Why Looking Perfect on Social Media Works Against You
You can’t open your eyes without running across a story about how social media is killing us — or at the very least making all of us “compare and despair.” And I get it. Why, our thinking can go, am I sitting here waiting for my socks to dry while everyone else is gallivanting on boats and watching the sun set in Hawaii?
While I’ve certainly fallen victim to the Instagram scroll that leaves me believing my life isn’t nearly as exciting as the lives of seemingly more fabulous people, I’m here to tell you that perpetuating a so-called perfect life on social media isn’t doing you any favors.
In fact, it’s working against you.
We Don’t Buy Perfection
While many of us can find ourselves intrigued by perfectly made up faces, ideal angles and filters that make people look supermodel-esque, being intrigued and wanting to support are two different things.
Take it from a friend of mine who works for a yoga company that offers classes online. She told me that without exception the teachers who have the largest Instagram followings — those ones with the perfect abs, butt and poses — don’t sell nearly as well as those led by teachers who are respected and have been in the game for the long haul.
In other words, we may want to look at perfect things and people — but we don’t necessarily want to support them.
The More Real You Are = The More People Love You
You may have noticed that an increasing number of people are writing Instagram captions that are essentially micro blogs. But have you also noticed that these micro blogs don’t tend to be about how perfect their lives are?
Instead they focus on struggles and pain. And the reason more and more people are doing them is that they’re having an impact — on both the person posting and the people following. They inspire likes and comments because they make others feel less alone.
And the accompanying photos never look like they came from photo shoots; they’re usually selfies that appear to be completely off the cuff (they may have taken 30 attempts to look that natural but hey, that’s between the person and their phone).
My point is this: it’s the lack of perfection that draws people in.
Reassure, Encourage, Entertain
I have a friend who regularly watches the memes she creates go viral. And she passed along some serious words of wisdom when I asked her how she did it.
“Reassure, encourage and entertain the reader,” she told me. She added that people want to see and share content that reveals exactly who they are because they want to feel supported in a scary world. By sharing your craziest, weirdest and most shameful thoughts and feelings, you can be the person providing that (because, in the end, most of us have the same ones).
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you rather support someone who makes you feel better and not worse?
I Get It; Being Vulnerable Can Feel F-ing Impossible
I’ll be honest: I struggle with being vulnerable.
Yes, I’ve shared many of my darkest experiences through my books and articles and storytelling and podcasting.
But I do that because I’m, for the most part, on the other side. I’ve survived some struggles and want to help other people know that they can, too.
Plus, I have an ego and that ego wants to protect me by making sure I look good. And being vulnerable by sharing current day struggles rubs up against that.
Still, the Greatest Gifts Come From Vulnerability
This point was hammered home to me recently, when a good friend confronted me about the fact that she felt I was competitive with her.
Time stopped for a second. I heard what she said and I knew it was true but my ego stepped in and basically said “Deny!”
Then I looked at her. I realized it isn’t easy to say what she just had said to me — that it required courage my ego was about to prevent me from having. So I took a breath and did something that felt, even as I was doing it, nearly impossible: I told her she was right.
This admission, this moment where I allowed myself to be honest and real even when my ego was screaming against it, reminded me how much I adore this friend. What’s more, it reminded me of how much I love me. It took letting the unvarnished self out for me to remember that.
Rather than regretting my vulnerability, I was almost high from it.
The Biggest Hit of All: Vulnerability In the Face of Judgment
What happened with my friend can happen on a larger scale every time any of us put our real self out there.
I observe this all the time with the students in my coaching program. Most of them come into the program terrified to share their darkest experiences and convinced that people are going to judge them.
And yet the giddiest emails I receive from them tend to be when they first start sharing their darkness and discover that instead of judgment, they receive love.
My point is this: We may sometimes want some version of the Kardashian life but we don’t want to support the people who live that way. Instead we want to support those who are sharing their dark stories to find their light.
So go out there and do you; leave the Kardashian-ing to the Kardashians.