What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?
I was watching Queer Eye on Netlfix this past week (which by the way, you NEED to watch. I cried after almost every episode, but they were happy tears, don’t worry) and I remember one of the Fab Five members asking, “What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about life?”
Maybe because it was the first time in weeks I was watching a show and I had no desire to look at my phone or browse on social media. My mind was completely absorbed in the show, the emotional, mental, and physical transformations of these contestants. I was really starting to think about this question myself. What is one thing I would change about myself if I could rewind 10-15 years?
I try to think about the most impactful moments from the past decade – the most traumatic moments, the moments that I think about almost every day. I’m confident that a lot of females my age, or those who have suffered with anxiety in the past would agree with what I would change, because it [regretfully] took a toll on my happiness for tooooo long.
If I could tell my younger self one thing – or for that matter, tell any girl who is 10-15 years old to concentrate on one thing as they grow older, it would be to not concentrate on what other people thing of you – work on what you think of you.
I do believe this is what drives most humans ‘crazy,’ what leads to increasing rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses. We are so entirely consumed with social media in this era – always perfecting how we appear to our immediate community, but also to complete strangers. Increase brightness, decrease shadows, increase sharpening, tint the background. Some people take hoursssss critiquing a picture they are going to upload to their social feed. It becomes so obsessive that people sit by their phone, hitting the refresh button until they are satisfied with the number of likes/comments [engagement] they are receiving on that post. And what happens if the number of likes falls short of 100? Delete. Re-upload at another time. Text friends to like their picture or leave comments. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
Am I a victim of this behavior? Of course. I have refreshed a picture to see how many likes I was getting after 12 minutes of uploading it. I have played around with filtering an image for minutes so it would make me appeal the most attractive, but still realistic. I’ve never deleted a picture because it didn’t suffice the number of likes I was looking for, but I know PLENTY of people who do this. I know people who have made fake Instagram accounts just so they can increase the likes on their main page. Some of you may be laughing or shaking your head envisioning the people you know who do this, and some of you make think I’m completely bullshitting you. Trust me, I wish this wasn’t true.
I was going through a job application the other day and they asked, “Define social media in 3 different ways.” I thought, “Interesting.” This is something that nearly every person on the planet [who has access to the internet] uses every single day. When you type in “social media” on Google, the definition that generates states social is “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” Can’t argue with that, right? But when I think about social media in reference to just one individual, I think of it as “websites and applications that enable a user to create their own self-presentation and image to share/engage with others online.” Because can you honestly affirm that the person you portray yourself online is the exact representation of how you portray yourself in real life?
I definitely cannot. I’m wayyyyyyy cooler on social media than how I am in my day to day life. Everyday is pretty monotonous for me:
- Wake up exhausted
- Shower quick to wake myself up
- Apply makeup to my extremely dry and chapped winter skin
- Run out of time to make lunch, scurry over to the subway that 6/10 times I’ll miss
- Frantically make my way to my desk with still semi-wet hair from my shower
- Work a 9-6 boring day
- Go to the gym if I’m not entirely lazy and unmotivated
- Watch YouTube beauty gurus and pray I fall asleep before 1am.
That is a typical day for me. On Instagram, I am this social “Manhattenite,” taking pictures of the most glamorous sceneries and restaurants in NYC as if I live in any of those areas (nope, I live in Queens unfortunately). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like any of these pictures were not taken by myself or that I photoshopped any of them, but it’s merely the ‘highlights’ of my life, not a true depiction of what my everyday life is typically like.
Why do I do this? Why does everyone do this? Why don’t we share the moments that aren’t so fun, exciting, and wonderful? Because we care too much what others think about us. We want to portray ourselves in the best light possible. We want people to think we are cool and hip and fun and positive.
But is that so bad? To care what other people think of you? Who wouldn’t want people to like us?
Well, we take it too far. Wayyyyyy too far [IMO]. My whole point here is not to tell you that you shouldn’t take into consideration what other people think of you [at all], but to essentially calm down your thoughts about [social] appearance in exchange for approval of others. We now look at likes and comments as the highest form of praise/accomplishment. Isn’t that, kinda weird? I bet if you upload a picture of you in a swimsuit, all greased up and tan on the beach, it will receive more like that the picture that uploaded of you standing in sweatpants with your college diploma. Mine sure did. More people “like” a picture of my ass in a bikini than the fact that I busted my ass for 5 years to receive my Magna Cum Laude diploma from a top100 university. Sex sells though, right?
But WHY? Why do we care so much if people like us? It makes sense that we want our family to think about us a certain way, but how about acquaintances? Vague co-workers? College friends from 10 years ago? Why does it matter to us what they think?
I, personally, believe that many of us have struggled with years of mental and emotional discomfort, and have never tried to seek change or therapy. I believe that we live in too strong of a “blame culture,” that dictates we should blame/assume our faults to be someone else’s responsibility (Think of #ThanksObama memes). It is generally assumed in our society that if you seek help, especially psychological help, that you are weak. This is a problem. A big problem. People put off asking for help, and therefore bury their issues deep down, and never seek a solution to the problem. Later on in life, these problems will arise in different areas whether it’s in their relationship, career, social life, etc. I do my part in urging the importance of mental and emotional health, but unfortunately, many people still believe that it is ‘fake’ or unimportant. These are the people who are extremely opposed to asking for help in any aspect of their life, since asking for assistance is seen as a sign of weakness to them, as they should be able to accomplish anything with their own ‘strong, superior self.’ ~Eye roll.~
Moreover, I believe a lot of us are fearful of change, plain and simple. We seek familiarity in life. Whether you want to believe it or not, we actually tend to mimic people that we like. We tend to mimic their gestures and facial expressions, as it delivers us a sense of comfort having people around who are similar to our own look/behavior/habits. You ever see a couple that looks like brother and sister? It’s because we actually have a higher attractiveness to people who look more like ourselves. That’s right, you narcissist, you unconsciously choose to date someone who looks most similar to you [in most cases].
Okay, so what does this have to do with wanting people to like us? As discussed earlier, I believe a lot of us have struggled with some sort of mental or emotional discomfort. Therefore, this has led us to feel insecure, not confident, and unworthy. A person who is so sure of themselves would never care of how many likes they get on a picture, right? If you are so confident in yourself, then why would you care what other people think of you? If you know you are a good person, you shouldn’t feel the need to upload dozens of pictures of all the community service you do, right?
The things that we post about the most, our highlights, are often the things we feel the most insecure about, and therefore seek further approval/praise from others. For example, have you ever been friends with someone superrrrrr into fitness? Most of them have tons of posts of them flexing, half-naked, posing, etc. You would think that if they are posting their half-naked body on the internet, that they must be confident about their body, right? Nope. Most of these fitspos are super insecure about their physique – constantly criticizing the already minimal amount of fat they have. When they post pictures of themselves on social media, they are typically seeking what they wish they could tell themselves: “you’re so in shape” or “you are so lean” or “you look amazing! I wish I could look like you!” These people are still feeling insecure about their appearance, therefore they seek praise from others so they can feel better about themselves. The problem is, you will never be satisfied unless YOU yourself are happy. You cannot depend on the approval of others until you approve of yourself internally.
“Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.” Ever hear of that phrase? It’s something that I tend to remind myself every few weeks. I sometimes get down on myself when I see people my age  (or even younger) going on extravagant trips overseas, wearing expensive jewelry and clothing – things that I WISH I could afford. I’m like, “What the heck? How can they afford this? They don’t even have a full-time job? They don’t work nearly as hard as I do!? Not fair.” Something that my mom would always tell me when I was younger, “Most of the time, the people who flaunt how much money they have, are typically the ones that don’t actually have it.” It’s safe to say that these people are insecure about their financial [or lack there of] security, and try to reassert to the world that they are in fact not broke by flaunting lavish and expensive things/behavior. Obviously this is not the case 100% of the time, since the Kardashians and Hiltons have no problem flaunting their lavish lifestyles and fashions, and it’s doubtful that either family is swimming in pools of debt. However, think of people like Tom Hanks, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, etc. These three celebrities are some of the most successful personalities of the past century, and I can’t think of the last time any of them socially documented anything more than ‘average.’ Yet I’m 99% certain each of these three don’t make the ‘average’ paycheck that you and I are making each week.
You might be asking yourself, “Well okay, obviously it’s normal for people to have insecurities… what are you suggesting we do about it?”
Here is the thing – I believe that most people tend to live in denial of their weaknesses and insecurities. It isn’t until one day they wake up and realize how unhappy or depressed they are. That’s when other issues occur: depression, alcohol/drug abuse, overeating, anxiety, manic episodes, anger issues, etc. How many people do you know that have fled to alcohol, food, or sex when they are in a bad mood? Often times, this pattern is not broken, and that cycle of abuse tends to ruin our lives.
My suggestion? Get help. Obviously, that is vague and not very easy. I know that some people have a harder time than others opening up about their struggles, but we as a society need to come to the realization that opening up about our weaknesses is not WEAK. It is not WRONG or STUPID. If you are insecure about your weight or your finances or your education, the answer shouldn’t be to post on social media to trick everyone into thinking this is actually not something you are insecure about. You need to talk to someone. We are evolving into a community of heads-down, constantly on our phone, unsocial humans. Social media has made a lot of us unsocial and awkward. If you are insecure that you have $1200 in your bank, you shouldn’t be posting photos of your Louboutin shoes or Prada bag to mind-fuck yourself into thinking you’re super well off – in denial about your finances. DO SOMETHING.
We avoid change like we would avoid a bubonic plague. We don’t want change because we know it’s hard. It’s easy to stick with the same job for 10 years, to buy the same groceries and maintain the same group of friends. It’s hard to try and meet new people, learn a new language, or start a new career. Change is hard, but in my opinion, living a lie is harder. Living a life filled with insecurities will make you unhappy, and when you are unhappy… you will start to question, “What is the point of living?”
Instead of trying to convince your social following of how awesome your life is, go out and live your awesome life instead. Deep down, there is something we are all individually insecure about and we have a problem accepting it. So instead, we create this edited self online that masks what we are truly insecure about, so others don’t see the weakness that we see inside ourselves. Wouldn’t it be nice to focus on improving this insecurity instead of hiding behind our online profile?
“If the whole world was blind, how many people would you try to impress?”