Several years ago, I was on an overnight with a friend of mine when he noticed me checking my phone. “Do you ever just leave that thing alone?” he asked me.
“What? I’m just checking text messages.” I retorted.
“Un huh, for the 100th time since you got up.”
It was about 11 o’clock when he made the comment. I thought to myself, “There is NO WAY.” So, we began a conversation about phones, phone checking, and the idea that he thought I may have a problem. Which I of course knew was NOT the case, but decided to entertain him anyway.
“I bet you can’t go an entire day without looking at your phone”, he said. OOOOOOOOOHHHHH, if there is anything in this world I can’t resist, it’s a bet.
My son and I used to play on the playground when he was younger and we’d play a game called, “Anything you can do.” One of us would start, and the other had to do everything the leader did until there was something that the leader couldn’t do on first attempt, and then it was the other person’s turn to lead. It was fun and challenging and kept me in decent shape AND fulfilled my need for competition, even if it was with my 10-year-old. It also gave me great insight into my son, myself, and allowed me to meet him in a place where I could lose (worse case scenario I was buying ice cream. He was 10) and still feel really good about it. I could win these playground games until a couple years after Christian hit puberty and his boyhood turned to young manhood and I was sunk. So I started to lose, way more often, which was totally okay because it was a playground game, and beating his Mom made him feel good. I got one-on-one time with my ever-growing son, and we’d walk to the DQ afterwards and get ice cream, so really, there was no losing.
At any rate, I like competition. Fun. Loving. Supportive. But competitive. So naturally, when my friend posed this bet it ignited that part of me and I could NOT say no. “So, what’ll you give me if I win?” No good bet is without its reward. Dinner at the restaurant of the winner’s choice was on the line, and I took it. The details and parameters were laid out and I was totally prepared to kick butt on this. He agreed to check my phone once per hour for me just in case my son was needing something, and that was that. As a Momma, whether my son was in my care, or his Dad’s, I needed to be available “just in case.”
The first hour was easy. Catching myself going to my phone was simple as my conscious mind was still remembering what I had on the line. By hour two, it was different. I’d find myself looking for my phone in the cabin and then remembering I was not to look at it. I went for a walk, distraction helped. Came back, we went for a bike ride, that helped more. At the same time, it was really getting uncomfortable! The habit of checking my phone was in full force in its pull.
It was amazing how my mind kept giving me reasons to look at it. “Maybe Christian texted and needs something, NOW”, “maybe your parents are trying to get ahold of you because something has happened”, “maybe a client needs to confirm an appointment and if you don’t respond they’ll not show up”, “It will be your own fault”, “good business people respond quickly!”. Blah, blah, blah.
My mind was doing its best to convince me I must be the most important person in the world. What if the president wanted a reading!!! This is world saving stuff here! After about five hours something magical happened. The urge not only went away, but I actually found an amazing feeling on the other side of it. FREEDOM! I’m telling you it was absolutely euphoric! I felt like prisoner who had been unchained. I’m serious, it was incredible. From that point on I went everywhere inside, outside, out to dinner, drinks, etc. and never looked back. The idea of checking my phone actually became an irritant for me. “Who are these people who think they need my attention on my weekend away”, like people were nagging at me constantly like a whiny kindergartner.
Again, my friend kept his side of the bet and checked my phone to make sure there was no emergency that I was ignoring. At one point I even told him that unless it was a call or text from my son, his Dad, or one of my origin family, ignore it. So, he’d look at it when I wasn’t around, assess it, and put it down. The end. By the time I was all done, I went 36 hours without looking at my phone. I was almost resentful when I had to pick it up to get work done. The cuffs went back on, and I went back to that world.
The average American spends upwards of 3 hours a day on their phone. We check our phones on average of 80 times a day…and that is when we’re on vacation. Seriously. Most folks, daily…300 times. I’m not saying mobile phones are the devil, but my little experiment years ago got me wondering what it is we’re looking for…really.
Our attachment to being connected has taken over everything. A teacher friend of mine was lecturing in a class last week and said at one point she was looking around her room and 1 student, out of 13 kids, was actually looking at her. The rest, were looking at their phones. Sadly, not everyone in her class is getting an A, which she had to deliver to some of these students and their respective adult guardians/parents just a week before at conferences.
Some of the parents criticized her for having too high of standards for her students. Her material was too challenging for high school sophomores, some told her. She wasn’t conveying the information in ways that their student could understand, she didn’t communicate accurately. Since this woman’s undergrad includes a minor in communications, I seriously doubt it’s a break down in her ability to communicate. None of them said, “Yeah, I should have my kid stay off their phone during class and then maybe they’d be getting the information.” See her school doesn’t have a cell phone policy. So technically, the students can have their phones with them, on them, looking at them, during class, and there isn’t a ton she can do about it, other than ask them to pay attention and perhaps put their phones down. Seriously.
What are we looking for? My husband and I have traveled outside the U.S. a few times, and each time we’ve been struck by how infrequently we see someone on their phone in the presence of another person. I recall a woman in Ireland showing her friends the latest pictures of her new grandchild. We saw them too, she was that proud. So cute. Other than that, people are together when they’re together. To give the people you are with your attention, is a sign of respect. Multi-tasking Millennial, or not, people feel put off and disregarded when you’re on your phone while spending time with them.
So, I wonder, what’s going on underneath. I wonder how much of it is us looking to find ourselves, our importance, to feel like we’re special and wanted in this world. The human ego is a funny thing. It takes on a story about our significance, or lack of, when we’re little and keeps filling our lives with stories about how it’s true, for eternity. Many times, these stories are trapped deep down inside of us, and we have no idea that they’re there, except when life does something that makes us really uncomfortable. Then we wonder why we’re uncomfortable and what we did wrong to deserve that, knowing consciously we don’t and shouldn’t deserve discomfort, but there it is, and we don’t like it. The odd part is that our ego mind is the one that is giving us the discomfort (what we’re attracting) AND telling us the story of why we deserve the discomfort (ie: I’m not enough, or I’m too much) AND telling us we don’t like the discomfort all at the same time. It’s crafty!
So, we immerse ourselves in whatever takes away the discomfort. Distraction is one. Another is the idea that the device we’re connect to, and in the world it connects us to, we can be the version of ourselves we want others to see us as. We post just the pictures with our families smiling and happy. Just the ones of us in beautiful locations that everyone else will ask us where we are and tell us how lucky and how happy for us they are. Just the ones of dinner that make us look like a Master chef made our evening meal, but no, blushing, I made that.
Here’s the deal, me too. When people tell me my husband and I always look like we’re so happy and in love I tell them that’s because if I had my camera in hand when we’re fighting, I’d throw it at him. It’s a safety measure. And I’m only kind of kidding. What are we looking for? What is our heart wanting? Love? Acceptance? Belonging? Feeling like we’re not alone? Well, how perfectly, normally human of us. To want to be loved, and feel loved, and to be accepted and feel accepted, and to belong to more than just ourselves, and feel like we belong to more than just ourselves. That is how we know we matter. It’s not just what we think, it’s how we feel about how we think.
But here’s the real deal. We put out there what we think others want to see of us, the parts we like about ourselves. The pretty. But the entire time, deep down inside, our hearts want to be loved for ALL of who and what we are, not just the pretty, successful stuff. Our heart wants to know that we are loved, accepted and belong even when we’re ugly, shy, quiet, tired, weak, screaming, misunderstood, and failing. I don’t typically like words like “always”, “everyone”, or “never”, but I’m going to use one here. We ALL want to feel loved and accepted, wanted, when we’re less than our ideal selves. That is what the ego mind receives as a true place of safety in this world. When it believes there is nothing it can do to be cast out of the tribe, the ego feels safe, and from a place that is safe, all things are possible.
Ever wonder why some people seem to be born with a horseshoe up their keester? Success and prosperity literally are drawn to them? Safety. For whatever reason, maybe they had the ideal upbringing; one that had a loving supportive family system who told them they could do and be anything and gave them opportunities to work for it. To prove themselves, to themselves, with a net of love in place beneath them. Author Barbara Sher in her book “Wishcraft” tells us that is indeed, the ideal upbringing. Which unfortunately, the vast majority of people did NOT have.
So, we must build it for ourselves, and that my friends, takes some concerted effort. And focus. And attention. And an ability to tell yourself the truth. And the truth is that you are loved, accepted and you do belong, but not for the reasons you think. You are not loved because you’re perfect, because you’re not perfect. There’s the truth. On your best days, you’re not even ideal. And yet… you are. You are imperfectly perfect, you are ideally not ideal, you are simply and quite divinely, may I add, YOU. They say comparison is the thief of all joy, so why do we keep going back to it? Why do we fill our days with being outside ourselves trying to prove we’re worth something to somebody, when what makes us feel good about ourselves is never “out there”, but rather always, “in here”? It’s the work of that deceptive part of ourselves that tells us we’re the problem, while it uses us to create the problem. Yep, that dude.
I beg of you. Turn off your phone. Move away from the distractions for just a little while. Give yourself a screen and media break. It’s good for you, trust me on this one. Not because social media, or screens are bad, but because you deserve your own time to pay attention to YOU, and those other things, they just take you away from yourself. You’re worth every precious second you give yourself. Take the time to really get to know yourself, and by that I mean your true self. The good, the bad and the ugly. I tell you, no matter how great and successful you are, no matter how good your social media profile portrays you, no matter how many people text you to tell you they love you, or they need you each day, it’s ALL in there. All of it. Not just the pretty stuff. Love it, accept it, belong to it, and let it belong to you so it knows it’s safe with you. We all have the wounded self and it needs us desperately to unplug and get real. So, let’s. Let’s be real. Let’s love that inner part so hard that it can’t possibly doubt it’s true worth.
Personal challenge. Go a full 24 hours without checking your phone. Ready. Set. Go. It’s a playground game, don’t worry, you can’t lose. If it helps, go get ice cream.