10 ways to live a happy life, 21 ways to get things done, 15 ways to love your woman, 8 questions to find your passion, 12 ways to live your dream, 10 magical morning exercises, 15 quick psychological tricks everyone should know, 14 things you can do right now to feel happier….there is no limit to the amazing life I could be living right now, if I wasn’t so caught up in reading lists, quotes and other bite size wisdom about how amazing my life could be if I wasn’t so caught up in reading lists…blablabla…you get it!
I’ve grown weary of all the bite size tips, inspirational quotes & off the cuff spiritual advice that are now seemingly taking up as much space on the Internet as porn. They are literally everywhere. Disguised as good news, helpful advice or profound wisdom they invade my news feed and my browser tabs with superficially positive messages of living a peaceful, connected, loving, grateful, adventurous, healthy & passionate life under the rainbow.
Without realizing it discomfort or malaise occasionally find their way into my day, at which time I find ‘the answer’ in a top 10 list about being happy. After a momentary spell of utterly superficial happiness, I feel even more miserable because my life is not the ecstatic circus act it ‘could’ be. Then I see a beautiful picture of adorable penguins making love against the backdrop of a wintery sunset saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ and for a minute I feel warm and cozy until I start wondering what that reason might be and worrying about whether I understand that reason or not. Along comes the article about how to find my purpose in 19 easy steps, but after step 7 I already feel more lost than when I started. Frustrated I scroll through my feed of choice and come across a picture of laughing dog/cat/hyena/hamster saying ‘happiness is a choice’…Gaaaaahhhhh!!! Why can’t I then just choose to be happy all the time?
Inspiration leads to discouragement over and over again as I enter the downwards spiral of what can only be described as an addiction; an addiction to inspiration. Like any illicit drug I need more inspiration to feel happy and each time I get a fix the high gets less profound, so I chase the next piece of transient enlightenment with the same gusto as someone chasing the dragon in the smoky depths of an opium den.
The addiction to inspiration keeps me in a constant state of seeking. I will always need more; more information, more insights, more wisdom and more advice. I become so used to searching that the idea of actually finding seems farther and farther away. For every piece of fleeting wisdom I consume, I get the feeling that a peaceful existence is far in the future and beyond my reach. So I clamber to the next article hoping this will be the final piece of the puzzle, while the puzzle grows larger every day. I keep looking outside for answers instead of relaxing in my imperfect being, trusting that all the answers are inside.
So why do I allow myself to keep this cycle going and how can seemingly good intentions turn into suffering for myself & others?
I do believe that most of these articles, top10s and beautiful words of wisdom are published with the intention of helping others to feel better, accomplish more and improve their lives. They seem like noble intentions and a genuine expression of altruism, but instead I often end up feeling inadequate, discouraged and unhappy about myself. What I don’t realize at the time is that every top 10 list of ways to make me happy is also a top 10 list of things that I should change in my life, a top 10 list of reasons why it’s not ok to be human & a top 10 list of things to make me feel like I am not enough.
It was when I became conscious of the similarities between Internet inspiration and giving advice that things fell into place. In my work as a coach/counsellor I try to avoid giving advice or trying to fix people and instead I focus on listening, holding space and allowing what is, to be. The greatest gifts I can give anyone is my undivided attention and empathy. Any advice I give will be based in my own experience of life and not necessarily applicable to other peoples lives, but when I can allow the person sitting opposite me to feel what they feel and be who they are, true connection and transformation is possible.
I know this from my own experience. Advice make me feel like I should be more like the person giving it and this gap creates distance between us. I feel less connected and more ashamed of my rollercoasteresque experience of life. I want to feel heard, seen, accepted and understood. I want to know that I am not the only one who has weird feelings, dark thoughts & quirky personality traits. I want you to allow my very human experience, and I want to allow myself to feel very human. I just want to be real, raw and imperfect…I just want to be me.
I think of the inspirational memes and lists I have (re-)posted and even though I might have done this from the best of intentions, I have actually been spreading unsolicited advice across a worldwide media platform and thereby made a significant amount of people feel unseen and unheard at the same time. Now that is some effective disheartening!
I get it now…I do. I could feel sorry about it, but that would just be another way of labeling my own process as bad and not allowing myself to make mistakes in life. It’s ok to not be awesome all the time.
It might be frustrating to realize that I invited these things into my life, but it’s also empowering because this means I can choose to rescind the invitation and bring peace back to my inner world. I closed all the tabs with unread articles from my browser, I have left all inspirational groups and pages on Facebook and I am now limiting my input to books and other in-depth media. But most of all I am taking time to actually integrate the wisdom I have recognized into my life. This is something I never have time for when I am in constant searching-mode. And you know what? I will surely stumble and fall many times on the way…and it’s ok! I am done bypassing my true feelings with pseudo-happiness. Life is a messy process with a full spectrum of emotions that needs to be fully lived and not repressed by clever nature pics with white block letters. I want to embrace the fact that I am only human and sometimes I will feel anger, sadness, envy, jealousy, discontent and all the other undesirables.
Don’t think the irony of publishing an article, about reading less articles, is lost on me. Not at all! I am publishing this because I hope that more people will recognize the situation and join me on this spiritual diet. Even if you don’t, please take one thing away from this. Never let yourself be ashamed for your very human experience of life. Let yourself be.