, we live in a time when many of us are excessively concerned with how we look to others and not being disapproved of in any way. When we suppress our identities and prioritise avoiding conflict, disappointment, criticism and basically anything we deem as ‘unpleasant’, our self-esteem is greatly compromised.
It’s impossible to eliminate bullshit but you can certainly significantly reduce it and keep it to a minimum.
Your job is not to attempt to leave no BS stone unturned – it’s to take care of your end of things so that you’re clear on your own reality and less likely to be taken in by anyone who seeks to circumvent the truth.
A BS Diet isn’t about killing your dreams; it’s about not allowing what can appear to be the innocent lies you tell yourself, unproductive habits and how you respond to other people’s BS, to affect your life.
You can still daydream… you just don’t need to daydream all day long so that you end up not being mindful and living in a fantasy world. You can dream… but you can’t go around using those dreams as a basis for assumptions that you use to make unhealthy judgements and choices.
It’s a work in progress. You wouldn’t give up eating unhealthy food for a few months, get fit and then go back to chowing down. You’ll moderate what you take in and you’ll become attuned to your mind and body.
You’ll also become more attuned to the sources of bullshit in your life and learn how to navigate them.
Annoying things are still going to happen but you’ll be better equipped to respond and more robust because you actually have some self-esteem in the proverbial bank to draw on.
A BS Diet and improved self-esteem isn’t a magic wand that eliminates shady people and unwanted experiences. It also won’t give you the power to do Jedi mind tricks so that you can control the uncontrollable.
The things that happen in your life are means of putting your new found habits to the test but also ‘balancing up’ where they may be too much BS in an area of your life. These experiences can force you to check in and reconnect with you.
Working for myself has shown me that when it comes to being my own manager and deciding what I ‘should’ be doing with my time (note that behind most ‘shoulds’ is bullshit), I’m just not that realistic. I’m not alone though – many people are residing in the I Schedule The Crap Out of Myself Vortex. We basically burden ourselves with these never ending todo lists and when we look at what we expect to do in a week, we’re sometimes trying to do 2 weeks work or more in just one week.
What recognising how unrealistic I am about my time has taught me, is that I might be more realistic if I, 1) was more careful about what I said yes to, 2) managed my own and other people’s expectations through boundaries, 3) parked some ideas until a later date, and 4) recognised the great deal that I do achieve each day.
Being in pursuit of completing an unrealistic set of tasks is the pursuit of perfection.
It’s this idea that it’s good to have a lot of things to do and that we’re also going to feel so much ‘better’ and ‘happier’ when these things are completed. In truth, we end up feeling bad due to burdening ourselves with our own BS list of tasks that we’re unable to keep up with and then we feel ‘not good enough’ and that we’re failing some standard of super busyness that the rest of the planet is managing to live up to.
Creating these burdensome lists, which incidentally often reside in our head, can give us and others an impression of busyness and importance. They also distract us from aspects of ourselves or our lives that need closer attention.
In an effort to increase productivity a few years back, I read a little bit of Getting Things Done (David Allen, Piaktus) – and then promptly got caught up in my own busyness and procrastination… – but I always remembered one vital nugget of information that has influenced my thinking and attitude towards pretty much anything I put in my head:
The mind doesn’t distinguish between a task that you need to do / genuinely intend to do and something that you thought about in passing but aren’t actually going to do.
That’s why thinking about the oodles of things that you need to do drains your mojo.
It’s up to us to tell ourselves what is and isn’t a task.
It’s the same with bullshit – it’s up to us to work out the truth. Our mind won’t automatically do that work for us. That’s why we have to be careful of remaining attached to unhealthy beliefs and assumptions.
Ultimately, if we actually noted, recognised and appreciated what we achieved on a day-to-day basis, we’d recognise the madness of the todo list treadmill and get more realistic about our time while also having the time to appreciate and truly live our lives.
Whenever I ask people what they want, I invariably hear variations of, “I just want to be happy.” Many of us are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness and because we don’t for instance, have a Brady Bunch family or a perfect past, or even a blemish-free relationship history and we’re certainly not feeling happy all or most of the time, we feel bad about the fact that we’re not happy or aren’t living up to some ideal that we’ve likely hoovered up from the media or from comparing ourselves to our peers and imaginary people that we believe are so much better than us.
“I just want to be happy” and yet this often comes out of the mouths of People Pleasers, people who deprioritise their own needs, wishes and expectations to devote their lives to pleasing others in the hope that they’ll receive validation, love, attention and the like plus with the underlying expectation that they’ll minimise conflict, disappointment, criticism and basically anything unpleasant. Ironically, People Pleasers tend to expect that the very needs, expectations, wishes and identity that they don’t represent will actually be represented and respected by others.
Here’s the thing though: we may “just” want to be happy but we tend to be quite convoluted and complicated about it so it’s just not that simple that we can just be happy. Turns out, we all are built on habits and some of these habits of thinking and behaviour run counter to the very things that we profess to need, want and expect.
We may just want to be happy but what we have to realise is that we can’t expect change to happen without change and more importantly, we can’t expect to be happy by doing things that directly contribute to us being unhappy.
We say that we want to be happy and yet we can often be more comfortable hanging onto bullshit than we are with getting out of that uncomfortable comfort zone and striving for authenticity and being ourselves.
We want to be happy and yet we want that to happen while still carrying around the same unhealthy / unproductive patterns of thinking and behaviour. That’s pretty tricky when the backing track to our life is negative self-talk, we’re neglecting ourselves, we’re involved in toxic relationships, relying on external solutions to prop up our ‘self’-esteem and to help us avoid aspects of ourselves and life, and when we’re ultimately on autopilot treating a lot of what we think, feel and do as ‘facts’ and judgements about our quality and worth as people.
Let’s imagine that you go to see a career advisor and they ask, So, what is it that you want to do with your life? and you respond with, I just want to, ya know, have a job or you said I just want to earn money. Erm, O-K. That’s a pretty vague pursuit and remit to work from.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy but break it down – what does happiness look and feel like to you?
What would being happy involve? Is what you’re doing now taking you closer to being and feeling like this or is it taking you in the opposite direction? Do your thoughts support your desire or are your thoughts affirming all sorts of negative crap? Is a lot of what you envision as making you happy out of your hands due to it being reliant on a person changing or other external factors? What can you do for you?
- Sofa Outrage – When people get outraged for the sake of being outraged
- When we lose our integrity in a relationship, we lose our ability to be emotionally available
- A comparison site for humans: Is Facebook affecting your BS levels, happiness and self-image?
- ‘Should I say something?’ When you can’t decide if you should be honest about something
- There’s no need to be the BS police