“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” — Brené Brown
Ten months ago, a certain book got me thinking about how it might relate to blogging. It also led me to consider how all the books we read connect together to shape our individual world views. They don’t quite fit together like jigsaw pieces, as each has something different to teach and might change our attitude in one direction or another, or bring us up short with “I can’t be sure about this after all… I’ll have to keep an open mind for the present!”
I will find myself agreeing with one book, only to completely reverse course on the next when faced with different information. It can be unsettling, but I would rather get a rounded view on things than make up my mind once and possibly be wrong for the rest of time.
As some may have guessed, the book that sparked off these thoughts was Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. For a while I was quite shy about mentioning that I’d read it, but it made me think about how we come across to others online and how we might be better to engage (or not).
Just as an aside, I almost forgot about this post you’re now reading! It was 99% mapped out in MindNode before being abandoned… life and self-doubt got in the way. I said at the end of my last post, Confuddled by Our Politicians, that I should stop using bits of my private diary and return to writing properly. That was when I remembered these notes.
Well, to start with, reading books challenges your own attitudes and brings about welcome change in your life. I used to blog a lot about deafness, anxiety and related negative experiences. Eventually I got cold feet and withdrew, deciding it’s only socially acceptable to be light and cheerful. Daring Greatly causes me to reconsider that, though I’m not 100% certain I would go back to those particular topics — maybe sometimes.
It’s not that we should descend into doom and gloom and have no good word to say about anything or anybody — far from it. It’s simply a fact that nobody’s perfect! People like to find a point of connection with others, and perfection isn’t it. It’s hard to have a satisfying conversation with someone who’s determined to talk about nothing but sunshine and roses. To sound a note of caution — in daring to put ourselves out there and engage, Brené Brown doesn’t suggest we pour out our deepest, darkest secrets to total strangers or slight acquaintances. Connection always starts with a first step of trust. Trust can be eroded, but it doesn’t mean you instantly give up on a person — we all make mistakes and deserve a second chance.
However, each situation should be judged on its merits. I wrote most of this post nearly a year ago and, since that time, I’ve come round to believing that we do need to keep our guard up and robustly defend ourselves where necessary. Friends, family, colleagues and even ‘experts’ sometimes lie, bully, and manipulate, and it’s really not good to be the always-amenable sheep. I hinted at that in a recent rambling and irrelevant post (which I don’t really recommend): Finding My Inner Monster.
There’s something I do recommend you watch when you have a spare half hour. Just yesterday I came across this video in YouTube: Doctor Admits KETO is Worst Diet in the World (WARNING: Ninja Level Sarcasm)
It is beautifully captioned… no autogarble. :-D.
Another video I found today, by Chris Kruger: “Ketogenic diets damage the liver and kidneys” – Is ketosis ‘starvation mode’? -How many carbs…?
I was thinking about the word ‘vulnerability’ as used in the book by Brené Brown. It doesn’t give us carte blanche to tell all our secrets or show weakness; it’s just about being human. The word I might have used in its place was ‘authentic’ — you hear a lot about writers needing an authentic voice. Then I thought again and realized it’s not enough on its own, but that particular Eureka moment seems to have passed me by…
OK, I had a wee think, and conclude it’s actually about accepting and being at peace with our own weaknesses rather than beating others over the head with them; that’s why it’s more than simply being authentic. Perhaps that’s the doubt that rose in my mind!
Humility is also important. Someone I knew described herself as ‘authentic’, but she could be brusque, opinionated, and didn’t like alternative points of view, no matter how carefully worded — so I found myself walking on eggshells rather than trusting that she would understand where I was coming from. Being authentic doesn’t mean we should be inflexible and dismissive of another person.
People need to feel valued (this is reminding me now of yet another book — Lost Connections by Johann Hari!) Perhaps that need in us is at the root of many unhelpful behaviours, such as:
(1) not allowing people to see our real selves
(2) putting up a false front of perfectionism
(4) overreacting when criticized or questioned
(5) hiding rather than telling the truth
These in turn would lead to never wanting to admit we were wrong, as there’s an underlying fear that people would think less of us for it. There is a strong tendency in society to cut people down to size using ‘shame’ as a tool, and that can be damaging. Jon Ronson wrote on the subject himself in his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. It was truly thought-provoking, especially where it relates to social media. Making people feel bad doesn’t help matters and might make things worse. See his book for exactly how much worse it can get.
When younger, I struggled a lot with the situations deafness could get me into, and never understood what that feeling was. How could you feel it when you hadn’t even done anything wrong? The mere thought that people were determined to misunderstand and judge you was unpleasant, even if you knew they were out of order.
What I got from the book should be relevant to blogging in the following ways:
(1) We need an authentic voice, while not oversharing.
(2) We can say what we need to say while looking outward… we’re not the centre of the world!
(3) We accept we are not perfect and might get things wrong or litter our text with typos.
(4) It’s better to get our feet wet than hang back and not engage.
I wrote the above list several months ago, and definitely needed the nudge! I still get cold feet about saying what I really think about things, and attempts to bring in a form of internet censorship are not helping: 5 recommendations to tackle disinformation and fake news. We are often told how difficult it is to sway other people from their opinions simply by talking at them, but suddenly that simple fact is forgotten. Everybody we talk to is apparently a mindless sponge, and has to be protected from careless words.
Coming down to earth again from my mini-rant…
It’s good to be light and humorous while guarding your privacy, but not at the expense of saying what you wanted to say. You do have to weigh your words and decide where to draw the line. You have to decide if what you have to say is really helpful, and if it would influence people for the better. Blogging is a balancing act, but so are many other things in life.
Reading a lot pulls you first one way, then another, but maybe that’s how you find out what works best. Gradually you start finding your feet. It’s how we are able to form a life philosophy, though it’s OK to change our minds based on new experiences and fresh information. I used to think changing my mind would betray weakness of character or lack of intellect, but eventually realized it’s normal. We aren’t fully rounded individuals unless able to accept, reconsider and change. This post is a case in point, because I feel I’ve been changing my mind about some of it in the interim!
In keeping the conversation fresh, blogging plays an important part in the media — perhaps far more important than has been realized up to now. While continuing to inform ourselves and tweak our world views, we need to keep that space free and unfettered, and not allow ourselves to be shamed or manipulated into silence.