Facebook: Love/Hate

I love/hate this image

I can admit it. I’m not embarrassed. I love Facebook.

I love looking at pictures of my friends, their kids, my old students, people I barely knew in high school, people I used to work with, ex-boyfriends and their new girlfriends (I mean, I *never* do that), my cousins, and random friends of friends so random that I’ve forgotten how I even know them.

I love reading status updates that are joyful: “She said Yes!”, “It’s a boy!”, “We got a house!”, “I got a job!”, and the like.

I love reading status updates with great quotes that make me sigh and ponder the unknowable.

I love reading status updates that make me laugh, example: “My dog is afraid of his own farts – this continues to entertain me!”

I love being able to keep up with everyone even when I’m very far away.

I love getting a message from my husband that he Google translated into English because it takes him twice as long to message as everyone else and I think that’s sweet.

But, there are downsides. I mean, where do I begin?

There’s an event and you’re not invited to it.

Pictures get posted of you that are not flattering.

Who you did last weekend put you on blast for what you did.

People read your innocent comments with the devil’s tone.

People’s opinions upset you because they differ from yours or offend you.

You feel compelled to “like” something even if you don’t, or accept someone’s friendship even if you don’t want to.

I’m not friends with a lot of drama mamas, but Facebook can become a real issue in a relationship. My husband and I do not have our exes as Facebook friends. I don’t really care about his high school girlfriend. Why should I? It’s been over ten years since they’ve been together. But, does his most recent ex-girlfriend need to know all the details of our life? Nope. Lots of people feel differently about this. I think wherever you stand on this issue can be justified.

But, sometimes lines are crossed. For instance, IF my husband’s most recent ex-girlfriend should decide to post any of the following, I imagine my face could be mistaken for a beet and one could easily steam their slacks from what would come out of my ears:

“Hey! So good seeing you last weekend! You looked great!”

“Miss you! Hope all is well!”

“What have you been up to lately? We need to catch up!”

“Why haven’t I heard from you???”

“Thanks so much for _________! Good to know I can always depend on you.”

Now, maybe you’re an understanding wife or girlfriend, but any one of those five sentences would seriously irritate me. “You looked great!”?? Of course he did. I threw away all the ugly shirts you bought for him and now he dresses like he’s on the cover of GQ, but you don’t need to tell him that. “Miss you!”?? Do you miss him so much that you want him back? Because I will have that fight with you. I will throw my purse around a tree and we can handle this like proper fools. “We need to catch up!”?? He dumped you; he’s with me now. There! All caught up! “Why haven’t I heard from you???”?? Um, are you serious? He’s soveryou. “Good to know I can always depend on you.”? Is it? Because whatever it was that he did for you will be the last thing he ever does. My husband shall not be extending himself to any woman who used to do naughty things to him. And that’s final.

Woman in rage over Facebook

As I write this, I’m pretty sure my ulcer is acting up and the funny thing is that none of this has ever happened to me. He is not friends with an ex, so she doesn’t have the opportunity to write things like that. Even if she did, it might be completely innocent and as the jealous wife, I’d have taken it out of context. Also if push came to shove, I probably would only think the above comments; I highly doubt those words would be able to come out of my mouth and float in her direction. I hate confrontation.

Facebook can be a dangerous place. I’ve gotten into fights over Facebook for far less important things than my marriage (the most recent one that comes to mind is interpretation of a Bible verse).

My point that I’ve been rambling about is that Facebook can be destructive if we let it. We can’t control what other people put out into the universe, but we can control we put out and we can control how we let their garbage affect us. We can also control what we see.

Block a friend who always posts negative comments or foul language you don’t like.

If you see something you don’t like, fight against the urge to comment.

If you see something on your significant others’ page that you don’t like, deal with it like an adult. If it’s something he posted, confront him about it and remember to use “I feel” words instead of accusing “You + negative verb”.

If someone else posted something on your significant other’s page that makes you uncomfortable, you have to ask him to deal with the situation. When he does, smile and know that you’ve got a keeper who cares more about you and your relationship than some stupid social networking site.

If he doesn’t, well…maybe you should find someone who cares more about you than some stupid social networking site.

To conclude, Facebook is a great way to stay caught up with friends, but if it becomes one’s life, something you can’t live without, you need to evaluate your priorities and remember that there is no better way to put your best you forward than by doing it in person. Yourself should represent you, not your Facebook site.

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Reflections on “How to Live a Happy and Balanced Life”

The Queen Mary

Yesterday, I climbed aboard the historic and haunted Queen Mary in the Long Beach harbor. I was asked to join a panel about well-being specifically entitled, “How to Live a Happy and Balanced Life”. I was very excited to join the other panelists, both doctors in their respective fields, to talk about a subject I feel very strongly about.

I started with an introduction to what I feel will bring a happy and balanced life which was part minimalism/part “be happy with what you’ve got”. I’m not a minimalist, by any means, but I am a major proponent of living with less. As I said at the conference, our world (media especially, but also peers, colleagues and family) tell us we need stuff (be it gardening equipment or the new iPad2) and once we have this stuff, we’ll feel satisfied and fulfilled. Of course, once you get the stuff they told you to get, there will be more stuff you don’t have that you suddenly need. The truth is, you’ll never reach fulfillment through owning things. True balance and happiness must come from within. You are probably reading this and nodding your head, but in the back of your mind are still thinking about how to get that Louis Vuitton wallet you like so much. I lived in Israel for two and a half years. I just recently heard that the standard of living in Israel is 33% lower than in the United States. I mention this because it was apparent to me when I returned that America has just about everything and people always want more and more. For two and a half years, I learned to live with a lot less and find happiness without stuff. Sometimes stuff makes life easier, and I have stuff that I really like. For this reason, I’m not a minimalist. It’s the derivation of happiness from the stuff that is a myth. You will not be happy with more stuff. Happiness and balance comes from within. Accept that, and you’re on the road to finding what it is that you need. When you are getting what you need, you will be happy. But, if you have unrealistic ideas for what you need, you will never get it and you won’t ever be happy. You are ultimately in control.

Apparently I make silly faces when I talk.

 

I also talked about putting good things into your body, and it was rather off the cuff because while it’s something I’ve thought about, I’ve never written about it before. It’s one thing to know that putting processed foods and sugars in our bodies is bad for us, and then choosing to eat them anyway. The bad food we put into our bodies does come out in one form or another whether it be weight gain, headaches or the onset of diseases like diabetes.

The same principle can be applied to what we allow into our minds, our hearts, our souls. If we fill these precious and sensitive vessels with The Kardashians, Eminem and Saw IV, somewhere in our conscious or subconscious these negative vibes are festering and waiting for the moment when they can spring out of us manifested as internalized ill.

 

Lastly, I spoke about changing habits: one of my favorite topics. I think most of us have at least one wish per day that we were different in some way, be it physical, mental or spiritual. Yet, how we work on change, if we do at all, is radically different from an effective way to make true and lasting change. A few highlights included: choose one habit to change at a time, do it every day and outline what success is so when you reach the end of the month, you can decide whether or not you were successful, modify or repeat. I really believe in making changes to your life, even if just to keep from being stagnant, but mostly because if we’re always reaching and striving to be the best version of our self, we will inevitably stumble across revelations about ourselves and life in general that we never would have if we had kept pushing the status quo. For more information on changing habits, read my Manual on Changing Habits.

I sensed a real resonance in the room of people who were truly seeking well being and a happy, balanced life. I hope what I’ve said reached them in a way that inspires them to seek honest and true change. I, too, was inspired by the other panelists to seek new ways of balance that I haven’t sought before. In the end, the panel concluded that happiness and balance must be found from within, by truly confronting our selves and finding healthy and pragmatic ways to solve the underlying issues which cause us pain, unhappiness and imbalance within.

Forgiving Yourself the Small Things

Small Things Must Be Forgiven

I just woke up and was lying in bed thinking of random things. What flits into my brain, but a small memory of a time when I embarrassed myself. I hate even writing about it because I’m afraid the person I said it to will read this, remember what I said and relive it in her own way. It was a relatively minor thing: a joke gone bad. But to this day, I feel stupid for having said it and still, embarrassed.

It was a friend’s wedding day and we were all getting ready and even though we all knew this couple was perfect for each other, I joked that she still had time to run. Nobody laughed. So awkward.

Stupid, right? Who says something like that?

I’ve got more examples of that. Times when I said something that has probably only remained in my memory, but remained nonetheless as a flub, a slip-up or a faux pas. When I remember what I’ve done, I feel bad all over again. I relive the moment supremely. Nonetheless, these embarrassing little moments will not go away. I feel like I’ll be fifty years old at an anniversary party for my friends and my brain will remind me of my past indiscretion. I’ll feel embarrassed all over again.

I’ve contemplated asking my friend’s forgiveness, but I’m afraid that she wouldn’t remember it and in asking for her forgiveness, I would then tell her of my stupid little deed and then she would know and remember what I’d done. She’s still my friend, so she must have let it go. I don’t feel like it comes between our friendship, or I’d address it right away.

On my side, I forgive my friends for major flubs and I don’t hold it against them. I certainly don’t remember the little things they’ve done to me or against me. They’re my friends because they love me, support me and are there when I need them. Everyone makes mistakes. I forgive theirs; I assume they forgive mine. So, why can’t “I” forgive mine?

If you’re like me, you may suffer with moments of shame. I want to wake up free and clear of this guilt that I’ve put on myself. So I did a little internet research on forgiveness and I found most sites were focused on helping others forgive themselves for major indiscretions (cheating on a partner, stealing, lying, etc.) and I think that is an important topic too. But, I don’t have that problem, which is interesting because I think I’ve had to forgive myself for major indiscretions and those never crop up as reminders. It happened, I found a way to forgive myself and I move on. When I relive major foul-ups, I don’t feel guilt anymore so I ask again, how can I forgive myself for these minor embarrassing moments I’ve caused myself?

First, I need to ask myself why I am holding myself to a higher standard on these issues. I don’t think I have to be perfect, but I think I still feel embarrassed because I acted in a way that I knew better, in a way that is out of character for me and I hope no one else remembers and attributes that one instance to my character as a whole.

I read this: “Self-forgiveness is very hard to do because it seems like acceptance of a sub-standard you.” I thought: this is the nail hitting it right on the head. These little memories waft up as reminders that I am a better person than I was in that moment and not to get caught doing something like that again.

So, if you’re reading this and thinking, I’m right there with you Susanna, then let’s do this: let’s agree to accept our past mistakes as moments which help us refine and not define our character. The memory crops up as a way to say, “Don’t do that again; it doesn’t suit you.” We may not be able to forget what we’ve done, and we certainly won’t be able to say that what we did was ok, but accepting our past mistakes doesn’t mean we forget or condone our action. It’s just a way of living with it. We can say to ourselves, “When I did this, it really embarrassed me. I’m not proud of it. But, it is not a reflection of the true me. The true me says I’m never doing that again. I’m moving on from that behavior.” This only works, naturally, if you do truly move on. If you continue to make the same mistakes you’ve always made, you’ve missed the important step of learning from what you’ve done in order to never repeat it.

David Niven, author of The Hundred Simple Secrets of Happy People wrote, “As a forgiveness technique, self-acceptance allows you to acknowledge that you’re a good person, faults and all. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the faults or stop trying to improve yourself but it does mean that you value yourself above those elements and cease to allow your faults to halt your progression in life.”

Sometimes we need reminding and sometimes it’s up to us to do it for ourselves in a private way. It’s a little “Stuart Smalley” (google if you miss the reference), but there isn’t anything truly wrong with looking yourself in the mirror and saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and people like me.” When you’re feeling a moment of shame and beating yourself up over a misspoken word last July or a stepped-on toe from six years ago, stop. Take a moment to remind yourself of all the good you do in the world, recognize that you aren’t perfect, but accept who you and everything that you’ve done in your life has led you to be the person you are today. We continue refining ourselves daily in order to live the best life we can. Living our best life in the moment is what brings us happiness, joy and fulfillment. Enjoy all the positive things in life and remember that what makes you who you are is wonderful.

As I nestle back under the covers, I purposely return to the moment that makes my cheeks go all red and my heart sinks into my stomach. This time I’m remembering that moment with acceptance. I’m thinking to myself that it was a growing period; that I came to better recognize when to joke and when not to. Unfortunately, it took my own embarrassment to make that leap, but I accept that it has made me who I am: a more sensitive person, willing to let a tender moment pass without feeling uncomfortable and needing to make a joke in the middle of it.

I’m sure if I called my friend now and asked her about this moment, she’d tell me I was nuts and she didn’t remember it at all. So, while I can’t seem to forget it, I can forgive myself for it.