This essay is part of the monthly Collective Culture column.
By Taysha Brown
Edited by Jazmin Batey
When we scroll through and scrutinize the lives of others through various types of media, it is possible to get lost in someone else’s world. Life, in general, means nothing – but everything. It’s how you perceive it. We can look at social media in the same light. What do you think when you see an image or scroll through someone’s profile? Do you consider the editing and filters that alter our perceptions of what we define as ‘beautiful’ or aesthetically appealing? Remember that Instagram and ‘authentic’ are true oxymorons. Always do your own research before ingesting someone else’s Insta-trash. Ask yourself: who is the person behind the Instagram handle and what are their intentions? While we may be easily fooled by many Instagram personas, I think the most helpful solution is to remain in tune with your authentic self. If something isn’t sitting right with you, that thing is probably off. Whether that’s within you or someone else, it goes both ways. We must collectively pause and reflect before we share. What are your intentions? This calls for a dose of self-trust and vulnerability, and less naivety within our digital communities. Remain true to you and don’t let someone else’s ideas or opinions sway you into dark waters. Within each and every one of us, lies insecurities, differing values, and an innate instinct to compare and reflect on the lives of others. This can be healing or it can be harmful. Which will you choose?
Almost exactly one year ago I wrote a short piece about the importance of surrendering and being ‘still’ during the pandemic. News flash: the world is still suffering from the pandemic. But that is another topic for a different story. Still, in a post-COVID world I encouraged readers to be more vulnerable; to look at the ugliest versions of ourselves individually and collectively, to openly accept our limitations, make peace with them, and find ways to evolve and heal as a collective. This calls for authenticity. Are you living your authentic life on and off social media?
Does authenticity scare you? Instead of competing and shaming people for their emotions and vulnerability, we must learn to read the room better. We can be tricked into comparing and competing against one another, but we need to remain united and ask ourselves why we are doing this. Feel whatever you’re feeling, while maintaining compassion for others. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions and find your voice amongst the noise. Not everyone will support you and that’s ok. The more authentic you are, the more you will reap in this life. Stop listening to everyone’s opinions, especially in the realm of social media. Continue to protect your mental health and energy at all times. If something triggers you, have enough discipline to walk away or tune out. Sometimes your authenticity and emotions will make others feel uncomfortable.
While most of us have experienced immense amounts of fear and isolation during these times, I think it’s important to remind everyone again, as some of the world reopens, that intimacy goes beyond physical touch; we must evolve intimately on an emotional and intellectual level. When we learn to become more familiar and comfortable with ourselves, only then can we see the importance of mutual vulnerability, openness, and sharing. When we start communicating openly about personal and collective needs and respect each other’s differences, only then can we begin to tackle oppression and injustices. This is a call for solidarity.
Solidarity is collective healing. The process of feeling whatever you’re feeling without any shame or guilt. This goes both ways. Don’t shame people for their emotions and only offer your “good vibes only” or “try to stay positive” nonsense. The world is definitely not always feeling the good vibes, so why do we pretend that everything is sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows? Newsflash: look around you. Read the room. The earth is literally burning at the core and everywhere I turn I see “think happy thoughts”, bordering on toxic positivity. Suppressing our inner demons and ignoring the outcries from the Earth is a cocktail for death. How can we begin to solve injustices in the world if we still haven’t accepted them?
Instead of shaming people for being vulnerable and expressing their rage or unhappy emotions, perhaps we should again, read the room better. Acknowledge the suffering and pain that all our communities are feeling. When we start communicating openly about personal and collective needs, emotions, and fears with respect for each other’s differences, then we can truly begin to recover as a collective. Remember that patterns can be broken, unlearned, and re-taught. Learn to surrender, kill the ego, and continuously strive for constant reflection, uncovering new angles and letting go of old ideals. While we can reflect with and through one another, I think it is important to realize that we all have our own emotions, perspectives and triggers, and we are our own teachers. The real work is how you choose to deal with your personal issues and the amount of work you do to maintain your mental health.
When you set healthy boundaries and decide what or who is and isn’t for you, you learn about yourself and the people you want to surround yourself with. As the world recuperates we need to allow people to feel their pain full throttle. If everyone sets their own personal boundaries, we can better support one another. If something is too much for you, step back. But remain engaged and try to decipher why someone or something that they have done is off-putting. Communicate your personal boundaries with others’ so we can quickly reach collective resolutions.
I have always been a very opinionated person, but throughout my travels as I interact with different people and cultures, I constantly have to remind myself that everyone is truly unique. As I observe the world trying to heal and return to some state of normality, I try not to be judgemental of others’ healing process as everyone heals differently and may be at a different stage on their journey. Everyone will have an opinion or try to offer their support based on their own fears, insecurities, and experiences. Learn to filter what you need and what you don’t need. Ask yourself: what are your needs? We have no control over others’ opinions and beliefs, but we can control who we let into our lives, say no to toxic behaviour and control the social media content we consume.
Unearth your pre-internet brain and feel your feelings. Spend time in silence. Learn to laugh at yourself. Write love letters to no one. Emotions don’t make you weak, and sadness does not make you a loser. There is no winning with emotions. We can be happy and sad at the same time, there is no one-way to feel your feelings. A 3-year-old student that I teach once told me “I feel happy, sad, angry, and sleepy” and that hit home for me. Always check-in with your inner-child. Notice your own toxic traits before you start pointing fingers and judging someone else for their behaviour. There shouldn’t be any hatred or judgement, only reflection and education. Let others inspire you.
“Om mani padme hum” – A Sanskrit mantra for compassion.
I have found that battling my own insecurities and waves of emotions have been best dealt with when I have compassion at my very core. Compassion for myself and for others. Allowing myself to grieve and isolate if necessary. My alone time is my healing time; my happy time. Holding accountability for my actions and forgiving myself for my mistakes without guilt or shame. Shifting from dissociation and the use of unhealthy coping mechanisms to an open mind and most importantly, asking for support from family and friends when I feel ready. Everyone’s healing process is different. It’s crucial to remember that sometimes people don’t want your support or opinions about how and when they should heal. It can also be very detrimental to offer unwanted support which can hinder someone’s mental health and growth. When we pass judgment on others and make assumptions we are removing all lines of communication. While it is important to love and support our friends and family, it is more important that we always ask how we can provide that support.
We are all struggling and trying to heal and grow in our own ways, it is a constant journey; one that is better suited in unification. Discover new angles and let go of old ideals, while remembering what past patterns have taught you in times of hardship. We must continuously remind one another that we are a collective, we need to be resourceful, and that vulnerability does not equate to weakness. On an individual level we need to shift our focus away from comparing, competing and judging others, (especially on social media) and take a moment to check-in with our own mental health, social media consumption, and coping mechanisms. It is all too easy to get lost in someone else’s digital world. Read the room in your own house before reading someone else’s. We must turn our gaze inwards. Strive for solidarity, inspiration, and always remember that compassion is a choice. What will you choose?
Taysha Brown is a writer from Toronto, currently based in Taipei. Her background in Sociology, Anthropology, and Human Rights combined with her interest in religion and spirituality has been her greatest influence to travel and write. Follow her on instagram.