I am just home from a wonderfully creative and inspiring weekend. I took some time out of my everyday life for a super quick jaunt to London for a conference on blogging. And while in London I also caught up with friends and family. It was busy, funny, and sociable. Lovely.
Now that I am home and reflecting on the people I met – those I already knew and the new friends I made at the conference – I realise more than ever how much we all put our brave faces on in public even though sometimes (often?) just under the surface deeper and more emotional waters are swirling around.
I’m definitely someone who has a public face and often hides (or attempts to hide) how I’m really feeling underneath. But only when it’s a ‘negative’ emotion. If I’m super happy, everyone knows about it. I get slightly giddy and effusive about things that please and excite me and I want the world to know. At times like this I feel that everyone around me would be missing out if they don’t get involved in these exciting circumstances too.
But when I’m sad the opposite is true. While privately I am blue, and possibly struggling to cope with something, outwardly I try not to show it. I know that this is a truth for lots of people – especially women. And a couple of honest and emotional instagram posts from two funny, confident, friendly women I met at the blogging conference have underlined for me that we are all complex creatures, capable of putting on a brave face even when we are feeling many other emotions.
Why is this?
For me it is partly in how I was brought up. I learned that conflict and difficult times are private and not for sharing outside of my family. Which is a valid stance that I still believe. I wouldn’t dream of writing about the details of fights with my husband (other than light hearted references to our ongoing disagreement about how much housework is too much – or in his case, far too little! 😉 ). But why is it not OK to tell people if we are feeling sad?
Social media has conditioned us to show only the best stories about our lives. We feel that others are not interested in anything other than happiness and success, even if that’s not a true reflection of our reality. It is frowned upon to be a ‘drama queen’ (especially in those awful ‘pay me attention because I’m having SUCH a terrible time, but I’m not going to say why’ posts).
But, it’s OK to be not OK
I don’t actually want to post about sadness and struggles all over social media. I probably won’t even write about it very much here. At least not until that time has passed and I’m feeling better. In a podcast I listened to recently there was a discussion about how much to share on a blog when you’re having a difficult time, and the conclusion was that to write about something while feelings are still raw is too soon. But when time has passed and recovery is well under way, well then there may be a benefit to sharing what happened.
But from my long overdue dinner with two amazing friends on Friday night when all three of us realised that we each have been quietly struggling and we’d be so much happier if we opened up to each other and checked in more regularly to make sure that we’re all OK. And from the two instagram posts from the women I met at the conference which were open and honest and emotional in the most positive way I’ve seen in a long time, I have learned.
Share how you feel with the right people
Choose your most trusted circle of friends and chat with them in private, in a place and time where you feel comfortable, and let them help you. Sometimes having someone simply listen to you speak about how you’re feeling can be the first step to finding your way out of that place.
And if you suspect that a friend of yours needs some support, don’t be afraid to ask. And learn when you shouldn’t take ‘I’m OK’ at face value.
Thank you to the amazing people who give me this support.