Mindfulness & Mental Health

Social Media and Comparison-itis

Last week I saw a post in one of the Facebook groups I belong to. One of my fellow members has a son who has decided to look into to how much screen-time adults have, on the belief that adults are on their phones more than children are.

Well. I do believe he was right. For pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’ve been dealing with anxiety, partly about perfectionism, and partly social comparison. Over the past year or so I have noticed that the social comparison part of this has gotten worse. I am finding it harder to see other people’s success or talent and be excited about it, like I used to. Now, it feels like competition. And I’m usually the loser.

I really, really don’t like this feeling. It was wonderful to see someone do something awesome and feel inspired, or just respond to their work as a reader/viewer. This space of judgement sucks.

Last time I was in this place, I worked on my self-acceptance, and this feeling went away. While I am trying the same approach this time, I’ve discovered that I need to work harder to get the same results.

So back to the experiment. We were asked to download a tracker app onto our phones (I’m on Android so got QualityTime) which shows our usage. The first day I had SIX HOURS of screen time. Imagine what I could have got done in the time that I was checking in on my phone? My average for the week so far (Sat – Thurs, so 6 days) is 4h 15m, with social media taking up about 2h of that time.

Now, there is definitely value in social media. I have made some beautiful connections and very real friendships. It helps build my presence as an author / artist, and also helps sell my books. I can help other creatives out by sharing their work, too.

But do I really need to be on there for two hours a day? I don’t think so. Do I need to be researching, or checking emails, or getting advice from <insert expert here>, or whatever it is I’m doing for another two hours? Definitely not.

I feel that this has something to do with the feelings of comparison-itis. If I am scrolling through other people’s highlights for so much time in a day, and reading or listening to other people’s advice (people who I deem are higher up the food chain), then maybe it’s only natural that this feeds into my social comparison.

Phase one of the experiment ends today, when we will send our stats in and get back suggestions to reduce our usage. I look forward to sharing my reduced usage time with you, and letting you know how I am feeling next week!

Mindfulness & Mental Health, Thoughts & Ramblings

On squiggly journeys and a changing self

My writing journey began on the back of what could reasonably be called a breakdown. It was my second year in full-time classroom teaching, and I had some big emotional losses as well. On top of that, my depression and anxiety had not been diagnosed – and therefore had not been treated – so I wasn’t in a strong place to begin with.

In true Capricornian style, I was incredibly goal-driven; when I really wanted to achieve something, I would make sure that I did. My first goal was to have a publishing deal within 2 years (it took me 2 years and 3 months), and to publish 4 books a year (I published 3, plus 2 colouring books).

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NZ Book Festival 2015 – 9 months into my publishing journey

But that year, I received some cutting criticism from an author ‘friend’. She was trying to be helpful, but I allowed her words to knock my confidence. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be brave enough to write fiction again. I turned to non-fiction, intending to give myself time to heal and get back into it, and found comfort in non-fiction.

It was easier than fiction. I wasn’t putting my heart on the line, or doing anything wildly new. I wasn’t experimenting with language, and as someone who became a strong essay writer I was comfortable with my skill level. It was valuable work (I Am An Artist and I Am A Writer were made to help others, and also supported kiwi creatives in the process). I could make a deadline and write to it. It kept me feeling like a writer.

At the same time, I returned to my painting practice. My brief stint in art school was far back enough in my past that I felt I could give painting another go. I was back in my comfort zone, feeling free from outside expectations, and enjoyed the immersive process that painting has for me.

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Immersing myself in emotional, process-driven painting

I did get back to fiction, completing the 5th book in my children’s fantasy series, You Can’t Cure A Witch’s Curse, but even with my non-fiction I found it harder and harder to motivate myself. My confidence had picked up, I had 12 books’ worth of evidence behind me that I could do this, I was getting positive reviews for the most part, and I have supportive friends and family.

What on earth was going on?

I was readingΒ Jonathon Hagger’s eBook on mindfulness when the change began to become apparent. Throughout my journey as a writer and artist, I had been on a parallel (and intertwining) journey of personal growth. I was rediscovering myself, and working on my mental health. A practice in mindfulness was a big part of this. Jonathon wrote that mindfulness is about being, not achieving.

I didn’t realise immediately, but this is what had happened to me. I was no longer as goal-driven as I had been when I set out on this journey: I had become a different person.

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Finding pleasure in slowing down.

So if my motivations were no longer achieving a goal, then what were they? Honestly, I’m still working that one out! I’ve been journalling a bit, and the topic has been on my mind since the ‘eureka moment’, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s got something to do with helping others, something to do with being ‘in flow’, and a lot to do with what makes me happy; the process more than the product. I know it’s something I need to work out moving forwards, because the way I motivated myself as a goal-driven person will not work on my current self.

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Journalling – January 2018