Recently, I was scrolling through social media, which is something I have not been doing much over the past year or so of hotly debated political and social issues, and I noticed something interesting. My connections’ posts haven’t changed. Not one bit.
Now, yes, the social issues have evolved, the children are almost a year older, the selfie folks are posing in front of different backdrops, and the companies being peddled have new products. But by and large, the posts are relatively the same. And this got me to thinking.
For years, I resisted the temptation of participating in heated debates with complete strangers on social media – or anywhere else for that matter. I witnessed others adamantly attempt to convince the whole world that they were right and anyone who did not think like them was a complete, moronic idiot. I watched, shook my head, and scrolled on by.
In fact, the constant negativity and hatred I saw on social media prompted me to start my own Facebook Group for women, several years ago, that focused on inspiration and positivity, while having strong boundaries around any political or social issue. In other words, a place where women of all backgrounds, beliefs, and views could come together to support, uplift, and encourage one another.
But even this group wasn’t immune to the occasional political post, nor could it drown out the ugliness I saw, daily, in my newsfeed. That combined with the intensity of 2020, I recognized social media was not a healthy place for me at that point in my life.
So I went on a social media fast.
A few things led to this. First, some members of my Women Inspiring Women group began ever so inconspicuously bringing those political and social topics into the group through their posts and/or comments, so even this “safe” place began to feel unsafe. Then, some drama occurred within the group that led me to deactivate it. Which, if you think about it, that’s totally insane – a place that was created to support and uplift other women actually became a place that was doing the opposite for some, including me.
Additionally, with all the heated debates surrounding the pandemic, the economy, social justice issues, and the presidential election, I crossed my own boundaries and began commenting on those political and social justice posts. My own energy was being drained and I felt more frustration, anger, and rage in my heart than I had felt in years.
I was falling into the same trap I had, for so long, encouraged others to avoid.
I was focusing on the outrage, the injustice, the crumbling of our society, and I began thinking that anyone who opposed my beliefs were complete morons. Rather than respecting others as individuals who had lived different lives and had different life experiences, I dismissed them as ignorant fools.
To protect my own sanity, rediscover happiness and joy, and re-center myself on my own personal and professional goals, I logged off all social media – except for LinkedIn. I also made the decision to turn off the news, delete my news apps, unfollow news channels on YouTube, stay off the radio, and avoid conversations about politics. I set strong boundaries around what I watched, what I listened to, and what I talked about.
Those small steps were enough to reclaim my peace, refocus on the things that are important in life, and distance myself from current events. By the way, it is interesting when you take a step back and realize the views you were so passionately debating were actually topics you really don’t care that much about, until the politicians, celebrities, tech giants, or the media tell you to care about them. But that is an entirely different topic in and of itself, so I will save that for another time.
Upon returning to social media, I clearly saw that the trends in the lives of my friends and connections had not changed.
Megan is still making everyone laugh by writing self-deprecating posts about her struggles, relationships, and habits. Sometimes her posts have a life lesson or a hint of wisdom in them, but they are intentionally written from the perspective of one who is defiant and at odds with the world.
Kendra is still the queen of selfies. She posts a new photo of herself, regularly. She takes pictures of herself in her car, in a pool, at her job, at parties, at restaurants, with friends, alone, on vacation, drinking coffee, trying on clothes, getting her hair done, at the doctor, in the bathtub… okay, you get the point.
The Selfie Queen
Carrie is still posting about past struggles, hurts, and trauma, and how life “on the other side” is simply beautiful.
Jim still goes to the gym, every day. Jack still drinks lots of whiskey. Chris is still advocating for equal rights. Ray is still listing and selling tons of houses. Mary still shares the love of Jesus. Earl is still chasing women. Beverly still hates men. Kimberly is still arguing politics. Maria is still selling nutritional supplements. Leslie is still sharing super inspirational and growth-minded content. Tim is still trolling. Jamie is still posting pictures of her kids, her grandkids, her pets, and her plants. Oh wait, that one was me. Carry on…
But you see the point here: People have very identifiable trends in their lives. And we can all spot them.
So this got me thinking.
What are the themes of my life? What are my trends? What reputation have I have created for myself, and does it align with the impact I want to have on this world?
Am I uplifting others, or am I bringing them down? Am I an energy-suck to those around me, or am I life-giving?
Am I focusing on what the world “owes” me and what I feel I deserve? Or do I understand that I am personally responsible for where I am in life right now, today?
Am I working harder to create the life I want and make my goals a reality, while creating time and space to pour into the lives of those around me?
Am I blaming others for my own circumstances and playing the victim decades later? Or do I choose to live in the present and understand past hurts don’t have to own me?
Am I letting fear hold me back, or am I stepping out in courage to live the life I truly want and deserve? So this one is pinging me, even as I type…
Even if we are blind to the themes of our own lives, others can clearly see them.
In the business world, we call these life themes our Personal Brand. Your personal brand is who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and most importantly the way in which you express those values.
Your personal brand is what you project to the world as the most accurate view of yourself.
In a recent conversation with my mother, we were talking about how people “nowadays” seem to be lost and are endlessly searching to find themselves. They go from one “fix” to another to another to another, hoping something – anything – will fulfill them. People can and do often trade one addiction for another, and sometimes, self-improvement can become an obsession. Admittedly, this was me for many years.
For far too long, I wanted to live someone else’s life. Whose? I don’t know. But the world kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. My dreams were admirable, for sure, but they were formed by what “they” told me my goals should be.
At the end of our lives, will we look back at the arguments we won with total strangers on Facebook? Will we cherish the likes and comments our posts received? Or will we regret spending so much time on mindless activities, instead of living intentional by doing the things that fill our heart?
So what theme, or personal brand, do you currently have? Does it align with the things that are most important to you? These are the questions I am asking myself right now, today. I can’t go back and change the past, but I can move forward from here and do better, be better, live better.
And so can you.
Know what fills your cup. Know who belongs in your inner circle. Know what you want.
And then be intentional about what you do. Every. Single. Day.
After all, personal brands don’t evolve by accident.