You know, if you really let yourself get into it, knowledge of self and self study can be one of the most fascinating and compelling subjects of all. It’s also one that I am still pretty new to. For the majority of the years that I have been lucky enough to walk this earth, I would have arrogantly stated; ‘of course I know who I am, how could I not?’.
When then truth was; I actually didn’t. Not really. I existed for many years as a mildly entertaining (sometimes) mass of lots of stuff; emotions, feelings and assumptions. I had a number of hardwired beliefs about the way I thought the world should be, and then had emotional reactions when things didn’t play out the way I had imagined them to. What was missing was my connection to me, therefore my reactions to things could be wide and far ranging.
The world we live in provides ample opportunity for people to exist in this way for an infinite amount of time. We are a society obsessed with distractions; things that take us away from ourselves. We are so good at not being ‘with’ ourselves, we actually have no idea that we are doing it.
And I was definitely a master in the art of disconnection. A real pro.
Over the past couple of years, I have made my deepening connection to me my primary focus, and that has meant losing a ton of distractions along the way. Some, like choosing not to drink alcohol or caffeine, or watch TV, happened very naturally for me, but some have taken a little more work; working on my stillness via meditation practice, moving around world without music in my ears the whole time, plus a million other smaller changes. Every time I manage to overcome one set of distractions, I find a whole new load.
But the beautiful thing is; through this process of elimination, I am now getting to know myself fully, and trusting and celebrating myself in a way that I didn’t before. I also learn new things about myself all the time. But that doesn’t mean to say my work here is done.
The mind is a wily little trickster, and manages to keep itself brilliantly agitated and activated as much as we let it. And let it we do, leaving it to roam free most of the time, all wide-eyed, delirious and unkempt. So that’s the thing I have been working on changing, little by little.
Most recently; my relationship with social media is something that I’ve been putting under the microscope, thanks entirely to a workshop session I attended recently run by All Rise, an organisation founded to bring a focus and awareness to cyber bullying.
At that workshop they asked us to conduct a simple experiment; to limit our social media use to five times a day. At the same session, they asked us what our primary purpose for using social media was; for a specific purpose or to pass time. I wholeheartedly believed my usage to be primarily with purpose.
Day one of the experiment, I realised I was completely wrong. I had already taken the step of removing the Facebook app from my phone earlier this year, and I actually haven’t missed it, so that wasn’t my problem. My biggest problem was Instagram. I wasn’t there with ‘purpose’, I was there to pass time, and see EVERYTHING.
For some reason, I had created a rule for myself that I wanted to see all of the photos that anyone I follow posts. EVER. When they changed the photo order algorithm, I remember being particularly upset for exactly that reason – it meant I might not see EVERYTHING. What that meant in practice, is that almost the first thing I would often do in the morning is look through the night’s activities, and perhaps the same at the other end of the day also.
Which begs the question; why on earth did I feel I needed to see everything? A healthy interest in the outside world is a beautiful thing, but when we are obsessively observing something and detaching from ourselves, that can never be a good thing.
The next question should be; why? And the answer can only be; because I was finding another way to disconnect from myself.
Just to be super clear here; I’m not suddenly becoming anti-Instagram or anti-Social. Social media has played a huge role in helping me to connect to the world at a time when, off the back of substantial self-administered life changes, I really didn’t know where to begin. In the right circumstances and for the right reasons, I celebrate it as the magnificent monster that it is.
I’m just becoming more mindful of the way that I use it, and what my genuine motivation is behind that. My life is so precious, I want to be sure that I am not wasting it just ‘passing time’, I want to live with purpose, to breathe and feel as many moments as possible.
By removing or at least becoming aware and therefore mindful of the distractions I have used or still use to disconnect, I find myself increasing my connection to myself all the time.
I see myself more and more clearly with each positive change, and become increasingly unapologetic about who I am. For I have no need to be – who I am is pretty awesome. And if, like in this scenario, I find areas that need a bit of work, I am absolutely prepared to hold my hands up and attempt to fix them.
For anyone who is inspired by reading this to do something similar; perhaps it is worth conducting a little audit and considering what form your distractions take at this point.
It could also be worth running your own ‘social media’ experiment, and considering the motives behind the time you spend looking at social media, and whether there’s something bigger behind that that you might want to take a little look at.