They followed my love story since its inception in 2010 and were secretly committed to every step along my happily-ever-after: leaving New Jersey for a new life in Colorado, an engagement in Thailand, an Etsy dream wedding, and a selfie with our freshly-pressed keys when we landed our dream house, just outside of Boulder.
They were with me through my growing belly, the video of the exploding box of blue balloons revealing my growing babe’s gender, and the first photos of my son.
However, while they saw bliss, I felt ravaged.
Social media threw me into the deep end—comparing my failures to the perceived perfection of everyone else around me. I’ve never been good at faking a smile though, and quickly grew tired of pretending my life was on the same playing field as my peers. I was rupturing at the seams while they worried about what filter to choose.
Behind the status updates, my marriage was crumbling and I had nowhere to turn. I found myself wishing there was somewhere safe I could land—a safe haven where I could share my hurt during those nights when doubt crept in and played tricks on my mind. I wanted somewhere that made me feel less alone, where it was okay to not have it all figured out. A place where it was perfectly acceptable that my only accomplishment for that day was surviving it.
I was a newlywed, with a baby soon arriving, and the congratulatory wishes were flooding in daily. Clearly all of this excitement couldn’t be met with a public comment questioning the fate of my marriage.
It felt as though I was drowning— in a life and a love that was changing. My husband turned to old ways of numbing when finances and a baby on the way became overwhelming. I wanted a space to share my truth because I wasn’t good enough for my followers’ newsfeeds.
There were 1,000+ people tuned in to my channel, watching my life unravel like a big screen drama. I was staging it as best I could, while waiting for the storm to pass because I was afraid of everything falling apart on live tv.
I focused on my baby. I shared him, my joy, and my love, while my life fell apart, off-screen. I suppose I could’ve told Facebook that my relationship status was “complicated,” as most marriages are, I presume, to help prepare for the quiet inquiries that came—when my last name silently switched back to my maiden name and my photos were suddenly void of the man I married. But I didn’t.
Social media is supposed to be a space for us to connect, to share our lives with our friends. But when I shared the days that felt like despair and smelled like rotten hope, I got this sad response of encouragement. It didn’t feel as though anyone knew how to engage with someone grieving within a public platform.
This realization was my lightbulb moment.
Weeding through the posed perfection to find something with context, something with meaning that I could connect to, brought me to uncover my own truth. Rather than get swallowed whole by the unintended discouragement that I invited, I used it as an opportunity to teach compassion by engaging in the difficult conversations. Connecting with the people that I inspired who were also secretly living their pain behind manufactured happiness, encouraged them to reach out to me. The messages and emails poured in.
My healing came from a space of sharing my voice. Sharing my reality without trying to filter it or capture it just right so that it might be accepted, or even liked. I stopped associating my value with the approval of others and considered that maybe, just maybe, I could empower myself through social media, instead of the other way around.
Connecting with others accessed a deeper meaning for the pain I endured. Sharing my truth healed me. I didn’t know the power of my voice until I realized the power of my compassion and empathy. Learning to love and accept myself empowered me to love, support, and encourage others.
Social media can shame us for our feelings because they don’t feel socially acceptable. We don’t post them on our newsfeed, and we don’t know how to talk about them in social settings because we’ve forgotten how to connect from a place that’s genuine and human. Being vulnerable involves risk.
We’ve developed an unhealthy habit of comparing and judging ourselves—and when all else fails we hide behind whatever vice we choose. We numb ourselves to our feelings or stuff them down, becoming addicted, depressed, anxious, or socially withdrawn. We’re absolutely unhappy and have no idea that it’s because we have dehumanized feeling, making it impossible to feel our full range of emotions.
Somehow we have come to believe that feelings are messy and there is no place for them on social media. We’ve decided messiness is separate from humanness, when in reality, they are not mutually exclusive. I’m messy and I’m human, and it’s okay that I feel, change my mind, and that every day isn’t cupcakes and rainbows.
I’ve recommitted to living my truth. I’m learning to speak it and to share it even if some people don’t want to hear it. Because I’ve had enough people thank me for sharing my story, I feel as though it deserves to be shared. It deserves to have volume and to realize that not everyone has to like it or even me.
That’s worth repeating: I am comfortable with myself enough to embrace that not everyone has to like me.
Rather than trying to keep up with the Kardashians, why don’t we raise the next generation to seek connection— to seek purpose? I don’t want to raise my boy behind silent judgment and watch him hold himself to a standard of perfection that he’ll equate with happiness, because I want him to know better. Once we know better, it’s time to do better.
I’m a recovering perfectionist and because life insists on continually teaching me that perfection doesn’t protect us from hurt, I guess it’s time I paid attention. I know now that nothing prepares us for our life falling apart, but we should also remember that we are never as alone as we think we are.
I want to embrace a new side of social media. Remove the negativity, the pressure for perfection, the contradicting, the targeted ads, and the isolation, and create a compassionate community that believes in giving what they have and taking what they need. One that allows us to show up just as we are and works tirelessly to make us feel like that is (more than) enough. I want to create a community that feels like friendship, that honors our questions and will be our cheerleader through the moments when life feels uncertain.
I’ve been there, more times than I can count, and I’m sure I’ll be there again. I want to create a space that says, “You’re welcome as you are, and I love you for that.” A community that says, “Let us fill you up before you send yourself back into the world to conquer another day,” or love on you just enough to help you survive it.
So now what?
Share your truth—sans filter—and see how it makes you feel. See what it feels like to drop the mask and to embody who you are and accept that some people may fall away. Spoiler alert: those aren’t your people. See what people—what opportunities—you attract by speaking your truth. By losing the facade and by showing up as perfectly imperfect as you. Waiting to live your life until you get your sh*t together sounds like missing half the party.
I want more messy people in my life that are facing their stuff and rolling with the waves, keeping their head up, and moving forward. To those people—cheers to you. It’s hard to be a human today, but only because we set that bar so damn high. Let’s knock ourselves down a peg and remember what it feels like to connect with another person. Pick up the phone, write a letter, do something outside of your comfort zone, and remember what it feels like to live a life without the pressure of perfection.
Oh, and I would love to have more messy people in my life, so follow me, add me, connect with me—I’d love to hear your stories and make being human an idea worth spreading.
Author: Halley Hadfield
Image: Megan Tedrow/Flickr
Apprentice Editor: Kalyani Santher/Editor: Travis May