I’ve been changing the dynamics of my relationships, romance, friendship, work, social media. X can mean anything you want to shift your relationship with. It’s confusing when you get praised for the very things that give you anxiety and discomfort. If this is supposed to be good for me, why does it feel so terrible? We are taught to misread and ignore vital signs of our life being taken away from us. I decided to take the power back by processing the truth of what I witnessed and felt. Then I went ahead to build the bridge that could help me retain things important to me, my work, and my community. This is also a response for everyone who has ever said, “I know it’s bad for me, but I don’t know how to leave”. Its ok my love, let me guide you.
For the most part of this post, I will talk about moving my relationship with Instagram from toxic to a functional one. Let’s begin this fun ride -
1. What is your relationship currently?
This is an honest evaluation of where you are, journaling is a great tool for this. Trust that your feelings are telling you something and look at what it brings up objectively.
Here is a journal note from January this year:
“The last 2 months have been the worst. I thought I’m expanding my brand but really I was tying myself down with ropes, hoping that will help me fly. I got pangs of anxiety being inauthentic to myself. I asked myself “Why would I do what I do if I operate from this desperation?” My answer - “I wouldn’t.”
So that’s it, less Instagram Reels, less projecting, less pretending. Basically less talking, more listening. Isn’t that what I set out yo do in the first place - my motto was to “hold a safe space”. Let’s break that down. What does it mean. If you entered a room carrying the weight the world has put on you, I want to have the open floor for you to remove it all and lay it in the room for me. To unpack everything. Yes, everything. Look at it and then proceed to sort and guide it. How do I do that if I fill the room with my own projections, my ego, my titles, my words. I can’t. And I haven’t been able to. I’m struggling to keep the face of a business woman when inside I couldn’t care less about transactional connections.”
My off-camera moments are wholesome moments and so to retain that wholesomeness I had to make changes. I also believe Instagram's use is contributing to a generational anxiety we didn’t fully estimate. Instagram has evolved differently than I have. So for my sanity, till I learnt a better way to engage with it, I had to disconnect from it. I went off Instagram for 6 months.
2. How have you evolved in comparison to the evolution of the subject in question?
People, events and situations come into our lives to serve a purpose. Even the unpleasant aspects bring a lesson with them, some lessons take a month and others take a lifetime. When this purpose is served we have to be willing to let it go and in turn, find our own unique path too.
Reels became a popular format of content and people acting out their professional insights was being rewarded. It’s tempting however in being true to myself I confronted that I did not evolve the same way. In fact, I became more introspective than before. So my content had to reflect that and my audience had to value that. Till we did not, we would all be in this misaligned place. Sometimes taking a pause or even leaving, in order to realign is the bravest and kindest thing to do.
3. Who are you seeking permission from and what does this permission sound like?
This question can help you decode a lot. About where the limiting perspective, fear, conditioning or attachment behavior is coming from. We often rely on answers to come floating to us and in doing so we stay stuck in the sand and in our misaligned misery. We are conditioned from the time we were children to seek for something outside of us, from someone who may not always be on the same page. This “pressure” we assume be it from peers, society, family, work, are they even real? Do they really have that much power over us? And what if they were to give you their blessing right now - are you equipped to truly take your wishes forward? Once you know, you can slowly begin to write out what that permission would sound like. Now, can you offer yourself that permission?
I was told I speak well on videos. However till date looking at those videos make me cringe. I know how many takes those videos took, there is nothing organic about it. I know speaking into the camera is an acting job, not a coaching job- I listen more than I speak while coaching. I give myself permission to be who I am.
4.Who are you without this?
Your self awareness is important for this one. Journal this, when we speak to people we often project what we wish we were and not the truth of what is. On paper though, when the only person listening is you, often the truth comes through.
Knowing who I am, what my intentions are and what I am working to build became my immunity jacket on this journey. In January this year, someone I had hired to help my brand, would roll her eyes and talk down at me every time I showed nervousness to get in front of the camera. Because I was struggling to find my path in the evolving social media scene, it took me time to finally back myself up. Once I could reaffirm my incredible ability to create safe spaces, which is what my work and brand stand for, I could admit that this process wasn’t a safe space for me. I could finally admit that this was a wrong hire, someone who didn't understand my brand or vision. Instead of getting stuck on one mistake I worked to see the bigger picture in the long running of my brand. Only when I looked for validation inside of me, was i able to see clearly.
5. Do not take advice from someone who has not accomplished what you aim to
Lot’s of people will weigh in on your decisions if you let them. How will they ever understand your journey when their choices look different? We all give better advice than what we aim to take for ourselves. It’s like asking someone to review a movie they have never seen. This is also why 90% of a Mental Health Coach’s work is to listen and facilitate your journey. A recording of a client session will show that for 45 out of 60 mins I ask questions and only step in to affirm, reframe or practice somatic healing. You might have heard “if i was you i would..”. Let me stop you right there, the thing is you are not me, so make space to hear my thoughts. When other’s opinions or judgements take more space than your journey, you get less space to explore yours. The answers you seek are within you. Learn to live in your questions and find people who will facilitate and create space for your growth. Flipping it to film myself felt inauthentic and unnatural. It marked my calendar as “difficult days”. I like who I am, I love the work I do and the life I lead. I decided to live my day and continue coaching deeply rather than scripting the “behind the scenes” of it.
6. This is an addiction. Are you willing to accept it?
The reason you chose this relationship is because you get something out of it. Maybe it’s the payoff, maybe it’s to conform to peer pressure, maybe the horrible parts make you work less on yourself, maybe it feels familiar. You are here because it gives you something. When something begins to rule you, it indicates that dependency has entered your equation. To change your relationship you have to exercise control over it. Are you willing to be without it? To get somewhere new you have to be willing to leave what no longer serves you. Notice the withdrawal from this addiction show up from your body and thoughts. What would a healthier approach be?
7. Remove all trigger before stepping back into it.
A ‘0 tolerance policy’ is essential as you recover. Just as a fresh wound on your skin needs space to heal before it can sustain scratches, you also need space while you detox. You may believe that a small amount of exposure will not harm you but I have found that when exposed to toxic environments for a long time, the threshold becomes larger. This means it is killing you softly and you have become complicit in helping your deterioration by staying there. So even one sip of this poison is enough to have the body crave it’s trigger and that can derail the entire process of healing.
Distance will allow you a better perspective, a third person view, to know what works and what harms you. The journey to stepping away will help you refine your boundary setting skills. Active healing in this space with mental health coaches and other lifestyle instructors will make you bullet proof.
In the time I was away from Instagram, I let myself indulge in all forms of creation that made me happy. I realized I love handwriting notes, postcards. I made observation notes on my phones, that maybe a valuable read for someone else. At this time I would receive emails saying “we notice you are not regular on Instagram, let us manage your page”. As if that was not the point to begin with! I let the triggers stay outside my healing zone. I waited till I was ready and truly had the capacity to create content my way.
8. Exercise control and balance the power dynamic
Until this dynamic is not corrected, nothing will change. What was it then and what is it now. Only trust your experience as the detector of what works for you. Apply external views as feedback that you have a choice to receive or not.
When i returned, it was on my time line and my kind of content. I seeked no validation in the form likes and comments and yet could study the stats of my page objectively.
9. Accept what leaves
After taking space and seeing things clearly for what they are, it may no longer be possible to reconnect with everything that once was. While you evolve, it will also have the time to evolve and this may mean it evolved away from you. Once pain has served its lesson in your life, it is done with you and at some stage even you have to be done with it. This process will help you come to acceptance that resuming a relationship is possible with one underlying condition - it must be your choice.
What left for me is the need to listen to others advice about my content. The need to justify or take permission for my time away. I gave up the need to keep up with social trends to be relevant. I accepted I don’t need to do every on of the thousand jobs I do perfectly. I let go of the fear of people not finding me if I leave social media. I know they find me.
I feels truckloads lighter. The intentional space has revealed deeper friendships, work and life. I’m thrilled to know I built the path to my happiness. Sometimes this evolution means the end ,in this instance, Instagram stayed.
10. Returning to the scene after changing your relationship with it
I’ve questioned what posting this message on Instagram means. Is it like popping champagne to celebrate my sobriety. Or is it handing a user manual on better care instructions for that environment. I intend for it to be the latter. A sure sign that the new normal is working is when your new position comes with a sense of peace.
I like my voice on Instagram now. It’s mine and I feel good creating it. It’s on my timeline and in my format. I did my part to be here too. I understood the value that the platform still holds for me and I negotiated my place in the buzz.
Now as you embark on your new journey, know that you are your own savior. This is a story of taking back your choices and building what you’d like out of your one precious life. You do this because you know what your time and energy is worth. You have the ability at any stage to change the narrative of your life. When you need support I’ll be here to guide you. ❤️