As I’ve said before, humans need connection and social media can certainly provide that connection. But sometimes what we get is a little different than just plain social time.
Sometimes we find ourself identifying as the hashtags we use. “I’m depressed, anxious, fat, pregnant, lonely.” What started as a way to connect, to share support, with others going through something similar, becomes a limiting factor to who we are. We can’t be our whole selves or we risk losing the people who follow us because of a hashtag.
Struggling against one thing is not the same as working toward something else. If you’re struggling against #depression, you’re focused on what you don’t want, but it doesn’t define what you want instead. Instead of creating fulfillment and satisfaction, you’re continuously and forever depressed and fighting against invisible ropes that bind you. This prevents you from being your whole self. It limits you to a narrow definition of who you are instead of allowing who you might be.
This outage today left so many people without their main, or only, source of social connection. We didn’t have anyone congratulate us for struggling. We didn’t have anyone congratulate us for not showing up to something that bothered us. But we also didn’t have anyone stop and say, “I see you.” or “I notice you and the way you’ve loved yourself this week in a dozen different ways that you didn’t even notice.”
Social media has so much power over us because it offers us so much. And we’ve tasted what it offers so we keep striving to grab that feeling again. We repeat over and over again the same messages hoping for connection and comments.
Unfortunately, when we do the same thing over and over again, we really don’t get a different result. Oh certainly, we may get more likes, comments, and follows, but unless your message is growth, you remain stuck exactly where you were. Depressed, anxious, lonely, obese or whatever hashtag you’ve reduced yourself to.
How Do You Know If You’ve Limited Yourself To A Hashtag?
Is it something you have or do? If it’s something you have or do, then it’s often describing something that either isn’t intrinsic to who you are as a person. For instance you may be autistic/have autism – but that isn’t you.
You are a person that believes certain things – what do you believe? You’re a person who likes to do specific things – what do you like to do? (What about that is even more important to you?) <— the answer to that is a closer definition of who you are than autistic or depressed or mother.
Is the hashtag a role you have in life? For instance: wife, mother, teacher. If so, then it isn’t really who you are. It may be a place to start, but what’s even more important to you? What do you really want? If you could walk through a magic door and be anyone, who would you be?
Open yourself to possibilities rather than limit yourself to Hashtags.
What Do You Want?
If you want to make changes, then you need to define what you want rather than what you have or what you don’t want.
Let’s say your hashtag of choice is #depression (whenever I use this hashtag in this post, feel free to replace it with whatever one you use to label yourself), it may have started as a way for you to let others know how you were doing, but if you’ve found yourself connecting to people because of the hashtags you use rather than who you are as a person, then you may find yourself stuck unable to move to a healthier state of being.
It doesn’t matter what words or hashtags you use — if you’re defining yourself or your situation based on what you say you don’t want, and you’re not very clear about what you do what, then you’re preventing yourself from shifting to a different place.
If you didn’t have #depression what would you have?
- What exactly would your life look like?
- What would you do differently?
- How would you walk? How would you stand when you talk to people?
- When someone talks to you and says something stupid, how do you react?
- When you’re talking to someone and say something stupid, how will you react?
Why Might You Want To Have #depression?
If you no longer had #depression, you might feel fulfilled and satisfied with your life. How would that impact your relationships? I’d like to invite you to really explore this for a moment.
How might it change the way you and your partner talk to each other? How might it shift the way you interact with your children? Likely these are changes you’re excited to see, or at least they’re positive changes.
But what about those people who follow you because of that hashtag? If you no longer had depression, how would that shift those relationships?
When people form social circles because of a way they identify themselves, then they risk losing that circle completely if they shift the way they identify themselves.
I noticed this when I was going through cancer treatments. I joined a few groups and there were women who were still there 5 years after finishing treatment. These women still posted comments filled with as much fear and anger as the newly diagnosed. They had #cancer. They were #survivors. They defined themselves based on a very narrow definition of an experience they had, not on who they were, what they wanted, or what their values were.
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But once you leave that group, the similarities often disappear and you find yourself around people you really have very little in common with. It can feel so lonely, especially when you don’t have a different social group that connects to you because of your values or what you want in life.
If you no longer have #depression, then you no longer have the followers who are there because of your hashtag.
How To Make The Changes You Want
Once you’re ready to change your hashtags, then it’ll be easier to make other life changes as well.
- Define What you want
Defining what you want is necessary if you’re ever going to reach it. Once you know what you want, then also clarify to yourself how you’ll know you’ve gotten here.
- Start finding new friends
I’m not asking you to ditch old friends, but if you want to shift where your live is heading, then it’s very useful to find friends who are facing the same direction.
If you want to love your body shape, look for friends who’re happy with their body, at least most of the time. These are people who talk about health and speak words of love a lot more often than words of shame.
These friends already love themselves and will love you too, and because the relationship isn’t built around body size, these friendships can be supportive and will still be there as your body shape changes.
If you want to find #fulfillment and #satisfaction then consider what might bring you those feelings – maybe volunteering with an animal rescue. As you take action to bring yourself increased life satisfaction, you’ll meet people who like similar things and are working toward similar goals. What other ways might you be similar?
- Figure out a first step
First things first – your first step doesn’t need to be perfect. Whatever step you take, give yourself permission to change your mind and try something different if it’s not working. (How would you know if it’s not working?)
If it’s not working, how might you be able to shift so it could work? What are some other possible steps you could try?
- Notice Your Successes
If you want to feel more satisfied with life, then acknowledge the work you put into making that decision. It does take work to make decisions, especially when it involves something big like changing the hashtags you use about yourself.
What’s the first step you need to take to turn toward increased life satisfaction? Maybe you need to decide on a hobby, so decide on 1 thing to try this week – if you don’t like it after you’ve made 3 attempts, it’s okay, you don’t need to stick with it. Still acknowledge the way you tried. That’s success!
As an example – I used to be active and get 20k steps (or more) a day. But life changes and a deep freeze meant I was getting 1k tops a day. I decided I need to change this. My goal was to increase by 500 steps a week. So I’d be at 10k steps by summer. I wasn’t successful every day, but over all I’ve been successful and each week I have at least 1 day that’s over my step count goal. You’d better believe I celebrate that win!
I don’t need to be perfect to notice that I am better over all than I was a month ago.
Measure success from one week to the next or one month to the next, not day to day.
Give yourself permission to dream. Congratulate yourself on trying. Acknowledge the changes that happen because of the effort you put into making these changes happen. You deserve to be loved by yourself.
You deserve to be your whole self.
*I am not offering medical advice or saying these steps cure depression. They can help you head in the right direction, but it is always a good idea to seek medical support or check in with your doctor.