One of the most obvious results of our social media culture is that many participants in it feel free to explore their deepest emotions and/or life challenges openly and in considerable detail. Those seeking likes or followers believe that they are obligated to take one of two paths: to be as exposed as possible (far beyond simply being authentic, in my humble opinion) OR to project a perfectly organized, coifed, and successful persona which – like a glamor magazine or a Hallmark movie – is lovely but not sustainable in anyone’s real world.
In this high-pressure image-centric world, there is often a disconnect between the good, bad, ugly, and mundane of actual daily life and the person/lifestyle/message demanded by the cyber audience. If, like me, you are also doing business online and want to establish honest, long-term relationships…well, you might feel especially stuck. Even if you are not an entrepreneur, the following blueprint is offered to help you find your way both online and in face to face interactions.
CREATING YOUR MAP
The best and most liberating path to take is the one that allows you to interact with others from a place of personal joy. This type of interaction takes planning, skill, and effort – yes – but does not exact the toll of the uncomfortable stress of being someone online/in public who is different from who you are in “real life”. I hear some of you saying, “That sounds wonderful, but how do I know how to make that happen?” Glad you asked, because I want you to start with a few questions. Once you answer them, you will already have discovered for yourself which actions will bring you the most joy. And, as you might have guessed, it all comes down to walking into wellness.
Do I feel joy in my everyday life (when I am shopping, having family time, walking the dog, helping children with homework, and so forth)?
Do I know who I really am and who I want to become/how I want to grow (do I know what I am good at, what thrills me, what I would want to do more of)?
Do I feel limited by what others think of me or what I believe I don’t deserve or can’t do or learn to do (do I know how to find encouragement and minimize negativity)?
These questions are simple, but the answers are not necessarily easy. To be honest, I have spent years working on them and will probably never stop refining my answers. One strategy that has been helpful to me and to many others I have worked with is a strategy that I developed when I had a business writing professional resumes. Give yourself time to complete this assignment, since what you find can have profound effects on your life going forward.
- Write down every job you have ever had, paid and unpaid (including self-employment, military or responder service, volunteering, parenting and other family-related duties, community/faith service) in chronological order. If you can remember, include dates, locations, and any recognition you received (awards, bonuses, promotions, and so forth).
- Write a list of the accomplishments in your life that YOU are most proud of, whether or not anyone else ever recognized or even knew about them (got a little to say a first word, created the recipe for and baked the best cake ever, organized a fundraiser that helped send someone to camp, whatever makes you grin each and every time you think of it). GO DEEP ON THIS ONE!
- Write down compliments that people in positions of authority or those whom you really admired have given you over the years. If you have saved anything that came to you in writing, make a copy of it and include it with your lists.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
When you have completed this assignment, you will have the building blocks to answer the original questions. Read through your three lists and discover common themes, connect with the emotions that remembering each item produces, and write down what you discover. Here are a few questions to guide you:
Is there a good match between what has brought me joy over the years and what I have done/am doing for work? If not, why not? What could I do to bring my work life into better alignment with freedom of mind and spirit?
What have people told me or recognized in me/my efforts over the years that was positive and encouraging? Have I believed those things and incorporated them into my life plan? If not, why not? Do I have a strategy to overcome my own negative self-talk?
What are my deep values and aspirations? Are they reflected in what I am doing in daily life and in my work? If not, why not? What is my strategy for gathering the resources to reflect and realize them in all aspects of my life?
DEFINING THE PATH
Why is all this writing important?
First and foremost, it proves that you are BRAVE enough to look at who and where you are and to declare it in a way that can be a baseline for determining your current situation and mindset and for measuring your future growth.
Second, it helps you to decide whether to take or decline specific activities going forward. We each have only 168 hours per week, and each one is precious. We also have a reputation and “brand” to protect. Each action you take (this includes speech and, by extension, the mindset behind words and deeds) has an impact. When you have a written plan, you are much less easily knocked off course by negative events or thoughts or by “shiny objects”.
Third, it opens you up to possibilities that you might otherwise forget or tend to minimize when times get tough. Writing down your truths and goals is an act that tells your mind, body, and spirit that you are committed to positive progress.
If you have taken the time to write down and analyze your lists, you have begun to understand what can bring you joy. Now it’s time to implement a plan that supports you being authentically you while also accomplishing the relational and growth goals you have set for yourself.
As for social media, take a good, hard look at whether and where you want to have a presence. I completely enjoy Facebook and Instagram because they expand my global reach in a way that I could never have imagined even a few years ago. I have moved more than 30 times in my life, and I am grateful to be able to stay connected with so many friends who are no longer close enough for a coffee chat. But if you feel that posting is a grind or you are worn down by the drama and negativity that are often unavoidable, consider jumping off one or more platforms or just taking a break for a while. You may need to unfriend/unfollow people, pages, and groups. Whatever you need to do, make it fit into where you want to go for your own positive growth and for the true, honest relationships you want to form with your connections.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and other platforms each have their own algorithms that change regularly – JUST LIKE LIFE! But you – my amazing, unique friend – YOU are your own algorithm. Social media is simply a tool, like live networking events, coffee chats, or Zoom classes. Stay alert but don’t feel pressured to alter your reputation or brand. Pursue your joy zone, and those who value what you offer will be attracted to join you.
At Wellness Made Simple, we work with you to discover your path to joy in relationships and in all areas of life. If you are interested in talking more about today’s post or in arranging for private coaching, let’s connect.