This is my column this week in the New Zealand Herald, which is published in the digital edition every Thursday…
There are a few things we all share as human beings. For instance, I’ve come to believe that we all think everyone else (or at least most people) is somehow coping better with life than we are.
Some of us can even come to believe there is something unique, odd or unusual about what we think and feel. That we are the only person that suffers in this particular way.
It can certainly be easy to look around, at the strangers that inhabit our day, and see people, well dressed, busily hurrying from one place to another all looking very “together.” It can equally be easy to allow ourselves to feel that we aren’t anywhere near as well dressed, hard working, on to it, or as diligent.
But all of this is based on a very understandable, and increasingly common, misunderstanding.
We have unlimited access to our own experience, we know that we feel shaky, unconfident, uncertain, unattractive, miserable and anxious at times. We know more about ourselves than we will ever know about anyone else.
On the Nutters Club Radio show on NewstalkZB each week, we talk to a guest about their experience of some aspect of mental health. Usually this involves someone telling their story, openly and truthfully. Baring all, as it were.
People find this helpful, and not just the person doing the sharing. In fact, it can be incredibly helpful to just be able to think to ourselves: “that sounds like me, I’m not alone.” But ultimately I think this kind of story telling is helpful because these days we so rarely know the truth about each other’s experience of life.
I’m not a social media “dooms-dayer”. In fact, I’m quite a fan. But without question the main problem with it as a way of relating is that we tend to put forward a curated self, a version of our life that can look perfect, happy, like we have it all together.
We portray the person we want to be – or feel we have to be to be accepted. Either way, it’s false, or at least only part of the truth.
Wider than social media I wonder how much of this is a modern problem. Increasingly we spend our lives in small private communities of a handful of people who are like us, people who we may or may not know what is really going on in their private lives.
If we live in cities, we are surrounded by more and more people, yet we know fewer and fewer. We are “connected” with more and more friends online, but do we really know them?
As we have become more and more disconnected from each other, we have lost sight of the fact that underneath it all we are all the same, and we all feel pain.
And I believe when we forget that, we all suffer.
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