Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memes and My Insecurities

The whole meme thing is stirring something in me that feels very familiar. First of all, for those who are new to the blogsphere – a meme is where someone comes up with an idea or topic and writes a piece on it. They then “tag” or name usually five others bloggers and ask them to write on the same topic. Those bloggers, in turn, write on the subject and “tag” five others and so on and so on and so on. It can range from a serious topic, like say - the condition of the church or a lighthearted topic as in - 10 things that make you happy.

Now don’t get me wrong…..Some wonderful conversations have come out of some of the memes that have gone on since I started to participate in this community in the last year. I think one of my favorites was the one on prayer – maybe because this was such an important topic for me at the time. Others have been fun and informative….some just….well….not as important to me. Have you ever seen a meme on someone’s blog and thought to yourself…..”Oh, I hope they pick me?” (Or, “Please don’t pick me?” :0)

As the last few memes have gone around and especially since Brother Maynard proposed his (which, I think was a really good one), I noticed myself reacting again in a way that seems very familiar to me. A couple of old feelings I had felt in my CLB (Church Left Behind) were stirred in me.

The first feeling is primarily a longing to belong and be important to a group of people. To be noticed. To be thought intelligent. To be the person that someone wants to hear from. To be singled out especially by people that I deem as "important." To be singled out by someone that I considered a leader - even here in the blogsphere (this, in itself is another post) was becoming important. Back in my CLB this was VERY important to me. I worked long and hard to be one of the “special" ones. It caused me to compromise what I knew was right and it caused me to treat others as a means to an end. It created stress and competition with others. I don’t want to go there again.

And then with some of the memes that tag me there comes a second familiar feeling. This feeling is the pressure to conform and the feeling of obligation. To show yourself one of the group. To show loyalty. To participate whether you really wanted to or not. To be nice even when you really don’t want to do something. (If someone tags you and you really have nothing to say, should you write something? If it does not interest you can you say, “No thanks?” ) (Bill does ;o)

See, in my CLB, whenever the leadership had an idea for a meeting or decided to bring in the newest special speaker – most of us were not asked about it. There were not many times in my memory that anyone in leadership asked the congregation or even the "inner leaders" if it was a good time in their schedules for an event or meeting to be planned. It was just announced. People were “tagged.” Your team will do the bulk of the worship, you will be needed for hospitality, we will need you for the sound, and your team for the setup, we need these finances to pay for it – you put out an email to those who own their own businesses. Every one was assumed to be on board, every one expected to be there and I always felt guilty if I couldn’t be there or didn’t want to participate. So I would participate to show loyalty and so that people would think highly of me. My husband would be pressured by me to be there. My kids would call off work so they could support the group. We were the model “Church Lady” and her family. UGH!

In my year out of church life I have loved the freedom from the pressure that I put on myself to want to belong (be tagged) and the freedom to not have to participate in something to show my loyalty or worry about what others were thinking. I thought myself free of those things.

But this whole meme thing has brought it all out in me again. Let me make this really clear. I’m not against memes that tag certain other bloggers. I’m not condemning them or you. I’m just going to be real here and let you know that from now on, if I really have something to say, I will. But if I don’t – please don’t be offended. You can tag me or not - it really doesn't matter. If I want to chime in and no one has tagged me I will. If someone tags me and I dont have anything to say, I'll say that. If it doesn't interest me, I'll just be quiet. I don’t want to play along to just belong, be loyal or not hurt someone’s feelings that tagged me. I don’t want to pressure anyone into participation that would really rather not participate.

Nor do I want to create a climate where someone is sitting at home being sad that they did not get included. I didn't pay enough attention to others in my CLB, I don't want to start doing that here. I don’t want to belong to the “in” group of bloggers. (How sad is that that I somehow think there is an “in” group – Do you see my problem?) It is just not good for me right now.

I have loved the times that memes have just grown organically. Most recently, I loved Heather’s post that generated such good discussion. I loved Erin’s post that sparked so many other great thoughts and writings. I really like Glenn’s and others’ monthly syncroblogs and the feeling that anyone can participate or not and there is no pressure. All are welcome to speak/write.

I don’t want to ever go back to feeling like I need to be something to a group of people to get my identity needs satisfied. I want to guard my heart so that my blog and my friends that read and comment here don’t’ become my new way of feeding my brokenness and insecurities. I want Father to give me that, not you guys.

By the way…my favorite book is most definitely Galatians!! And as far as a manifesto for a church -(thanks Heather) how about having a group where I don't abuse you guys to get my needs met.

(Off topic - I'm tempted to get my husband to help me come up with 10 Memes That No One Would Participate In) (Go ahead and leave your ideas - you know you want to!!!!!)


Bill Kinnon said...

Great post! I've linked to it at the top of my "I Don't Do Memes" post.

Barb said...

Bill, I laughed when I saw your post today because this one was almost written. Thanks!

Barry said...

Memes that no-one would participate in, eh? Can I play?

I suggest:

10 random people who smell bad

Seriously, my take on memes is that I'll take part in them if I find them interesting - if not I won't, even if I've been tagged.

Barb said...

Barry, Loved that one. I shall create a Top 10 List!

The one I thought up was, "Video Moments of Your Life You Hope They Never Show in Heaven"

What I want to know though is this: Don't you feel "bad" at all for not participating?

Barry said...

Not really, no. Not that it's happened often, because I usually enjoy participating, but when I do decline to participate I don't feel guilty. I look upon a tag as an invitation, not a mandate.

Think of it as being together in a discussion group. If someone says to you, "What do you think, Barb?" you'd probably be happy to speak out if you had something to contribute, but if not you could just say, "Erm, dunno," or something similar and the discussion could still continue, none the worse for not having your input at that point.

Anonymous said...

My thought for a meme no one would participate in kind of goes with yours. Top 10 places you were at and thought I hope nobody from church sees me here.

Barb said...

Thanks Barry, that makes sense. Somehow I need to get over feeling guilty for saying, "No thanks."

PJ, thanks for your entry! I probably have a different take though on your words because during this year I would hope not to run into anyone because the shunning or simply awkwardness from former friends hurt so much.

Erin said...

I so identify with your points about longing to be and pressure to conform. It's hard, because so much of it is human nature, whatever environment we're in. I try to avoid it, but I know I don't succeed...because I DO do things because I want people to like me, which is really what both points are about. We all want people to like us, but often it gets us into trouble in the end if we aren't true to ourselves, selfish as that sounds.

Great are always so full of such wisdom. And I'm not saying that to make you feel important. It's true, and you have a gift.

PJ said...

I continue to be amazed at how closely alike our CLB's must be. Are you sure we didn't go to the same church? :)
Thanks for sharing so much!

Tracy Simmons said...

Barb, after I read your post last night a phrase from tv (when I was a kid many moons ago!) kept coming to my mind: "Would the real ---insert name here---please stand up." It was from "To Tell the Truth."

It feels like in the last few months or so you are really coming forward with the authentic YOU! You're done apologizing for who you are and how He created you. You have enough strength now to stand as your own "I am." So, when I read this post and heard the statement about the real person standing up, well, I wanted to let you know: I see you standing up!

It's really wonderful to see you gaining such strength so quickly (I've been so slow at this!). You're coming out of the fog and mist, emerging into the light. I just wanted to tell you: I see you standing and I like what I see!

Sara said...

it's somewhere between humbling and amazaing and humiliating how some of us never really got past the grade-school hurt of being in the last handful to be picked when "they" were choosing up sides . . .

horrible memes? are we staying in the "Christian-y" theme, or going abroad? How about this:

Who's the worst preacher you ever heard? (Be sure to use specific names.) What made them so bad? And (if it was someone you were listening to consistently) why did you bother to keep listening to them?

Mary said...

Great post!

I have a flip side to your thoughts. I don't create memes because if NOBODY participated, then my insecurities would start running amuck!

Here is a meme for your top 10 (since the whole point is that no one participates, then I can create confidently - hehe)

List 10 people whom you hope don't find your blog. Bonus: link them

Sara said...

List 10 people whom you hope don't find your blog. Bonus: link them


Barb said...

Erin, Sometimes I wonder if women deal with this more than men. My husband has no problem saying no to something. He doesn't even feel he needs to give an explaination. That is almost impossible for me. I don't buy into many gender issues but I wonder if this is a real one.

Barb said...

PJ, I often wonder that about others churches. They all sound so familiar. But if you are not in Central PA, then probably not!

Barb said...

Tracy, Thanks so much. I once said that I felt like I was no more than the sum total of everyone's expectations. Maybe shedding the "Church Lady" is really doing something here.

Barb said...

Sara, I moved schools each year of my life...maybe that is why belonging is so important to me. It definately taught me to try and become whatever was expected.

Great meme idea!

Barb said...

Mary, I remember someone doing that and hardly no one responding. I was so afraid for their feelings.

And so far I love your meme idea the best! So funny

Anonymous said...

Please, Please, Please
ask Marsh to make that list...It would be a hoot!


Barb said...

Ruthie, I'm trying....he is so busy this week that when he read it it hardly made a blip on his screen. When he has some time though it should be fun.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I've ever admitted this out loud or online, but I can completely relate to your struggle to want to feel like one of the "in" crowd.

Then there are the days when I don't care if anyone links to me or tags me or even reads my blog!

But most of the time, I find that old battle to want to belong is raging just as strong as it did back in the CLB I left over 4 years ago.

By the way, I grew up in southeastern PA -- had we made that connection yet? Just recently I saw you mention central PA a couple of times. For some reason, I always assumed you were in the same geographical location as grace is.

Barb said...

Steve, you just blew my theory about it being a girl thing. I guess it is a human thing.

Early on I could not believe that Grace did not actually live in my town. Her story is so much like mine, but she lives in another whole state. I don't think I recall you ever mentioning growing up in PA. I never actually said I was from here until I decided not to be so evasive.

Kimberly Preske said...

Ok, if it was not so scary top 10 unhealthiest churches/pastors. Ugh - no one in their right mind would bite on that one. I caught you live in PA recently too, me too. Small world, Kim

Barb said...

Thankfully broken, thanks for your addition! and thanks for dropping by. I enjoyed reading through your blog a bit today. Your openness and honesty and the ability to write well was a pleasure to read.

David Liem said...

I think not paricipating is easy. But what would you do if you liked the subject and wrote about it...would you tag others. Would you assume the responded of desire or pressure? Would you return the favor if next time one of them tagged you.

It seems participation with anyone else, makes you part of a group. Their are group rules and individual rules. We all have them and know everybody elses. I just thought...even Jesus said this!!

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Anonymous said...

Great Post, Barb.

Wow, you just summed up some intense feelings I have had regarding the blogging community. I hadn't really pinpointed it.

The thing is, the circle of bloggers that I find myself a part of has been nothing but accepting, affirming, welcoming. Yet there are times that I feel like I don't belong, that I don't have anything to contribute or someone else has said it better so what do I have to add. Those are my insecurities that were nurtured and flourished in many of the social settings of my life. Yes, even church is a social setting.

It is difficult to slay the dragon of insecurity that resides within. Memes are such a simplistic thing but really illustrate how we can function poorly or how we can function well. I like the idea of making all welcome to contribute to a topic and giving everyone the permission to not contribute.