E062 - Social Media as a Teacher

authenticity communication social media Feb 08, 2024

How do you feel about showing up on social media and writing posts? And most importantly, what happens inside you when you post, or when you even think about posting?

Watch this video or read the post below to learn what social media can teach us about our confidence, about perfectionism, about any blocks inside us that make us shut down—or that free us up to express ourselves honestly in the world.

How do you feel about being on video, speaking face-to-camera on your Instagram or whatever your preferred social media is? How do you feel about the sound of your own voice when you do it? Do you like social media? Are you ambivalent about it? 

Social media can tell us so much about ourselves and about our confidence. It can tell us a lot about how much we need to be curated and perfect in the world—whether we are willing to take risks or whether there are parts of us that only allow ourselves to appear composed and perfect and edited in the eyes of the world. It can show us a lot about our vocal and communication blocks.

Often when I look at someone's social media profile, I can tell a lot quite quickly about their communication system. The most obvious thing is someone who has very few posts—they’ll post pictures of their cat or vases or flowers or the odd sunset or two, but no personal stuff. Nothing of them.

Of course, this could just be “I'm private and I don't like sharing myself with the world.” But often this is all about blocks, about our feelings about how we look, about how we sound on video, and so on. And these translate into how we are around groups of people, how we market ourselves… how we do all sorts of things in the world.

So in this post, we'll explore how social media can be both a healing and teaching force in our lives, showing us areas where we are blocked and places that we can grow. Social media can be really healing, because we can go to the edge of social comfort and discomfort inside ourselves and push that edge out and take up more space in the world.

This is especially important if you have work or a career or a passion or creativity that you need and want to put out in the world, but you find yourself afraid to fully let go and put it out there. It can be a huge block on one's ability to be successful in the world if we are sabotaged by something that makes us shut down, post less, share less, and really just not market ourselves.

Let me use myself as an example: How do I feel about social media? I feel completely ambivalent. I feel all the things: on the one hand, the world would probably be a better place without it. Phones are doing dramatically weird things to us, and that Black Mirror staring and other addictive behaviors can't be great for us. It definitely doesn't seem to be making us more conscious.

On the other hand, it's part of how I market and share my work and share my creativity, so it's a place of self-expression. I have this whole range of feelings, from feeling quite private and wanting to run away from it, to let's go there and let's do it.

Because I work with communication and self-expression, I've spent a lot of time looking at the fine detail of what happens to us as we post. I am my primary guinea pig, but I've worked with a lot of clients around this too. I experience complex feelings about posting, but it's just a really human experience and a huge teacher.

To give you an example, when I first started sharing my coaching work I had already been coaching and teaching for maybe a decade—without publicly sharing that fact, just operating from word of mouth while having a public persona as a musician. It was very uncomfortable for me to out myself as a coach, a healer, a practitioner, and it challenged all kinds of ideas of who I am in the world and my need to be cool, and I found it hard. And I had a mantra at the time of just saying to myself: “Just remember where you'll be in a year or two years from here. It might look ugly now, but just do it now.” It was a bit of a white-knuckle ride at first. Enough about me, though.

What about you and social media? How do you feel about writing? Do you second guess yourself or is it easy? How do you feel about the sound of your voice? How do you feel about just turning the camera on and speaking to the camera and sharing yourself on video with the Internet?

It's something I do all the time. I've become very comfortable with it, but it's a learned skill. Many people I know are challenged or triggered by it. So let me talk about a few things that social media can teach us and help us heal or work with.

The first thing it can show us is our guardrails: what we unconsciously believe is safe and acceptable for us to express. If we’re quite constricted in our posting, we may find that our guardrails are very tight and that we're very afraid of being called out, being shamed, of being too much, of not being seen as cool, or of embarrassing ourselves. So we can find out a bunch about our personal guardrails. Maybe some people need guardrails and they don't have any… maybe I should have better guardrails. I don't know, but I've had to work with quite a lot of constriction. What are yours like?

Social media can also teach us a ton about perfectionism. Can you just post and express yourself and that feels okay, or does a sense of perfectionism get in the way? Like nothing is ever good enough—we can never put out something that satisfies us, that feels safe or good or even creative and fun. How perfectionist are you? (Me: Quite a lot.)

Another biggie is that social media will tell us about our relationships with them. Sartre is misquoted as saying, but beautifully: Hell is other people—or simply, Hell is the others. Most of us seem to have a fear of them. What will they say? What will they do if I do this? If I express myself wildly and fully, they will come and do terrible things to me. They will judge me, they will cast me out.

It's actually built into our nervous system, even perhaps our shame system, you could say, this need to be accepted. So social media will show us our relationship with them. Do they scare the living hell out of us, even though we don't actually know who they are? They're just out there. How do you feel about them? Are you safe just to play and express yourself? Or are they scary?

Adjacent to that is recognizing who judges us. When we post, most of us have subtle images of judgey people in our lives, or people we want to impress, or people that we’re maybe a bit afraid or jealous of. We picture them looking at and judging our posts, or a feeling of that will flash up inside us as we are posting or after we've posted. These are the people we project our insecurity onto. It shows us who those people are, and then we can do the work of owning and releasing that projection.

Social media will also tell us about our self-identity. In my case, it's that I'm a musician and I should look and act a particular way—but it can be about anything for anyone. I'm a mother so I can't be like this, or I’m a professional with this business so I can't also be this. So it will challenge and push your self-identity in the eyes of the world.

It can also reveal some belief systems deep inside us that can be coded into our families and cultures: It's bad to sell things. It's bad to boast. It's bad to self-promote. It's not advisable to be confident, because the tall trees catch the most wind, and they always get chopped off… or whatever those crazy sayings are. These are deep, ancestral, multi-generational belief systems that shut us down and make us stay small.

So we can discover a whole lot about ourselves and feeling safe to express ourselves and be free and put our work out in the world. Social media can really show us where those limits are, but it also creates opportunities for us to grow and thrive, to put our ideas out, to learn to be more and more fearless and how to master or work with the fear when it's in our bodies.

To summarize, social media can be an incredible teacher for us. It can show us a whole lot of our constrictions and communication blocks—the things that limit us when we want to express ourselves in the world. And it can show us a way towards marketing ourselves and sharing our ideas in the world with clarity and purpose, with joy and freedom and a lot less second-guessing.

I wish you all the joy and freedom on social media. Please let me know how this landed and what's happening in your feed on Instagram and Tiktok or wherever you are—and how you feel about it.