I know, it’s ridiculous. If you know me, you will know that I don’t really buy into celebrity culture. I have no interest in the Kardashians, I don’t watch reality TV and I’ve never really had a favourite singer/actor/model/sportsperson. In fact you could say that I actually dislike the whole celebrity thing quite a bit. But here I am, a 40-year-old woman who has a girl crush on someone I only know via social media. *Face palm*
I have no idea how I actually came across her, but one night (probably past my bed-time) I noticed myself glow-faced and scrolling through her Instagram feed. There I was, fawning over her so-called perfect life, thinking to myself “Why can’t I look like that?” “Why can’t I live there?” “Why can’t I have what she has?” And almost instantly I started feeling really down. I started feeling as though something was lacking in my life and felt down on myself about my apparent failure to achieve my dream life. At the time I didn’t associate this feeling with my mindless scrolling, I just knew that I wasn’t happy and I couldn’t identify why.
I’m not sure if it was intuition, or perhaps a bit of encouragement from my husband, but in January I decided that I needed to take a break from social media. Initially I was only planning to go off Facebook, huge resistance showed up when I started thinking about deleting Instagram from my phone. But if doing comfort zone challenges has taught me anything it is that where I feel that resistance I need to push through it. So for February I gave up Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, or as I like to call it: my Social Media Bermuda Triangle.
During the first couple of days I would reach for my phone, almost instinctively, to check my Instagram and Facebook feeds – mostly when I was bored, feeling uncomfortable or trying to distract myself. Thankfully I gave myself a bit of a head start by deleting the apps from my phone. I also noticed the pull towards them when I was working on the computer, but managed to catch myself when I found myself at the Facebook login screen. It truly had become a deeply ingrained habit.
About a week or so into the challenge I started to notice that I’d lose track of where my phone was. I would put it down and then not touch it for hours. I noticed how much time I got back by not mindlessly scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling). I noticed how much more engaged I was with the kids, because I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes used it as a tool to escape the monotony of the day-to-day with young children. And most notably I wasn’t feeling down about my life anymore. I started to look around and realise that what I already had was pretty damn amazing. Hash tag blessed and all that jazz.
However, while I had made all these amazing discoveries, I did still miss some aspects of being on social media. Since I don’t read a newspaper I like to get my news that way; I like to see what my wider circle of friends have been doing; and of course there are always cute dog videos (what can I say? I’m not a cat person.). But how could I go back to it if when I did I started feeling down about my life? I didn’t want to covet someone else’s life anymore.
I shared this feeling with a friend while out hiking one day (the BEST way to have juicy conversations!) and her point of view has completely changed the way I look at and interact with people that I envy. She said that envy is there to help us, which, after my epiphany about intuition recently, makes complete sense. Envy, along with any of our other emotions, is just information. It’s our truest self, who we are at our core, or some may call it our soul, trying to tell us what it wants or needs. Kind of like an inner compass, guiding us in the right direction.
When I thought about it from that perspective I started asking myself “What is it about her and her life that I envy?” I won’t lie; some of it was about what she looked like. But also it was about being a business owner, the flexibility she has with her life, her ability to travel and still continue running a creative business that she loves. Not to mention that she works with and shares the parenting responsibilities with her husband 50:50. These things were indicators to me about how I’d like to be living my life.
The next step that I took was to then question the things that came up for me and see how they aligned with my own values. Why did I want to look perfectly made up and be a size 8? Is that my own true desire or just a societal pressure influencing me (this is more likely to be driven by the ego than your soul)? Why did I want to have my own business and flexibility? From a body image perspective, being an unnaturally smaller size (for me) actually does not align with my values around body positivity. I don’t believe in diets and nor do I believe in struggling to shrink my body to fit a cultural ideal. I believe in health at any size and I believe in intuitive eating. So once I became aware of it that aspect of what I was envying naturally fell away. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that it goes away completely, I still have to remind myself of this at times but I have gotten better at removing my triggers (this is a whole other blog post entirely).
Finally, I asked myself “Am I willing to do what needs to be done and make the sacrifices required in order to achieve what I envy?” Do I want to have beautiful hair, makeup and style? Yes. But am I willing to blow dry my hair and spend a tonne of time in the bathroom applying makeup each day? Um, no. I am WAY too lazy for that. However, when it comes to the idea of building a business and creating a life of flexibility, creativity and an equal parenting arrangement, I am prepared to make the sacrifices, to stay up late, hustle and to do the hard yards and most definitely get outside of my comfort zone.
Now that I am listening to myself and trusting my inner guidance I’ve got something to aim for. As a result I have created a vision board for myself and the next step is to get to work. If you want to live a more intentional life, it’s absolutely vital to know what it is that you want. Sometimes it feels like you don’t even know what you want, I’ve certainly felt that way before, but the signs are there. Your body and your emotions are giving you clues everyday – you just have to listen, observe and playfully ask yourself questions.
So for now my girl crush and I are going to remain Insta-friends (and by that I mean I’m going to watch her life from afar and she won’t ever know who the hell I am – so weird), but as a result of my one-month hiatus my relationship with social media has changed. Social media, like so many other things, is not inherently good or bad; it’s how we interact with it that matters. We have to remember to use it in a way that serves us; otherwise we will end up being its servant.