If you’re friends with people who live on different continents, you’re probably aware of the existence of the formal, quarterly-ish Catch-up call™. Both parties commit to talking to each other on video for an hour or so so as not to rely on Instagram story replies and sending memes as the only communication method for extended periods of time.
On one of these calls, recently, my friend said: “I had no idea.”
What was he talking about, you may ask. Had he asked ChatGPT, “which is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response,” to find a synonym for the latest movie he had watched, Clueless? No.
See, I’ve been lying to you so I wanted to come clean.
“What’s the scariest thing that has ever made you wake up?”
Having a random stranger knock on our door in the middle of the night and then try to open the door.
That was my answer to that question until recently when my work-induced anxiety woke me up at 2am. So rude.
In the formal, quarterly-ish Catch-up call™, I was telling my friend what I don’t like about my current job… Ughhh, just writing that sentence made me uncomfortable as if there’s something shameful about accepting there’s more than 1 (one) thing I don’t really enjoy about work.
“Looking at your Instagram, it looks like you travel all the time and do a little work here and there and have no bad days.“ He found it surprising that the reality was very different and there was no way to know by looking from the outside.
What’s the point of anxiety, again?
Looking back a couple of thousands of years, we can see how fear and anxiety and emotions in general are here to protect us. We had to feel a certain way when a lion was chasing us, just like we had to feel a way when we had kids so that we could keep having kids and not get extinct as a species.
Psychology Today on fear:
“If people didn’t feel fear, they wouldn’t be able to protect themselves from legitimate threats. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger that has been pivotal throughout human evolution, but especially in ancient times when men and women regularly faced life-or-death situations.”
Emotions are messages and powerful as hell once embraced.
Realizing you’ve stressed out your body so much that it can’t process danger correctly and it wakes you up to protect you from this perceived fear fucking sucks. It’s also a wake-up call, no pun intended.
What happens when you believe in mutually exclusive things?
For example, I believe all emotions are valid. When someone’s telling me they feel ashamed, I try not to say things like “you shouldn’t feel that way” even though I may strongly believe they haven’t done anything wrong that warrants feeling guilt or shame.
They feel that way. Similarly, when people complain about something, then end their rant by saying how it’s pathetic they’re complaining about it when others have it so much worse, I speak up. No, it’s not. Pain is not a competition and what you feel is valid, no matter how big or small your problem. It’s invalidating and unhelpful to pretend we only deserve to be heard when our problems are soap opera-worthy.
I also believe in manifestation and the idea that we create our own realities by what we say and wish for.
This is a core belief of mine. The universe provides. I feel quite in the zone with meditation and days like today when I have coffee on my own near the lake and write and am so in touch with my inner dolphin. Being in the zone means I feel aligned and assured in my present and future. I believe I can make it happen, whatever it is and I feel supported by this invisible thread that moves things in such a timely, fantastic fashion.
Whether it’s a specific pair of pyjamas (and remember, I don’t shop online so I can’t go looking for what I want) or the relationship of my wildest dreams or a career opportunity, I’ve manifested these and more things.
I’ve written a bit about meditation and manifestation, but seeing that there’s no strategy to what I publish, which is ironic/bittersweet/surprising since content strategy is part of what I do for work for other people every day, I don’t have any “Meditation – The Ultimate Guide” or “Manifestation 101” collections available for you. Sorry. The tl;dr is that I think my job is to spark your curiosity to research these things, not write about them at length or become a manifestation/mindfulness resources hub. That may be partly self-sabotage talking (“Who are you to talk about this and have collections on topics, lady?!”).
Anyway. It seems like these 2 beliefs counteract each other quite a bit since a close friend had no idea I was struggling.
So, I’ve been lying to you about how I’m doing. Or, I guess, to be exact, hiding some things.
But what becomes of us when we hide substantial parts of ourselves, whether that’s how we show up at work (as fake, hollow versions of ourselves) or how we talk about work (in dishonest, partial truths)?
I’ve been reading I Didn’t Do the Thing Today: Letting Go of Productivity Guilt from Madeleine Dore. This excerpt was super timely:
“When we reach out to a friend to congratulate them on an envy-inducing award or new job, our faulty projections start to fade when they tell us how hard they worked for it. We find out that their partner looked after the kids every morning for three months so they could wake pre-dawn to complete a qualification, or that they’ve been rejected six times before finally achieving this success.”
In theory, my super smart friend who’s studying astrophysics knows that he’s only looking at my life highlights, that I’m not this perpetually coolheaded person who travels all the time and approaches everything with curiosity and mindfulness like I preach on here.
In theory, you know that your super successful cousin had to sacrifice a lot to get there just like you know the influencer you follow probably doesn’t lead a stress-free life.
“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”– Benjamin Brewster (no, not Einstein)
I couldn’t find data on how many accounts Instagram users follow on average. Let’s say 200.
Whether 95% of them are friends or only 5% are friends and family and all others are musicians and actors and influencers, it’s a difficult exercise to approach everyone’s stories and posts with a healthy dose of skepticism. Super time-consuming, too.
To clarify, I’m not suggesting that we dedicate time off our lives coming up with potential worst-case scenarios (“sure, she looks great, but that dress seems uncomfortable and she probably spent 2 hours and $200 on makeup”) for every happy-looking person in our feed.
But I wanted to highlight this disconnect between everyday life and what we see or hear about how someone’s doing.
I believe there’s a way to romanticize our life and manifest the most beautiful experiences and feelings while being honest about the struggles and hurdles along the way.
How do we bridge the gap?
- Reassuring you that no one has it figured out. I promise you. I’d bet my life on it if I didn’t have a family history of gambling and was too scared to try betting because I fear I’ll get addicted. How’s that for honesty?!
- Prompting you to talk openly and frequently about the shitty, messy aspects of being while maintaining a sense of gratitude and rational optimism that keeps the metaphorical door wide open for every good thing coming your way
- Radical acceptance – for your friends who tell you about the shitty, messy aspects of being despite how big or small their problems may seem to you (i.e., not listening to respond but listening for the sake of listening, not minimizing someone’s “silly” issues)
- Encouraging you to be more you at work – I’m convinced that our life satisfaction correlates to how authentically we show up at work. I know, I don’t really like the word authentic either. With every year of experience, my ability to hide parts of my self and put the “I’m a serious Professional” mask on decreases. “I’ll get fired,” I hear you whisper. First of all, no. Second of all, nowadays, many companies are not only allowing self-expression at work, but encouraging it. Third of all, do you want to work and spend 1/3 of your life somewhere where you’ll get fired for something like this? Lastly, it’s not sustainable. I’ve heard so many stories of successful people waking up one day at 40 feeling empty and depressed and like they’re wasting their lives because of these fake work personas they’ve created. Work is a huge part of our lives. Show up candidly. Here’s an example of what this looks like for me, ghosts and all. Faking it will come back to bite you.
- Reinforcing the idea that your favorite creators are People™. It’s easy to love people we don’t know (just like it’s hard to hate someone once we understand them because #duality). However, no one can be the curated version of themselves 24/7 and that’s what being in constant contact with our faves on social media has made us expect. Don’t idolize strangers. It’s a recipe for destruction and disappointment.
What am I missing? How do we bridge the gap?
This “I’ve been lying to you” piece has been brewing for a while now. I mentioned it to my friend and he enthusiastically told me to Do It! Thank you, yO.
I in general like a partial version of #3. Acceptance without much or no thought.In any one particular situation. I know it’s probably not the answer that you are looking for. A lot of what I think your saying has to do with why I don’t use social media much at all. I developed anxiety provoking racing thoughts(information overload) the more I utilized electronic devices. In saying this I realize your work probably has to do primarily with these such devices. Ironically I read this article after waking up in the middle of the night not being able to sleep because of life stressors/situations. Here is to staying present as much as we can and not let our thoughts define us. Thanks for the good read.
The friend on another continent here.
Just wanted to say that I think there is nothing more attractive than honesty and vulnerability, and our friendship rooted from it, and it’s one of the most precious things I possess.
I hope this article will encourage people not to suppress that need and be more truthful to themselves and others.
Funny thing…never watched Clueless but I had been thinking about watching it lately.
And thank you for calling me “super smart”.
♥️ Love 🐬♥️