So I want to talk about my thumbs. Not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d write but here we are.
My thumbs aren’t the most attractive thumbs in the world – I wouldn’t call them the Chris Hemsworth of thumbs - but they do their job. They help me aimlessly browse Facebook, hitchhike and perform the ‘thank you very much’ bit of the dance routine from Stop by the Spice Girls.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my thumbs and I’m lucky to have two which function pretty well.
However, over the past few months there have been a few comments left on our social media posts concerning my thumbs. Mainly that they’re pretty ugly. Personally, I prefer the word ‘manky’ – don’t ask me why, it’s just a fun word. As I said, I don’t really disagree, however the comments have irked me a little bit.
As I’m sure most of you lovely people know, I like to hold up little postcards and goodies we sell in the shop to share with you all, and in most of the posts my thumbs are visible. I like to share positive and uplifting sentiments with photos of our products, as the whole idea behind our shop is to spread some happiness and compassion. However, some commenters have left negative comments pointing out how my thumbs are “yuck” or “look like a toe”.
Now, this post is not in any way designed to shame or guilt-trip anybody into an apology. I don’t want one and it’s really not necessary. They’re just my thumbs. To be honest, some have made me chuckle and I’ve made a joke of it. However, I felt it was worth addressing why my apposable doo-dads have never been voted World’s Sexiest Thumbs.
I chew the skin on my thumbs and fingers. It’s not hygienic and it’s not pretty but it’s a fact of life when you live with anxiety. I’m not sure I fully understand why I do it but I think it’s something to do with control, as it can often be really painful and sometimes bleed. However, for a few seconds, it gives me a bit of relief when I’m at my most anxious, and it eases my stress, even though it’s usually followed by pain. To be honest, I think I’ve pretty much deadened the nerves on my thumbs because I’m so used to the pain and wounds. I have to chew them up pretty badly before they really hurt, so consequently I don’t really stop.
I also bite my fingernails for the same reason. I once managed to stop biting them for two whole weeks until one evening when a neighbour posted a birthday card through our letterbox at midnight in the middle of a howling storm dressed in a black trench-coat and we all thought he was some sort of prowling serial killer, but that’s another story.
I also scratch the same patch on my left leg repeatedly until it bleeds, and I now have a rather sizeable scar on my calf. I also have a tendency to pull out my beard hair and eyebrows. When I was a teenager I barely had eyebrows as, in hindsight, it was the height of my anxiety, but it was the early 2000s, when everybody was shaving patches out of theirs, so most people just thought I was just pretending to be David Beckham.
Things got the best of me last week so I was more anxious than usual and consequently my thumbs took the brunt of it. Like I said, I’m not mad about the comments but I thought it was worth explaining the story behind them. These things may seem inconsequential but they are a symptom of somebody living with anxiety.
The funny thing about the internet is, even though we’re more connected than ever, it has a tendency to dehumanise people. We see a photo or a story or quote and can all too easily make a snap judgement without considering what’s behind it. And when we throw comments out into the endless void of the internet, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s a real-life human on the other end reading it. And it’s just Shaun and I running Spiffy – real-life people in real-life West Wales with real-life feelings.
These few silly comments have just been about my thumbs and I can handle them. But they could have gone a lot deeper than people realise if I were somebody else. They may have fed a deeply held insecurity and could have touched a really raw nerve. What to you may feel like a throwaway comment on Facebook page may actually be read by somebody struggling with body dysmorphia, anorexia, OCD, anxiety, depression or any number of mental health conditions.
I’m not going to stop posting pictures with my thumbs, because I don’t want to shy away from the reality of their manky-ness. Our whole ethos behind Spiffy isn’t to present this picture-perfect version of what a happy life looks like, with images of us laughing and joking in a meadow, all in soft focus and photoshopped to buggery. We want to share reality, and other than a snazzy Instagram filter to fix the wonky lighting on my naff photography, I hope we convey that.
Because we’re human, just like everybody else. We have the same struggles as you, we fight the same battles as you do, and we’re not pretending to be gurus with all the answers. We just want to share what we’ve learnt, and are still learning, which helps us so it can help you too.
So please remember to be a bit kinder to people on the internet, and in life in general. Think before you post. Consider the context, consider the reality, and consider who’s on the other end reading it. Yes, I know a funny quip to share with your friends might generate a few likes, LOLs and get you top marks for your #bantz, but they can hurt people too. And in this day and age, we don’t need anybody else hurting.
Thanks for reading :)