Updated: May 9, 2019
Buddhist monk Haemin Sumin believes that “When you have an unpleasant feeling, don’t grab hold of it and turn it over and over. Instead, leave it alone so it can flow. The wave of emotion will naturally recede on its own as long as you don’t feed it by dwelling on it.”
We live in an age in which the pursuit of the perfect life and the perceived existence of that of others’ persist. It is a wonder that many of us are unhappy? How can we hold on through the peaks of life’s highs and the troughs of the darker times? One thing that is certain is that there is an inevitability of both. We need to accept this. By working towards achieving an inner balance we can safeguard our minds against the impact of fluctuations in extreme emotions thus making us more resilient.
Reframing our perception of others’ lives can be a first step in embracing life’s ebbs and flows. Giving yourself a break from the deceptiveness of social media will help. Research has shown that the average person checks their mobile device up to 85 times a day if not more. Each interaction has the potential to cause stress and anxiety caused by unrealistic images to which we may then believe we should aspire. How can you achieve the perfect balayage? (call hairdresser now). Where can you buy those new Valentino rock stud heels? (cue hours of on line browsing time and angst over whether you can or cannot afford them, fall behind on what you were actually doing; feel guilty; do not purchase shoes; feel inadequate). Looking at others’ holiday photos on Facebook and Instagram also fuels such feelings. It might be a cold November and 8 months before your skin will feel the sun’s embrace. Up pops your friend’s beaming face as she shows the world her perfectly manicured toes while lying on a padded sun lounger, drink in hand on a Caribbean island. You look at your toes which at best could do with a sandblast and begin feeling low at the state and direction of your life and flaky trotters.
Consider for a moment that these images projected onto social media platforms are curated. Much like a museum curator selects and omits certain pieces to include in an exhibition, people do the same with the images they post. Where are the posts of the mundane? The images of them loading and unloading the washing machine with dirty rugby kit or a child’s bedding sodden with urine? This is life. Where are the images of them standing in the queue in the post office returning web purchases they made after a few too many solitary gins on a Saturday night? This is life. Where are the videos of them arguing with their spouse, scolding their dogs or unblocking their toilets? This is base; this is life. This is hardly a ground-breaking perception, we all know this but how many of us act to reduce or remove these erroneous mind invasions? Un-follow the people or organisations that make you feel inadequate and that you know present an unrealistic “amazing life”. Those impossibly toned fitness models? They are probably breathing in! Your favourite actress’s flawless complexion? Airbrushed! Those designer handbags and shoes? Fakes! Too much scrolling will make you feel dumpy, ugly and poor. You are doing this to yourself. Stop creating space for this in your mind. There is enough going on in there already, isn’t there? The moment you willingly remove potential stressors from your day-to-day life, you begin take back control of your own thoughts. The longer you continue to allow space for these mind-invasions the longer they will bother you, slowly and unwittingly grinding you down, crushing your spirit and creating anxieties.
The Netflix series, Black Mirror, began its third season with a satirical look at the potential power of social media on society. The episode, entitled, ‘Nosedive’, demonstrated the dangers of people deriving their self-worth from the opinions of others. Paranoia and anxiety ensue for the central character, Lacie Pound, resulting in a public mental breakdown and ultimately jail. This story may be ridiculous or prophetic. The message is clear though: if we seek our self-esteem from the opinions of others rather than creating it ourselves the outcome will be one of disappointment and emptiness. Stop doing this, now. The opinions of others are exactly that: they are none of your business so don’t make them so.
Seek self-worth and validation from yourself, no one else.
Be kinder to yourself.
Take control of your own thoughts and avoid dwelling on negativity.
Cut down on your social media time. It is an utter waste of your mind space.
Believe that negative emotions do pass, and things will get better.
Practise visualisation by imagining your negative thoughts washing away and sewing your imaginary scarlet letter on to your chest.
Channel the strength of Marcus Aurelius who wrote “Your soul takes on the colour of your thoughts.” Choose the thoughts that your mind will entertain and discard all others.