Hold up the phone. Snap a photo. Look at the result. Trash it. Hold up the phone. Snap a photo. Look at the result. Trash it. Hold up the phone. Huff in frustration. Feel the sting of tears. Throw the phone on the couch.
It’s just not worth it.
These days our lives are documented in squares. Single snapshots of moments that are supposed to tell the story of our day, of an experience, of a memory. We, the observers, glance upon these squares and our brains shift into analytical mode. How are her teeth so white? Man, he’s ripped. They’re on vacation again? How do they keep their floors so shiny? Why don’t my kids play together like that? And of the utmost importance: Where is all their clutter?
It is usually at this moment that a very dangerous thought bubbles to the surface: “I wish…”
We deduct – from a single picture, mind you – that what they have/they do/they achieve is better than our possessions/our actions/our accomplishments. Is better than us.
I’m not immune to the trickery that jealousy plays on our brains. Any faults about which I am already insecure, I subconsciously search out in my Newsfeed just to prove how much I fall short. You know, just to knock me down a little more thankyouverymuch. Self-doubt is indeed a brat.
I’ve written about this before from a parent’s perspective; of the constant questioning and uncertainty associated with the work of raising small humans (see Mom Guilt), but it is so much bigger and wider than that alone. From where does this need to be like others originate? Why can’t we simply be happy with who we are?
If you’ll allow me to put on my anthropologist hat for a minute (it’s like dress-up ’cause I’m not an anthropologist), I will tell you that long, long ago we survived by being a part of The Group. Our very existence was supported by our ability to live and work together. We have a herd mentality because that has been ingrained in our DNA in order to survive. Conform to the group. Align your behaviors with the crowd. Step outside the box and you no longer have that security. I have an image of Mr. Chow from The Hangover Part 2 yelling in your face, “Yeah, but did you die?” Deviate from the group, and yeah…you probably did.
Fast-forward to today and we still have this in-bred desire to be a part. At the most elemental level there is nothing wrong with this need. It drives us to interact with one another, to make friends. But, my dears, what happens when this drive morphs into something twisted? When it conjures up destructive thoughts? Unhealthy behavior? When we begin to question our worth based on someone else’s perception of what that should be?
I found a quote by Paulo Coelho (OK, you got me: Pinterest suggested it) that states, “Stress, anxiety, and depression are caused when we are living to please others.”
So…I’ve been thinking about this, and I’ve found a solution: Let’s stop.
Right??!! Let’s just tell our brains to “CUT IT OUT” and play nice. Any good behavior therapist will tell you that when you are attempting to end a certain behavior, the most effective way of doing so is replacing it with another. Now, the trick here is finding a constructive, replacement behavior. Enter, the cognitive reframe.
I really like Wikipedia’s definition, which states: “Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying and then disputing irrational or maladaptive thoughts. Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives.”
BOOM! There it is! I live my days in the glow of the cognitive reframe because, friends, there is doom and gloom all around us. I can always look in the mirror and state at least five things I’d change about the reflection staring back at me. Rare is the day that I cannot look back and find something that simply sucked. That’s life, folks.
My day-to-day is also comprised of wonderful things. Really wonderful things. We have to train our brains to see them if we don’t already. We have to choose to see the good, which at times is easier said that done. There are days that the hits keep coming and I cannot find the strength to look beyond my mess. Other days feel so bright and full of promise that I can’t help but radiate hope.
We cannot let our destructive thoughts become the narration of our lives, for us to feel as if the sum of our parts do not make us whole. I want to meet you, where you are, and hold your hand as we walk toward the light together. All of us are broken. All of us fall short in some way. Some people just take better pictures of the good times and we are left assuming that’s all there ever is on the other side. Yet, I don’t want an air-brushed version of reality. I am here now because I trudged through the darkness and lived to tell about it. I can fully appreciate life when at one point it used to seem optional. The Back Story explained my struggles with chronic pain, physical illness, and depression. Great Expectations asserts my determination to help others find the courage to be themselves and celebrate where they are.
This time, I am asking you to join me; to step forward and share who you really are. Step forward and show me a toothy grin with braces. Step forward and show me your sink full of dishes and unfolded laundry. Step forward and show me your children in mismatched clothes and crazy hair. Step forward and show me laughter so hysterical you snort and forget to suck in your stomach. Step forward and show me your tear-streaked face. Step forward and show me your passion for the unconventional. Step forward and show me the scars of a life from which you turned away. I want you to come as you are.
Your courage will inspire others to do the same. Your bravery could give someone the hope to carry on. “Ripples in the pond,” my dear friend would say, meaning that you never know how one small act can impact someone else in a meaningful way.
So, let’s make this a thing. Post a picture of your reality on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag “comeasyouarechallenge.” Make a choice to see the good and document it #comeasyouarechallenge. Like, Share, and Follow. Take my hand, and let’s walk toward the light…just as we are.
[Photo cred goes to my sister, Gretchen. Love you, Bro-Man!!]