Staring into the Void

This time of the year is a bit like a twilight zone for many of you. The gap between loneliness and hopelessness. Christmas seemed to happen to everyone else, and there doesn’t appear much to look forward to next year, just a lot more of the same shit we say we enjoy but we know doesn’t really fulfil us. All the memes, all the festive sentiments posted as far as the eye can see, all the pictures of smiley faces, festive pranks and all the determination that next year will be the year it changes. You see it but can’t relate. It doesn’t feel real. You’re still numb, except perhaps for your pain.

I’m not going to pretend that anything I have to say can offer any change for you, but I do want you to feel less alone in this moment. Amidst the casual acceptance of those around you that your pretend smile means nothing’s wrong, we both know not everything’s right. The tissues in your trash tell the story. Or perhaps the scars on your arm.

It may seem twee, but who you are right now is valid. It might feel like you’re defined by all the things you’re not; that your self-identity is framed by what you perceive as your weakness, but there’s still a ‘you’ at the core. Nobody might see it, or understand it, but you know you’re there, hiding away in the dark.

Would you take my hand if I offered it to you? Would you be brave and not shut me out if I told you I think you’re precious? Or if you did, would you let me keep my hand there, waiting for you to hold when you’re ready? If you’d do it for me, perhaps you could do it for your most trusted person. You might just find they’ve been waiting for you for a while.

I think the world is full of ‘you’s . They’re all around. We’re each just hiding away, assuming we’re the lone inhabitant of a vast, isolated cave. It can be comforting to picture others, even those we’ll never get to know. You’re not truly alone.

So as another year approaches, perhaps looking a lot like the last, let’s not fill it with empty promises and cheap sentiment. Let’s just clutch each other’s hands and hold tight, because anything might happen if we can bring ourselves to believe in somebody.

How can you feel and be loved when the world is saying you shouldn’t?

By being brave.

By hearing things the world seems to be saying, and rejecting them if they harm you.

Do you want to know a secret? ‘The world’ isn’t really saying anything. Instead, we’re fixating on things that bring us down because we’re unhappy with who we are. It feels easier to blame ‘the world’, rather than acknowledge that what we’re hearing isn’t common, and that it’s the relationship we have with ourselves that we’re layering over what we hear.

I’m not suggesting you’re making it up. There are plenty of erosive messages out there, and many of them are prominent and confronting, especially for women. Our challenge isn’t to cope with them, it’s to exercise judgement and be careful with what we subject ourselves to.

Our challenge is to be kind to ourselves.

If we’re kind to ourselves, we try to get out of this habit we have of listening to the worst and telling ourselves that’s how it is. We journey knowingly towards our potential instead of wallowing in what’s holding us back. We work out our preferred version of ourselves and we have zero tolerance for anything that hinders our progression. We get smart, we get capable, and we step boldly into the future we desire.

And if all that seems like a bit of a challenge, like too much hard work, let’s not forget that fuel for our journey isn’t just found in our bravery and determination, it’s found in the love and acceptance of other people. You see, the reason ‘the world’ isn’t actually saying anything, is that within the world, with all its influence and subtle grooming towards self-judgement by comparison to others, and consumerism and materialism and all that other nonsense, exists love and acceptance and peace beyond anything we’re told is available to us.

That love doesn’t come with a price tag, it’s simply there to embrace, the same way we’ve become accustomed to embrace things that get us down. It’s found in each other. In the feeling we get when we compliment somebody and bask in their smile; in an extended hug; in averting our gaze from the mirror to the night sky. In remembering the kinder comments instead of the nasty ones. What’s possible for us is already there and it’s free.

How can you feel loved? By recognising that you already are.

They won’t tell you this. They’ll groom you to think love needs to be bought, or you can only get it if you wear this, or say that, or conform to the other. That’s not true. You’re already loved for who you are. You, with all your worries and fears and self-doubt. You’re loved beyond measure, and feeling it requires just a slight adjustment of what to look for, and what to be open to feel.

Send somebody a letter and tell them what they mean to you. Hold somebody close – family or friend – and let them know you’re grateful for them. Do this and more, and experience the magic. See what changes. I know it sounds cheesy, but give it a go and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

Love is just behind that veil so many of us wear.

How can we become genuinely caring and not judging of others?

It’s a process that has to start with ourselves. We not only need to love ourselves and stop giving ourselves a hard time, we also need to understand what that love means. It’s a simple thing to say; an easy enough phrase to throw about, but what does it mean to love ourselves? And how does that impact our relationship with other people?

Part of love is acceptance. To embrace our unique set of experiences, outlooks and behaviours, and look for what’s good. Maybe you struggle to think of things to like about yourself. Well, that’s easy to change. Try this: think of somebody in your life and something you really like about them. Then go and tell them. It might seem a strange thing to do, but imagine receiving a message like that from somebody you know; imagine how that would make you feel. So go and make somebody feel good, and hey presto – you did something wonderful. Even if that’s the only thing you can think of, it’s a brilliant thing to do, and you did it. Next time you pass a cat, stop and give it a pet. Watch how it warms to you and enjoys your touch. You’re generating goodness. Grow that kindness – indulge in it regularly and don’t run away from how good it makes you feel. That could be the starting point from which you can grow to love yourself by accepting who you are and the good things you do.

Another aspect of love is non-judgement. How quick we can be to dismiss ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, or to belittle our own achievements. It’s a healthy practice to create a sanctuary; somewhere free of the narrative we condemn ourselves with, that tells us we may have a cool outfit, but we’re still ugly; that tells us that we may think we’re funny but everyone else thinks we’re dumb; that tells us we only look good in photos if we take them from one specific angle; that tells us we’ll never amount to anything and nobody truly likes us. We condemn ourselves with blame and judgement. It’s time to make a place for ourselves where thoughts like that are not allowed. Nobody has to know about it, but it needs to exist, and every time we feel down, or want to hurt ourselves, we go there. Because it’s safe. And in that place, we put our heart, and the way we feel about ourselves. That’s protected now.

The third aspect of love I want to mention is commitment. Love doesn’t give up. It sees us through, when others see we’re through. How committed are you to yourself? Have you ever considered it? Inside every single one of us is a wonderful person, but many of us don’t feel particularly wonderful. Even if we can try to accept ourselves, without judgement, what’s there may not make us feel terribly excited. So what then? That’s where self-commitment comes in. Your commitment to be the best version of you that you can be – the version where smiles and laughter aren’t a notable event, they’re simply part of who you are as you go about the business of being alive. The version of you who decides on a goal and sets out to achieve it because you can do it, and you’re worth it. Commitment can also mean picking yourself up when you drop the ball and get into a rut about yourself – maybe those voices get louder for a bit and start to take over. Self-commitment can help get you over that hump so you see the other side and keep going on your amazing journey.

So, self-acceptance, non-judgement, and self-commitment. What does that have to do with other people? Well, we tend to radiate the relationship we have with ourselves. There’s one person who’s constantly in our lives, who we spend every second of every day with, and that’s us. We’re the best person to practice on, and if we can grow in this way personally, we’ll already be disciplined in these areas. So let’s give ourselves a break, even just for a bit, and see how it feels. Let’s create a safe space in our lives and check in there regularly. Let’s reach out to others and be inspired by the impact that has, and keep doing it until we gravitate there naturally. Let’s be pleasantly amazed by the way in which our relationship with ourselves spills over to better the lives of those around us and our disposition towards them.

What are your opinions on online/internet relationships?

I think they’re great. I’m a fan of any connection. The internet is a fantastic way to cross paths with somebody who, not so long ago, you’d never have known existed. It’s a brilliant example of the way that our human progress is bringing us opportunities.

At the risk of sounding like your dad, it’s also something to appreciate within context. Why do you think we have five senses? They are what helps us identify what’s real. You can’t smell an online profile. You can’t hold and kiss a jpg. You can’t hear a kik chat say your name and feel the love in their voice.

So, as with all things, recognise the value within the context it comes to you. And, if you’re brave enough – because it can be a big ask to make this step – try to introduce more offline into your online relationships over time. You might be restricted by distance, but what’s real can be powerful, and what’s powerful finds ways to bridge seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

And sometimes it can’t, and that’s OK too. It’s good to know.

So yeah – enjoy it for what it is, because what it is, is fantastic. But guard your heart always, don’t be afraid to test what you’re afraid may be too good to be true, and know that your worth comes from your own innate amazingness and isn’t dependent on ‘Joe, 22, from Chicago’ liking that picture you always hoped somebody would appreciate.

You’ve always been as pretty as you secretly hope.

What is your one major turn on? Bums, boobs, eyes?

Bums, boobs, eyes; arms, waists, thighs… all these things are the shell in which true beauty lives.

Maybe you fit the definition of ‘beautiful’ as fed to us by the publishers who hope we’ll buy their magazine that helps us with a special diet.

Maybe you fit the concept of ‘perfect’ as given to us by the marketing industry so desperate to have us running after their cynical positioning of our self-content within their premise: ‘acceptance from others’.

Or maybe you’re who you are. Flawed? Yes. Abnormal? Check that one, too. Outside the ‘beauty’ structure? Undoubtedly.

But you’re you. You’re who you are.

The world tells you that you should look like this, think that, and have a particular waist size, and you couldn’t give a solitary fuck. You know what you believe and you will not be shaken. You stand for your principles in spite of a world which would have you squeeze inside a box that you will never fit the shape for.

You ask for my kryptonite, and it’s this: somebody who is willing to stare down the status quo and believe that there are others who join hands with them in their passion, even if they don’t see it physically at that time. Somebody who is determined, with justice and equality in their eyes, to draw a line in the sand and believe the world is better by making a stand for their passions.

Me? I’m a heart man.