Monday, September 25, 2006

Introspection

It is human nature, I believe, to want to give our opinions and our advice. I know I do. I'm quite the expert at looking in at others' situations and seeing clearly what they ought to be doing, where they are making their mistakes, how they could change things for the better. Yet it is also human nature, I believe, to bristle at having others give advice and share their opinions on our own situations. We would like to believe that we are making the best decisions and choices that we can given our circumstances, whatever they may be. We seek validation of that belief. We shun criticism of that belief. We humans are quite the independent, yet interdependent, creatures.

I see this played out in the blogosphere all the time, both in my own blog and in others. We post our thoughts, our struggles, our victories, our defeats. We often post the worst thoughts in our heads as a way of dealing with them and examining them. We often claim that these blogs are here just for ourselves, that the fact that others read and comment is superfluous to us. Bullshit!! They may start that way, but I daresay we wouldn't be putting it out there in public space if we didn't have some desire for feedback, some desire for validation and sympathy and comradarie. For the most part, what we aren't looking for is the criticism that often comes. For while there are those who will understand our point of view, even agree with our point of view, there will always be others with opposing opinions, or those who will give voice to something that our own conscience has been struggling with that we've tried to suppress. Those folks hit a button with us, make us uncomfortable, defensive or downright angry. How dare they tweak our conscience when we are working so hard to make ourselves feel good about our choices? Well, why shouldn't they? Why shouldn't they respond to posts in a public format, posts made with the option available for others to comment? So there is the conundrum my friends. We seek out the approval and validation of others, we are stung when what we get instead is critism particularly when we feel the criticism is valid, and we struggle with how to balance the acceptance of both validation and criticism. We struggle with how to defend our point of view without becoming defensive. We struggle with whether to retreat and lick our wounds or continue to bare our souls in a public (if anonymous) forum.

The internet has changed the world in many ways. One of those ways is that we can communicate across the world with people we don't know except through the words on the screen. We let our guard down for these people don't know us, and we don't know them. We feel safe saying what's on our mind. Yet, communities start to develop even here in cyberspace. The more we share with one another, the more we get to know one another, developing friendships with those that are nothing more than a name and description to us. And the next thing you know, it matters what others think of what we say. It matters to us what opinions others have of us, particularly if we have come to feel some sort of closeness to certain individuals. I find this is particularly true for me. There are individuals who I've come to respect a great deal although I've never met them and probably never will. Although the critism of strangers has little effect on me, the criticism of those who I've come to respect hurts mightily, perhaps more than it should.

So what is the point of this rant? I don't know. Just to rant I guess. Just to let off some steam. Just to remind myself that I'm the one that chooses to post in this blog, and to remind myself that it is okay that not everyone is going to approve of the decisions I make. Just to remind myself that the opinions of faceless cyber friends shouldn't override my own judgment. Just to help me get over feeling so defensive so much of the time when I'm reading the comments left here. Just to affirm to myself that my feelings and opinions and choices are just as valid and valuable as anyone else's and that I owe nobody who comments here any apologies for any of them. Just as another step towards really feeling like I can make my own decisions and stand behind them, and stand up for them, and be confident in my own abilities to make the choices that are best for me. Just to affirm that it is okay for my opinions and decisions to be different than those of others and that I can choose to respect differences rather than try to eliminate them.

So after all that, comments anyone?

11 comments:

Stinkypaw said...

My therapist once told me that it is a "sane" thing to do; to validate our feelings, thoughts, etc. with others. Having different opinions often make us realise another side to a known problem/issue/view, etc. It is only up to oneself to make up a decision and it will be only oneself that will truly feel/suffer the consequences. Yes other people might/will be affected by one's decision, but still... We are all responsible for the way we feel, nobody has that power over us unless we give it away! And then again, it comes back to us!

BTW, what's the countdown for?

trueself said...

SP,
Thanks for the comment. Yes, that is pretty much what I'm trying to come to grips with.
The countdown is to October 13. That's as much as I'm going to say. . . at least for now.

Emily said...

Oh. Is it totally egotistical to get the feeling this post is kind of about me (plus any other "critics" who may come along)?

Of course, what I have to say is kind of embarrassing if its not, and I am just so vain that I probably think this song is about me. :-)

But, you know, we read and comment on each other's blogs, there are a lot of similarities about our lives, and I don't see too many other critics around here who have stuck around, as opposed to the "hit and run" model.

If, at some level, this is about me, I do see what you are saying, and I agree there is a relationship here. My Big Dude calls the blog thing my "imaginary friends", but there is always a person typing into that keyboard, and I know that the people who read my blog know more about me than some of my very close real life friends. At some level, there is a relationship here that needs to be respected and a person who should maybe be treated with some gentleness and not pummelled with my thoughts and/or advice.

Is it too late to say that I do feel for you, I do understand at least some of what you are going through, and that I totally respect your right to make your own choices about your own life?

And I really wish I was able to just provide friendship and camaraderie. After all, if anyone could be empathetic to your situation, that person would be me.

But I also think a friendship involves some honesty. And, as a child whose father ran off with another woman with a similar air of desperation and and crying out about how this was his only chance of happiness (he never found happiness long term, and has just left a trail of women and children behind him in his aparently endless search for happiness), I also think about your son.

So actually, I have quite a lot of feelings when I read your blog, which is one reason I find it so rivetting.

But I guess my strongest feeling is that this is your blog. More importantly, this is your life. All these decisions are yours to make, and while I might have some emotional responses to some of them, that is actually not your problem.

So the ball is in your court, Trueself.

And, you know, with the idea that there is a relationship that needs to be respected, we could do any of the following:
* You could ask me not to read your blog
* I could read your blog, and just not comment
* I could read your blog and just not comment on anything where you might feel challenged or criticised
* We could just accept that reading each other's blogs and commenting freely is part of the way this works, and accept that sometimes we will feel criticised, just like in "real life", and you could take any comments I might make as an opportunity to affirm your own feelings and choices (like you have here)
* Anything else you would like to ask me to do.

And I wish you very, very well. And if it is still okay for me to read your blog, I look forward to seeing a Trueself who feels more like an independent and self-reliant individual. It feels like she is in development...

freebird said...

Well, I hope I haven't upset you! But don't you think it's just amazing that there are people all over the world who care enough to bother to write comments, to spend time thinking about your (my/our/anyone's) situation, and send their thoughts... thoughts which, it seems to me, are always given in honesty and with the best intentions and to make one think? Nobody expects anyone but you to make your decisions, but there are people who are reading your blog with a slight feeling of watching a slow-motion road-crash about to happen and are just hoping you've got good brakes and steering! This blog thing has created a new kind of relationship between people. Comments may be a lot more direct than we would make in f2f relationships and therefore might sting a bit more sometimes. At the same time you can ignore them and get on with your own thing without upsetting anyone, unlike in f2f. Or you can just switch them off!
My guess is that Oct 13th is Z-meeting day!

Emily said...

Its interesting, isn't it? I have sometimes been thinking that blogging is a genuinely new kind of literary genre. That, while the world has certainly seen literature in instalments (like Dickens), and confessional literature, the kind of confessional truthfulness of the more personal blogs plus opportunity for instant feedback plus community-creating is something genuinely new.

But you have a real point about also creating a different kind of relationship. Maybe something akin to relationships where people were separated for long periods and wrote each other letters, but still different.

If I am reading her blog correctly (this is going to be really embarrassing if I'm wrong!), Trueself feels close to me, and I feel close to her (and to you, too). And yet, I've never met either of you and I don't even know your real name(s).

Is the intimacy of all this real, or in some sense an illusion?

And it raises the question: Why am I more honest in a blog than in real life? Is it the whole low-cost of pulling the plug thing you mention? What is it about face to face relationships that sometimes makes this level of honesty impossible? And will it become less possible in a blogging-type relationship as people get to know each other more?

trueself said...

Emily & Freebird,

I consider both of you my friends. Please understand that this post is much more about me than about you. It is about me needing to grow up into that full-fledged adult, accepting that the choices I make aren't going to please all the people all the time. Deep down I appreciate all the comments I get, even the ones that sting, because they do make me think. They make me see a different side, from a different viewpoint.

It is not the commenters that I think need to change, but me. I need to learn the lesson that others can disagree with me and still care about me. I need to learn to respect my own decisions and choices and be okay in my own mind with the fact that I don't please everyone all the time.

I love all your comments, every single one. Please stay and comment away. Make me think. Make me see another side. Challenge me. It's all good.

freebird said...

Group hug? (LOL)

Emily said...

Group hug :-)

trueself said...

Group hug :-)

(I've tried to post this three times now and keep getting a network error. Why does the network not want me to participate in this group hug?)

BJ said...

Ah group hug group grope, what's the dif?

;-)


hug

Finished Last said...

When I read this i feel like I am looking at a female version of myself