Everyone’s journey is similar but no-one’s journey is the same.
This aphorism popped into my head the other day.
It might be an original thought, or I could have read it somewhere – and claimed ownership!
If it’s one of yours, apologies … oh, and, nice one!
In any event I’ve been mulling over it since.
And here are a few thoughts on it.
Because that’s all I am offering … thoughts, impressions, guess-work… certainly not certainty.
Maybe that’s why I hate those “expert” blog posts.
Ones like “The 10 best candid poses for filtered, cropped, Photowondered, optimally lit natural selfies”.
Or the How To types, like: “How to get your teenager to believe Daddy is not a social retard with a credit card”.
More specifically, I hate those posts and articles that claim knowledge and certainty around complicated things, like happiness or dealing with teenage anxiety.
Right, I’ll say it:
Don’t pretend you know any more about parenting than me and all of us just trying to do the best we can for our kids.
No dogma, no certainty, no bullshit, please
And even if you are an “expert”, I still want your thoughts framed as pointers, something I can work with, not handed down like smug commandments to make me feel like I cannot possibly measure up.
When it comes to parenting blogs, for example, I prefer to read posts where our thoughts, experiences, confusions, and frustrations are shared, and our ideas are just put out there, and discussions are opened or joined.
We get to share the pain and the joys, and hopefully gain insights that will help us on our own journeys
See, when it comes to parenting, we are all on a similar journey but none of our journeys are the same.
When the original aphorism came into my head, I was thinking about my teenage daughter.
What she is going through, like any girl her age.
The usual social pressures … friends … annoying parents … make-up … school and exams … what colour hair would suit me? … what will I do as a career? … what the hell does a career even mean now anyway? …
So much to worry about
But most puzzling of all, and something I am really trying to get my head around is the notion I have of our teenagers being simultaneously self-obsessed, taking themselves way more seriously than I ever would have conceived of at that age … while at the same time tormented by feelings of inadequacy and fears of not measuring up to some impossible yardstick … a fear of not being fascinating. To others as well as oneself.
I recently read an interview in the Sunday Independent newspaper in Ireland with Roz Purcell, a well-known enough model here, the kind of exotic creature that appears in newspapers everywhere, all airbrushed and impossibly gorgeous.
The article was called “How I changed my mindset for a happier, healthier life”, and was accompanied by the same Roz impeccably photographed and presented.
The writer, Niamh Horan, told us how Purcell had reached a point in her life where she was completely comfortable in her own skin, and it had been “a journey and a half”.
We were told that, “Having recently posted unedited photos of stretch marks and her post-meal stomach to her almost 250,000-strong following on social media, the Irish model shared how she has nurtured a healthier new attitude”.
And it hit me, how, at age 28 – as my follow-up Wikipedia research revealed – this obviously already beautiful woman had merely shared some real photographs of herself.
To her 250,000 “followers”.
(Nothing out of the ordinary in the having 250,000 people reading these ordinary thoughts, retweeting them, sharing them, all the while noting every curve, contour and shade of eye-make-up (to be purchased later)).
In the article Purcell talked about how she had gotten sick of putting herself down. “Constantly over-thinking everything I did. I wasn’t the fun Roz I used to be growing up, I was down all the time and really difficult to be around, especially if food was involved”.
She got through it, she told us, by undergoing a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Apparently, CBT has become hugely popular among millennials and the baby boomer generation.
If you didn’t already know it, 15 seconds on Wikipedia tells me CBT “focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviours, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems”.
Our own girl has told us she would like to see a therapist to deal with issues of anxiety. Looking into it, we have discovered that this is a real phenomenon among millennials: the desire to see a therapist or psychiatrist to help them deal with the “stresses” of life.
It’s not that the issues and stresses aren’t real: I have learned the hard way you don’t tell a teenage girl she is exaggerating, or getting overly worked up about normal issues in life. They are real for her.
But I think it’s interesting that CBT is the way to go for so many millennials. Because while it is great at achieving immediate results, ie helping to break bad habits, it does not deal with the underlying causes of existential distress.
These issues will only be tackled and worked out over a life-time. Maybe through therapy, or just through lived experience.
They surely will not be solved at age 28 by posting a few un-airbrushed photographs to your army of followers.
Gosh, this all sounds like I am having a go at Roz Purcell. I don’t know her – and no, I am about to make it 250,001 followers – it’s more about how this article, and how she presented her “journey”, has resonated with me.
I do agree with a core point she makes about how damaging it can be to constantly compare yourself unfavourably with others.
Especially our teenage girls, who can find it so hard to enjoy what they do have, rather than aspiring to the things they don’t.
And all the resulting issues they have over food, weight, and getting the perfect selfie out on Instagram.
Dare we say it, maybe Ms Purcell has woken up to the notion that endlessly focusing on self and selfies leads to an unhealthy lack of interest in others.
Sure anyway, as a wise fella once said, everyone’s journey is similar but no-one’s journey is the same.
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