This week the housemates are being made to fight for the prize money amongst themselves – in all kinds of demeaning ways. And understandably, they’re all getting snarky with each other. They’re all scared, and they’re all acting out in a multitude of different ways.
And when a housemate inevitably loses their cool, the others all leap up, vitriolic, fingers pointed – saying “now you’re showing your true colours”. The assumption being that if you dig deeply enough into any one of us, our “true colours” will look like an ugly, bitter, angry, tangled fearful mess. That at our core is something hideous that we have to keep hidden from the world. That when we act kindly, or lovingly it’s a pretence – or in Big Brother terms, a “game plan” – that is ultimately selfish and self serving.
While this may be nothing more than a sad insight into the mentality of a bunch of 20-somethings who’ve been locked in a camera-ridden house for the last 8 weeks – I think this speaks to something bigger. Namely, our unthinking and automatic bias toward the negative, the difficult and the ugly.
We throw terms like “real life” and “true colours” around, laden with negative connotations. Among parents, there’s a common narrative about the need to prepare our children for “real life”. A version of life that’s very different to the one most kids enjoy – filled with positive encouragement, a focus on their inherent qualities and their successes, and people who are patient and generous with their affection and love.
This, we assume, is not reality.
This is for children only.
This is what children need, but apparently, not what adults are entitled to.
Reality, we preach, is hard. Reality is to be endured, survived, and struggled through. And it’s our job as adults to disabuse the younger generation of the notion that the life they’re enjoying right now can continue beyond the age of 18. It’s our job to ‘prepare’ them for what lies ahead, for the realities of adult life.
Since when did ‘reality’ become synonymous with ‘shitty’? Since when did ‘true’ become another word for ‘ugly’?
When we made it so.
And the good news is that we can undo what we did.
I’m stumbling around on Instagram right now, posting some images, putting them through the app’s filters, making them look a thousand times better than they ever did when I snapped them on my phone. Like most people living in 2015, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the images on social media – so often depicting an unattainable version of reality.
In my more fragile moments, these images have triggered feelings of “not enough” and “less than”. I’ve often used this blog as a space to counterbalance all the apparent ‘perfection’ out there on the internet. I’ve sought to speak my own messy and uncomfortable truth as I negotiate parenthood and career change in my own very imperfect way.
But that’s not the only space I want to inhabit.
Because life is not only messy and uncomfortable.
It’s also exquisitely beautiful.
It’s also magnificent and fulfilling and crammed full of meaning, purpose and hope.
And for me, there’s something about those Instagram filters that help me tap into that. There’s something magical about sticking a filter on a slightly unremarkable image of my kids, or my friends, and have it start to reflect more accurately the feelings I have for them.
Last weekend I spent a happy half hour watching the DVDs we’d made for close family, depicting photos and video of the kids when they were tiny. We’d given the images a soundtrack, choosing songs that spoke to the love and fun they’ve brought into our lives. It was a joyful and gorgeous way to spend some of our weekend.
And here’s the thing. What we watched on those DVDs is real life. My kids looking adorable is real. Your friends looking awesome on Instagram is them showing their true colours.
My kids are adorable.
Your friends are awesome.
We all are.
Let’s start noticing that more.
I invite you to live life today like there’s an Instagram filter on everything. Or an amazing soundtrack playing in the background.
And watch as the beauty starts emerging all around you.
And then watch as that beauty starts to become your reality.
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Did this resonate with you? Are you interested in applying the perspectives here to your own life? Work with me, and we can really get into it. I love talking about this stuff even more than I love writing about it (and that’s a lot).