On our last podcast and my last life coaching blog post, we talked about how you muster up the courage to express your true self. I summed it up by saying...
that everything you need, you already have...IN YOU.
Sounds easy. But, why do I continue to feel stuck? Unsure? Unsafe to express the REAL me? What if the real me won’t be accepted? What if the real me can’t “make it” in the world? What if the real me means I’m broke, unhirable, unpromotable?
We are our own worst enemies about the things we allow into our heads, the things we tell ourselves, the messages we see in society that are drilled into our heads over and over again. In this podcast episode, we talk more on the theme, with the focus on understanding that YOU MATTER (click here to listen; listening time 1 hour).
What comes to mind for me today are the societal precedents being set through the boosts, likes, and follows that social media requires, for one. And, the disturbing trend towards“flaming” headlines in traditional media–they may not even match the news article they are on top of, but the headlines are designed specifically to be provocative and controversial, and worse, misleading.
There is this outward expression of our selves that has come to be known as “performative” which truly is about performance and not necessarily–not even, actually–the truth.
What I mean by “performative” in this sense is that people act in the way that they want to be seen, rather than in the way that they truly are.
These forced UN-realities are damaging our psyches. Worse, these hateful, untrue, and misinformed messages are reinforced in our media. Influencers, high-profile personalities, and politicians in media are performing or acting in a way that emphasizes differences – these harmful messages are helping to preserve, deepen or entrench the divide between “us” and “them.”
Besides the hate they are fomenting, they are also, dangerously, creating a culture that on some level embraces the idea that you need to be “performative” in order to be “more valuable.” The message seems to be:
“The more you inflame others, the more valuable you are.”
“The more radical your ideas are, the more value or standing you hold in the community.”
Granted, this is not new. In order to advance your views and heighten your visibility, the formula for years has been to stir up controversy. I used to believe that watchdogs of the media (and my training is in journalism) were doing a good job digging up the truth and exposing it…holding evil or corrupt people, businesses, governments accountable.
But now media is not even about unearthing the truth (if it ever was), it is quite evidently about pushing out algorithms that support what some want to be seen as the “most popular” messages. Honestly, I appreciate the connected world we live in because of the Internet of Things. I like being able to find anything, anytime. I like the rich insights it can give me, to see what other people are doing about anything, anytime.
But, I want to hone in on one particular idea about the way that looking outwards can affect your self-image and self-confidence.
First, the way you look or perform in the world has nothing to do with your value.
Many of us have adopted a method of defining our worth through the number of “looks” we get, the number of “likes” we get, the number of zeros behind the dollar sign on our paycheck, the letter grade we receive on our schoolwork, the titles we hold, the trophies and awards we won, the letters behind our names (I have two of them, lol - MPS for my masters degree letters, and APR for my hard-earned Accreditation in Public Relations.)
Lord knows, I have done my share of mountain climbing, setting a goal to get to the summit of some desired achievement, and have often felt that setting goals is the way to be.
What if the real truth is that you are automatically imbued with value by the mere fact that you are a human being?
What if it does not matter at all whether you are recognized by other people’s standards or opinions? What if the only thing that mattered was that you recognize your worth as a human being, and are conscientiously making a contribution to the harmony of life?
Ms. Linda says if you know who you are, what difference does the performance make? What if I am doing what I do as my calling, and not for how other people value it? Bring who you are. Shaping yourself to someone else’s formula may get you to step one, but that will only carry you so far.
You have to be courageous in who you are. Build in the character that is done through having that mindset. You don’t “fit in,” you blend in.
2. Second, comparing your self to others you see on social media or in the public eye is a useless exercise and can be harmful.
It is natural to want to present ourselves positively. Of course, that is what you see when you follow someone famous or even a close friend on social media. But, if you are a person who is susceptible to social comparisons to begin with, it can be bad for your self-esteem when you follow someone’s more-exciting or more-successful-than-yours life.
What if social media was something you could use to occasionally discuss the less-than-perfect aspects of your life? What if sharing a bit of truth, even if painful, helps others feel connected to you, and could give them the opportunity to support you?
Here’s a big idea:
What if honesty on social media–instead of the raging misrepresentation we so often see–was used to help mitigate the negative effects of its use altogether?
What a shift this would be, to see honest and moving portrayals of small moments that matter. Small moments of joy. Small moments of meaningful human connection and caring.
Yes, we do see this…but, what often gets the attention and what gets shared, forwarded, repeated, can be the yucky stuff. If it’s true that “you are what you consume,” be careful to stay away from the stuff that, as I call it, “makes you sick!”
Ms. Linda says: “when you light a candle for others, it becomes ‘brighter’”. When you look at the positive, take up “four corners” with it (the "plus" sign).
3. Third on my theme today is the idea that in order to reinforce for your self that YOU MATTER, it can help to focus on the idea that you do not have to be in an “ideal state” before you find joy or feel successful.
I want to talk about this a little more. We human beings have a desire to improve and pursue an “ideal state.” Children excel based on the things they do–their studies, their sports–often times in order to be “good” and to attract their parents’ attention and approval or positive regard.
As children, we may have learned that in order to become a “special” person, you have to make a special effort.
Again, Lord knows I have done my share of pursuing some achievement or other…not necessarily for the recognition, but for the way it challenged me, or the way it made me feel to achieve that particular achievement.
Isn’t it interesting that children often also exhibit problem behaviors even to the point where they are punished or rebuked, and yet they continue those negative behaviors because even negative attention is better than none?
If you are being bad, you are still getting attention. We are all energy, Ms. Linda says, and we are sending out bad energy sometimes, too, and that may also attract people. It is also important to learn to “play by yourself.” It is a valuable lesson to learn to occupy yourself, get what you need, and have to fight for it if you wanted it. You had to go get it yourself, if you wanted it. I don’t need your attention, I know how to get it myself. You don’t have to follow the crowd.
When we get a little older, sometimes we even go for the “bad boy” or “bad girl” image in order to appear “not normal.” What I mean by that is that you may feel that being your SELF is being ORDINARY!! And in some twisted way, we have learned that being ORDINARY is boring. Or inferior.
What if self-acceptance means accepting that you ARE normal?
And that if you can accept the concept of being normal, the danger of not “being special,” by society’s standards–you can actually be satisfied JUST BEING YOU?
Does this mean you don’t have lofty goals? No.
It just means that you can make a difference thinking about your life not in terms of grand achievements but as a series of small goals, connections, a kind of dance…not a mountain climb.
You never have to “reach an ideal state,” because you are always in it!
When you are out of balance with your self, you tend to experience life as a series of problems. The character of happiness for humans, I think is this idea of having worth: you are not the one who decides your worth. Paradoxically, you don’t need to seek it by having others assign your worth to you. What I am trying to say is you are worthy just the way you are. Because you are YOU.
Everyone matters. Everyone needs a feeling of contribution to this world that we live in. A desire for recognition, achievement. You matter, and knowing this is based on a desire to “like yourself.” The essence of this idea is self-acceptance.
I don’t know if I’ve cracked this nut yet, but I’m exploring the idea.
Does this make sense? So, repeating my three assertions today, just starting to unpack this idea, they are:
Understand that the way you look or perform in the world has nothing to do with your value.
Know that comparing your self to others you see on social media or in the public eye is a useless exercise, and can be harmful.
Realize that you do not have to be in an “ideal state” before you find joy or feel successful.
I said at the beginning of this podcast that “you already have everything you need inside you” to be you. Let’s keep looking inward, and not outward. What’s happening “out there” isn’t you. But by being YOU, and uniquely sharing you, you just may realize along the way that you are, indeed, special. Because there is ONLY ONE YOU. There is truly, no one like you! :)
Ms. Linda, our podcast host, said: “We are mirrors to each other: either you want to be like them, and their behavior, or you don’t want to be like them. You have to look inward; we can look okay on the outside, but what are we doing to figure out what is on the inside? Everything is inside-out.
“Once we understand our ‘root cause,’ or the ‘root,’ what you are planted in (once you know from wence you came, you can go anywhere - James Baldwin)...Ms. Linda’s mother told her ‘do not allow yourself to be impressed by others; do not waste your energy trying to impress others.’
“Let them be like me; look at me, I like just who I am. No one is better than you, but you must always remember, you are not better than them either.”
Postscript: Ultimately, the podcast rambled at the end, and the recording got cut off for length (!), but I was wrapping it up with the idea that the more of us there are giving positive energy to the world, and being humanistic towards others, we will inevitably start to turn the tide from the negative influences that currently surround us and are turning people against one another.