I wrote the blog post, created the graphics and scheduled to publish at 6:30 AM. The email was cued up to be distributed and my social media posts were ready to be posted to my feeds.
It all went out into the world as it does anytime I create content, and there I sat – pulling my thumb across my phone screen to refresh my Instagram feed for the fifth time hoping that maybe this time someone “liked” what I had to say.
Maybe on this refresh, now 15 minutes after I had posted, maybe this time someone will show me some love; perhaps some validation that this is good. That I am good. That what I have said matters. That I matter.
But no. Nothing. And as the day went on, the likes trickled in. Slowly. And they never picked up. It started to make me feel so unworthy, so anxious and just downright sad to be honest. And as much as I hate to say it, the feeling was a familiar one.
So around 11 AM I decided to not open my social media apps up again until that night. I didn’t want something so trivial to ruin my day, after all or even put me in a bad mood, no matter how temporary it was.
Instead of pulling my thumb across my screen every ten minutes for the remainder of the day, I prayed. I asked God why I long for this kind of validation. Why do I let other people’s opinions of my work dictate how I feel about myself?
After all, I know that my worth, my identity and the love I receive all remain the same regardless of anything I do. I mean, let’s be honest, y’all. God is not applauding me more on days when I receive more Instagram likes and comments. There is actually NOTHING I can do in order to earn more love from Him.
And yet despite knowing that and believing it, I struggle with living in that truth. I struggle with feeling good about myself when I create content that receives 20 likes on Instagram. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel embarrassed when I put something out in the world and no one responds with a resounding, “YES, GIRL!” or praises my photography skills.
To be even more candid, when I pour my heart and soul into a photo, an Instagram post or a blog post and get minimal response, here’s a sampling of the thoughts that run through my mind: “No one likes what I have to say. I look stupid. People must not like me. Why do my friends refuse to support me?”
Y’all. I know this is ugly and vulnerable, but it’s true. I’m being straight up honest with you, because I think living in this shame and not shedding light on our dark places isn’t doing anyone any favors. After all, I’m sure some of you look at me and my online persona and think I’ve got it all together. You think I don’t struggle with insecurities or ever put my worth in something SO RIDICULOUS and fleeting. But I do. And this is me making a serious attempt to kick it to the curb.
Throughout the day that day, I was reminded of a few simple truths when it comes to my struggle with equating my worth and value with social media likes. Ugh, it sounds even more cringeworthy when I type it out like that, but I’m trying to keep it real here. For the sake of readability, I’m going to pare these down into four different sections. Introducing the first truth:
Shocker, right? The content that I feel called to put out into the world is actually not for the purpose of building me up. It’s not about making me feel validated. It’s not there simply to collect likes and comments.
The truth that I was reminded of that day is that the gifts I possess and the platforms I have to communicate through are actually for the glory of God. That’s what they’re for; for Him to use me as a light in this world. I have the gifts of photography and writing so that I can show His love to people. That’s it.
Social media truly shouldn’t be about me, and it certainly shouldn’t be about stuffing as many likes and comments as I can into my engagement piggy bank.
Along those same lines, it’s not about the number of people who consume and engage with my content. We live in a world where “more” is always the answer. More money, more fame, more recognition, more likes – it’s what the world is after.
But maybe that’s not the answer for me. Maybe my calling is to deeply impact fewer people rather than to simply skim the surface with thousands of people. And if I’m doing that, then I’m fulfilling my purpose. I’m being obedient. And that is what matters.
On the flip side, I’m sure there are people whose callings are to impact tens of thousands of people. And if they’re doing that, then they are fulfilling their purpose. We all were created and woven together in such unique ways that make us better suited to live out our purposes in one way rather than another.
For me, maybe it’s going deep instead of wide.
While I’ve always had friends, I’ve also never been a part of the coolest crowd. I mean literally never.
My first vague memories of not being in the inner circle of the cool kids begin in elementary school, and then they’re much more vivid once middle school comes around.
I longed for acceptance so badly. If I were just a little bit cooler or would’ve hit puberty at a “normal” time or were prettier or could own more clothes from Abercrombie and Fitch, then maybe they would accept me. Maybe then I’d officially become a part of their coveted crowd.
But it never mattered what I did. I was never good enough in their eyes. And as asinine as all of those things sound at this stage of life, they were very real at that age.
I happily left the middle school years behind, but I think on some level my desire for acceptance never disappeared. And while I could document everything between then and now that demonstrates that, I’ll leave that novel for another day.
Fast forward to present day, and I still find myself longing for acceptance amongst my peers. While you may not see it, it’s becoming more apparent to me that I long for people to tell me “YOU ARE GOOD” in one way or another.
And when you spend the majority of your time with a two-year-old and a four-year-old, one of the only ways you find that acceptance is through social media. Which is why I find myself pulling my thumb across my phone screen to hopefully be flooded with likes. Because that will tell me I’m good. That will tell me I’m accepted.
Here’s the problem with that: it’s temporary. Once that post has lived its life, you have to hop on the proverbial stage and perform again if you want more praise and acceptance.
Here’s the answer: Jesus. He created us in His image. The same God who created the mountains and waterfalls and cosmos thought that the world needed one of each of us too. So PRAISE BE, y’all. He accepts us just as we are.
At some point during the day, I wondered if God’s heart broke watching his beloved daughter put her worth in social media engagement.
This naturally led to me thinking about how I would feel if one of my kids felt badly about themselves simply because someone else couldn’t see the worth in what they had created. Well, my heart would ache for them. Badly.
I’m sure I would tell them something like this, “Your worth is not less because of someone else’s opinion of what you create or put out into the world; nor are you better or more valuable because someone validates what you do. Your worth and identity do not change based on someone else’s opinion. You do not need to perform to receive love. You already have it.”
And wouldn’t God say the same about us, his children? He would and He does.
If you don’t own a business or share parts of your life as a social media influencer, this may all seem bananas to you. But when your passions align with your vocation, it’s difficult to avoid getting sucked into this nasty little vortex.
The beautiful thing about doing what you love for a job is that you truly love what you do. The most difficult thing is that it’s hard to separate yourself from the outcome.
I frequently share stories from my personal experiences or share something that’s been on my heart. Or maybe I’m simply sharing a photo from a session that overwhelmed me with joy.
Whatever it is, 99 percent of the time, I have a personal connection to it. And 100 percent of the time, I have poured my heart and soul into it. So when it doesn’t yield a positive response after I’ve been vulnerable enough to put it out into the world, it stings.
But in the end, this whole process has taught me a lot about what I value and what I’ve put my worth in. And it’s taught me that a lot of that needs to change.
Because if what I share makes one person stop and remember how loved and adored they are, then I’ve faithfully done my job. And regardless of my “performance”, I am deeply loved and always accepted by the One who created me. And you are too.