What Is Sharing For?
Sharing is a transaction but of what.
Sharing As Children
Ever since we were children we were given the message that sharing is the right thing to do.
We shared our toys with our friends at school, although reluctantly.
We gave some of our sweets to our brothers and sisters under command.
Then one day when no one was looking, no parent or teacher we did something that surprised us.
We shared on our own accord, without instruction.
We walked over to the boy in the corner of the schoolyard standing by himself and asked him would he like to join in the game.
He happily agreed, we felt better, he felt better but what was shared?
In the first two examples, it is clear what is shared, a physical object something we could hold, touch and see.
The last one is different, we shared a feeling, we saw something and did the right thing in asking that person do they want to play too.
With toys, money and other physical objects it can be viewed as a zero-sum game, if I give you €20 then you have more and I have less.
Sharing can be seen as a division in this instance, dividing up the pieces of a pie of a certain size, the more people the less pie.
Experiences and feelings are different.
For those kids in the schoolyard, more people equals more fun. The act of sharing is mutually beneficial.
The act of sharing benefits all parties involved, It’s not a zero-sum game.
If I share experiences and feelings then it’s multiplication, not subtraction that occurs.
The more good you share the more good you get.
So in the last example where’s the risk, what’s the effort?
The effort is in noticing the opportunity, in caring enough to notice and then in feeling that the right thing to do was to share the experience with the other child.
Telling ourselves the story that we would like the same to happen if the roles were reversed.
The risk was in going first and doing what wasn’t done before you walked over without knowing what would happen.
Empathy and connection were shared.
Sharing Our Story As Children.
Most of us had no problems in sharing our stories as children.
Coming home from school to our parents and filling them in on all the details, not solely on what happened but how it made us feel, what we did, what others did and what happened as a result of it.
We didn’t filter the content, it was raw and emotional.
Highs and lows it was all shared, we gave the story to our parents so they could put it into their adult brain for processing and then based on deep analysis and algorithms that only an adult brain possesses they would hand us a solution to our problem.
We felt better, they felt better, all good.
Sharing As Adults
Now we are all grown up, what’s our relationship like with sharing?
Most of us are still good at sharing, having continued the habit since childhood.
There is a positive feedback loop when we share.
We help others and as a result feel good.
Lending our belongings to our friends and family.
Sharing a listening ear to people closest to us when they are feeling down.
We share conversation with our co-workers about our weekend, the news and political affairs.
Giving our time in volunteering for sports clubs or other organisations.
Sharing Our Story As Adults
What about our own story?
As an adult where is this powerful machine and algorithm in our head that sorts all our problems, the same thing that solved our problems when we were children?
Is it faulty, broken or was it ever installed?
It’s funny because it works when we are processing other people’s problems, listening intently, processing it and then offering feedback if needed.
So why does it not work for our problems?
There’s a missing ingredient to the equation and it’s sharing.
Sharing with people who have earned the right to hear our story.
I did a short talk recently as part of an event for World Mental Health Day organised in my co-working space.
There was a couple of little events and other talks throughout the day and the audience were others who worked in the office space.
My talk was on creativity and our health and wellness.
Here’s my first blog which goes deeper into that subject.
About how telling our story in our voice is good for us and others.
- We all have a story and one worth sharing
- The act of sharing with people who have earned the right to hear is powerful medicine
- Going first creates a safe platform for others to follow
- Sharing is selfless and not selfish
- It opens doors you didn’t know exists
- The medium to tell our story varies from person to person, music, dance, writing, sports and conversation are some of these
- The health benefits are primarily in the feeling you get from sharing which is hard describe in words
- Ultimately it’s self-expression through creativity
What happened after the talk is what surprised me.
4 or 5 people told their stories, ones that exposed their vulnerabilities.
None of these had planned in doing so before the event but something happened as people talked about the topic of opening up that caused them to do this.
They didn’t want attention, they felt it was the right thing to do, the right setting.
The first person who shared caused the second to do the same and so on.
It was contagious.
Which leads me to….
I talked around the subject on why it’s important, what’s sharing for and what happens when you selflessly do it.
What I didn’t do was do it myself.
Now I would like to go.
What I Did Not Know.
Over the years I have been very turned off by the notion of sharing parts of my story, thinking that people who did so were looking for attention.
Those people who talked openly were strange, that they shouldn’t.
It made me feel uncomfortable so they should stop.
It offended me on some level.
My belief was they were being selfish, in fact, it was me who was being selfish.
My negative reaction to it was my own fear around doing the same, I could never do that.
In fact, I’d nothing to hide, nothing then to share.
Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often. – Mae West
I remember thinking that I was glad I had never had mental health issues, certain I was not one of those people, confident that it would never happen to me.
I was on top of things, I looked after myself, took responsibility for my situation and in doing all these things I was safe.
I had spent years transforming my health through lifestyle experiments, I was feeling good.
Everything was great until it wasn’t.
Towards the end of my first year in business, things changed.
I was under financial pressure and emotionally overloaded, I was questioning my motivations for this work, I was trying to put out a forest fire with a blanket.
How is the clinic going?
“All good thanks. Going well. Really happy with things.”
It’s all about perception I thought, things would work out, it just needed time, that thing I needed to address would sort itself out, I didn’t need help, I am strong, I can do this.
When my friends and family asked the question of how I was they got the same.
I just needed more time in the room to fix everything, more ideas to process and more work.
Get up earlier, work all day on developing ideas, don’t talk to people, you don’t need that much sleep, read more books, plan your day, review your week, I don’t have time for exercise, this is too important, I am too important, this will work.
The problem wasn’t the methods I was using, it was my delusion in believing there was no problem.
Delusion fueled by an ego.
The ego in thinking that I could do it all on my own.
The ego in thinking that my time and work was more important than other people’s.
In denying that problems existed.
In failing to admit I was stressed, anxious and in need of help.
By convincing myself everything was fine I could convince others.
When I was unable to convince myself I just chose not to interact with others, they would see right through me otherwise.
I have always been good at maths and loved little calculations, one day I was at home and I was faced with a simple equation that I would normally do without batting an eyelid.
I could not work it out, the more I tried the more it evaded me.
I forgot my times’ tables.
Did my IQ drop, had I forgotten how to calculate, was I losing it, why couldn’t I do this?
I was overwhelmed, I couldn’t deny the problem existed, it wasn’t lack of sleep or a moment it was an inability to take in more information, my brain had reached its capacity.
I was shutting down.
I knew then that things had to change.
I went through the process of closing the business.
I was still in denial, excuses surfaced for what had happened.
“I wanted to change career, the clinic wasn’t for me, the profession wasn’t for me, I would work it out given time”
I still didn’t talk, in total it took me over 6 months to admit there was a problem, that I needed help.
Sitting at home all day long, sleeping for 10 hours+ a day, turning off my phone, choosing isolation and thinking my way through the problem.
Anything I could do to not talk, to not interact with people, to deny what had happened.
My decision to not share my thoughts and feelings was denying the people around me the greatest opportunity to help me.
What had happened?
From an ego-fueled state, I thought people close to me didn’t see I had a problem.
People who had known me all my life.
I had a huge problem with my mental health
What I Learned.
What helped me the most was admitting to myself that I had a problem, in not resisting this truth.
This opened up new possibilities I hadn’t seen before, it was the step before I decided to do something.
I shared this with the people closest to me, they knew already, I told them I needed to go travelling, they supported me as always.
I went travelling.
On my travels, I met some incredible people and some of them like me had reached an emotional threshold where travel was needed.
I only found this out through eventually sharing my story in talking openly and not sugarcoating it.
The problem I had which I believed was unique to me was in fact common.
They spoke of the problems they faced without blinking, a lot of them didn’t resist the problem they had in their lives, they were happy to share.
My story wasn’t met with opposition or challenge which I imagined it might but it was listened to and was part of a normal conversation that didn’t alter the dynamic of the conversation too much.
It was perfectly normal and common to experience something I had experienced and therefore why would I hesitate to share it.
I got more intrigued with other people’s reasons for travelling, most of them were undergoing a lot of change in their lives and decided travelling was the correct medium to allow them to work things out.
Some had a fixed return date, some had a timeframe generally revolving around finances, some were open to travel as long as it took until they were ready to go home.
What I love about travel the most is that people are themselves, this gives you permission to do the same, people say what they want, do what they want and share their stories unapologetically.
There’s no bullshit to it.
If there are people you enjoy being with you spend time with them, if not then you don’t.
There’s no mention of what you do for work but a deep curiosity to who you are as a person.
People are genuinely interested in each other’s stories.
There are no negative associations attached to talking openly and sharing your story it cuts away the fears of doing so.
It’s not a place for judgement or to fix their problem but to acknowledge this is a person with a story, one I want to hear. that connection and level of openness are addictive.
That connection and level of openness were a breath of fresh air.
I returned home after 3 months after making my decision.
- To be unapologetically myself.
- To be more honest and open with myself and others.
- To be creative, expressing myself through my work.
- To do things I want to do, say something if I had something to say.
- To help others when possible by looking for opportunities.
- In being more curious about the world and getting back to a childlike mind.
- In trying new things, meeting new people.
- In not taking myself too seriously.
How This Changed Things.
Self-expression in sharing my story and being creative has made more of a positive difference to my health than anything I have ever done previously.
Any experiment I have ever done around sleep, diet, meditation, exercise and so on, any concept I learned in a book or any amount of thinking I done on my problems.
The point of this post is to share my story, in realising that sharing it is more important than holding onto it.
In revealing that when my story was put into the world, it showed me my problem wasn’t unique, that most of my suffering was in being focused on myself, that travel and a new stimulus gave me a different way of looking at things.
That the more people associate talking and sharing openly with being normal the more normal and common it becomes.
I still need reminding on a daily basis of what I need to do to keep on top of my health and it’s work but it’s worth it.
That there is no such thing as out of the woods, that continuing to apply and notice what’s working in my life through self-awareness is my job.
That sharing my story helps, not because of the response it gets but in how the act of doing it makes me feel and in knowing that it may help another person do the same.
That the people who shared theirs with me gave me an opportunity to do one of most sought-after human desires, to help someone, not by talking but by listening.
In offering me a safe platform to do the same.