Updated: Mar 7, 2021
I feel the need to tell you that my life is not perfect. Most of you who know me well likely already know this, of course, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I “put out into the world” via social media, and the appearance it projects, especially to those who may not know me as well as others. I'm horrified to have reached the conclusion that I think I’m just as guilty as the next person of unconsciously (and perhaps even consciously at times) making it seem like my life is perfect, solely because of what I do and don't choose to post on social media. And because I think we all do this (even when we may not realize we are doing so) doesn’t this perpetuate the single biggest problem there is with social media...how easy is is to constantly and needlessly compare ourselves to others??
We all post our best photos, our happiest faces, our most fantastic achievements, our best work, our most exciting outings, and our greatest shining moments. On the surface, there isn't anything wrong with wanting to look our best, or wanting to share our gifts or our most extraordinary moments, or doing a little bragging when we are proud of our own accomplishments or those of our family members, right? Why should there be anything wrong with sharing every single wonderful thing that happens in our life while avoiding posting about the bad, except perhaps the occasional death, illness, or needed surgery?
The problem with this, I think, is two-fold. First, real life certainly isn't always perfect - in fact usually far from it - so when we share only the good, the best, the greatest, and the happiest of everything, our life appears to others (at least on the surface) as nothing but the most extraordinary of rosy, all the time. And when EVERYONE does this, over and over, repeatedly, and this is what we look at, over and over day in and day out, on some level we unconsciously begin to compare ourselves and our lives to what we are seeing. And we may begin to find ourselves wondering why we don't have as many friends, why we don't get invited to as many gatherings, why we aren't as talented as someone else, why our family doesn't seem as happy or as perfect, why our marriage doesn't seem as fantastic, why we don't look as good, why we can't seem to compete, why we don't get to or can't afford to travel more, why we aren't having as much fun, etc.…etc....all because of what we perceive from what we view of others on social media. We can begin seeing ourselves as somehow less than, as inferior in some way, as not as smart, not as important, not as worthy, not as lovable, not as successful, not as popular, etc...YIKES! STOP the insanity!
The second, and equally devastating problem, is the time-hog-monster that is social media. Good grief, have you ever kept track of the amount of time you spend on your phone, your tablet, and your desktop perusing FB, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and the host of other social apps out there? Granted, it can be a nice break from our regular routine. One might even venture to argue that it can be stress relieving, entertaining, and comical sometimes (if we're lucky enough to miss all the political rants, the overly opinionated posts, and the negative and demeaning banter). But, have you ever experimented with keeping track of how much productivity you lose to time spent surfing? I've been afraid to do just that because I suspect I don't want to know the answer. I'm willing to bet that the average person spends between 1.5 to 2 hours a day engaged in work avoidance via social media indulgence. And some people are more addicted than others, so can you imagine the time lost every week...time we could be spending being more work efficient or at least more effectively budgeting our time and energy. Imagine the extra time to engage in activities outdoors, or in exercising...that thing we think we never have time for? Or time for taking better care of ourselves by menu planning, shopping, and cooking? Time for face to face interactions or spending more time with family and friends nurturing relationships and helping those who are suffering or in need.
Holy cow! Have you considered that you might even be truly addicted? What's wrong with being addicted, you ask? As with any addiction, there comes a loss of balance and perspective. Your focus narrows into a sort of tunnel vision. Everything else meaningful and important begins to fall by the wayside. Reality becomes distorted when everything becomes about "the fix," about fulfilling the need...in this case the need to be sure you know everything that's going on with everyone else, to know that you aren't missing out, to see how your life compares with your peers. Or the need to see if your picture or post has gotten more likes, loves, and comments, and if not, what you can do to make that happen. Or, it becomes the crutch; the excuse to avoid what you don't really want to do or what you would rather not think about or rather not work on. Suddenly we think we no longer have enough time to accomplish what needs to get done in the day, and that begins to cause extra stress in and of itself. How quickly it can all spiral out of control!
As humans we are social beings who thrive on contact, interaction, conversation, and positive reinforcement. We want to be well-liked, and to have our thoughts and opinions validated. We enjoy praise, reward for a job well done, recognition for our efforts, compliments, and the feel-good emotions associated with a sense of importance. It's morale boosting, ego stroking, and even reassuring to be told how wonderful we look, how great our ideas are, how amazing our pictures are, how awesome our thoughts are, how needed we are. And there isn't anything wrong with any of this...until there is. Until, slowly over time and with increasing habitual tendencies, it becomes obsessive, compulsive even. It becomes more and more about being at the top of the newsfeed where you can be seen and commented on by as many as possible as often as possible and for as long as possible because, well, it feels good!! It fuels our ego and feeds our confused sense of self-worth. It makes us feel important, worthy, needed, recognized, and liked. Until it doesn't...until we suddenly begin to feel less than.
But isn't this the whole problem with self-worth... the search for validation outside oneself? The more we search extrinsically for our identity and our value as a person, the more lonely, sad, vulnerable, and desperate we can become, because, ultimately, worth has nothing to do with our appearance, our abilities, our relationship status, or the success we do or don't achieve in life. Self-worth is an inward journey -a spiritual one- I'd argue, and one that requires us to take a deep dive into the concept of pure, unconditional love - the kind of absence of judgement, compassion, grace, love, and forgiveness that we are told is of God.
In essence then, perhaps it can all be stripped down to the question of where you believe we come from and whether you believe a person is worthy by the sheer nature of their existence. It is certainly easier to forgive our own shortcomings when we stop judging (self and others) long enough to realize that everyone has within them both strengths and weaknesses and both gifts and shortcomings, and that we are each here on a life journey of self-discovery, of growth, of moving beyond our self-imposed limiting thoughts and constraints. After all, aren't our imperfections what make us human?
I believe we are divine spiritual beings living a human experience; we are here to live an earthly experience in search of soul enlightenment. Were it not for our faults, struggles, and failings that ultimately teach us how to love and forgive, would there be a reason to exist in human form in the first place? It is the sheer nature of our imperfections that holds value for the evolution of our soul. If we were all perfect right out of the gate, wouldn't we be merely spiritual beings and not human ones?
When you strip away all else, love is who we are. It is the very nature of our existence and the pure divinity from whence we came. As such, we feel good when we are giving and receiving love, but where is the line between love and addiction, between giving and receiving, between self-acceptance and perfection, between enough approval and the need for more? And how does that tie into one's self-worth? And how do we utilize social media in a healthy and loving way without falling prey to the trap of over-comparison, overly critical self-judgement, and the rabbit hole that is feeling less than another?
I don't claim to have the answers to the tough questions I'm posing here, as much as I'm hoping to offer food for thought as I struggle to reconcile my own feelings of inadequacy with what I believe is my innate worth separate of my achievements or talents or business success. I know only that social media is a giant double-edged sword capable of both good and bad, and as I fight my way through my own demons and need for approval, it is these hard questions that are bringing me closer and closer to my own truth and to the divinity that is the core of who I believe myself to be.
I've always been a believer in balance, in the concept that too much of any one thing isn't healthy....be it too much repetition or restriction in our eating, too much one-sided opinion, too much work and not enough play, too much TV and not enough exercise, or too much inside time versus time spent outside in nature. Perhaps the same balance (and a lot of self-discipline) is all that is needed to keep our self-worth in check at it relates to social media, but with screens being as addictive as they are, and with social media feeding into the fallacy of perfection as well as the ego's frenzy for instant gratification, how do we find a better balance? How do we teach self-worth that is separate from achievement or capability in a culture that now places so much emphasis on appearances, success, and on how well-liked you are based solely on the number of followers and supporters you are able to achieve?
When our entire identity is wrapped up in trying to be something or someone more so we can impress as many people as possible, haven’t we lost sight of the heart of who we are and the entire reason for our existence?
When is the last time you thought about what makes you feel worthy?
I welcome your thoughts.
“If you find yourself constantly trying to prove your worth to someone, you have already forgotten your value.” ~Unknown