What I am about to share with you, you cannot tell anyone! The other day I had an absolute madness. I’m so ashamed to share this, but I know that as you read this, you too have had this madness happen to you before. Sooo… I was walking down the street the other day, as you do. Minding my own business as you do, and all of a sudden..WHAM
I can’t begin to explain the sound I heard in my head as it smacked into a tree as I had become entranced in the art of navel gazing. I was literally minding my own business. Head so consumed with all of my issues and problems in life, that I had lost focus about where I was going and what I should have been doing. The pain of my head hitting the tree wasn’t as painful as the embarrassment of being looked upon awkwardly by passers by who wanted to laugh but were fearful of my reaction. The embarrassment of having to pretend I had it all together and that I was ok was intensified by the fact that if I had spent more time focusing on where I was going and what I should have been doing I would have been fine. But unfortunately I let my issues, problems and circumstances get in my way. You see it wasn’t the trees fault. The tree was a result of my focus being in the wrong place.i could have tried to blame the tree but that would have been silly. I learnt an incredibly valuable lesson in the pain of my FaceTime with the tree. If I walk with my head down, navel gazing, I’m going to hurt myself.
Navel-gazing? What is that I hear you ask. According to the Cambridge dictionary, navel-gazing is the activity of spending too much time considering your own thoughts, feelings or problems. It’s when you become so consumed about what has happened or is happening in your life you forget to focus on where you are going or what you should be doing.
Should we care about our problems? Yes. Should we spend time thinking about them? Of course. So what’s the problem? Some things we cannot change no matter how much time we give to thinking about them. The lack of control we feel is what leads us to overthinking and actually can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. It is good to be introspective, but not obsessive with it.
You see the more we focus on something, the more we are magnifying it. And anything we magnify doesn’t get bigger in size, but becomes bigger in sight.
Anything that appears bigger in sight can be intimidating. How do I beat this? How do I overcome this? How do I move past this? How do I come back from this? It’s too big. This then leads to us overthinking how other people see this issue or even us. Why? Because of our magnifying, this thing is so big, that everyone must know or be able to see it, or is thinking about it. This is often so far from the truth. And even if it is true, just like your thoughts and opinions, theirs can’t change the thing or issue.
Acceptance therefore for what things are or who you are or what has happened is important. I have learnt in the last year to move forward I have to accept that I can’t change what’s happened. As painful as it is it allows me to learn and grow, but also live lighter. People will hold you to your past or things you have done, especially if you have hurt them. Unfortunately for some people dividing who you are from what you have done is very hard. How can we use someone’s worst days on this earth as a referendum on their character and totality? I don’t know if we can but we do. On Saturday Caroline flack, a TV presenter in the UK was found dead after committing suicide. She had been subject to incredible scrutiny and trolling in the media and the weight of it led to her sadly taking her own life. Caroline had made some bad decisions. Ones that had hurt people and impacted their lives negatively, but ones she had also taken responsibility for. She said in one of her Instagram posts before her death
“this kind of scrutiny and speculation is a lot to take on for one person to take on their own…I’m a human being at the end of the day and I’m not going to be silenced when I have a story to tell and a life to keep going with…I’m taking some time out to get feeling better and learn some lessons from situations I’ve got myself into. I have nothing but love to give and best wishes for everyone ❤️”
Sometimes we navel gaze because of what’s happened to us and sometimes we navel gaze because of what we have done. Sometimes it’s just that life is a lot. Whatever the reason, navel gazing can lead to us hurting ourselves unless we get the help we need. We cannot carry the weight of failure or disappointment by ourselves. We cannot be the best version of ourselves without help. We cannot navigate life’s problems and issues by ourselves and if we do we are sure to walk into trees.
What would have happened if as a society we were all able to admit we ain’t perfect and we all have things in our past that we hope no one ever finds out? What would have happened if instead of acting better than others we acted like we all have issues and make mistakes?
What would have happened if instead of people focusing on the speck in Caroline’s eye, they focused on the plank in theirs?
Brene brown is a research professor and has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability and shame. She states that vulnerability is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, however, it is also the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. To be able to admit our problems or issues, or even our pain, it takes an incredible amount of courage and vulnerability, but in that space something new and fresh can be born within us and through us. Love and belonging are one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In fact they are described as psychological needs. Why is this important? Because anytime we navel gaze it is often in spaces of our lives where we do not feel we have any support or option of help with our situation. Every human being needs to belong and needs to be loved. This though can only be accessed when we choose to open our mouths and be vulnerable with our struggles. People can help us lift our heads. People can love us and let us know that we belong. Our reluctance to do this is found in our fear of being judged and so we choose to be consumed by our stuff, so much so, we end up walking in to trees.
Community is therefore important. Isolation causes us to navel gaze, community allows us to change our gaze. A space we are beautifully distracted by each other and we realise we are struggling with different things. It’s not in our heads, and it’s not just us. A space where we can learn to be vulnerable. My failures can help with your struggles. And your failures can help with my struggles. I don’t have to wrestle with my weaknesses or situations alone. I can share the weight and watch something beautiful be birthed in my life.
So to all my navel gazers, life wasn’t meant to be lived alone. Find your community, be open and vulnerable, watch love and belonging be birthed and try and avoid those trees. And if for whatever reason you seem to hit one, it’s ok, don’t face the pain alone, there are people who are waiting for your vulnerability to help you.
Love, peace and chicken wings
MD – Retired Navel Gazer