Social media. A phenomenon that has become an integral part of the everyday life of most (young) people. Many of them also regularly publish their own contributions – like me.
We share pictures, videos, or texts and present ourselves, our experiences, thoughts, feelings, or even our heart projects on the respective platform. And that’s exactly what can be so dangerous for our self-confidence. At least if we cannot (yet) differentiate ourselves from the opinion of other people. Some people turn to self-affirmations to help them cope with this social media impact on their self-esteem.
Social media such as Instagram can become dangerous if I can only believe that I am beautiful, lovable, or good enough through a certain number of likes. If one negative comment on my photo is enough to make me doubt myself. When my own thoughts are already over-critical and the comments of others only confirm me even more. When I make my own worth dependent on other people’s opinions.
As long as we don’t know our own worth, even the most anonymous user has the power to hurt us.
Of emotional injuries and band-aids
Imagine getting hurt and getting a deep wound. What are you doing? You’ll probably go to the doctor, where she’ll be treated (cleaned and then sewn, glued, or stapled).
But what if it’s an emotional wound? Most of the time we prefer not to look at them so closely. Instead, we distract ourselves to make ourselves feel better. It’s as if we’re just putting a few makeshift band-aids over a flesh wound. You don’t see it anymore at first, but it will certainly not heal in this way.
That’s exactly what I did for years: ignoring my wounds and then wondering again and again that other people could literally put their fingers in them. And believe me, that hurt a lot.
What do you do when you get hurt again and again? You develop strategies to protect yourself (and the wounds) from attacks. For example, I had withdrawn into my shyness for years and avoided other people as much as possible – before I could be hurt again.
Deeply hurt: Lack of self-esteem
A few years ago, I had enough of hiding. So I started looking for ways to boost my self-confidence. I tried out a number of strategies, ventured out of my comfort zone again and again, and learned a lot in the process. And with these experiences, I also wanted to support other introverts and shy people on their way to more self-confidence – via social media.
What I didn’t know was that I had built up more self-confidence on the surface, but there was still a wound deep beneath this surface. And I had only covered them up with my newfound self-confidence, but not healed them.
What wound am I talking about? Probably the biggest emotional wound that many people carry around with them: is a lack of self-esteem.
Deep down, we are convinced that we are not good enough. We are afraid of evaluation, criticism, and rejection. We want to make everything as perfect as possible and just not make any mistakes. We disregard our own limits and needs in order to please others. And we believe we have to achieve this and that in order to be lovable.
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Looking for confirmation on social media
The longer I was on Instagram & Co during this time, the more I became aware of how cracked my self-esteem was.
If I got a lot of likes, positive comments, and new followers, I felt good because I had achieved something. If there were no likes, there were critical comments or followers jumped off again, I related it directly to myself – I felt like a failure.
At the same time, my perfectionism made my life difficult: Whether it was preparing a post or answering comments and messages – I put every word on the gold scale when formulating. Why? Because I was afraid that someone would misunderstand my words and attack me. On the one hand, this cost me a lot of time, which I actually needed for other things. On the other hand, I also wanted to pass on my experiences and reach as many people as possible. Due to this dichotomy, more and more pressure built up inside me.
The whole day my thoughts revolved around the next post, impressive pictures, and inspiring texts. About followers, likes and comments. About reach and algorithms. So much so that I didn’t give myself any time to really live. I put off friends and family, neglected exercise and healthy eating, and condemned myself for constantly wanting to take time off.
Pressure: invisible on the outside, but intensely perceptible on the inside
I knew that I was making myself this stressed, but I kept pushing myself. I just hoped it would get better at some point. That I would get used to it and get faster. This went on until I could no longer withstand the stress – and I decided to take a break. I didn’t know for how long, I just knew I desperately needed them.
And honestly? The more distance I gained from the digital world, the better I felt. I finally had time for myself again, could read a book, meditate, meet friends, do sports, or write – without being constantly under pressure.
My appearance on social networks had opened a wound that I had hardly noticed myself until then – I had hidden it so well.
When I saw this image, I realized that it made no sense to use all my strength to hide the wound or defend it against possible attacks. It would be much more effective to simply cure them. Then I would no longer be so easily vulnerable, could give up my protective mechanisms, and go through life much more relaxed.
So the solution was: to strengthen my self-esteem. And that’s exactly what I’ve taken a lot of time for this year.
When social media can become a danger
Social media are tools and it’s up to us how we use them. We can use a knife for cutting vegetables on the one hand and as a weapon on the other – it’s our choice. And so it is with social networks: either we use them in a positive way by exchanging ideas, delivering valuable content, supporting others, writing respectful comments, and maintaining a healthy balance between the online and offline worlds. Or we use them in a negative way and write hater comments, pull others down, or put so much pressure on ourselves that we break it.
Social media can become a danger if we cannot (yet) distinguish ourselves from other people’s opinions. When what we face on the platforms (content, comments, social pressure) opens wounds and we don’t know healthy strategies to heal them. When we look there for the confirmation that we cannot give ourselves.
For me, this experience was the impetus to finally heal my wound. That’s how I managed to increase my self-esteem and positively change my use of social media.