A couple years ago, I was struggling with severe postpartum depression and was speaking to a friend about it. The response that I received from this individual was quite remarkable. She showed a genuine level of disbelief and responded with “No, you can’t have postpartum. You’re always SO happy on Facebook. They must have gotten the diagnosis wrong.” At the time, I didn’t fully grasp the impact the statement.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about that conversation lately. With every inspirational post or happy picture that I post on social media – I’ve started to ask – “what am I trying to achieve by posting/sharing this?” or “Am I searching for validation?” Social media is an amazing way to connect individuals across the globe and inspire a sense of togetherness. But I also worry about it being the equivalent of responding with “I’m fine” when asked how you’re doing. That answer satisfies the individual that asked but may not come from a place of complete truth.
I am excellent at hiding my struggles if I do say so myself. For a long time, I perceived the ability to put a smile on the outside while I was breaking on the inside to be a strength. I was convinced that I was stronger than the average person because I excelled in spite of the pain. The conversation about my postpartum depression sparked a change in my perception. I’d done such a good job perfecting the “I’m fine” (on and offline) that people didn’t believe that my hell was real.
I’m not the only person out there capable of this Oscar worthy performance. We all do it to some extent especially on social media. It can feel like standard protocol to post only happy and inspirational things. It’s also very easy to judge someone if they post something negative or discloses a tough time they’re experiencing.
Social media is a HUGE part of our lives and is used daily with the intention of connecting like-minded individuals. The challenge comes when the line between real life and the perception get blurry…..when we look at someones profile and think that perfectionism truly exists or when we post something to fill a void/need for attention.
I truly believe that all of our emotions and experiences are what connect us as humans. No one has a perfect life and too many people are giving Oscar worthy performances. I admire those that dare to push beyond the “I’m fine” – whether it’s on or offline. I don’t automatically think looking for attention or sharing too much. I think they’re connection seekers…..looking for a way to feel less alone in this messy world.
So, the next time you post to social media or the words “I’m fine” come out of your mouth – I challenge you to question the motives behind your actions. What do you actually NEED or WANT to express at that given moment? Don’t act your way through life by only giving people access to the picture-perfect version of you – ask for help where you need it and admit that life is hard. Not only will this free you from the pressures of perfectionism but you might be surprised to find out that the person you’re talking to isn’t quite as perfect either.