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!

News

On bookselling: you get back what you give

I’ve been selling at events for a while now. The first was The Caretaker of Imagination book launch, then craft markets, and finally bigger events like New Zealand’s annual zinefests and the NZ Book Festival. Not being a salesperson at heart, I’ve learnt a lot.

Last year, the NZ Book Festival almost didn’t happen. It was only in it’s third year, though, so we pulled a team together and gave it a good shot.

On the day I made conversation with customers, shared my story about how I got into writing, and repeated my ‘elevator pitch’ for books people were interested in dozens of times throughout the day (with plenty of help from my niece – thanks, Angie!). My setup wasn’t great and I was feeling a bit flustered but I made my stall fee back, as well as a small profit on top of that. Besides sales, I launched the second annual NZ Young Writers Anthology, met some wonderful people, and got to catch up with a bunch of my author friends.

It surprised me then how many people complained about their lack of sales afterwards. An author friend, Kirsten McKenzie, wrote this brilliant post about the do’s and don’t’s of selling. Read it. While I certainly didn’t have the upbringing that Kirsten did, I’ve learnt what she’s learnt: engage with your customers, don’t sit down, smile, have a tablecloth, a table full of books, and don’t play on your cellphone the whole time.

At most events I’ve been to, I’ve done well. However, at Tauranga Zinefest last weekend I broke most of my rules. The problem was that all week, and the previous evening, I’d been working on two new stories. I was still in creative mode, and I just wasn’t in the mood to sell or engage with people. And guess what? It showed. The organisers of the zinefest did an amazing job, but because I didn’t bring my A-game to the event, I didn’t do nearly as well as I usually would.

It reminded me how important it is to bring myself fully to every event I attend. No matter what mood I’m in, I need to be there for the customer and engage with them, and make sure that my stock levels and signage are what they need to be. I’m going to take this lesson forward for the rest of my events – onwards and upwards x

Depression & Anxiety, Ranting & Rambling, Thoughts & Ramblings

Reflections on Hidden Figures – Are you your biggest obstacle?

I finally watched Hidden Figures the other night (yeah I know, about ten years after everybody else). For those of you who don’t know the story, it follows the careers of three Black American women in the 1960s who work for NASA, and play key roles in the ‘space race’ (below are the photos of the women that these characters were based on).

Obviously, they face some pretty big external obstacles. Not only do they have to deal with segregation laws, but they also have to work within a society where being a woman means you’re seen as less capable than a man.

But they find ways around problems, challenge the rules, and take initiative to prove their own worth. They take action, and if one of them falls into passive-complaining-mode, the other women help them out of it.

Watching this, as a brown-skinned woman in the 21st century, I felt that in some ways I couldn’t relate. Although I have certainly experienced social racism (and sexism), and I’m still learning that I can be a woman AND be strong, neither my sex nor my race have actually held me back from any opportunity.

My culture isn’t limited to my sex or the colour of my skin – in fact, these are some of the things I least identify with. I am a member of many groups; I have many identities. Were there prejudices there?

The more I thought about it, the more the realisation grew that the biggest obstacle I face is my own self-worth – or rather, my lack thereof. Sure, there are stigmas – I’m a self-published author, which means I get looked down on by some traditional publishing folk; I make colouring books, so I’m not a real artist; I’m a middle-class ‘privileged’ person with mental health issues (the question ‘what do you have to be depressed about?’ springs to mind here); I’m young (in author years) so I can’t be a good writer yet; I write children’s books, which aren’t real books, obviously; I’m not rich and famous, ergo I’m not successful; I don’t have a Fine Arts or Creative Writing degree, so what do I know? #rantover

But stigmas aren’t obstacles. Literally none of the above actually prevent me from doing what I want to do – the only actual obstacle is me believing that they do.

How about that for a reality check?

I don’t think that anything will change overnight for me, but it’s about ten steps forward in my efforts to shift my mindset and build my self-worth.

Depression & Anxiety, Thoughts & Ramblings

It’s okay to enjoy your work

Over the weekend I caught up with Chris, the man behind Criss-Fit (follow him on Facebook or Instagram). He recently became a personal trainer, so I wanted to feature him as a creative over on SONZA. I’ll share a link to the whole interview once it’s up, but there was one thing we talked about that I have been working through and would like to put in the public forum.

It’s the idea that if we are doing something we love, we should feel guilty about it. Now, on paper (or rather, on screen) this seems absurd, and yet it’s something I’ve struggled with for a really long time. It has only been in the last year that I’ve actually identified it as an issue and begun to work on it.

Before I started writing this post, I was working on yesterday’s page for the 100 Days Project, and I noticed this feeling of guilt. I put the page aside to write this post, because I think it’s important that we don’t feel like this. I believe that when we are doing things we’re really passionate about, the world is a better place. It’s why I became a teacher, it’s why I share my work, it’s why I try to encourage others, and it’s why I spend my time on things I love and care about.

Last week I spent a whole afternoon making these journals, and it was bliss.

But while I am doing these things, a little voice pops up sometimes and reminds me that other people are slaving away at their desk-job, or walking miles to get barely-drinkable water, or working hard physical labour. How dare I spend my time on something so frivolous and enjoyable as art?

I try to reason with it. I’m doing this project to build my connection with, and to raise awareness of the beauty of our natural world; I’m publishing to inspire children to follow their dreams; I’m interviewing awesome people to raise their profile; I’m sharing my experience of depression and anxiety so people know they’re not alone. But I know that those aren’t really why I’m doing any of it. I’m doing it because it helps me, because the process of creativity is a wondrous experience, and because I love being a part of other people’s transformations.

And I am entitled to make and share my work for those utterly selfish reasons. I am allowed to spend my time doing stuff I love doing (and some things I really don’t like doing). While I still feel responsibility to help people less fortunate than I, the way that those more fortunate than I help me, I am only human, and I am only here for a short time.

There are a few people close to me who have died, in my lifetime. When I look back on why they are so special to me, and why I looked up to them while they were around, it has nothing to do with what they sacrificed for others. What I admired about them was how they lived their daily lives with passion, and how kind they were to others. I loved them for their uniqueness, and even for their ‘flaws’.

I want to end this post with an Instagram post from my friend Amanda, that really struck a chord with me this week: “Be proud of who you are and let it come out in everything you do.”

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Thoughts & Ramblings

Going against the grain

Because I’ve been painting longer than I have been writing, I often use my experience as a painter to help understand my experience as a writer.

A few weeks ago, I said I was chucking the towel in on being ‘an author’. I didn’t want to stop writing or publishing, but I did want to take pressure off my creativity. I thought needed a break. So I took one.

I picked up more hours at the day job, pulled out of markets, and withdrew from social media for a while.

At the NZ Book Festival, I spoke with Liz Constable of Book Art Studios, whose book-making workshop Dyed and Gone to Heaven I had attended the previous weekend. We discussed how sometimes it’s better to go against what we’re ‘supposed’ to do, and just do what feels right.

I realised that perhaps me throwing in the towel wasn’t me needing to take a break, but was really me just saying:

I don’t want to do it your way.

After highschool, I went to art school. It didn’t take long for me to realise it wasn’t right for me, but I stuck it out for a couple of months in fear of becoming a ‘quitter’ (I’ve since learned that changing your mind is not the same as failure). For a few years after withdrawing from the course, I didn’t paint. It was just last year that I really started to paint again, and this time I was only painting for me. I wasn’t trying to follow someone else’s rules, or prove anything to myself.

what you don't know
‘What you don’t know’, acrylic on canvas, 2015 (not for sale)

I was just letting go.

The interesting bit is that when I let myself do what I wanted, people responded more and resonated more with my work. I discovered the paradox – that the more personal my work became, the more universally it was understood.

So I guess from here the lesson is to keep exploring inwards, keep experimenting, and trust that my work will find its audience

in its own way,

in its own time.