There seems to be a plethora of articles recently about people becoming depressed or fixated with trying to keep up with the ‘Joneses’ on social media. People are putting pressure on themselves to be as successful, as slim, as beautiful, as rich, as happy as their Facebook friends. Some are leaving social media to get themselves out of that loop.
I enjoy Facebook – I know that people either put up the very good or the very bad (or yes, there are those who put up the boringly mundane) stuff about themselves but generally there’s a feel good factor – people showing holiday photos, days out, funny pics, their baking successes and flops. I can see why some would feel under pressure to rise to the occasion with their own facebook updates. If all of your mates are putting up pictures of brilliant weekends and you’re sitting at home with the Late Late Show yet again – but if there’s one good thing about being over 40, it’s that you get to the stage that you don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks. I was amused once when chatting to someone who worked in an office over a weekend and she remarked how the day out would be something to tell her co-workers about on Monday. I went ‘gosh, do people still do that?’ I’ve been self employed for so long or maybe it is because I see people’s updates on social media that I never think of comparing weekend or relating events.
It made me think – do I envy the success of other authors? As a self published author, do I feel constricted by own very limited success and do I envy them, do I want to be them, do I want to be them so badly that it almost paralyses me? No. I hugely admire JK Rowling for example but I know I’d never write the genres that she writes so I just enjoy her. I met Donal Ryan last night and listened to him talking about his books and his writing and publishing process, his thoughts on being rejected so many times and his huge success in the last two years. I admire him for his writing skills, his passion, his staying power, his humour and yes, I would love if my books sold more widely but I don’t want to be like him so much that I want to copy him. He really was inspiring and he inspired me to think that I should pull my 40,000 word novel out of dropbox and see if I can do something with it later this year.
I wasn’t always like that though. Five years ago, I wanted more children – to the extent that I was depressed. Hearing of people being pregnant with their third child was like a kick in the stomach. Seeing families with three or four children was difficult. I had the two most wonderful children in the world, I knew I was so lucky and yet I couldn’t feel it. I would tell myself that I was lucky to be so blessed and yet it was like I was numb, I just couldn’t feel it.
Owen Fitzpatrick wrote a post recently that reminded me of something he said to me at the time and yes, it worked. It took a little while for it to sink in and infiltrate through my numbness and my thick skin but it got there. I had invited a friend, her husband and their two children for Sunday lunch and the week before, I heard the news that she was pregnant with her third child. I was seriously considering cancelling their visit as I really didn’t want to be thinking horrible stuff for days about someone that I really liked and obviously I wanted her to have a happy and healthy pregnancy. Watching ‘Julie and Julia’ a couple of weeks ago reminded me of it too – when Julia gets a letter from her sister announcing her first pregnancy, she is overjoyed for her sister but weeps with the agony of it.
I had phoned my “straight-talking-no-bull shrink” from the Not Enough Hours programme, and Owen asked me if I would like to swop my two children with my friend’s three children. My instant reaction was one of horror. Now, of course, her kids are fabulous and she is going to think they are the best in the world but there was no way I would swop my two for anyone or anything. After all, not only did I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t have children and desperately wanted them but I also felt sorry for all the people who didn’t have kids as wonderful as mine!!! And, yes, I still do!
It took a while for the depression to shift fully but I know that what Owen said to me that day definitely shifted my mode of thinking. This blog post explains it much more fluently than I ever could but essentially you may envy someone else their success and their popularity to the extent that you would like to be them but if it cost you everything you hold dear in your own life, would you really want to be them?
I think the best feeling in the world is to be happy in your own skin. Yes, I wouldn’t mind being thinner, taller, beautiful but to be honest, I don’t want to be thin bad enough to make me eat significantly less and go running every day so I kinda have to be happy with how I am. I’m not sure if those feeling came with hitting 40 or not but it is wonderful to feel genuinely happy and blessed on a daily basis and also to not give a sh1t what anyone thinks too. No comparing with the Joneses! Apparently farmers tend to be very risk adverse as they worry about what the neighbours would say if it didn’t work out – I don’t think Brian and I were cut from that mould somehow. As Owen says, we owe it to ourselves to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be, to learn from others and be inspired by them but to realise how lucky we really are – just as ourselves. And no, I wouldn’t want to be Brian O’Driscoll either or his wife – imagine having to play rugby or listen to rugby stories or horror of horrors, watch rugby from the sidelines on a regular basis! Having to help out during difficult calvings or talk about AI bulls is so much more interesting – I promise!