On social media, we can present ourselves exactly how we want people to see us.
We have an entire profile dedicated to ourselves—an actual page on the internet, self-documenting our life.
That leaves a lot of room for our ego to run amok. I know mine did.
I literally wanted to show people who I was—through photos.
But, who am I?
Am I my face? My body? My clothes? My car?
None of these things are who I am.
These were only the things I attached to—the things I identified with so much that I believed them to define who I was.
But none of that was ever me.
I could never be defined by photos. I am not the body or the mind—I am the unwavering life within.
Who I am, simply is.
Before Self-Love Must Come Self-Knowledge
Without knowing myself, I wouldn’t know who I was loving—or how to cultivate that love.
When I was younger, I thought ego-tripping about my physical appearance was “self-love.”
Too often, the term “self-love” is used to describe glorified narcissism. I used to post photos of myself on Instagram just waiting for others to react.
“How many likes will I get?”
“Will I get any comments?”
One day, I took a selfie and posted it. Behind that photo, I felt so many ways about myself—so many complexes, so many projections.
I took about 50 photos, and one barely made the cut.
My eyebrows were on fleek.
It was a good eyeliner day.
Highlight was poppin’.
My lips were too small, though—even after the excessive lip liner. But after taking over 50 photos, I was just settling with what I could.
I posted the photo to Instagram, feeling myself, for the most part.
I really thought this photo was important, like it represented me.
I waited anxiously for the likes and comments.
This photo of my face became something that held so much worth.
And there I was, stuck in illusion. I really thought that I was my face.
All the comments I got from other girls hyped me up, “Yasss,” “Slaaay,” “You’re gorgeous.”
My ego was all juiced up—I really believed it was some sort of accomplishment to…have my face?
I identified so much with the physical that my appearance defined me. And everyone else’s appearance defined them too.
I tried to cover up the egotism with pretty words like “self-love” and “empowerment,” but underneath it all, something was lurking.
The reason I identified with my ego to the point of defining myself as my face, makeup, and clothes was because I was afraid of what was beneath it all.
I was insecure. I wanted attention. I wanted approval. I wanted guys to desire me. I wanted girls to accept me. I was sad. I feared rejection. I wanted to be “cool.” I had unresolved childhood trauma. I would lie about random things to everyone in my life. I had sexual problems. I was jealous of other girls. I had anxiety. I would gossip about my own friends.
The list could really go on.
I was avoiding a lot.
Rather than acknowledging anything about my deeply rooted suffering or changing my life in some way, I decided to avoid everything and use my social media as a platform to do just that.
I projected an image of this persona who was “Rubaab.”
I only posted photos of myself if I thought I looked good enough. I hid under the masks of self-love and empowerment as my reason for flaunting my appearance—but it obviously stemmed from insecurity and avoidance.
Fast-forward over four years, and I’m no longer posting photos of myself on social media.
Inner journey, commence!
It started off with mindfulness meditation, which sparked my interest in Buddhism. I began meditating on the app Headspace, and I bought the book The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh.
The Four Noble Truths were one of the first things I learned when I began studying Buddhism. It was essentially a guide on how to heal suffering.
The first truth is: acknowledge your suffering.
Boy, was I suffering. I had a lot to acknowledge. One of the practical suggestions I was given in my book was to help ease the suffering in your life by choosing not to ingest certain things.
That is, ingestion through the senses—not only the ingestion of food, but the music I listened to, the friends I was around, the places I’d go to, and the things I’d do.
To switch around what we choose to ingest is to release much of our suffering.
So call me impulsive, but I did just what I needed to: I deleted all of my social media accounts.
Ingesting toxic opinions on Twitter or ego-tripping photos on Instagram wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore. I knew it fed into my suffering.
Being away from social media was liberating, to say the least—it brought me so much deeper into reality.
I wasn’t looking at the projections and images of people online, nor was I spending time trying to project my own image. I was simply living my actual life, in the here and now.
It didn’t all happen at once, but from then to now, I’ve gradually weeded out many of the roots of attachment I had in my life. Those attachments include but aren’t limited to: others’ perceptions of me, my physical appearance, guys finding me desirable, and so on.
The root causes of those attachments came from an identification with the physical body.
If I didn’t identify with the physical body, I wouldn’t care what it looked like. I wouldn’t care if others found it appealing or not.
It is only because I was so identified with my body that it became so important to me.
On my inner journey, one of the biggest fountains of wisdom has been the knowing that I am not the body, and I am not even the mind.
Knowing that I simply am, and that the body and mind are vehicles for my spirit to utilize, I approach life in a more mindful and conscious way.
I no longer post photos of myself on social media because I am not the body.
Now that I got back on social media, I’m making an initiative not to get caught up in any attachments.
For me, that looks a little something like:
>> Not following people who only post pictures of themselves and following content-based pages instead.
>> Not posting pictures of myself.
There are a few types of users on Instagram preventing me from posting photos of myself:
>> The pervert trying to jack off to photos of girls.
>> The insecure one who posts pictures of themselves but delete them if they don’t get enough likes.
>> The fake ones who leave sweet comments on photos of people they hate on.
>> The one with low self-esteem who compares their life to others based on their Instagram.
Rather than posting photos of my appearance so people can feel insecure about themselves, compare themselves to me, have a judgmental opinion about how I look or be perverted about my appearance, I chose to be more content-oriented on my Instagram and post quotes, nature photos, and ritual altars to help others along with their spiritual processes.
Instagram is a competition, and our physical appearance is a rite of passage. Our stats go up based on how much people like the way we look.
Even if I’m not attached to my physical appearance, others on the app will attach to it.
Because the app is so focused on physical appearance, I choose not to feed into it by having a solely content-based page.
I’ve been so invested in the inner journey that this outer shell has been consecrated into a temple. It is the vehicle of my spirit, so I feed it well, keep it clean, and do my best to utilize it only to perform auspicious actions.
Self-love wasn’t getting prettied up and posting photos for the approval of others; it wasn’t drowning my pain in egotism.
Self-love was resolving my internal conditions, cultivating beauty in my inner garden by pulling out the weeds, and planting fruitful seeds.