Instagram vs. Reality: How I Learned to be Authentic in a Picture-Perfect World
Youth is often full of boundless optimism and unbridled idealism. Innocence is trusting and jubilant and full of life.
Experience often breaks hearts and shatters dreams, bursting bubbles of positivity with cold hard reality. Age can bring disillusionment and a feeling of learned helplessness can take over. It can feel like the machinery of existence is just too big, the forces that be just too powerful and nothing you do ever makes a substantive change. Even the things that once were joyful might now feel hollow and empty. The cards are just stacked against you.
Do you recognize these thoughts? Well, I’ve been there too, perhaps more than you might think. In fact, I was in that space of learned helplessness about Instagram recently. I just could not find my joy or my groove on social media anymore. In the past I enjoyed sharing a photo and discussing yoga wisdom, but lately that has felt like it just wasn’t right anymore. All the metrics of social media success were down and it felt like I just couldn’t find a way to connect with people anymore. I lost followers every day and fewer and fewer people were engaging with my posts. Part of this was my own doing. Last year I spoke out publicly about a controversial matter on IG and it didn’t end well. Since then I’ve been hesitant to, well, be myself on Instagram.
IG used to be a fun place for me. I enjoyed shared practice videos and yoga photos. It felt like we were all in it together as yogis. And then it wasn’t. I know I was the instrument that shifted my own perspective. In some ways I feel like a part of me wanted to burn the house down because I knew deep down inside that I was ready for rebirth.
When I look back on some of my old posts there is one thing that is abundantly clear to me in hindsight—I used to see myself almost entirely through the heterosexual male gaze. I was interested in being sexy and attractive in the eyes of men. This was a subconscious pattern that defined a lot of my behavior and I wasn’t always aware of it. I didn’t value my own femaleness as worthy outside of the paradigm of the male-dominated view. What I shared was rooted in that mindset. And, as I said I’m not there anymore.
The striking inconsistency of the paradigm that I operated within is that the majority of people who follow me are women just like me. I couldn’t speak to other women directly because I was too busy performing what I thought men wanted from a woman to be female on my own terms. By accepting my own femininity to a degree that previously was not possible I set myself free to be a whole and complete woman. By fully embracing my gender and valuing the woman in me I can now more directly value and speak to other women. While I always objectively valued my humanity, there was nevertheless a knot tied around my femaleness. That knot was buried deeply within my subconscious mind. That irresolution has now released and I feel free, but also like I’m stepping into unknown territory. I love myself so much more now than ever before. I feel like I’m relearning how to speak and find my power and my voice again. It’s like the words are all new and I’m creating grammar and syntax out of a different set of rules. These rules are not made in a man’s world. They are mine, written by a woman whose worth is defined not by her value in a man’s eye, but on her own terms entirety.
Don’t hear this as me hating on men. It’s not that. I love men in a way that I couldn’t before. In the past I was bitter and resentful about the power men had over me and in the world. But now that my center of alignment has shifted to value my own feminine nature I’m free to see men as whole beings and to embrace their masculinity. Rather than seeing men as cogs in a giant system of patriarchy aimed at my annihilation and subjugation I can see men as equals. By discovering my own worth I am able to see and value the worthiness of others. I was helpless and mad about so many things before. The anger was sublimated and repressed. There was a kind of learned helplessness that seemed to govern my life. But, I’m neither helpless nor mad about it anymore. I’m free.
I’ve been through a massive personal shift over the last year. The changes that have happened in the last two years have also left me wondering who I really am. That state of not-knowing is unusual for me and it has certainly curtailed my desire to spread publicly about anything. I am, in many ways, a radically different person. That may not be immediately evident from my social media presence. If you follow me on IG or FB you will see yoga pictures in beautiful places (mostly the beach which I still love). But if you’ve been reading my captions or if you’ve been to a class with me you may have noticed a shift. It feels like I have had to let go of my past public identity in order to make space for who I am becoming. If I am going to be fully and authentically true to who I am now then some changes need to happen in my online identity. Don’t worry, I’m not quitting yoga or anything like that. But some big things have shifted and, when I’m ready, I’ll share more about. The basic gist of it is that I was once at war with myself and I’m not anymore. I feel like I was sleeping and I am now awake. I am peace with who I am in a deep and profound way that I didn’t even know was possible. Seen from this perspective, I’m so grateful for the struggle. I’m also thankful for all the people who have stopped following me because they were attracted to who I was, and are not connecting with who I am.
I appreciate those of you who are still here with me on this journey, and those of you who just started following because I feel like you see me for myself. I’ll be looking for more ways to connect with you more personally and directly. I’m in a process of redefining how I show up in the world. I value your feedback so if there is something you’d like to see me explore, please drop me a note and share. I’m here for you, just as I’m here for myself, with love, acceptance, respect and faith.