Me, myself, and I
Is your Facebook feed a constant stream of fascinating “realisations” and affirmations about your feelings and place in the world? Is your free time dedicated to self-pampering and “time for yourself” because, hey, you’re worth it? When you pick up the phone to call your friends, is it to see how they’re doing – or is it really to talk about you?
Congratulations: you’re boring the hell out of everyone you know.
While repressing your emotions is damaging, the trouble with our culture is that it makes no distinction between being honest and open about your feelings and becoming unbearably self-obsessed.
You absolutely need to be able to accept the pain that you’re feeling; you shouldn’t ignore or deny your emotions — handle yourself gently when you’re suffering, but don’t make everything in the world about you and your suffering.
Because you know what makes life wonderful? Laughter. Lightness. Fun. And do you know what people who take themselves incredibly seriously don’t have very much of?
Yep, you guessed it: fun.
Again, this doesn’t mean that you have to go around faking happiness when you’re feeling fragile and desperately in need of support. But it does mean that, when things are bearable, you don’t have to put every feeling and emotion you have on a pedestal and worship the hell out of it — and you certainly can’t expect everyone else to do the same.
Why? Because feelings aren’t the sacred words of some internal oracle that need to be treated with reverence. They’re the product of chemical reactions in the brain – and while we can’t make them disappear, we do get to decide what to do with them.
Fix your focus
Like most things in life, it’s about getting the balance right. What’s more, your endless dissecting, discussing and obsessing over yourself and your feelings isn’t just driving everyone around you to despair — it’s making you miserable too.
Countless studies into human happiness have found that the most joyful countries are the ones in which people are the most generous towards one another – and in which they actively volunteer their time to address problems and do things for other people.
There are two important things to take from this. First, getting to the point where you stop seeing yourself as so all-important and significant – where you stop taking yourself so damn seriously all the time – will most likely make you, and people around you, happier.
Second, being proactive in addressing problems instead of just going on and on and on about them will help you to feel happier, freer and in control of your life – giving you far more energy to enjoy yourself.
So how does this work in practice?
Keep tabs on how often you say “I” or “me”.
If talking about yourself is dominating the conversation, you’re becoming self-indulgent and boring. Save it for your journal and start asking questions. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, hit the nail on the head when he said:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Ask other people about themselves once in a while and you’ll find that your relationships magically improve.
Rein yourself in from too much navel gazing.
Taking action is almost always better than simply talking. Express what you feel and then move on. Life is supposed to be fun and full of laughter, so if you find yourself going over the same things again and again, stop and ask yourself why you’re letting it ruin your life, instead of going out and seizing the day instead.
Finally, make a point of having fun.
If you’re out of practice, you might now be thinking: oh God, I’m one of these over-serious, self-indulgent people – and now I’m doomed to a life without fun! Before you spiral back into self-absorbed misery over your boringness, pull yourself together and think of something fun to do today.
Now call a friend and ask them if they want to go and do it. And when you get there, don’t talk about things that are bringing you down. Problem solved. You are now having fun!