A recent chat with a friend was hugely revealing. She told me that from where she stood, my life looked perfect; that I looked perfect. And she has a point.
From the outside looking in, I do have the "perfect" husband, "perfect" children, "perfect" home, "perfect" friends and "perfect" job. From where she stands, I have it all. Uber confidence, my own look, the ability to ace anything I set my mind to, and generosity to celebrate my favourite people's and my own successes.
In life, I am winning. And yes, she is correct, all of that is true.
But sometimes my life is also the perfect storm.
Shit does hit the fan, and life doesn't go the way I want or expect it to. It's not perfect... in fact sometimes it's very, very far from it. This year at times I have been so far out of my comfort zone I wasn't sure I'd find my way back!
BUT... my desire to help others, to be the very best that I can, and do great stuff for myself and the people around me overrides my desire to wallow and hide. I am not a victim, and I don't ever have a "poor me" attitude. As a mum, wife and colleague, there are days I just have to put on my big girl pants and get on with adulting in the only way I know how.
And I don't share the shit in social media!
More on that later...
Michelle Obama spoke to 300 secondary school girls Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, London - an all girls' school comprising of 20% daughters of refugees or asylum seekers, and 92% from a black or minority ethnic backgrounds.
Michelle Obama said she still experiences a small amount of imposter syndrome - which I find fascinating because despite my outward appearance of "perfect", I have felt the same many times .
But her main message was that we as females have to overcome those feelings of self doubt, and of comparing ourselves to others.
Michelle also reminded everyone in the room that we not only have to elevate others, but we have to believe in ourselves, even if means digging deep when we don't want to. Remember, the best roses grow from the shit!
“We as women don’t have the luxury of tearing each other down; there are enough barriers out there. There are enough people out there ready to tear us down. Our job is to lift each other up, so we have to start practising now...That is one thing we can do better as women – we can take better care of each other.” - Michelle Obama
On the outside Michelle Obama's "brand" is of a confident, well-adjusted, brilliant, successful woman doing amazing things to elevate others, that's despite occasionally suffering from a quiet inner turmoil. In her talk she revealed a very raw, authentic and vulnerable side, but it was said within the context of being - essentially - a "brand ambassador" for women, and for the next generation of females who will lead the future. This is the person she chooses to show to the world.
Gals, it's our time to shine!
The sharing sliding scale in social media
So where do you fit in social sharing (or over sharing) in social media and how does that fit with who you show yourself to be, and what impact does that have on what I loosely call your "personal brand"?
I believe that just as each of us has our unique personal expression in the world and the choice on how we express ourselves to the world. In 2018 it translates as how we act in person to the people with whom we spend most time, and in social media to our extended friend and associate groups. All of those expressions are within our control.
It reminds me of the classic Hero's Journey crafted most notably by Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer's Journey, evolved from mythologist Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. If you've ever watched The Matrix you'll be familiar with this journey. It's the linear journey of the protagonist triumphing over (usually) an antagonist and a significant external challenge all while overcoming an internal challenge. The inner and outer journey.
I believe that social media is most often used by us as showing our external journey, while friends and family groups is where we share our internal journey.
For me, I seek out a few key people to share the tough times with and to get advice, and to heal and address my internal and very personal challenges. And in social media I share my external journey, successes and events.
A successful sharer and what NOT to do!
There are definitely some blurred lines with what people choose to share in social media.
I have seen how a professional image is dramatically damaged when a person who doesn't have a strong understanding about compartmentalising the internal and the external journey and makes the decision to have all the drama play out in social media.
They pay no heed to consequences of their actions and frankly appear unhinged, and it's exhausting to watch!
BUT for others, their internal personal story is their external triumph. The best example of this (and there are many) is Instagram star Simone Anderson who shares her raw, deeply personal and sometimes graphic and painful journey from being unhealthy and overweight to becoming healthy. I have seen friends print and pin to noticeboards images of Simone as inspiration in their own journey ("If she can do it I can too!").
The author of Journey to Health: How I lost half my body weight and found a new way of life uses social media to document her battle with weight loss and dealing with the consequences of having being overweight with operations to reduce excess skin and create the body she deserves to have.
That said, it's still only one aspect to her internal hero's journey and - like Michelle Obama - there is likely a tonne we don't see because Simone chooses not to show it.
Even people like Kim Kardashian, who appears to shows a warts and all, 360 look at her life isn't really showing all her internal struggles.
Don't judge a book by its cover
All this adds up to what you see is not always what is, and what you choose to show is within your control and paints just one picture of who you are. Don't buy into someone else's image and own your shit!
Vulnerability works but know your boundaries. Think before you post (always!). But never think that because what you see of another person's life is necessarily the whole of that person's life.
Michelle Obama is not perfect. I am not perfect. Simone is not perfect. Kim Kardashian is not perfect. We are all curated versions of ourselves and that's a great thing!
Most importantly, stop comparing yourself to others. We don't have to aspire to be someone else. As a great friend of mine says: "If we don't go within, we go without".
Let's do great things!
Rochelle Sheldon is the chief specialist and coach for Socialites. She specialises in agency, social media strategy and influencer marketing. To connect with her:
- Defining Your Audience
- Social Media - A Critical Part of Managing Recalls
- Social Storytelling - Why You Need to Use it
- How to Find Your Target Market & Hit Their Sweet Spot
- Social Listening and Big Data - How The Audience Created the Product