Tag Archives: Instagram

Self Care In A Pandemic (40): Be Inspired, But Don’t Compare…

In the UK, there are a couple of well known insurance companies with catchy ‘theme tunes’ (or ‘jingles’ if you use Americanised English) as part of their adverts.

One is called ‘Go Compare’ with a caricatured opera singer singing ‘Go Compare, Go Compare…!’ Some might find it a little annoying, but it certainly sticks in the mind, and as far as advertising is concerned, I suppose that’s the point – to be memorable, and to ‘stick’.

Another cute advert that you might be aware of is one with animated / toy Meerkats that deliver the lines. Their slogan lets us know that it’s not ‘Compare the Meerkat’ but ‘Compare the Market dot com’ in an Eastern European accent. Almost everyone over here will know these characters because they’ve become so memorable. I even know that the original Compare the Market meerkat is called Sergei! Another is Oleg, the baby meerkat. They offer discounts, cinema vouchers and added extras as part of their low cost insurance. Let me just say that I’m not sponsored by anyone, but it just proves my point that these things can be catchy and stick with us.

Our culture teaches us to compare:

So what does that have to do with anything, and with self care in the pandemic in particular? I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that our culture, particularly western culture or cultures that use a lot of advertising and / or social media encourage us to compare our lives with others or with a ‘dream like’ life.

We are prompted to compare our skin with the skin of airbrushed models so that we will buy that next beauty product that will make us more like the ‘ideal’. We are compelled to compare our bodies, our lifestyles, our health and fitness, our belongings with other people’s and to fill up that ‘lack’ in our lives by buying that next product or paying money to make our lives better in some way.

Sometimes we are prompted to compare our lives with those who are poor or suffering in some way so that we will realise just how much we have, how much they need, and give towards fulfilling the need of others through charitable acts. Such comparison can be good, when we are giving towards causes that are just and fair and above board and that actually do help other people. While comparison can be ‘the thief of joy’, it can also be a humbling force that causes us to be more grateful and to give to other people out of love, duty or kindness, and in that case it can help us to live more thankful and giving lives.

Aside from the world of advertising, social media also can be a source of comparison with our peers. This can prompt a variety of reactions within us if we are part of those worlds. I imagine that people who constantly scroll through social media may do so to keep in touch with others, but they may also find ways to celebrate their friends blessings and achievements. However, as the news stories often highlight, there is a darker side to this psychologically. I’ve read quotes that say that the pictures other people share of their lives are often the ‘highlight reels’ of what is going on with them. We may never know that, but what we do know is that studies show that constant comparison can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and wellbeing.

Is this something you need to think about in the pandemic when issues such as loneliness, poor health, illness and low self esteem may be more at the fore than usual? Do you need to take a step back?

Of course we don’t need to be part of the worlds of social media to experience the comparison trap. We might experience it through the updates of a friend through text, email, letter or face to face. Even though we are separated by the pandemic restrictions, we are in many ways more ‘connected’ than ever. We need to forge out mutually healthy and beneficial connections, but this is not always the case when people are part of worlds when they gain insight into the lives of people they are not necessarily close to.

It is good when we face comparison to take a step back and be grateful for what we have, for our own lives, and to seek to be inspired. Comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s what we do with it that matters and how we process our thoughts, emotions and reactions.

There is a verse in the Bible that says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”. What a verse to hold to in 2020 and going forwards, with so many ups and downs and contrasts! Christianity prompts us to lift our eyes away from ourselves to Jesus Christ and to love and serve Him and other people.

If you are struggling with the comparison trap, know that you are human, everyone experiences it to some extent, and don’t beat yourself up for it. Perhaps you need to take a step back, work on a change of attitude, or think about whether something is ‘triggering you’.

I don’t experience much of this on Word Press blogging. Actually, until recently I have enjoyed the variety of things coming up in my news feed on the bloggosphere. Unfortunately, however, I felt the need to unfollow someone whose blog I enjoyed reading because of the contrast that wasn’t good for my mental health – something good is happening in their life and while I don’t personally know them, I am pleased for them from a distance. But at the same time, it feels like they are sharing a lot about this good thing and it is in a way a stumbling block for me, and so to protect my mental health I’ve had to consider not seeing those posts so much. I can choose to go to their blog and read it when I like, but I’ve also chosen not to have those posts randomly pop up in my feed when I’m not mentally ready to see them, because the contrasts are difficult for me. That’s ok. We all need to consider each other, but sometimes we’re not so good at doing that, so we learn as we grow.

I try to write posts that will encourage all of you, but please do let me know if there is anything that you find challenging or want me to consider in how I can better support you through my writing.

In the meantime, remember that your life is unique, beautiful, one of a kind and incomparable. As you live it, seek to uplift other people and don’t let your successes cause anyone else to stumble as far as you are able or it is in your power to do so.

Your life is precious. Live it well. Today. Be blessed. x

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (18): Expectations….of yourself…

Well done friends, we have all made it to the final month of 2020! God’s Grace has carried me through many storms prior to this year, and I have been kept safe in His Care this year, and this makes me wonder how many of you feel like 2020 has been a stormy year for you?

I started this blog in 2017 (hence ‘livingfully2017′ in the title), and since then I have enjoyed writing series’ of posts on self care during the winter seasons, and I wrote quite extensively last year, so if you need a little ‘pick me up’ and some good advice from last year then do a little search through my blog archives and you will be sure to find something helpful, inspiring and encouraging I hope!

I think that we can all agree that this year we all need a bit of encouragement as we enter the final month of the year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly never experienced a pandemic before, but that being said I think a lot of the advice I would normally offer at this time of the year would still hold good, especially as I am particularly mindful of how this can be a sensitive time of year for many and that it is also a time of year that highlights more starkly the contrasts that exist between people who are doing well and those who are suffering.

As we hit December 1st in any given year, social media presents us with all sorts of lifestyle goals, and perhaps we put pressure on ourselves to have those picture perfect experiences that aren’t always entirely in touch with the real lives we are actually living through.

This year, I would encourage you, and myself, to consider the expectations we have – and in this post let’s think about the expectations we place upon ourselves.

As a Christian, Advent – the time of the year where we focus particularly upon the preparations in the lead up to Christmas as we think about the reality of the first Advent before Jesus Christ was born into the world to Be The Saviour of The World, is a special and meaningful time for me. It reminds me of the real preparations of heart, mind and spirit that I should be making in thinking of what God has done for me, of Emmanuel, the Living God being with me, and how to live to honour Him because of His Sacrifice of His very life for me at the Cross, so that in His Resurrection I can live a new life. I have been delivered out of darkness, fear, hurt, pain, and been forgiven and set free to live a new life in Christ, and this is what we rejoice about at Advent – the Gift of the Messiah, the Saviour, God Incarnate come to dwell with His Creation and offer us Forgiveness if we put our trust and hope in Him. Jesus Is The only reason I’m still alive in this world today and He Is my Rescuer and my constant source of Peace and Comfort all the days of my life no matter what happens in my circumstances.

Whatever you believe, or don’t believe, this is a time of year when you may feel pressure to meet certain expectations. Do you feel pressurised to decorate your home in a certain way, if you have kids to keep them entertained and happy with different activities, to be a peacemaker in your family, to reach out to your friends, to do all sorts of acts of charity, to be creative, to cook, to organise things, to have a picture perfect holiday season, to have an album of holiday pictures that will make people wish their lives were more like yours?!

We absorb expectations from all sorts of places, and in the society we live in where media is at the forefront of our daily lives, some of these expectations are unrealistic especially when we may be struggling to get through or to keep our heads above the water.

I want to encourage you to focus on those expectations of yourself that are internal. That are more to do with your character, your journey to discover Truth, your mental and emotional health and wellbeing, your healing, recovery and authenticity in your friendships and relationships and in reaching out to others. Also to allow yourself to be unable and to cry out for help because we all need help at some point in our lives.

Are you, are we burdening ourselves with things we can really let go of? Has 2020 taught us anything in this way about the excesses and unnecessary things we spend our time and attention upon?

You don’t need to have a picture perfect holiday or Christmas whatever that means. We are living through hard times and if you are in a good place then maybe it is a great opportunity for you to use that to inspire and encourage other people, but we need to learn that covering up how we actually are with filters isn’t an authentic way forward.

So please, if you are hurting yourself with the weight of your own expectations of yourself, consider laying that down. I pray you will lay it down at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ Who will bear you up in His Loving arms and carry your burdens for you. He Died for you to be free. He Loves you. And even if you don’t relate to that right now, consider that in any case you may be adding weight to your own load by the expectations you place upon yourself.

This has not been a perfect year. Don’t add to your own struggles if you don’t have to. Take care, and find rest. xx

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

‘Social media influencers’ …is it time for a new wave?

So, not too long ago, I discovered the term ‘social media influencers’…I had been aware of the work of such people, but wasn’t as yet ‘au fait’ with the terminology.

As mentioned in a previous post, my generation was the last generation to grow up with technology such as the Internet, but also be able to remember a time when it wasn’t a thing in mainstream society. I see myself as very fortunate in this regard, for the perspective it gives me and others – we are kind of caught between the old and the new….although that isn’t necessarily a matter of age or life stage so much as being able to interact with changing developments, while being able to analyse the potential effects of them in a wider sense as well. Those of an ‘older generation’ may find it hard to engage with technological and societal changes and may have no idea what their children and grand children are talking about when it comes to new opportunities that they see for themselves. They may not consider a ‘proper job’ to be anything less than something you have trained for professionally or academically for a number of years, gained a qualification in and can thereby contribute to society in a 9 to 5 world. This could include being skilled through an apprenticeship, ‘on the job’ training and such like, but to them a ‘real job’ has nothing to do with social media. Let me clarify, that with regards to this perspective, I have a ‘real job’ and have never earned an income from social media, and I don’t earn a penny from anything I write on this blog, although I see the potential in exploring avenues elsewhere for my photography that might free up a bit of extra time so that I have more flexibility with the types and ways I work. I love my job, but it is more analytical and I do write a lot as part of my role, but it is business writing. That is only one part of me, and I therefore find outlets from my creative side which is a huge part of who I am through writing my novel, writing my blog, photography projects, arts, crafts, adult colouring, music, (easy) jewellery / bead making and other similar projects on the side, all of which I do as hobbies. 

The generation coming after me is unlikely to remember what it was like to not have social media and technology as a central part of their lives. People now joke that babies come out of the womb knowing how to use a smart phone! It may sound ridiculous but by the time a child is a toddler, they may be more efficient at using social media than their grandparents! The ‘GenZ’ generation as it has come to be known as, unlike the ‘Millenial’ generation to which I was born into in terms of time frame, not necessarily values overall, is exposed from day 1 as it were to a world where technology is most of what they know. As such, many younger people see their lives and their future opportunities as coming from online ventures. And many are making money – A LOT of money from the myriad of opportunities available to them online. There are bloggers, and some of you – older and younger – may be part of the community that does manage to make an income from your online blogs, and I’d be very interested to hear about your experiences and journey if you’d like – there are ‘YouTubers’ and Instagrammers and a whole host of other people using a myriad of platforms to make a name for themselves, their brand, or their message. 

Advertisers and big businesses have seized upon this potential and ‘social media influencers’ – those, particularly young people, who have a significant ‘following’ are prime investments as it were for companies to draw in more customers. Influencers may be setting new trends and those who follow and look up to them will want to emulate them. 

In my experience, and correct me if I’m wrong, social media influencers tend to be particularly dominant in the fields of beauty, make up, fashion, gaming, health and fitness, diet, food, wellness, and in providing opinions on merchandise of various sorts. Maybe even travel, but I find that probably beauty and fashion and lifestyle are more predominantly represented – what are your thoughts? 

The potential to influence others is massive…incredible really. This can be reflected partially in the hefty figures that represent their takings from 4, 5 and even 6 figure sums. Influencers shape trends, and reach sometimes millions of ‘viewers’. Yet, are they using their platforms effectively for what can really influence the generations to come? 

Fashion and beauty trends come and go. Products, likewise gain and lose popularity over time. So while for a short time this influence has an impact on their audience, and their pockets and their own lifestyles, which I don’t have a problem with, does not influence also bring with it responsibility? I have seldom seen young people who are prominent in social media, in terms of being influencers, using their platforms for issues of humanitarian concerns and social justice. Yet, what a platform they have! Occasionally, I have seen people reflect upon a tragedy or situation in world events, but very rarely and usually as part of a ‘trend’ so that they are also seen to be involved. I haven’t been exposed to much of what seems to be part and parcel of their central work or message. And that’s a real shame and a wasted opportunity. I have seen ‘Youtubers’ who are in this ‘mid-generation’ using their voice to raise awareness of social issues and personal struggles, not in a self indulgent way but as advocates for change. I am a bit of an ‘oldie’ when it comes to changing trends, so please do educate me if I have got this all wrong. I know a lot of young people are very vocal about climate change and sustainable living but I don’t know if they are the ones with these massive platforms…?

But if what I have perceived is an accurate reflection of the times then surely there is a need for a ‘new wave’ of social media influencers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they should leave their passions for beauty and health and other such things, but to use their platforms to also advocate for change in terms of the myriad of problems facing society today: if you are a health vlogger, and talk a lot about diet and fitness, could you also use your platform to encourage individuals and industries to care for the homeless and those without food, similarly could fashion influencers reach out to those who have nothing to wear, literally, not figuratively? Could those who speak about home and lifestyle and living their ‘best life’ raise awareness or use their connections with followers and businesses to improve the welfare of the most hurt, marginalised and distressed children in society? And what can we do, even those of us who have a limited sphere of influence like myself, and who have no connections with industries, and who receive no payment for what we do online, can we also use what voice we do have for the benefit of humanity and not merely the outward and fleeting trends that are popular for a moment and then gone the next? 

As always, I love to hear your thoughts…. xx

men s black and white striped polo shirt
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Healing: It’s ok to take your time…

When was the last time you suffered from ‘FOMO’ (you know, that 21st Century phenomenon that is the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’)? 

While this anxiety, and by that I don’t mean envy, may be harnessed in a way that one might use pre-exam nerves to motivate them to take action or do better, can be harnessed to compel one to take positive steps in life, to make the most of things, it can also be used as a rod to beat one’s own back. 

You see, in the path to healing, whether that is physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or all of the above, we might find ourselves in places that we really don’t want to be. The place may be physical or subjective. For example, on the pathway of healing, one might be in a hospital bed, or a mental prison. The confines can come in a variety of forms, and their impact upon us has a lot to do with how we react to our situations. 

In a world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, to name a few online spaces, we often see lives that seem worlds apart from our own. When we see a constant stream of happy, healthy images, of people seemingly living life to the full, surrounded by friends, family, apparent ‘success’, and ‘ticking all the boxes’ of lives great milestones – graduations, birthdays, engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, and the happy lives of those surrounded by love, life, travel, adventure, achievement, talent, good health….the list goes on…. you fill in the blank for what you struggle with seeing…. we can be left feeling deflated.  Perhaps especially if or when things aren’t quite going so smoothly for us. 

Now, I can’t promise you healing. I can’t say for certain how things will work out. But I can say that I have been imprisoned by many things, and I know The One Who Has set me free, and Who continues to heal and restore me. If you know The Lord Jesus, you know He Is Real, He Is Good, He Loves you and has a place for you. 

If you don’t yet know Him (and I pray that you will know His very specific love for you, some day) then you can still glean from His Wisdom. 

You are important. Your journey is important. If you’re like me, you have perhaps fought hard to survive certain storms in your life, pushed on, worked hard, done everything your little self could do, to find that while you have survived, you may still feel broken. And while you have endured long and fought hard to overcome repeated challenges and obstacles, somehow you find yourself surrounded by people who know little of this road, and whose terrain has been more of meadows than of jagged mountains. They seem to breeze through life, move through all the milestones smoothly, happily and at the expected time, they don’t seem to have to go through trial after trial, and although they have ups and downs like everyone in life, they don’t seem to be particularly tough and they have had plenty of ‘cushioning’ in their early lives and a good support system so that things that come their way don’t seem to phase them. Of course, we don’t know what we might find if we were to peel back the layers of these lives, but it is fair to say that some people do have a happier time of it than others.

So, what do yo do when you find yourself in a place of ‘FOMO’, of comparison, of anxiety, doubt and fear? Your future does not seem so secure, you don’t think you’ll ever experience the blessings that come so easily. Perhaps you feel defeated, disappointed, by the hospital bed, by the medication, by the nightmares, the divorce, the physical sickness, the trauma, the depression, anxiety, stress, uncertainty, loneliness….the list goes on and on. And as you think about these contrasts, the despair and worry begin to build. What will become of you? This wasn’t how it was meant to be.

First let me say, whether you realise it or not, you are *loved*, by a God Who created you, chose you, fashioned you, and Who can bring meaning from your sufferings – indeed The One True and Living God Who suffered anguish to save you – to bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. Eternal security, and security for this life, each and every day knowing that The Good Shepherd Is walking with you every step of the way. 

Like I said, even if you don’t know Him yet, even if you are angry at God, refuse to believe in Him, or are frustrated at why He seems to be so ‘unfair’ towards you, you are not alone in these feelings. In a broken world, our broken hearts struggle to believe that we are loved or cared for, or that our lives matter, because we each are special. 

First, I encourage you, regardless of your beliefs, if you are walking a path towards healing, to come away from those places of comparison for a while. Sometimes we want to run before we can walk. But today is important, and you matter. Focus on building up your own life and rather than wishing it was different, do something to make it so. The small things matter. Take time by yourself to rest awhile. Our bodies and minds are over run and overcharged, and we all need some ‘down time’ to recalibrate, and to get busy doing nothing. Perhaps you are limited in what you can do – perhaps you are confined indoors, but if you are not, open a window or wander outside and linger in the freshness of the air you are still blessed with to be able to breathe. Small steps are important. Can you put something healthy into your body, can you exercise even a little, just 5 minutes today, can you do something that will strengthen and nurture your soul? Can you colour, or read, or write, or journal, think, pray? Can you gaze at the clouds moving gently past, or linger over a hot cup of tea? Can you enjoy the laughter of a child? Can you pick up where you left off, and get even a little bit stronger today? Can you say something kind to yourself, and remember, whether you believe it yet or not, that you are loved?

My friend, if like me, you have come a long way, you may feel like despite all your effort you haven’t got far enough. But take time to realise how far you *have* come. It is ok to rest a while, if you can. It has taken everything to get here, and we want to run, but first we need to grow strong in our ability to walk through life…metaphorically speaking. 

It is ok to take your time. It is important not to compare, unless that comparison leads to gratitude and kinder, more compassionate hearts. You are not alone on this journey. We all live in a broken, fallen world, where a lot of things seem unfair. But we have been given a Hope. We have been given strength enough for today. Reach out….reach out to Him….Jesus…The Living God, Who Loves you….and if you can’t find it in yourself to do that yet….at least reach out and do something today that will strengthen you in your onward journey of a more whole and peaceful live. xx

photo of a pathway in a forest
Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

Are you Liked?

Social media has changed things. For those of us who are young(ish) adults, we may remember a time before the Internet (yes, younglings….there really was such a time! and no, I’m not old 🙂 ), the transition to when the Internet first came to be, and our first intrepid steps into this new world of knowledge at our fingertips. Yes, sometimes that knowledge would be a bit slow to load up on our computer screens, we had dial up modem connections and we also had a bit more patience. These were the days when our first instincts when presented with a school or university paper to write were still to go to the ‘LIBRARY’ (yes, the kind of library with books made of *actual* paper 😉 ) to do our research, and perhaps venture into the strange and novel ‘World Wide Web’ to supplement our findings.

Put in perspective of the length of human history, it is fair to say that the Internet is actually quite a new creation, and hasn’t actually been around for that long. And yet, nowadays, it seems like babies are weaned on the milk of electronic gadgets and gizmos that are rapidly changing and developing, and many school aged children, even very young children, cannot imagine a world, or their lives, without the Internet, and have never experienced such a world.

So although as adults, those of us who were growing up just as the strange language of this mysterious ‘Web’ began to enter our parlance, or who were already ‘fully fledged adults’ as it were, had passed through those fiery adolescent years of wondering if anyone liked us after all, we are still faced with this nervous desire to know whether we are ‘liked’ every time we connect to the web. Or at least, most of us are.

Social media has changed things. In many parts of the world it is absolutely and irreversibly the norm. We no longer see the Internet primarily as a tool to gain knowledge or to supplement education and learning, but as a multifaceted, ubiquitous, all things to all people, source of input, entertainment, news, gossip, stories, celebrities, fact, ‘fake news’, colours, noise, opinions, ideas, creations, inventions, innovations, trends, popularity contests and the seemingly endless list goes on and on and is daily reinvented.

Perhaps those of us who blog seek a quieter and more reflective online space, that the more fast paced social media tools that we may also use such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (and there my knowledge of such things ends 😉 ) would grant us.

But nonetheless, even the more reflective world of blogging shares the common feature of the ‘like’ facility.

How many of us log in to our Word Press accounts and immediately look at that little bell at the top right of the screen to see whether it has a little red or orange marker to indicate that someone has ‘liked’ or appreciated our content? You can be honest with yourself here.

It is a fascinating little ‘button’ that often makes me smile when I click on it, mainly because it makes me feel more connected to you. I realise that on the other side of this computer screen are real people, with fascinating stories, unique lives and thoughts, who have taken the time to acknowledge and appreciate mine. That is really something special, I think. And truly, the Internet can be a wonderful place, with some truly special people in it.

However, sometimes I wonder whether there is something about that ‘like button’ that triggers an instinct in ourselves to evaluate who we are, our value, and the value of what we have to say by how many ‘likes’ we receive. If we pour our heart and soul into writing something meaningful to us, and it is not noticeably acknowledged, does this in turn impact our self-esteem, even on a subconscious level?

Don’t get me wrong, I think ‘likes’ are wonderful. I genuinely like ‘likes’, and feel more connected with other people online because of them. However, if we find that our attention is unduly drawn towards whether something we have shared on our blogs has been liked or not, if we feel our heart sink if it hasn’t, and if we feel a glimmer of old feelings from childhood and teenage years when our likeability by our peers seemed to be a direct evaluation of our perceived worth, then perhaps it is time to take a step back.

I know that sinking feeling. And I know it has deeper roots than anything Internet related. As a child I was badly bullied for a few years, and I was worthless. I didn’t just feel worthless, but my existence was consumed by this rejection, the not measuring up, not being liked or being actively disliked, of being undesirable, outcast, rejected, neglected, unworthy, broken, hurting, isolated, ignored, overlooked, despised and alone. My broken heart and wounded mind is still being repaired and undergoing a process of transformation. No child, or adult for that matter, deserves to feel that way. And the more I think about it, the more I realise I feel passionately about encouraging other people, as well as myself, to know that although it is lovely, and a natural human desire, to be appreciated, our worth as individuals, as members of this community, and the worth of what we have to say and to share cannot be diminished by the lack of a ‘like’.

You *are* a star irrespective of whether anyone has pressed that star to like your post. You are unique, incredible and fascinating, with stories that no one but you can tell, and a world within a world of thoughts, imagination, hopes, dreams, fears and love. You can change things in everyday small quiet ways and even that in its own way is revolutionary. You are important because you are you. This is our humanity. And sometimes, as wonderful as the Internet is, the online world can rob us of that assurance. We are faced with numbers, targets, statistics, comparisons, and we are encouraged, especially by advertisers to never feel quite good enough – the next achievement, or makeover or purchase will add value to our damaged, inadequate selves.

And yet, despite our brokenness, our mistakes, our evaluations of self and others, we are infinite. And we are important. And even if we are not ‘liked’, we are created for a reason, and we are LOVED.