Last week I attended “The Definition of ME”, a panel organised as part of the Toi Wahine festival. It prompted me to think more about how we define ourselves, how we look and compare ourselves to others and how to live a life with more authenticity.
Social media feeds us a curated view of other women’s lives through a beauty filter. Literally. With that in mind, should those living fun and interesting, “successful” lives shy away from sharing it? No. Should they feel compelled to throw in #nomakeup selfies as a way to look ‘more real?’. Well, only if they want to. The important message that I want for you to remember is that a curated feed is just that. It is a snapshot of the moments someone chooses to share with us. It doesn’t tell a full story. It doesn’t share day to day monotony nor the high dramas. I mean, when was the last time someone posted a photo of themselves doing the laundry or vacuuming? Their feed will also be missing moments of pain, frustration and the breaking points we then use to build resilience from.
We scroll through our feeds and watch other women tick boxes for marriage, 2.5 kids, a career, community involvement, a mortgage … (while also being rich, skinny, pretty and talented). We might feel envy, resentment and then resignation to always be two steps behind success. But, are we comparing ourselves to a mirage? How many of the women who we think “have their shit together” would also say that of themselves? I’m going to hazard a guess and say “very few”. So, why do we put these unrealistic expectations of life on ourselves? Why do we let ourselves be defined by rules of a game that we had no input into?
Panelists at “The Definition of ME” were asked defining moments in their lives. Their stories aren’t mine to tell, but you could see a pattern of not so much as moments but events or decisions that changed the path they were on. Some are chance encounters, some due to forces outside of their control; whatever they are it should act as a reminder that any life can change, better or worse at any point in time. The other overarching theme is the internal-battle that exists throughout; which may cause times of avoidance, breakdown, panic, substance abuse, reliance on others and eventually resilience to fight another day. These are the stories that colour our pages and should be embraced. All panelists shared their experience of “a peppering of mental health issues”. But, we don’t always see these battles in the social media feed. It’s unlikely they, their friends or family would post a photo of them curled up crying in frustration or in the midst of a crisis.
In the reminder that social media is a curated view, and that ticking off all the boxes in the right order and at the right time, is a dangerous framework with which to view and compare your life, how do you want to be defined or known? What is your story?
The seed to begin your personal journey into a life authentic to you or to be “your best self” could start with pondering three things today.
- What are your passions? – where does the fire burn in your belly;
- Your skills? – believe it or not everyone is good at something;
- Your contribution? – how can you help leave the world better than you found it?
It might, by default include ticking all of the ‘expected’ boxes. It may not. Identifying your passions, your skills, your contribution and living life accordingly is authenticity. Instead of envy, resentment, sadness or resignation at not being “that women” with the fabulous life on social media; cheer them on and cheer yourself on.
Can you identify your passions? Your skills? and Your contribution? No? Surround yourself with women doing great things and they will help you find yours. Strong women lift each other up.
There was a song that kept repeating in my head while writing this, so I thought I’d share it – You are welcome 🙂
The next post I’m writing is on the use of alcohol to deal with social situations… for now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post.