I didn’t pray a lot as a child, but I do remember one prayer I repeated often and desperately:
“DEAR GOD, PLEASE MAKE ME POPULAR.”
That was my focus. I was so desperate for people to like me. And not just a few people. A LOT of people. ALL of the people. All of my focus and energy went into it. Hell–up until quite recently, that remained true for me.
A few weeks ago, I deactivated all social media accounts. Mostly I was overwhelmed, couldn’t tell which feelings were mine or which belonged to others, and was tired of wasting my time playing the audience to other people’s highlight reels.
There was rarely a time when I’d get onto Instagram, scroll through, and feel better about myself. And Facebook became an ongoing advertisement of each person’s own version of life coaching or XYZ life hack or stuff about mindfulness… And I was sick of being inundated.
There’s so much input in this world already without opening myself to the energy of countless strangers on the internet.
(I recognize that I am sharing on a blog right now… But it’s a minimal audience and I feel comfortable with this little niche group of readers.)
It’s been an interesting transition. I’ll witness something, such as my dog doing something hilarious… Or beautiful blooming flowers… Or my hair looking outrageous first thing in the morning… And the first instinct is, “Oh my god I’ve got to share this with someone.”
I’ll find myself thinking up funny phrases to post to Facebook… Or wanting to type up and share realizations as soon as they happen.
And now, without any social media accounts to post to, I’ll have a moment of, “Wait. So… I guess this experience is just for me…?”
And then the craziest thing happens: I ENJOY MYSELF. I don’t feel stressed or pressured to create or share or be funny or poignant. I don’t feel rushed. I just… Exist. I enjoy Floyd making his weird Boxer sounds as he attempts to speak English. I stare at the blooming flowers and realize the marvel that is nature and life. I laugh at my bed-head hair, sharing the laugh only with myself or with my boyfriend, and then go about my day.
For the first time ever (or certainly since I was a kid) I’m experiencing life with myself, as myself.
Last week I watched Bo Burnham’s Netflix special called Make Happy. He’s an intelligent and funny guy, of course… And he’s also rather sad. He shares about it. And he says that he has a huge following and a comedy show and still isn’t happy. He shares about how he both loves and hates the audience, because they both make and break him.
“[Social media is] performer and audience melded together. . .I know very little about anything, but I do know this: that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.”
For the first time ever, that sounded appealing to me.
My goal has never been to just be a writer of things I’m passionate about… It’s been to be an award-winning writer. The goal was never to be an ongoing advocate and speak up about my beliefs or the lessons I’ve learned… It was to be a public speaker in front of thousands. I didn’t just want to teach workshops; I wanted to teach workshops that were sold out, and during which I made enough money where I didn’t have to work the rest of the week.
In short, my prayer has been the same as it was as a kid: TO BE POPULAR.
Sure, what I speak about and what I write about certainly stands to be helpful for others. And yes, I want to teach workshops to help people push through perfectionism and reconnect to their creativity.
But you know what I’ve wanted more than that? To be successful, and to be well-compensated and well-liked.
This realization all started to unfold for me a few weeks ago after a tea date with an acquaintance who recently lost her job. She hadn’t enjoyed her job and knew it wasn’t the right fit, so I saw this as an opportunity to really anchor into what she loves. She told me she had always wanted to start a fashion blog.
And I was like, “So do it.”
And then she said something about not having a nice enough camera, or not knowing enough about Instagram to grow her blog.
And I was like, You’re stopping yourself before you even start! Just start! Let it suck at first! Give it a chance to walk!
And then I realized: I do that same thing.
I stop myself before I even start because, rather than focusing on doing what I enjoy doing for the sake of enjoyment, I do it with an attached expectation. I put effort into writing or painting or doodling and I expect to get a return out of it.
Followers. Likes. Comments. Commissioned projects.
I’ve spent my whole life telling myself that accomplishments only matter if other people see them.
So this time in my life is particularly special. I’m living in my parents’ basement (FO FREE) and paying off tens of thousands in debt, which is mighty humbling, and I’m just piddling around… Doing things for fun.
Yesterday and today I sat out in the sun with my dog for twenty or so minutes… Just because. There was no timer. It wasn’t to fulfill my daily meditation quota. It just FELT GOOD, so I DID IT.
I’m getting to know who I am. And, once I have a stronger grasp, I hope to share from a truly open-hearted place rather than from my ego.
So, I ask: Who are you without an audience? Does the thought of being without social media make you feel any kind of way?
I’d love to hear from you.