Confusion

A couple of thoughts have been rattling around in my head for weeks. Both are points of puzzlement, confusion for me. They are somewhat related and arise from different aspects of a single character trait (flaw?) that runs strong within me: impostor syndrome or unworthiness.

First, I’m puzzled about what value, if any, people find in remote gestures or words of support or encouragement. All the “sending hugs” and “you deserve [love/happiness/reward/whatever]” messages from strangers seem so trite and meaningless. Memes, in particular, that seem to be increasingly frequent in my social media feeds, strike me as worse than useless. They seem insincere and hollow, providing weak yet easy and comfortable imitation of genuine care and emotional investment. Their inherent brevity leaves so much scope for misunderstanding, too much room for doubt and skepticism to creep in and cause the meaning to get twisted and underlying intentions to be questioned.

For example, I saw this one earlier today: “Stay positive! The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude. ~ Dennis S. Brown”. Now, I don’t know who that author is or anything about their circumstances or thought processes that lead to this opinion, but there are some fairly obvious flaws in this so-called advice that, for me, not only make the advice functionality inert but also make it actively harmful on a psychological and emotional level.

First, blaming someone for feeling whatever it is they’re feeling, telling them they’re the cause of it, is almost never constructive, healing, or encouraging. Instead, it engenders shame and feelings of inadequacy.

Second, there are myriad reasons why a day can be objectively “bad” that have nothing to do with the attitude of the person experiencing the suck. My great attitude, bubbly good cheer and big smile, or lack thereof, on any given occasion cannot possibly be rationally identified as the cause or catalyst, say, of slipping on the ice, falling and breaking my wrist. I assure you, that would make it a very bad day, no matter how positive I can stay through the throbbing pain.

My point is that these trite but pithy oversimplifications can be eye catching emotional candy, but they can never substitute for the deeply nourishing fare found in deeper contemplation and discourse on the root causes of whatever is being grappled with.

I just struggle to reconcile the shiny, simple messages with lived experiences. Too much sweetness in words from a stranger behind a screen not only makes me suspicious of the motive, but also makes me shrink back from the endearments and placations because “it cannot possibly be meant for me, they don’t even know me!” In my head, the remoteness of the sender and the intensity of the emotion conveyed place that message in a category of kindness or feeling reserved for others. My brain says I don’t deserve that, for whatever reason. So the value of those memes and messages is lost on me.

The second confusing thing, closely related, is why it’s so hard to take a compliment at face value when it’s rendered online, even when it’s about you specifically, not a meme, and given by someone you know IRL. There’s something too easy about it, too slick and pat, when it’s a text or email or online post. I mean, I find IRL compliments hard to take too, but for entirely different reasons. When someone is facing you in the same room, having to see you and be seen by you, the things said tend to be (or at least feel) more real and are easier to evaluate for trustworthiness. Even if you decide you don’t believe it, having the face to face experience of it makes it feel less fake.

Both of these thoughts have been chasing each other around my brain, leaving me confused and wondering. Ultimately, I wonder why we, as a society, are rushing so fast and steadily into a future where we’re isolated from one another, living vicariously through our screens, when that remote interaction makes us feel less secure, less happy, less genuine?

Maybe I’m the only one who feels that way.

1 comment so far

  1. Widdershins on

    With the proviso that these things are from people we know … their value is in simply letting us know that we are not alone.
    For all that we may deny it, we are a tribal species, or perhaps more accurately, a pack species. From an evolutionary perspective we are not wired to cope with this shit alone.
    The other person may not know us well, and therefore not have the cues, or the confidence, to say anything more, or do anything more than be a witness, (let us know they have ‘seen’us) to whatever we’re feeling/going through.
    As for the meme stuff, yeah, that’s out-of-control social-media-itis. 🙂


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