Sunday, February 1, 2009

6 Just Keepin' It Real: What I'm Trying to Accomplish By Blogging & Tweeting


I believe in the importance of being honest & "keepin' it real." And that means being true to oneself & listening to one's "internal compass" so to speak, regardless of the type of flack one might from others for doing so. Now that doesn't mean behaving irresponsibly without regard to consequence, expressing every thought or emotion without regard to others, &/or saying things that one will later regret, but at the same time, people clearly have the need to express themselves & say what's on their mind.

The other day I saw this principle in action in a rather unintentionally humorous way. I can't remember what channel I was watching, but there was an accomplished speechwriter & editor who was being interviewed about his book. He was obviously there to "pump product," & after being interviewed by the host for several minutes, the line was then opened up for calls. The funny thing is that zero of the callers' questions & comments were actually about his book. Instead, people just ranted about random political topics & in almost all cases, the questions asked of him were completely unrelated to anything about speech-writing or his book. It was utterly hilarious. Of course, sometimes this fellow, who happened to be the editor of a very prominent magazine, declined to answer political questions that were particularly partisan in nature, as he was trying to very carefully skirt around questions which required him to reveal his political opinions/inclinations, & other times he tried to tie in related components of his book into his answers, in an effort to keep the callers more "on topic." ;-)

It was clear that the callers just needed to express themselves, like they'd been holding it in for so long that they were going to burst if they didn't speak their minds. I can't remember if the calls were anonymous or not, but regardless, there was a lot of passion in those callers voices, & in several instances, this passion was accompanied by factual evidence in support of the opinions expressed.

Sometimes I think that this is also why people blog & tweet. They have a need to express themselves. I know I certainly do it from time to time. Ya think?! ;-)

We are all human, but I think it's important to not underestimate our need to be understood in addition to our need to be loved. I know I've personally experienced the frustration of having one without the other, & also the joy of finding people with whom both can be experienced. And by the word "love" I mean something larger than just the concept of romantic love.

Of course, as far as blogging is concerned, there are people who write blogs which mainly serve the purpose of dispensing information & news on various topics & then you have the types of blogs which are primarily there for the express purpose of an individual or individuals who have the need to sound off regularly. ;-) In fact, a tweep who goes by the Twitter ID @gonzofish just recently wrote an interesting article which delves into this very same subject, entitled "What Blogging Means to Me." Without giving away the entire article, he discusses "the two types of bloggers, the "experts" & the "socializers." I thought it was well-written & enjoyable, & certainly worth a read. So check it out.

So which type of blogger do you think you are? Are you the "expert" who deals primarily in ideas & (factual) information, or are you the "socializer," who's seeking friendship & community? (And perhaps some "love, peace, & understanding" in the process.....) Or are you perhaps a little bit of both?

I personally feel like a hybrid, with both the need to share information as well as to express thoughts & feelings, exchange ideas, & interact with people & build a sense of community on a very real & human level. If I am dispensing news or information, I typically like to put a "human face on it."

Also, I realize that since most people aren't being held at gunpoint to read other people's blogs (or at least I surely hope not! ;-) ), that it's a truly magnanimous gesture when people choose to spend their free time reading another's blog & composing comments. So I figure that, at the very least, I might as well try to make what I write interesting, funny, or compelling in some way, shape or form. My hope is that people are at least getting something from what I've written here -- whether that be information, a laugh, a shared emotion or thought, pride in their own accomplishments, or a feeling of comfort &/or connectedness.

Even on those posts when I'm simply journaling thoughts & experiences, I hope people can see that it's not just about me needing to talk about myself like some "narcissistic boob." Like everyone else, yes, I do have the need to express what I'm thinking & how I'm feeling, but hope that people can see that I'm trying to share experiences which will hopefully also help them in some way. And sometimes to get to the core of those experiences, I'm going to write about the mental & physical challenges in the immediate sense, instead of sitting up on high like some armchair guru pontificating about this & that, like I've never made a mistake in my life.

So yes, this is why I am not afraid to let people see my "imperfections" on this blog or via Twitter. Even the best of us can't be perfect, & it's time we stop idealizing others or putting them on pedestals & instead look at them for who they actually are. Yes, "warts & all."

In a similar way, this is also why I think that job interviews might be a lot more productive in most cases if people opened up a bit and truly communicated, instead of saying what they think other party wanted to hear. Really, no one truly benefits from BS-ing, atleast not in the long term. ;-) True, most of us need to make a living to survive in this world, but it's better to discover up front whether or not you'll be able to stand working in an environment for longer than a few weeks. :) After all, you don't necessarily need to make yourself miserable in the process. ;-) An interview is a two-way street, & it's just as much about the interviewee interviewing the interviewer as it is the other way around. Getting down to "brass tacks" & asking real questions & getting honest answers is surely a good way to reveal for both sides whether they are a fit/match for each other. Better to find out upfront whether you can co-exist in a potential place of employment than to be sorry later. When interviewing people, I have found it especially useful to put them at ease, not as a way of getting them to make missteps or reveal something embarrassing but rather as a way to determine whether we were both on the same page. :)

Anyhow, back to the point of why it's important to be OK with being imperfect & letting others in on the "secret." ;-) When people are on a path to improving themselves, they need to see other real people doing real things, falling on their faces & then getting up, dusting themselves off, & going back for a second, third, or fourth attempt. Or however many tries it takes. This builds character. And can also be an excellent source of humor as well. :) Resilience & persistence aren't built by being afraid to face challenges & then promptly avoiding them. They come as a direct result of engaging in them.

When people see other very real people moving forward & succeeding, they also need to see all the steps that got them there, & not just the end product. Too often, so much is made of the end product of fitness -- the weight loss, the change in physical appearance -- and not enough of the process that got them there.

Seeing the process is what makes people say, "Hey, that ordinary person did that, so maybe I can do it too."

And when you show people how you really are, most will at least respect you for your honesty. And if not, they are most likely just insecure & afraid & unable to honestly visit that very same area of themselves.

So I am not going to present my "perfect self" here. If you are looking for that person, this person has since "left the building" a long time ago. :)

So, yes, I might say some things that make you uncomfortable or express some not-so-cheery thoughts from time to time, but that's not done to intentionally discourage you or bring you down. Rather, it's done exactly for the opposite reason. You can't have sunshine without rain, you can't have growth without learning from your mistakes, etc., etc. You get the metaphors.

I want people to see that it's OK to exist as you really are instead of what other people want you to be. And I mean that from the deepest level, not just in terms of exercise -- but also in terms of obtaining a healthy sense of self & body image.

Too many people focus on what (or where or how) they want to be, instead of what (or where or how) they are, & this can sometimes work against them. Now what do I mean by this? Here's a good example: When we dress the body we currently have instead of wishing & hoping to be "like we used to be" or to look like someone else, it's a sign of acceptance & ironically, usually helps us to feel better about ourselves. Conversely, living in la-la land & beating ourselves up for what we "aren't" only serves to make us feel badly about ourselves. We are living in the now, & wishing to be otherwise or focusing on what we think we "lack" isn't going to move us forward. So, instead of doing this, it's really important to make peace with who you are right now. Yes, you heard me correctly. Stop wishing to be the perfect this or that, & instead just love yourself for who you are. If you do that, I promise you'll be able to love others more freely & be more generous & giving of yourself with them, & you will also be able to stop picking yourself apart like you are prime cuts of beef. You are more than just an assemblage of body parts, so if you are treating yourself this way, you are missing out on all of the other wonderful things that make up your being & personality.

A human being is literally more than just the sum of their parts. Also note that, in great contrast to the above diagram, that for a runner, the head & legs are truly valuable, & would never be considered "waste." :)

OK, so how many times can I say this? Exercise is not just something you do to lose weight or trim down a particular part of your body! Really! If you approach the process like a heat-seeking missile & only focus on this singular aspect, you are not looking at fitness with a longer range perspective, & will usually peter out once your short-term goals have been reached.

It's my hope to change people's attitudes about exercise & get them to think beyond its superficial or short-term benefits.

Frankly, I see far too many people (& a lot of them women!) focusing on narrow goals when it comes to their exercise, & frankly, it scares the crap out of me. I worry that these people are just missing the point of getting out there & sweating up a storm. Yes, I just used the word "worry." It truly concerns me, because what I'm trying to achieve here is not just "snappy little takeaway tips for exercising & living a healthy lifestyle," but rather something much more profound. This "something much more profound" is so all-encompassing that it's frankly very difficult for me to summarize what this particular philosophy is all about.

If you've pored over the archive of past blog posts surely you can see some evidence of what I keep hammering away at again & again. A lot of it has to do with trusting oneself & listening to one's inner wisdom, as well as learning from each other, but it's even larger than that. I could say that it's about building community or defining sportsmanship in larger humanistic terms, but even that doesn't quite approach what it's all about either. And yes, it's also about honesty, patience, moderation, gradual change, & balance, & obtaining good health & fitness, but somehow all of these words just seem completely inadequate. Maybe I need someone else who can step outside of the picture to help me define the scope of what this life & fitness philosophy embodies. I just don't yet feel like I've gotten there yet. This philosophy is still in a "state of becoming." Maybe at some point there will be a way to summarize it, but so far, I am failing miserably at it. :)

Yes, it's good to talk about the "other side of coin," instead of pretending like we all have to be perfect. Life is not just about what can be (i.e., our ideals), but also about what is in our current reality. Progress is made when we exist in a state of honesty, instead of hiding from ourselves & others. Feeling repressed or suppressing that kind of stuff in oneself usually drives people coo-coo anyhow, & it's really just not worth it. It's unrealistic to expect that you will be feeling wonderful all the time, so why try to pretend to others that this is always the case?

So feel free to blog or tweet about feeling sad or crabby. I promise I won't hold it against you. ;-) Or, if you don't feel like sharing it with the world, confide in a trusted & supportive friend or family member, or keep a private blog diary & put it there instead. By expressing it, you'll let it go, & won't feel like you are going to go postal.

Plus, a lot of us already keep enough stuff in our personal lives battened down tighter than an undercover black ops mission, so what's the harm in letting some of those emotions & thoughts out of the box once in a while?

After all, moods are temporary. ("This too shall pass." :) ) They come & go like water, & if you can just unclench a bit & instead get into an observational mode about them (for example: "Oh OK, apparently I'm PMS-ing today." :) ), then you put yourself in the driver's seat & not let them get the best of you. Or put another way, giving your less-than-lovely thoughts & emotions their space allows them the ability to fly away, & allows the happier ones to stick around for a bit longer. :)

This is why I sometimes rant & rave, & yes, tweet about being crabby or frustrated & the like. Also, I'm trying to break a lifetime habit of "only showing my ideal, happy side" to others. It's most likely from years of being raised in a very closed environment in which privacy & discretion were valued above self-expression -- It was like a dash of "Omertà" & "La Cosa Nostra," except minus the blood & guts. Mostly. :-0

But all kidding aside, I'm trying to overcome this tendency because living like this is ultimately really unhealthy. Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't the same thing as complaining or being confessional about one's deepest innermost thoughts & feelings. It's just a statement of one's current state of mind. Please note, there's a big difference between "emotional openness" & "factual openness." I prefer the former over the latter. After all, expressing general feelings doesn't exactly reveal anything other than one's mood. :)

It might seem hilarious to some that I claim to be a "private person" while still tweeting & blogging openly about "highly secretive topics" like -- oooooh, oh my goodness -- running, fashion, & food (LOL!), but yes, it's true. :)

OK, point proven. However, maybe it's time that the idea of "knowing" a person is redefined. The point is not to make people say "OMG, TMI!" :), but rather to understand that knowing a person is more than just knowing concrete facts & figures about them -- like where they're from, their favorite color or food or basketball team, etc. Knowing a person's nature & character is far more useful & will allow you to find out whether you want to bond with this person or run away quickly in the opposite direction. ;-) Don't believe me? Try connecting to people solely on a superficial level -- "Hey, we both like the same baseball team or ice cream flavor," etc. -- and see how long that friendship lasts. :) OK, well it might last, but it surely won't deepen. These topics are merely "conversation starters." If you're only looking for superficial friendships, then please go ahead & keep talking about nothing but the weather. :)

The way I look at it is that behaving honestly is not the same thing as confessing everything. You don't need to tell everybody everything about your childhood to feel bonded to them. :) Discretion is still important, & one might also add, very much missed in this age of tell-all media exposés & very public mobile phone conversations that we'd mostly rather not overhear. We still need to keep some things private & preserve some personal boundary lines. ;-)

But that doesn't mean we can't talk about our flaws & failures & still see them as beautiful things. And while some people might think it's ill-advised or bad form to do or suggest this, I will politely & repeatedly disagree with them. Why am I encouraging all of us to rejoice in our imperfectness? Because as soon as we stop being real & honestly recounting the process of our "becoming," then we will cease being human & feeling connected with others, & instead start to live from a past script instead of a current one. When a person is in a state of "becoming," then they are most often continuing to learn & grow. And that, my friends, is a truly beautiful thing.


TP said...

Great blog post. Thanks for keeping it real, Corey!

I'm still trying to figure out if I'm a Hybrid or Socializer ;)


Running Hoosier said...

Great Post.

lunaticg said...

I am a little bit of both and expert and socializer.
See you around friend.

cyberpenguin said...

Thanks everybody for your comments!

Anne said...

Very nicely put, from one hybrid blogger to another. I'm attracted to bloggers who "keep it real" and show the blemishes from time to time. I certainly do and find I get the most communal support when I come clean on a personal issue that's weighing on me.

I'm glad I read this, and I think you for writing it.

cyberpenguin said...

Thanks, Anne. That's an excellent observation about communal support & why it happens. From one hybrid blogger to another, I wholeheartedly agree with you! Bloggers are clearly more than just the ideas & information they present, & it's certainly easier to relate to bloggers who can be honest about their experiences.

Glad you enjoyed this post! And thank you for your comments & support!

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