Stop Lying to Yourself
I used to be an obsessive elite runner. I had a blog on Instagram where I’d regularly post about how running was my medicine and I’d be coming out with all the usual, recycled content we see most days:
"When I go for a run I feel like I can truly be me".
"It’s just me…and the road".
"Today wasn’t my day, but I’m going to come out fighting harder tomorrow".
"Magical unicorns fly out of my arse and dance alongside me while I’m pounding the pavement".
I mean, just thinking about it makes me want to vomit.
This is a better reflection of who I was:
I would be Mr Miserable most of the time because I hated my life and then would create an Instagram post talking about how in control of my life I was, which would be accompanied by a picture of me smiling into the camera. Every single post was smeared in bullshit. I knew it and I’m sure other people knew it...but it worked. I had a good 7,000 followers at my peak. That’s not to say that I didn't believe in what I was posting about, but it certainly didn’t portray me in an accurate way.
There was a positive outcome though and that was that I noticed it motivated and inspired others. See, this is the good thing about social media, people want to be inspired and it's a great way to support others and build a strong community. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own mental health.
I was living a lie. I was fooling everyone around me into thinking I had my shit together. I used to escape the world by living a virtual life. There were many times I went out for a run where I would go faster than I should because I wanted people on Strava to see how great I was. This had such an adverse effect on me because I was already doing at least 6 days of running a week, so to not allow my body a chance to rest, by going too quick on my easy days, meant I ended up feeling shattered all the time. This in turn made me feel worse about life because my cortisol levels were probably through the roof.
Every time I posted an image I would be checking in every minute to see how many likes it got. Every time I lost a follower I would log in to an app to see who it was so I could unfollow them too - the cheeky bastard! Every time a post didn’t get all the likes I had hoped for, I would get pissed off and start questioning why I’m even doing it in the first place. It was out of control.
So, I sound very melodramatic. To give myself some credit, there were many other issues in my life I was struggling with, like money and stresses of running my own business which added genuine fuel to this fire. It wasn’t all an illusion, I had real reasons to find life hard. But a lot of it was down to perception, attitude and an unwillingness to be honest with myself.
The reason I am highlighting the social media side of things is because I regularly see a lot of people pulling the wool over the eyes of their reader/viewer, just like I used to. Worst of all, they’re pulling the wool over their own eyes and that just makes me sad.
A lot of the people on Instagram who show that they’re living their best life are often completely contradicting what they preach. Because you could argue that if their life was worth living and taking up a lot of their focus, why would they be on social media posting exaggerated stories about how great they feel or posing for photos?
I want to stop you right now and ask you a question:
When you’re posting a photo on social media, why are you doing it?
Is one of the main reasons because you enjoy the attention you receive from people liking, commenting and following?
Now if that’s true, the next question I want to ask is…
Is that healthy?
A lot of people will deny this, including the old me. We don’t want to admit that we’re doing it just for attention because there are other reasons right? But I guess if someone said to you "if no one read your post, would you post it?". The answer is probably "No".
But isn’t that what Social media is all about? Posting about your day for others?
I guess this just exposes the inherent issue with social media - it’s a platform for people to seek attention.
The reason Social Media is such a problem is because it’s full of people who shout about being on top of their mental health when actually a lot of them are sat at home right now wishing they were dead. Or they're drinking themselves into a place of bliss or eating a ton of chocolate because they didn’t have a positive peak that day. Or they're just feeling numb. I appreciate this is the extreme side of things but it helps get my point across.
Some of these people are riding a volatile graph of emotion. One minute they’re down in the dumps, the next they’re riding a positive wave which gives them the energy they need to write up an Instagram post or create a blog. This illusion of happiness gives them all the dopamine they need to feel like life is 'back on track', only to come crashing down the next day. It’s a very unhealthy way to seek happiness and it is a constant reminder to themselves that their life is actually far from perfect.
Some people claim to have struggled and overcome all of their problems, but this is a lie too because no one ever truly overcomes life’s problems. In fact, a good read of ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ by Mark Manson will tell you that “Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.” We should crave the struggle, because it’s this that gives us perspective and allows us to appreciate the success that comes from the struggle.
The reality for those people who claim to have overcome all their problems is that, actually, now they might just be aware of how much of a dick they used to be, or they might be able to look back and see that someone around them may have been toxic, so they disposed of them. But there is no such thing as a truly healed person because to suggest you are healed, suggests you were broken in the first place. Is that true? Who defines this? Is there some sort of perfect being that we should all aspire to be like? Not really. So why the fuck do we keep trying to become that imaginary person?
Here’s the the positive bit (at last!). Being unhappy and struggling is OK! For some reason we embrace the positive emotions that come with being Human but for a long time we have tried to ignore and suppress all the negative emotions...In fact I won’t call them negative because that suggests that they’re wrong…Opposing emotions to happiness and joy are just as natural and required to live a healthy and balanced life and we need to stop pretending that this isn’t the case. Crying at a film doesn't make you less of a man. Shaking with nerves doesn't make you an unstable woman.
So, what’s your point Phil? What I’m trying to highlight here is that for as long as we’re not honest with ourselves, we can’t start to develop. Being able to truly reflect on what makes you you allows you to decide which bits you dislike and which bits you like. It’s not as linear as saying…"OK cool, I can be really selfish sometimes, I’ll stop doing that"…Because there’s a whole bunch of arseholes on this planet and sometimes you have to be selfish in order to not get completely shafted by them…metaphorically of course. But being honest allows you to objectively view yourself and figure out what you're doing right and what you could improve on.
What you should be asking yourself is:
"Is the message I’m giving out a true reflection of me?"
"Is what people see of me the person I want to be known as?"
"Will I be remembered for talking about how great I am rather than doing things in life that make other people believe I’m great?"
"Do I really give a fuck about what these people think about me?"
To truly be at peace, you need to look inwards not outwards. Stop looking around for things to blame for your downfalls. Start realising that you’re in the driver’s seat.
The good news is that mental health awareness is on the rise. We’re finally starting to tackle this issue. But I feel that we’re coming at it the wrong way. The way it seems to work is this:
Someone has a shit time
We acknowledge that it’s ok to have a shit time
More people have a shit time because it’s ok to have a shit time
But shouldn’t we be trying to avoid the shit time happening in the first place? Or should we in fact be educating our youngsters to realise that life is going to be shit some times, but that’s just the way it is.
We are repeatedly told that anything is possible…but it’s not true either. It’s another illusion we are spoon-fed as children, which I think is causing a lot of upset in the world of mental health. We’re planted this idea that we can all be exceptional. But if we were all exceptional, we’d all be average…because the very concept of what is exceptional would have to be remeasured, pushing exceptional even further up the imaginary ladder. So we forever have this huge amount of expectation, when in reality most of us will live pretty average lives.
That sounds super negative right? But, really think about it. Is everything really possible? The answer is categorically 'No'. Is a lot possible? 100% yes! Should it stop you living a fulfilled a meaningful life? Definitely not! Does this statement sound negative because we've been brainwashed to believe that life is defined by materialism? Probably.
The point is, there is so much you can achieve in life. And more importantly, so much to be enjoyed in life. But you really need to stop telling yourself lies every single day because once you stop this you’ll be able to focus. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that self loathing place where you beat yourself up for not being good enough, or worse, blaming the things around you for your failures.
"That’s just me, I can’t change that about myself".
If you find yourself saying this then it probably means you have a pretty shitty attitude and it's yet another lie you're spewing everywhere. It’s fear of change or a fear of having to work hard and that's simply not good enough!
If you’re not earning a six figure pay by the time you’re 30, so fucking what? You weren’t automatically entitled to this anyway and shouldn’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. However, if it didn’t happen because you were a lazy waste of space, well that you can be ashamed of. Being a hard worker, being loyal, being kind, showing compassion. Now those are traits that will be remembered.
Lastly, know that this discovery is ongoing. Think about who you were 10 years ago. Wow, big difference right? Well, think what another 10 years will do. Change is inevitable and unpredictable. But change can be heavily influenced by your actions today. So why wait?