I wrote about my #stopinstagrammingmyperfectlife experiment. Today, I share with you a free chapter from my book Culture Rebel about some of the struggles I’ve had with loneliness, isolation, jealousy in regards to facebook. This week, all Culture Rebel book sales go to support my friend Sara Curdie’s housing project called, “Hope House” for pregnant moms who have nowhere to go.
One of my favourite shows of the nineties is Seinfeld. I loved watching how Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer’s lives wove together through their endless “normality” of relationship issues, mishaps, and mundane days. It gave me warm, fuzzy feelings of camaraderie. I’d turn off the TV feeling like I had just been invited into their lives.
One of the hardest things I’ve experienced in my thirties is loneliness. When I was single and even into the early years of being newly married, I was always surrounded by amazing friends. Weekends were full of exciting adventures or just lounging together at someone’s house. It was truly an electric time. There’s nothing like having a safe group of friends who accept and love you. We could have taken on the world.
I’m not sure when that changed. It could have been when we moved to a new city and I found myself at home with a newborn. It was hard to start from rock bottom trying to find good friend material, and then to begin the hard work of building each relationship.
I had never been hurt by shallow people until my thirties. For the longest time, I wondered if they truly existed outside Junior High, but they do. Wondering who I could trust, I responded to the hurt by isolating myself from the world. I started building a sense of community on Facebook where I could put my best face forward. Yet Facebook sank me into more loneliness and depression than I could ever imagine. On Facebook, people would “friend” me only to ignore me in public. On my birthday, over two thousand “Happy birthday’s” would hit my wall, only to find me lonely, and dying for someone to go for coffee with. If I found someone I was finally beginning to connect with, I would soon see all the parties they threw that I was not invited to. I started to see my “friends” interacting with one another on their walls, but not on mine. They would “like” one another’s status’s, leaving mine void of any “likes” from them.
I started to become very self-conscious and guarded. I suddenly felt this grade eight feeling well up in my body: I decided to commit to NOT “liking” their status’s! “Take THAT.” If I had a party, I’d be sure to post pictures of all the fun we had without any of them. I’d put comments on the pictures such as, “Best party ever with the best people” (How old am I??)! I started carrying my camera everywhere, taking pictures with all my friends just to be able to post my amazing life for the world to see. “And here we are at the homeless shelter …” Gag me. I was making myself sick.
I didn’t like who I was becoming. I was morphing into a shallow soul who only saw people as photo opp’s’s for my Facebook charade. I didn’t like who I had become, but I didn’t know how to live any other way. I wasn’t finding deep friendships, so I had to create a world where it at least looked like I had them. The result? My loneliness was turning into some serious depression.
I remember the day I chose a new focus for my Facebook page. My goal was to stop treating it as my social empire, but as an opportunity to encourage and network with some amazing people. I would limit my time on it, and pick up the phone. I committed to investing in people. I started watching for girls I call “kindred spirits,” and dared to ask them to be my friends. Surprisingly, I found some who agreed. I stopped trying to be the most popular, and engaged in meaningful community with a handful. It has been refreshing.
I learned another valuable lesson through my Facebook journey: when haters try to destroy my spirit, I need to let it go. This has been hard to do at times, but the exercise of letting go is always freeing. I’ve learned that for every hater, there are always a dozen people who love my heart. Why focus on the ones who don’t care to understand? I moved on and chose not to open my mouth to speak against them. Seth Godin states, “It is human nature to be weird, but also human nature to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.”
Community is a hard thing to find, but I can guarantee you that it’s not found when you try to put your semi-fake best face forward online. It’s not found on twitter where you network with some amazing people, but they’re not your kindreds. It’s not built on texts sent from your cell phone. It comes from a willingness to be vulnerable; it takes phone calls, coffees dates, and finding the right people to build your life with. Sometimes, the long, hard path is just finding the right people: people you really love and feel you can give to and receive from; people who you won’t take for granted, and who won’t use you; people who show up when tragedy strikes, and who let you in when they need support; people who you stick with (and who stick with you) through disagreements and misunderstandings; people you would have over to your home, even when it looks like a bomb went off; and people who don’t scream when you show up in jogging pants and no makeup (Now that’s friendship) …
Community is messy. It forces us to let go of our perfect image and embrace the mess. It takes courage to allow yourself to be fully immersed in that kind of chaos. You need to be willing to love people without wanting anything in return. You have to let go of building relationships just for the benefit of where they will get you. True friendship and love is built on sacrifice and generosity that is completely selfless.
Perhaps you feel let down by relationships in your life, and the only relationships you have in your life now are those that you allow. I know, that wasn’t nice, but it’s the truth. If you’re being used and abused, however, you’re the only one who can get out of that. Sometimes we have to say “thanks, but no thanks,” and have enough self-respect to walk away. It’s not wrong to walk away from relationships that are damaging. Some of you need to re-read that sentence.
Perhaps you’ve been so driven by climbing the social ladder, you’ve actually fooled yourself into thinking you care about the people who surround you. You may care about the ones who have got you where you are, but who have you stepped on to get there? You may not want to dig up those repressed memories because then you may have to admit that you’ve been pretty shallow, and that would be hard. I’ve been in this place, and it’s incredibly humbling, but it will free you to be the loving person you truly are. Sometimes, we have to let go of what we know in order to embrace something better.
Community isn’t instant; it takes time to find, and then even more time to build. You’ll be tempted to give up and head back to your isolated tavern behind a screen, but don’t do it. Take the harder road. Show who you truly are and love every ounce of yourself and others. Love when you’ve been hurt. Forgive those who’ve hurt you and move forward. See value in people who are completely different than you. You weren’t called to live life alone, but in genuine friendships.
To order a copy of Culture Rebel click here and receive a signed copy from me! You’re supporting a great cause too!