This past week, I assigned my students a This I Believe essay, one where they asserted a core value and told stories about the process of learning that value. I have read some really wonderful, impactful, and inspiring essays written by 17 and 18 year olds who know themselves already and what they will and will not stand for. What I didn’t realize is that they would inspire me to assert my own belief, one that has been stirring in my heart for months.
As their teacher, I walked the fine line between giving them examples of my own beliefs and empowering them to find their own. I did give them one example that I felt very confident in telling them: I believe (very strongly) that your social media presence doesn’t define your worth. The sad part about this assertion, though, is I have never quite articulated this point to you or realized it myself until very recently. It has been a hard lesson to learn.
Three years ago, I started a blog. I wanted to share my love for fashion and style on a budget, and as a stay-at-home mom living over 5 hours away from anyone I knew at the time, I had minimal communication with the outside world aside from social media and the blog. I was in the thick of raising an infant and a three year old. When my friends and family told me they read my posts and enjoyed them, it was enough. I felt great pride in being able to articulate what I wanted to say and helping others find budget-friendly wardrobe staples.
But somewhere along the way, my pride in a small audience fell away, and the desire to be seen, accepted, and liked by thousands overcame the process. Here’s how it unraveled:
My identity got entangled with my number of followers and likes on Instagram.
Buying something new that I didn’t need became a way to assert myself as a style blogger, to prove to you that I was on trend. But spending money on things for me meant I wasn’t always protecting my family’s financial well-being.
I don’t have anything new to wear, but even though I’m wearing a really cute outfit, I will not post it on social media because you can’t outfit repeat in the world of Instagram.
Having a new and pretty blog “like them” will result in more followers. So I dropped $300 to make it happen.
Being a member of the Like to Know It group on Instagram will legitimize me as a style blogger. One problem? I was rejected. Twice. It felt like not being invited to that really cool party or something. Ick.
Not selling enough LuLaRoe to meet my business and financial goals meant I was a failure and that I wasn’t working hard enough or worse? I was falling out of favor with my favorite shoppers, ones I would consider to be social media friends, as we interact daily.
I have done more soul (identity) searching at age 34 than I ever did at age 18 when I was mapping out my adult life. I’m in the process of unraveling this convoluted and confusing ball of yarn my priorities have become and slowly starting to realize where my priorities lie. This time, though, it’s happening OFF social media and with God’s help and the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit, which I have often unintentionally ignored due to the lack of quiet and stillness in my life.
I have also had great teaching along the way. I highly recommend Havilah Cunnington’s podcast series. I am trying to live out her teaching tied to God’s promises. One call to action she gave recently is to do the last thing God called you to do, not focusing on if you’ve missed God’s call on your life RIGHT NOW. It does bring me peace to remember what He has called me to do in the past and walk toward those duties in confidence.
Brene Brown is another teacher of mine…funny how someone you have never met seems to speak directly in to your life!
Her podcast on living a wholehearted life prompted me to start reading her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I have often wrapped my identity around being seen as perfect (or projecting perfection) in little ways (posting the perfectly filtered Instagram #ootd pic instead of the one where I look crazy pale or my dog ran in and posed) and big ways (not being truthful with myself in order to downplay my faults, hoping no one else would see them, either). But perfectionism has been a pillar of my identity for so long, and it’s hard to gaze into the perfectionist process and see such unhealthy behaviors.
As Brene Brown so eloquently said in her podcast with Oprah (and I’m paraphrasing)…Perfectionism is the ultimate fear. Perfectionists are afraid the world is going to see them for what they really are. It’s 20-ton shield. We think it’s protecting us from being hurt, but it prevents us from being seen.
What’s ironic is that I’m seen by over 3,000 people for my clothing business and over 2,500 on social media. But I’M not SEEN. A projection of whom I want you to see is SEEN.
I’ve been a perfectionist all my life in an attempt to minimize my deep emotions. If I’m focused on completing this or that task to perfection, then I don’t have to deal with the deep emotions I feel. In reality? Perfectionism has hindered my spiritual growth as a feeler. In taking Havilah’s Prophetic Personalities quiz, I learned that part of my identity that I have literally loathed for so long (being so emotional) empowers me and allows me to connect directly to God.
Brene Brown also said this in her book: “Trying to…win over someone…is always a mistake because you’re trading in your authenticity for approval. You stop believing in your worthiness and start hustling for it” (34-35).
I can no longer project a self that isn’t authentic. So if that means I blog infrequently, so be it. If that means I lose followers on Instagram daily because I refuse to keep up with the daily grind (and might I add STRIFE AND STRESS?!) of outfit posting, then OK. It is more important to me to live with peace in my heart and a firm understanding of who I am.