It's Time to Walk the Walk - What My Social Media Break Taught Me

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Today marks one week since I decided to take a break from social media. While I was worried what this would do for my blog, my brand, and my social media engagement, I knew something needed to change. Looking back on the last week, I now know these types of breaks need to be incorporated into my schedule on a monthly basis. Keep reading to find out what I discovered from my social media break.

Photography: S. Wolfe Photo

I received a lot of messages asking if I was okay, if I was still alive, if I was still blogging, etc. this last week since I "signed off" without really announcing my pending absence. To be completely honest, this break wasn't planned, it just sort of happened. Last Wednesday, I hadn't posted any new content to my blog, so I was scrolling through Lightroom to find a photo from an old post to publish on Instagram that day. I had no exciting news to reveal, no new content, nothing that I really felt compelled to share with my audience on Instagram. I just kept scrolling to find something that would pop out at me, something that I could attach a mundane caption to and hit publish.  As I was scrolling through the all of my photos, a feeling of anxiety and then exhaustion washed over me.

"Why am I posting today if I don't have anything to say?"

"What is my intention here"?

One of my goals for this year was to post on social media every day. The purpose here, is to ensure that I am constantly engaging with my audience and pushing as much content into the universe as I could in hopes that my platforms would keep growing and reaching new people. At its core, the idea makes sense. However, the need to post every day quickly trumped creating meaningful content. As a designer, this is against every principal that we are taught in school and in the workplace. Everything needs to mean something because without a purpose, it is hard to defend your work.

How can I promote myself and my brand if my content has no meaning? This was one of the reasons for my short sabbatical. The other reason lies in a promise I made, and keep making to myself but keep falling short on.

On my one year anniversary of blogging, I published a very long, emotional post about my struggle with mental health. In this post, I concluded that I need to love myself enough to let myself struggle, let myself fail, and give myself the time I need to step back from things that are causing me anxiety and stress. I constantly read self-help books and quotes to pump myself up in times of self-doubt, but I keep failing to actually give myself time.

Balancing a professional career and a personal "side hustle", while extremely rewarding, can definitely take a toll. While I love the blogging community that I am a part of, self doubt and comparison become major players in each step I take as in influencer. Watching my friends and peers land collaborations and get invited to events that I wasn't asked to attend was really making me question myself. I started to think I was doing something wrong. Pile those feelings on top of the stresses of trying to balance a career and being present at home, eventually something had to give.  So - last Wednesday I decided to not post because I just didn't have anything super meaningful to say that day and I was just mentally exhausted. It seemed to me that Instagram was becoming more of a game than a collaborative platform.

It was an amazing feeling - to not be tied to a schedule. After all - I set the schedule, so I can break it! After skipping a day of posting, I decided to skip another day, and before I knew it a week had flown by. Within that week, I was so much more at peace than I had been the week prior. Without this self-inflicted obligation to post ANYTHING just to fill a requirement, I could finally take a step back and ask myself why I was really doing this. This week taught me that I have a choice to either continue playing the game that is Instagram, or accept the platform for what it is and continue using it to build a collaborative community around me. I can either let it continue to make me feel defeated, or take advantage of the voice I have created for myself on this platform, no matter how big or small, and spread kindness and positivity to make sure I am not the source of someone else's comparisons or anxiety.

Why was I afraid to take a break from social media?

Before I took this small hiatus, I was constantly worried about the numbers, and I knew a break wouldn't help my engagement at all, and that others would just continue to grow as I pushed pause. But my break helped me realize something - even though my engagement went down, it will always go back up again, and if I miss out on an event or a collaboration, there will always be more. There are weeks when my engagement is amazing and I think that I have it all figured out, then others, it seems like I have been blacklisted from Instagram. I have just accepted that that is just the roller coaster that is this platform. To let social media dictate how I feel about my blog, something I have worked so hard on, just seemed so ridiculous when I took a step back.

I am coming back feeling excited to create and collaborate once again, and I will now value the times that I am not invited to an event or miss out on a collaboration rather than feel defeated. I will value these "misses" because they pave the way for other opportunities that are better suited for me, or better yet, give me a free night at home with my love. :)  This week I finally "walked the walk" and loved myself enough to give myself a break.  I keep preaching it, but allowing myself some time off is the best gift I could have given myself and I highly recommend that y'all take some time away as well! You will be surprised how easily you see your priorities begin to shift, your worries begin to ease, and your excitement to create and collaborate (the reason this all started in the first place) begin to rise back up again.

The missed opportunities remind me that I am a different person than everyone else, I am my own voice and my own brand, and there are so many others out there who will partner with me for who I am and what I offer. When I think about the comparisons that I often make between myself and others who are succeeding in the world, I begin to think of how I felt in high school. I would see others making friends, going on dates, and getting invited to parties, and I thought I had to be just like them. It took me years to figure out that what I have to offer is different from others for a reason and all of our differences should be celebrated, but they will be celebrated in ways unique to each of us. In these moments of comparison in adulthood, I have to remind myself of how 16 year old Shay felt. Would I tell her to change? Heck no!

A little about this look:

Growing up, and especially in high school, I constantly compared myself to others. I was always trying to fit in and never, ever did. I changed my clothes and my hair, and even the way I acted and the music I listened to for others. The outfit above is an ode to my true high school self. I wore vans and skinny jeans and listened some music that was far too emotional for my own good. I loved Dashboard Confessional, Panic! at the Disco, Breaking Benjamin, Linkin Park, and Boys Like Girls. I wish I could go back and tell myself not to change or conform to what I thought I had to do to be like everyone else. This outfit is an ode to high school Shay - the girl that never fit in; the girl that wore too much eyeliner, bleach blonde hair, and my vans. I'm dressing like the real high school Shay, who thought she had to dress like everyone else. Little did she know she would be giving fashion advice one day ;).

I always tell everyone to love who they are, but I still struggle to take my own advice. It is time to "Walk the Walk!" I am my own worst critic, so that means that I have the ability to be my best cheerleader. I don't want to look back on these times and only remember what my peers accomplished. I am proud of my accomplishments and I can't wait to see what kind of advice 30-something Shay will be giving to 20-something Shay one day. ;)

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