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The Perils of Pretending

One of the great things about smartphones and social media, we often think, is that they keep us from ever feeling bored. Or feeling anything we don’t actually want to feel, for that matter. Feeling guilty that you aren’t working? Check your email, perhaps, to reassure yourself that you actually are engaged at work. Feeling anxious? Distract yourself with a youtube video. There are an infinite number of ways that our devices make it so that we don’t really have to feel uncomfortable emotions. . . .Which you might think is kinda a good thing. Because who wants to be uncomfortable, right?

But a little bummer about the human brain is that we can’t selectively numb our emotions. So when we dull our difficult emotions (like shame or panic or fear), we also numb the pleasant and positive emotions (like joy and gratitude and inspiration).

This might be painfully obvious, but we can only really experience the emotions that we want to feel when we are conscious of what we are feeling, when we are in touch with all of our emotions, like ’em or not.

Numbing our unpleasant emotions is just one tactic for not accepting what we are feeling, for not feeling what we feel. Our devices and networking tools make it increasingly easy for us to not-feel by providing us with such effective ways to blunt our emotions, but numbing isn’t the only way that smartphones and social media allow us to deny our emotions.

Questions for your reflection:

1. How are you feeling right now? How satisfied are you with your life — with your work, your family, your relationships? Who are you — what kind of person are you? What and who do you love and value? Jot down answers to these questions in a journal or on a blank piece of paper, knowing no one else will ever see them. Just write down a few adjectives about who you are, how you are feeling right now, and your overall life satisfaction.

2. Now answer those questions again, but this time for an audience. How would you describe yourself and how you are feeling to co-workers? At a reunion? To a close friend you haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time? On social media?

Are your answers different depending on the audience? 


This post is from a series about authenticity from the “Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing LessWant to go on to the next class or start the course from the beginning? It’s free! Just go to The Science of Finding Flow course page. Enjoy!