Social media and self-esteem have a complicated relationship. It’s thrilling to share great moments with the world until looking at others’ timeline makes us second guess those great moments. Even the super confident have been known to question themselves after scrolling through perfectly curated snippets of others’ lives. But deleting all your social media accounts and resolving to live like it’s 1999 isn’t really the answer; and if you’re livelihood depends upon it, it’s not even in your best interest.
If our self-esteem isn’t grounded in something lasting, we can be consumed with how our life appears to others, rather than how it feels.
How many people gave up television after seeing one too many picture-perfect lives? Of course, social media is different from traditional media for obvious reasons. With social media, we actually know many of the people we follow, our personal and public lives are intertwined, and we’re able to construct a very public image like no other generation before ours. Along with this pseudo-celebrity status, comes celebrity-like problems.
As our private life fades and our public life expands, we may feel pressure to keep up appearances. And if our self-esteem isn’t grounded in something lasting, we can be consumed with how our life appears to others, rather than how it feels. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share the best parts of our lives as long as we understand that this level of floss has drawbacks.
With social media placing us all at risk of being overly consumed with what our lives looks like, and giving it up isn’t really an option, an awareness of these drawbacks may help us figure out how to use social media purposefully, and in ways that enhance rather than tear down our self-esteem. It’s manipulation at its finest. Here are a few tips:
1. Get off social media.
Say what? Isn’t this article about how to use social media? Yes! But there is clarity in the craziness. Every now and then, we need breaks to re-group and achieve balance. We may take breaks from eating certain foods, watching certain shows, or even talking to certain people. But it doesn’t mean we will never do these things again—it just means we need to step back and gain a healthier perspective. The same can be said of social media. It’s important to take a break and focus on other interests so you can see how social media really impacts your life, especially if you use it compulsively.
If your self-esteem relies heavily on likes and comments, it is probably fragile and needs strengthening much like weak muscles need a good work out. Taking a break will allow you the opportunity to figure out other ways to feel validated and worthy. You may even have to delete your social media apps to make it harder to get to. Whatever it takes to get centered so you no longer feel at the whim and mercy of your followers’ ever-changing mood and interests!
I know the idea of “missing in action” can provoke some anxiety, particularly if you feel pressure to perform or to cater to your audience. But it’s up to you to decide what is more important: your self-esteem and overall mental health or your followers’ desire for more content? So what if you lose some followers! You’ll gain a renewed perspective on yourself, and the followers you have left will get a much better version of you.
2. Figure out how you want to use it.
How have you been using social media? Is it a way to share special moments with close friends and family, a tool to brand yourself and business, or a way to share inspiration? Even with the best intentions for using social media, we may find ourselves scrolling through our timeline, caught up in other people’s lives. And not just any lives, but people’s most beautiful representations of themselves.
If I start to compare myself while I’m supposed to be branding or inspiring, it signals that I’m outside of the scope of my social media goals.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing until we start to base our real self-esteem on someone’s Photoshopped image. The goal is to enhance our self-esteem—and we certainly won’t do it fixated on someone else’s online image.
Instead, we should take time to focus on what we want to convey to our audience based upon how we choose to use social media. Let’s say I’m using social media to brand my business. With that in the forefront of my mind, I’ll be more likely to log on with an agenda. This increases the chances that I’ll feel good about my time online, making me less likely to fall prey to the ugly side of social media with all its unhealthy comparisons and pull toward self-sabotage.
Or maybe I want to use it to share inspiration and focus on inspiring and being inspired, an instant self-esteem booster for sure. But if I start to compare myself while I’m supposed to be on brand or inspiring, it signals that I’m outside of the scope of my social media goals. At that point, I need to stop and understand what it is about me that is so vulnerable to comparison in that moment.
That is, what is it about what I’m seeing that makes me second-guess myself? Is it something in my life I can change for the better, or is it just a bad habit reflective of low self-worth that I need to work on?Once I have clarity, I can use what I know about myself and my reason for using social media to combat the unhealthy negative self-talk.
3. Keep some things private.
Taking a cue from some of the great celebrities of the 20th century, we too can learn how to separate our public and private selves in way that protects our self-esteem with a little strategy, focus on what areas of your life you want to keep private, and what areas you want to expose to the public. If you decide to post pictures of your booming business and family vacations to show a more relaxed side of you, you may choose to leave out the more intimate family time, either because you want to keep it between you and your family, and/or perhaps you feel it is not needed given your social media goals.
These types of decisions reduce the chance that you will overexpose yourself in a way that makes you feel vulnerable and perhaps more sensitive to others’ opinions. It also reinforces the idea that your self-esteem or self-worth is not dependent upon social media.
4. Be que sera, sera about it.
I have certainly been guilty of reaching for my phone before my toothbrush in the mornings, and this is no way to approach the day.
In other words, put a perspective on it. How does social media compare in importance to other areas of your life? Is it just a tool to enhance your life, or is it more like the center of your world? I have certainly been guilty of reaching for my phone before my toothbrush in the mornings, and this is no way to approach the day. Setting boundaries can make all the difference between using social media and it using you.
One way to break social media’s hold is to act as if it is just a tool for *insert social media goal here*, even if you don’t feel this way yet. And tools always play second string to the main attraction, which in this case, would be your life. What’s the worst that could happen if you’re not on it for an hour? Some tension, some distress? It’s anxiety and it will pass.
If you focus on living life rather than posting it, your days will be much more enjoyable. You can post anytime, but you can’t get your days back. And this perspective can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself when using social media.
5. Keep creating visual content
Because social media is so visual, it’s an opportunity to create inspiring visual content that can enhance a sense of well-being and self-esteem. I know the creative process can be challenging as you have to move past your inner critic to self-acceptance. While I was in graduate school for psychology and starting my career in the field, I found that my creativity was suppressed a bit. So it was challenging to convey my expertise in a way that visually appealed to me. Sometimes inspiration doesn’t always hit you over the head and you have to be intentional about it. Being open to finding inspiration anywhere despite a difficult day or moment takes work. But the process of creating images that inspire you and others is in itself therapeutic. And the more you seek inspiration and express what visually appeals to you online, the more your social media pages will feel like a reflection of your best self, a self-esteem booster for sure.