I do a lot of speaking engagements, TV segments and blogs about how social media has made all of us anonymous. We say things online that we’d never say in public. It seems as if we’ve lost our social filter and will post cruel and hurtful comments regardless of the result. Many people think nothing of sending semi-nude photos and making sex tapes that are “accidentally” leaked. Heck, an entire industry of reality TV has been created by people who are willing to live their lives and behave badly in front of the camera for all the world to see.
Well, thanks to a very personal conversation (of course not in person but via e-mail) with a new friend this morning, I realize I do the exact same thing with a bit of a twist. Many of my readers know my “back story” by now. Suffice to say, I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with a lot of personal hardships and tragedies in my life. I know I’m not alone in that and many of you have stories far worse. The entire purpose of my blog and my speaking engagements is to encourage and motivate other people to find happiness in their lives and, not so much overcome their challenges, but rise above them. I live my life like an open book on my blog and have no problem sharing every aspect of my personal journey. I like making people feel better.
So when this one friend reached out to me and asked two simple questions – “Tell me what’s going on” and “How can I help?” – I shared with her everything – and I do mean everything – the good, the bad and the ugly. I figured it would send her running for the hills and, in fact, when I told my husband I had done that, we both joked about it. I waited for a reply, secretly afraid that I did share too much and my vulnerability scared me. Sure, there are a few close friends who know everything, but they’ve been in my life for years and lived through it. Sharing all of this with a new friend was really scary territory. It was equivalent to confessing my feelings to a guy when I was single, the feeling of anticipation of what his response would be.
Her response came the next morning. “My heart is breaking for you. I can imagine how hard it was to write that e-mail. How can I help?” And with those few sentences I was writing a response and crying my eyes out. I confessed that while I could talk to literally thousands of people about my story, sharing with one person was close to impossible.
And then I figured it out. The reason all of us are willing to share on Facebook, participate in reality TV and say things we’d never say in person is that it takes far less courage than to be open and honest with one person. And sometimes that one person isn’t even a friend, it’s our self. My mom is the same way. She cares for my father who has severe Alzheimer’s and suffered a stroke which requires her to do everything for him. Yet never once does anyone hear her complain. I finally convinced her to admit to people that sometimes her life sucks and it’s not easy. I see where I get it from.
This is a message for all caregivers (and that means moms and wives as well.) It’s OK to admit you don’t have it all together and ask one person for help. It’s OK to share your story and admit your fears to someone. Too often, we’re afraid to admit that our family life is not as good as it could be, that we’re struggling financially or that we’re dealing with an addiction. Thanks to social media it’s become quite easy to be anonymous. Find the courage to really share with someone rather than just hit the “share” button. True friends will be there to help in the real world, not the cyber world.