Saturday, 27 April 2013

Confessions of a Social Media Addict

Hi, I am Helen and I am addicted to Social Media. I have Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course Blogspot.

I am the first to say I love social networking... the advances in technology have allowed me to stay in touch with people in ways that I haven't been able to before. Moving away to uni, this has been particularly helpful... Skype for my friends, Facebook chat, texting, it's all been amazing to help me feel a little less lonely. So that's all good you say... why is there an issue with social media? Well, like many, I feel like it can distort one's thoughts and expectations of life.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook, I upload photos, share statuses, generally just telling people what is going on in my life. I love to see what my friends are up to, how they're getting on and I know for a fact my mum uses it to check on me sometimes... though I am not sure how willingly she'd admit to it! All of this is good stuff, but what about the times when you feel down and alone and just plain rubbish?

I sit scrolling through my news feed, seeing photos and statuses about my friends having a fantastic time at this party, or finishing that essay or getting a brilliant mark for some piece of coursework. I see photos of them out with friends/boyfriends/girlfriends etc and they look amazing. I then look at myself, sat at home in my pyjamas, not having done brilliantly in that essay, having had a rubbish day and feeling particularly hideous and then I just feel awful. This is swiftly followed by the familiar pang of envy and I just want to crawl into bed with a jar of nutella and a spoon and remain there forever.

But one thing we always forget is that Facebook/Twitter etc are not real representations of day to day life. They are like the lifestyle equivalent of airbrushing. You only show people your best side. You only post the things you want them to see. You don't post a photo of yourself when you have a red nose from the winter cold, or pale sweaty skin from the flu. You don't post statuses boasting about the low mark in that essay, or those cupcakes you burned by accident. Facebook is the side of you you're proud of. And honestly, it's not a bad thing to be proud of who you are, but it's important to keep some perspective: Facebook does not constitute "real life".

Honestly, even on here, where I aim to be as honest and up front as possible, I show my "best work." I post what I am proud of and have spent time thinking about because I care, because I want to be the best person I can be. I don't post the rough drafts from my notebooks or those rants which almost culminated in a blog post... because I am not proud of those. I don't like them. And I don't think the world needs to see them. In fact the world doesn't need to see this but I want it to. I want the world to see what I can do... not what I can't.

I also write this blog because I wanted a way to tell people that life isn't rainbows and buttercups and fairies... it is pain and sorrow and suffering too. And no matter how many social media accounts you have, you can't just air brush that out of real life. But remember, you are not alone. Everyone has felt that way at one time or another and it is those around us who get us through, whether it's a simple word of encouragement or a cup of tea/coffee and a chat, you never know how much of a blessing you can be to someone, because we all need that sometimes. Sometimes we all need an encouraging smile, a cup of tea, a shoulder to cry on to get us through those rubbish days.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Chasing Perfection

I sometimes feel like I spend a lot of my time going after things which don't matter, at least they don't matter in the long term. I find myself preoccupied by insignificant things which begin to consume me. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be perfect. I have wanted to be the one with the perfect life, the perfect body, the perfect grades and the perfect everything. I wanted to have it all together. I wanted it all to be sussed out. I don't think I ever once stopped to ask myself what this perfect body or perfect life actually meant to me. I simply knew I wasn't meeting the criteria for whatever this mystery of "perfection" was. All I could be sure of is that it was unattainable, impossible, but I was damn right going to get there or at least die trying.

This led to heart ache, pain and the soul destroying knowledge that my best was never going to be enough. It didn't matter how much I improved or changed, but I knew deep down that perfection and myself were never going to be synonymous with each other. So what is perfection? What am I actually trying and failing so miserably to attain?

I decided to look to the dictionary as my first port of call... I figured this would be the easiest place to find the world's definition of it. I was surprised and confused to find that the Oxford English Dictionary lists 9 possible definitions of perfection. That is insane. How can one thing be defined in so many different ways? I decided to look at the first 2 definitions as a starting point:

1. The fact or state of being completed or perfected; consummation, completion or end

2. The most complete or perfect stage of growth or development of a person or thing; maturity, ripeness.

So here they are, but notice that the word included in defining perfection is the word perfect. But perfect is also a word thrown around a lot and is extremely subjective. So really I am no less confused than I was before. After all what is the stage of "completion"? What does it look like to be in the "perfect" stage of growth or development? The dictionary gives an example of a flower being in full bloom as the perfect stage of development. Does that mean that the flower is only perfect for the short time it blooms and then as soon as it begins to decay its beauty is lost?

Perfect. A word that is thrown around all the time. Yet do any of us actually know what it means? Again the words "complete" and "finished" come up a lot when I look this up. It also says being perfect is having a notable spiritual excellence or virtue, someone who is pure and blameless.

In short, reading these definitions only made me absolutely convinced that as myself, I measure up to none of these things. But, I also realised something else:

No one can be defined as perfect.

This is because no one is complete. Not in themselves. Not by what they do or what they achieve. So really chasing perfection is a hopeless cause, and you will lose. In fact, I hate to break it to you but you have already lost.

Yet, as Christians we throw around phrases like being perfect, and complete in Christ all the time. So given the apparently overwhelming evidence telling us that we will never reach perfection, how do I stand here today and say that when God looks at me, he sees something perfect, blameless, pure and beautiful? 

This is because of Jesus. This is because God gave his perfect son so that we may live. So that all of the mistakes we have made, all of the ways we fall short of perfection and all of the ways we have messed up can be repaired. Jesus lived as a human and in his short life he experienced every single emotion on the spectrum. He felt his heart shatter, he felt elation at being loved and he felt anger at injustice. Just like us. Jesus was fully human and yet fully God. He knew what it was to hurt. He knew what it was to rejoice and he knew what it was to be perfect in an imperfect world. It was hard. He was rejected, torn down, hated, persecuted and he died. He was separated from his Father after knowing him more intimately than we could imagine. But he did it willingly. He did it because he knew how much humanity was worth. He did it because he loves us. He did it because he knew that there was no other way. The day Jesus rose from the grave, he showed us what it was to live. He defeated the darkness and made a way for us, for me to achieve what is impossible to do alone: perfection

So yes, I have spent most of my life chasing shadows, but now I am found in the one who loves me. I am found in the one who has seen and forgiven every single mistake I have made, and who looks upon me with pleasure and love. I am found in the one who gives me strength when I am weak. I am whole in the presence of God. I am chasing after Jesus, the image of true perfection. And I know I will slip up and I know I will, and I have made mistakes, but when God looks at me he sees his son, who covers me in his love and grace, and he sees something beautiful. And something perfect. He is moulding me into his image, and there is no one I would rather chase after, no one I whose image I would rather share.

In Jesus I am whole. In Jesus I am perfect. I am blameless. I am free. In Jesus I have hope.