Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tell me you love me!

We all need to feel loved.  It is essential to our health and well being. Not to mention our quality of life!

Feeling loved comes from feeling supported, connected and accepted by others. We exist in this world together. We live together, work together, play together, and dance together. Our sense of self is undoubtedly tied (in some way) to how we relate to others, as individuals and as groups. Others' reactions offer us feedback on who we are and how our actions have influence or not. But, for some of us, external feedback becomes more than just feedback. It becomes the test of whether we are worthy of being loved.

When we base our self worth on others' opinions, we enter the role of victim. We are subject to the highs and lows of that feedback.  We lose our sense of personal power when we give it away to the whims and preferences of others. On the flip side, we can't disregard all opinions of those around us.  That would be completely narcissistic and sociopathic.

It is not an all or nothing situation.  And, that is exactly what makes it so tricky and so emotionally confusing. 

I recently had a friend who posted a sort of "challenge" on Facebook, requesting those who actually care about her and the relationship/friendship to post one word in the comments about how they met.  On first glance it is a fun a playful game.  

But, when we look deeper, we can recognize the challenge as a powerful strategy for getting positive feedback which can momentarily bolster our sense of worth and importance.  Of course, the people who see it will respond!  They will want to pass the test and are now obligated if they want to affirm the relationship.  But, the strategy comes at a severe cost.  Those who don't post (for whatever reason including the fact that might not see it) have now "failed" the friendship. Is it an accurate portrayal of your friends? Or is is just a coincidence as to who was on a phone or computer at that given moment?  The test is imperfect, hugely imperfect. While it might seem benign at first, it can foster unhealthy ways of thinking about ourselves and who we are in relationship to others. What do we actually gain from asking people to post proof of their commitment or love? What happens if people don't post? And, ultimately, how does all of this affect our sense of self worth?

What does this painfully faulty, certainly imperfect, and potentially power sucking experience teach us?

Social media is entertainment (and marketing).  It is not about meaningful connection.  It can include meaningful moments, but that is the exception to the rule. In short, social media is a faulty feedback system.  As a choreographer and event director, I have learned just how easy it is for people to "like" an event or even join an event, but to actually show up at the event is another story. Social media is just plain inaccurate at times.

We know all this deep inside. Yet, we continue to play the game, and the neurons that fire together wire together. The more we engage, the more we think it is a good idea to engage.  But, it is certainly not a good idea to disengage, right? The feedback back system may be faulty, but it can still be useful, right? 

For me the key lies in the questions:
What do I hope to gain out of my time on social media?
With whom am I connecting and for what reasons?
How am I connecting and is it reflective of my real values or sense of self?

If we start to look to social media as our strategy for earning love, we will fall into a deep hole of powerlessness. This includes the moments when we feel "victory" for having 30 likes on a post, or 50 or 200! The moment of joy we feel when we get recognition is the moment we should question because it is in those moments that we have given away our power of self worth to someone else. Inevitably, the next post that only gets 2 likes will feel like a failure. Our self worth plummets again.

How do we protect ourselves from this vicious cycle?  We don't have to close our accounts, but we do have to practice awareness at every turn.  To check the highs as much as we check the lows.  We notice again and again when we are using the tool as a strategy for a deeper need like love, appreciation, connection, or acceptance.

Then we forgive ourselves. And. . . try again. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

When life has become a job. Even the fun stuff.

So, I made a huge revelation today.

I hate advertising, marketing, promoting, recruiting, and selling.  Those of you who know me personally, know that I don't use a word like hate freely. Dislike is about as strong as I go in most situations. So, for me to hate something is pretty big. Actually, its darn right colossal.

I am a creator. I love to generate ideas, make dances, write documents, design newsletter, etc.  What I hate is trying to convince someone that what I have done is worth their time, money or attention.  This commodification of the creative process eats at me; it burns up my life force and makes me really really sad.

Now, I know enough about marketing to reverse the perspective and say things like-- It is just sharing my "gift" with the world. It is letting people know of the great things I have planned or organized.  It is not about me or the event; it is about the person who is looking for something like this and wants to know about this event. . . needs to know about this event.

This things is, I don't know if I believe that.  From where I am sitting, I see throngs of people with overfull lives and no wiggle room for adding anything onto their agenda. They are too busy, too stressed, too strapped and even if they want to participate, their sleep deprivation is telling them otherwise. The supply out weighs the demand. There is more to do than anyone wants to do.

Life has become a job. Even the fun stuff. 

I will not guilt people into doing something.  I will not scare someone into doing something. I will not alienate them or devalue them as individuals if they choose not to do something. I believe in personal choice and personal freedom. I don't like manipulating someone into thinking they need something they don't want.  I can't do it. I won't do it.  Just the thought of it creeps me out!

I can't force anyone to do anything. I wouldn't want to. 

Here is the reality. I get sad when people don't come to my shows or to my events. It makes me sad that others do not see the value I see in the things to which I dedicate my time and energy. It triggers a deep sense of unworthiness in me. In my most downtrodden moments I wonder: Is it because I am just not good enough?  Maybe.  Or maybe I am fantastic-- but just a terrible promoter. 

What I know is that I believe in the things I do. I love doing them. I just don't have it in me to promote; I don't want to market; I don't want to convince; and, I certainly don't want to sell anything.  I have to detach from the outcome. I have to love the work so much that I would do it alone in a room with the lights out. A teacher of mine asked: what does a person do when they have made something no one wants? Like a hostess who has prepared a fabulous desert for a group of guests who just aren't that hungry.

The guests are not to blame because they are not hungry.

The hostess is not to blame for being generous and caring.

But, what happens to all that extra cake?

I don't know. I just don't know.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Each Moment is a Choice

We when engage with life, we usually have a strong reason why we choose what we choose.  I'm not saying that the strong reason is always a good reason nor is it always a healthy reason, but we are propelled to do things all day long by strong reasons. Why did you get out of bed today? Was it out of a love of the quiet morning hours? or perhaps it was the fear of being late to work and losing your job? Was it to care for your children whom you love so much?

Each moment is a choice.

That is the reality. For most of us the choices are small-- or rather seem small.  Do I agree to this project? Should I do my laundry today or tomorrow? We are fortunate that we have this much freedom of choice. Some people in the world face the choice to continue with the status quo or die as a consequence? THAT is a strong reason behind one's choices.

For those of us with depressive tendencies reasons can feel a little murky.  Sometimes I feel I don't know what I want at all. I can't tell what would bring me joy or what would perpetuate my state of discomfort and fogginess. This is one of the ways I experience the apathy of depression.  It is not that I don't care, but I can't tell what I care about. 

We are emotionally fragile beings. I think that we are all thin skinned when it boils down to it.  We are sensitive to our situation, and we can choose to notice that or to shut it down, stifle it, move on.  When we feel what we feel more fully, we can learn that is truly motivating us.  Joy or Fear, Love or Hate, Generosity or Greed. 

Engaging with life means more than going through the motions. Each day, each moment, we have a choice to drop into the full experience of the present. The more frequently we drop in, the more honest we can be with ourselves about our motives. And, if we really want it, then we should enjoy it.  We can love it and ourselves in the process.  We can't be perfect, but we can be more aware. 

Awareness is the choice. 

How do you really feel right now?

What do you really want to do in this moment? Why?

What would it take to make you excited to wake up tomorrow? Why?