The best thing about having a dog, is that they’re always pleased to see you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been gone an hour, five minutes, or just to another room in the house: the welcome you get when you step back into their proximity is just as enthusiastic. This morning Kimber demonstrated the point perfectly. She’d been downstairs with Paul, and when she came into the bedroom to find me drying my hair, you’d have thought I’d been out of her life for days! Tail wagging, jumping up, kisses, have a sock, general excitement! Lovely.
Because it’s lovely to be loved, to be wanted, to be needed, to matter. And feeling that you matter, is extremely important. Children who feel that they matter are less likely to misbehave to the point where they go off the rails; and in studies, people who feel that they matter to others report increased happiness compared to those who feel that they don’t.
Knowing that you matter used to be a relatively simple process. You’d go home and find people there that cared about you: your parents, siblings, spouse, children, dog, cat, hamster, goldfish; and you’d feel that you mattered. Or if you lived alone, you’d go and meet your friends, and know that you mattered to them. If you worked you could probably find that you mattered to your colleagues or employees, and if you didn’t there’d be people you interacted with that appreciated your existence too. This would be all that you needed to feel that you mattered, and to know that you were ‘okay’ as a person.
Enter social media, stage left. Now it seems that everything’s screwed up. It seems that an inordinate amount of people are judging their self worth on the number of Likes, Comments, and Shares they get on Facebook. If someone posts a hilarious photo of their dog knocking their child into a bowl of cake mix, and it only gets a few Likes, or heaven forbid, nobody comments ‘lol’, it can feel like a bit of a snub. If it happens several times, the effects compound, and it can start to take it’s toll on their feelings of self worth. They start to think that nobody finds them funny, that nobody is interested in them, that they don’t matter. Never mind that half their Friends are people they haven’t seen in person for a million years: people who, without Facebook, would never have been in their social circle anyway. And that’s before you take into account the ‘Friends’ they’ve never met.
Another effect of putting too much store by what happens on Facebook, is comparisonitis. All my parents had to worry about was keeping up with the Jones’s. Nowadays, with everyone’s life on show, it’s not just your next door neighbours that you have to keep tabs on. I’m a member of a Facebook Group for cockapoo owners, and the feed mainly consists of people posting photos of their pets, usually in their homes. A while back there was a rash of posts complaining that people were using the photos of their pets to show off about how lovely their homes were! Now if you think someone who posts a picture of their dog, is boasting about how great their living room is, I’d suggest that speaks more to your insecurity about the state of your own living room!
But we have to remember that when people post something on Facebook it’s generally not their whole life that’s on show. Apart from the people that post something every half hour, and update their profile picture five times a day! I know, who has the time! I’ve been accused of seeming to have a great life on Facebook with no problems. The truth is that I do have a great life, for me anyway; not everyone would want it. But it’s not without problems, and I do have times when I feel overwhelmed, down, and sometimes like a complete failure. But when I feel like that, I know that I’m better taking my problems to Paul, or talking to a friend. Talking it out, and to a real life person, helps me sort myself out far better than posting it on my wall and waiting to see what happens. Besides I usually figure stuff out pretty quickly, meaning that by the time anyone read my outpourings of grief, I’d be back to my usual cheery self.
Here’s the thing. The grass is not always greener on the other side. And how other people live their lives is not an appropriate benchmark for you to measure yours. Nobody has your exact set of circumstances, and there are good and bad points in everyone’s life. I think the key to loving where you are, is not to look for appreciation, but to give it. To look for the good in those around you. To recognise what they do for you, not what they don’t. To appreciate every little thing, and to show others that they matter to you. We’re all human, and sometimes we need to feel loved before we can show love. But if you don’t think you can manage that. If you don’t want to show those around you how much they matter, get a dog. Because those beautiful creatures will want you, need you, and love you no matter what. Even if you leave them to go to the next room.