Lately, I’ve placed too much of my self-worth into social media.
I used to hold value in myself. My overactive imagination sparked personal excitement and pride and became the thing I loved and valued most in myself. I was the kid who sat quietly for hours creating, reading, building worlds in my mind and leading one-woman adventures in the backyard. Imagination was my strength, daydreamer my occupation.
But as I ran full-steam ahead further down the road of life, my creative endeavors suddenly had to mean something. Lead somewhere. People wanted to see what I made, read what I wrote, and, most of all, know what I intended to do with it.
Rather than spur me on, these pressures only contributed to a belief that I would inherently fail. I have never been someone who preferred to share my creativity. As a child playing with my dolls and stuffed animals, I would hum the words I gave them behind closed lips so others wouldn’t hear the stories I created. My love of writing began when I was in elementary school, but with the introduction of writing assignments, the thought of people reading my words induced panic attacks.
Part of this was a normal, immature fear of judgement. But what if the other part was simply just who as I was as a creative?
There is a reason the mind of a child is so wondrous, innocent, and imaginative. They do not experience the same social pressures we adults feel on a daily basis. They hold onto the precious gift of free creativity. How I miss the days of creating just to create…to have fun…to see what I could do without anyone watching and without consequence.
Imagine if we held onto that mindset as adults in this age of new media. Imagine a life where we weren’t pressured to SHOW our creativity. To SHOW our talents. To SHOW our inner workings. If we could keep it all locked away inside ourselves, not as prisoners, but as our own special, hidden secret.
I can’t help but think if we just simplified our creative selves, the entire world would be a happier place, and a content individual wouldn’t be such a novelty.
When I think back on each of my creative endeavors throughout the years, I was happiest when I was creating for myself. When I was writing for myself. When I was building stories in my mind just to pass the time. And most of those happiest times I remember occurred before the age of ten.
As a millennial, social media has become an inevitable major player in my life. As a creative caught in the rush to do something with my ideas and so-called talents, social media was THE option to get myself noticed.
I can’t completely bash social media. It has opened amazing doors, provided special opportunities, and connected me with some lovely people, including one friendship that is going on twelve years now.
But the further I dived into the online world, the more unhappy and discontent I became.
Because according to them, I wasn’t good enough.
Social media highlighted everything “wrong” with my creative work. The so-called “personal” online outlets became my biggest critics. My writing was weak and ineloquent. My camera was cheap and photography and editing skills severely, embarrassingly, lacking. My discipline not so defined as I once thought. And worst of all? The reality that my overall creativity and imagination was subpar.
There will always be something or someone in life to tear you down. But with the constant, daily influx of social media influences, there’s no time to build defenses. And so that little voice is on constant repeat. “Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.”
I began to believe the voice. Believe that, when my cursor was hovering over “hit publish” and a better photo or better post popped up from someone else’s feed, my content suddenly wasn’t good enough. Believe that if I wasn’t perfect, if I didn’t feel 100% satisfaction from my work, that it was inadequate. And like all good minds plagued with anxiety and depression, I believed that I was worthless.
Social media pinpoints our sources of pride and has this fascinating way of puffing it up while simultaneously tearing it down. I realized my source of pride, the one thing I could count on being praised for from the ages of 5-18 — my imagination and creative talent — suddenly didn’t meet the standard. And I allowed it to crush me.
Now, I can sit here and blame others not for my lack of talent but my source of creative depression and anxiety, but ultimately they are not what will tear me down. That decision lies with my own mind.
The more time I spend on social media, the more I realize it doesn’t mix with my creative self. Perhaps part of the issue is that I need to learn how to balance a healthy personal life with my social media time. But I think of that girl who was so scared to let anyone see her work, and how her mind and fingers would fly when she created in private. When I see how the whole of my creative self now lives on a blog or Instagram for hundreds of people to see, I can’t help but think, “I’m really proud of how far she’s come and what she’s accomplished, but what has been lost in the process?”
Who first said our worth is placed in how many views our content receives and how many likes our pictures get? Who first said our Instagram has to match those who have been studying photography for years and can afford the best cameras out there?
Who says if my writing doesn’t follow the typical syntax that my writing is bad? That if I don’t speak or put my thoughts down as eloquently as the next person that I am lacking?
What rule states that if my design isn’t perfect or even pulled-together that it’s not worthy of being seen? Or that if I hold little talent in one creative endeavor that I shouldn’t even pursue it in the privacy of my own home?
And the reality? There is no one and nothing that has said any of these things. We have put these ideas onto ourselves and thus stunted our own creative minds.
We live in a world of rush. Do more. Climb higher. Reach your full potential. But contrary to popular belief, I do not believe our full potential has to be something that needs to be proven or displayed for the whole world to see.
And so, I am attempting to reclaim my self-worth. To catch those lingering, broken pieces of imagination scattered inside of me and glue them back together. To get in touch with the part of my creative self that was once enough.
I am attempting to be more free with my blogging. I recently changed my photo editing style, to the best of my limited knowledge and ability, to reflect a style I love. I’m trying to write more Instagram captions that reflect the real way my inner thoughts work. And I’m exploring more creative endeavors that are completely private, with zero intention to be shared with anyone but myself.
I am trying to find that girl that once spent an entire winter’s afternoon outdoors by herself, first stomping around in the snow, then building a fort, then pretending to be a secret agent, followed by an hour staring at the ice crystals and imagining what worlds lived in each snowflake, and who spent the last hours of light staring up into the trees and dreaming of her future. She was all over the place. And she was beautiful.