I was lying in the dark clenching my jaw and trying to remember how to breathe, instead of sleeping.
As I was trying to figure out what was the true source of the anxiety, I leafed through a familiar list of things.
I’ve tied my self-worth to the amount of money I’m making, so having a business that isn’t yet making money is making me feel worthless. Maybe I need to go get a job (even a part-time one) even though I really don’t want to just until things start to pick up (of which there is no guarantee if I get comfortable with a steady paycheck). Is the quality of my work just that bad that I can’t make a living doing this? Or do I just need to start putting more effort into social media even though that’s really detrimental to my mental health?
Social media seems like a lot of fun. But my hangovers tell me otherwise.
It feels essential in my line of work, necessary even.
If I’m not on social media then how am I going to tell people about who I am and what I do? How am I going to connect with them and be in the world?
I’ve gone through so many cycles of overuse, taking breaks, re-entering with new rules and boundaries, and then eventually breaking those rules and boundaries only to find myself strung out again.
And usually worse off than before.
Social media is like this constant humming in the back of my mind. Not always obvious, but ubiquitous. Even when I’m not on social media, I find mylsef thinking about social media, thinking of how badly I compare with everyone else on social media – who all seem to have their shit together a lot better than I do.
And that’s one of the reasons it’s so problematic for me: it distorts my perception of the real world.
Study after study has show that social media use decreases empathy.
And as a highly sensitive empath, it makes me physically ill and creates chronic symptoms in my body.
I know from experience that when I get sucked into that social media rabbit hole, it grabs hold of me and starts blurring my sense of reality.
It makes me feel that the way people are on social media – reactionary and adrenalised – is a true reflection of the world outside that app. And I just want to completely withdraw and never speak to another human again.
Just the thought of being on social media and dealing with comments and DMs seems too draining and overwhelming to even contemplate.
Social media tanks my mental health.
I’ve gotten much better at sticking to my boundaries, but after hitting ‘post’ I still find my mind wandering back to how many new likes I’ve gotten like I’m waiting to see if I’ve gotten into Harvard.
Even when it’s going well, or maybe especially then, it pulls me into this scarcity mindset that tells me there’s only so much attention available, and if I don’t hustle 24/7/365 to keep it up, I’ll never succeed.
And it makes my circle of concern – the people to whom I’m accountable and who can provide feedback on my life and my work – so large that I become paranoid and can’t function properly.
And every other person on social media telling you how to succeed on social media “just like they have” doesn’t help either. Even when they’re advocating marketing yourself with heart and authenticity.
Because that’s just another standard to live up to. And it’s exhausting.
I’m not sure that any amount of social media is okay for me.
And imagining a life without social media, without that constant pressure to live up to some standrard, makes me whole body exhale.
Just like with empathy affecting every part of my life, I have to accept the fact that my experience of social media is what matters here.
I’m not just an empath, but also highly sensitive. Energy deeply affects me.
I have a tendency to take things in deeply and very personally. I’m highly distractable when I don’t manage it well. And I’m a creator; my work requires periods of deep focus.
None of this is aided by me using social media.
But how can I quit social media? Or rather, how can I quit telling myself I have to promote my work the way everyone else does to succeed?
The one thing I do know, is that I’ve always felt more comfortable working with search engines than with social media.
Not that I’ve been consistently active on Instagram despite trying to live up to some standard of doing so.
I love writing for the blog. I love writing emails to you, <<First Name>>, and maybe it’s finally been enough years of receiving this message that I’m finally gonna hear it.
I’m giving myself permission to let go of social media.
Already I feel better. Lighter. I’m not going to worry about the shoulds and should nots.
I’m here and I can only do this one way: my way. And I’m comfortable with search. I know how to work with search, and I have a stellar track record of even being really good at it.
But since I don’t think it’s smart to put all my eggs in the Google basket, I’m going to focus more on my Pinterest account as a compromise between search and social media.
Pinterest was built as a visual search engine, and I think I can learn to work with that. Right now it’s a bit of a raw nugget since I haven’t spent much time on it.
If you want to come join me on Pinterest or have some good board recos, you can find me here.
This just reaffirms to me that I should always be working towards doing only those things that make my whole body exhale and relax.
Because when something feels off, it is off.
And it really doesn’t matter what anyone else says or does because they’re not me. And trying to live up to how someone else does something is just another way to lose yourself.