We're all aware of the downsides to social media, but one of the benefits that I see is that it's a means of connecting us--not just in the way of keeping in touch with old friends from high school & family living out of state, but on a deeper level. Through sharing, commenting on, and tagging others in thought-provoking articles, inspirational memes, & the such, we're able to not only feel inspired and uplifted, but also find a like-minded community we may not have otherwise found in our daily encounters with, ya know, real actual people.
Call it a guilty pleasure, but one of my favorite things to do when I first wake up, before my brain is fully awake, is have some coffee & scroll through social media before the rest of the house wakes up & the chaos of the day kicks in. As a blogger, I follow many other writers and I often find their words just as inspiring as anything I'd find in a published book. I've had many a morning where I woke up confused about a certain decision or just feeling in a general funk and something I read online pulls me out of it or offers a dose of inspiration that gives me some clarity. I wouldn't say I intentionally seek out advice from what I read on social media, but I do sometimes feel like I'll get the right message at the right time.
But I'll also be the first to say there are some mornings when I wake up in a funk or confused about what decision to make and the content I read online only leaves me, well...more confused. It seems that so much of the inspirational/motivational content out there is contradictory. I was laughing to myself the other morning as I scrolled through one inspirational meme after the other, each one seeming to advise the opposite of the one before--funny if you're not struggling, but frustrating as heck if you are.
I'll give you an example. Let's say I've had a tough decision to make that's been weighing on me and I'm not sure if it's time to take action--should I "jump and the net will appear" or should I "be still and know"? After all, it's good to just "let go and just let life happen", but then again "faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase." Because sometimes you just have to "show up before you're ready"...but, then again, "proper preparation prevents poor performance".
And then there's this, what I would say is the biggest contradiction of the moment: vulnerability is the key to authentic connection, it's good to share our truth...
oh but don't share too much...
And, most importantly, remember…
[Slams head down onto desk]
With access to so much information at our fingertips, maybe being inundated with so many messages oversaturates us with inspiration that was never meant to be ours. I'm a believer in the occasional magic that happens when things line up in such a way that you know in your heart you're on the receiving end of divine inspiration--guidance you can't deny is speaking right to your heart from a source you most certainly didn't seek out. I’ve experienced it myself and it does seem to help offer some clarity and peace because you feel, in some way you can't quite explain, that you were meant to receive that particular message at that particular time.
Look, if it's 1912 and I'm strolling down the street contemplating a tough decision and a carrier pigeon lands on my shoulder with an inspirational scroll in his beak, I'm gonna freaking listen. The problem is, now days we have 10 million carrier pigeons flocking around our heads at all times pecking us to death.
There’s a difference between trusting that a message (social media or not) is coming to us at the right time and trying too hard to assign meaning to something. For every situation, you can find two conflicting perspectives on how to approach it, and social media is sure to offer both. A little inspiration now and then is great for giving us some clarity, but feeling inundated with it—especially when it’s sending mixed messages—is as unhelpful as not getting it at all. It just leaves us confused and frustrated as we try and make sense of messages that were, perhaps, never intended to be applied to our situation.
You’re probably thinking I’m going to end this by suggesting my own little snippet of inspirational advice—something like all the guidance you truly ever need isn't found online, it's inside of you...
or when you're lost, you don’t need to look left and right, you need to look upward and inward.
Well, you’re right to some extent--I do believe our best guidance system is the one inside ourselves. And, personally, I do believe in the power of prayer. But I also have grown to dislike how oversimplified people make that process sound. It's as if making a decision that could potentially deeply affect many people you love is as easy as sitting in a quiet room and, after twenty minutes, not only know exactly what to do but not ever doubt it and then follow through on it 100% in the days to come, as you deal with the fall out of that decision. True I'm no enlightened master, but I have not found that process to be as easy as some would have it sound.
For example, “be still and know”, for me, is a lot more like “be still and try really hard to pretend I know but get really honestly confused about the difference between my anxious thoughts and my gut instinct and then overthink all the possible outcomes &, even if I determine I DO know, think through what could happen if I act on the knowing and how it will affect the people I care about and then leave more confused.”
Not cute as an inspirational meme, huh?
I think the appeal of tidy little quotes and soundbites is that we’re well on our way to rewiring our brains for instant gratification and we want complex problems to be solved through quickly downloadable guidance. Inconvenient and imperfect as it is, I think our greatest wisdom often comes about through a slower, messier process of trial and error...taking time to tune in a little each day, finally making the decision we feel deep down to be best even though we have doubts, and then self-correcting if & when necessary, and breathing through some really uncomfortable second-guessing of the decision you made.
Listen, I love me some single-dose, pretty, uncomplicated inspo like the next person—I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to it & create them myself to share through my blog. And I think they can be helpful in small doses at the right time, as long as we don't judge ourselves for needing it, or for the fact that applying it to our lives doesn't seem as simple for us as it does for others. If life feels confusing and complicated, that's because IT IS--for all of us--not because you're somehow doing it wrong. And, those dosing out the wisdom, I can almost guarantee they don't have it all figured out either.
So I won’t leave you with any oversimplified nugget o’ wisdom here, I’ll just end by saying the next time life’s leaving you feeling beat up, confused, or in throws of anxiety or overthinking—know that the comfort might not lie so much in a short bit of inspiration, but simply in the fact that you’re not alone in it...not alone in the struggling or in being unsure what to do about it. And, if you do mess up, you'll figure it out like you've done before.
Look at that--unintentionally inspirational.