At the time of writing this post, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is playing out. Millions of people's data has been misappropriated including, it would appear, private messages. If you are friends of friends with even one of the people in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania or a couple of other places that Trump's political marketing arm targeted on Facebook during his election, it is being alleged currently that your data was stripped out. This is making people think carefully about what they have shared on Facebook.
It may be wise to have a little spring clean about not only what you've shared on social media, however, but also what you've consumed. Through your years online, how many book and course recommendations have you jumped on without thought?
How many times have you looked at 'perfect' pictures of other people and judged your own appearance harshly?
How often have you looked at the lifestyles of your peers and felt either unworthy or, maybe, a little too worthy?
It's not news to say that society is becoming more and more narcissistic. Greater emphasis is placed upon how you appear to the world today than ever before. The kinds of pressures heaped upon celebrities in the past are now landing on the shoulders of completely unprepared MOPs (Members Of the Public as celebrities refer to us) and we don't have the teams behind us to do damage limitation when we suffer the consequences.
Currently, for instance, a number of teenagers have been thrust into the limelight due to school shootings. They did not choose to make headline news, but instead of hiding from the publicity, they are using it to make points that are valid to them relating to gun control. As a consequence, they have faced even more attacks at the hands of internet trolls who disagree with their stance. These are children who are still in shock from watching their friends die, and yet people think it's OK to make up lies about them, and photoshop their faces onto politically motivated images that portray them as the 'bad guys'.
How can self-development make you ill? Isn't it completely positive? Well, think about it for a second. If a person is already tending towards narcissism (obsession with the self) can you see how SELF-development has the potential to make the situation worse? Narcissists who spend hours a day obsessing over training aimed at telling them they are God's gift to humanity are unlikely to develop humility or empathy any time soon. The opposite is also true...
While some self-development is aimed at 'bigging people up', other books and courses are intent on helping people to slay their egos and become entirely self-sacrificing. What can happen when these kinds of training fall into the wrong hands is that people become TOO much about the needs of others, which can tip over into conditions such as codependency, or excessive de-selfing.
In a recent broadcast, Mark Hoverson was training on the way the pendulum of what is 'true' or 'right' can swing between the dark and the dark side of the light. Imagine a pendulum swinging side to side. At the centre point is balance. To one side is the darkness and to the other side is what happens when the point of 'truth' or 'rightness' or 'goodness' is taken to extremes.
Think of self-development and self-sacrifice for a second. When the pendulum starts to swing on self-development, it is at the point of low self-esteem. The self is unimportant. Success is unrealistic. Money is evil, etc, etc. As the pendulum moves towards the centre, the self matters, success is achievable and can help both the individual and others, etc. When it passes that point, it becomes more about how the self is EVERYTHING. Money rules. Success MUST happen. The needs of others are irrelevant. Success at any cost. Fame at any cost. Malignant narcissism.
In the case of self-sacrifice... When the pendulum starts to swing on self-sacrifice, others don't matter. The self is all-important. Extrinsic success, fame, appearance are all-important. The idea of the sacrifice of the self is abhorrent. Money is everything, etc, etc. As the point of balance is reached, the needs of others are a focal point, the self is accepted but the higher self is more important than the ego self, and the emphasis is more on service than on what a person can get. It is more intrinsic than extrinsic. What is on the inside matters more than what is on the outside. As the pendulum passes that point, increasingly the emphasis is on the self having no rights or boundaries. The rights of others are all-important. The self is NOTHING. Money and material possessions are evil. Success and fame are embarrassing and to be avoided at any costs, etc. Life must be lived purely to rescue others. Codependency.
Here's the problem with self-development: you set your own curriculum. If you go to university or college, a curriculum is set that takes balance into consideration. However, if you are self-educated, it's up to you to set that curriculum. Generally, people don't. They grab books and courses suggested that day on social media, without considering what they've already learnt on the subject.
Every now and then, conduct some research into how you're structuring your own education so that it is balanced and you aren't sleepwalking into some kind of mental disharmony or even disorder.
Social media has the potential to be one of the best things to happen to our species in thousands of years, as does self-development, but it is the duty of each of us to take responsibility for our own minds. We are like computers with no virus checkers, onto which anyone can place programs at will. It is up to us to sort through our programming at least once a quarter and ask ourselves: would I instal this programming out of choice? If you wouldn't, it's time to delete it.
The future is yours to design with your daily thoughts and actions. Design it with your own needs and goals in mind, and with the needs and goals of others.
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