I Tied My Worth To The Number Of Likes I Get

A couple of days ago I reached my limit and decided to take a week-long fast from Instagram.

It wasn’t a social media fast, because I don’t use any other platform in the same way I use Instagram. 

Somehow, the rest of them have a very specific purpose to which I stick to – Youtube for music and audiobooks, Pinterest for inspiration – but when it comes to Instagram, it’s a whole other story. I use it for business, creative expression, inspiration, and connecting with other creatives.

What I don’t like to admit is that I use it to compare my work with other photographers, and to compare my life with other people. 

What I hate to admit is that I use it to seek approval from people I never met, and most likely never will. People who I might not even like if I were to meet them in person.

I haven’t been planning to take a break from Instagram, but when the idea entered my head, and the moment I told myself that’s what I’ll do, I felt an incredible amount of lightness in my body. I felt at ease. 

If my body reacted that way, just how much pressure have I put on myself and made it my normal?

Pressure to perform well. 

Pressure to maintain this virtual image of myself, that I never really consciously chose. 

Pressure to keep up with the algorithm and the ‘rules’ of content creation. 

Pressure to satisfy somebody else’s standards of what’s wanted and liked, and what’s not. 

Maybe that’s what all these platforms were created for – to feed the insecurity and the need for external validation that the majority of us bought into as children. To give us something to keep our minds occupied with, so that we don’t see what’s actually going on in front of us. To be so entangled in that loop of approval-seeking that we can never actually make any real progress. To stay blind to what our real lives are made of. 

After the decision to pause my Instagram consumption, I went out for a walk and felt how after such a long time I finally had clarity. As if I finally took VR from my eyes. 

I wonder, when I allow the world to create my standards based on what people present themselves to be on Instagram, based on the image they serve to us, what am I actually trying to match? 

Their authentic selves who have this amazing purpose-led life full of excitement, fancy clothes and gadgets, and are so happy it’s out of this world? 

Or rather the mask they put on, the unfulfilled dreams and self-betrayal they inflict on themselves every day, and then stuff those emotions down by overworking themselves and consuming the things that give them a dopamine rush, so they don’t have to face their true feelings?

We all try to maintain different standards – a standard of living, dressing, creating, eating, exercising, thinking, working, and all the rest. 

But on what principles are those standards based on? Authenticity, self-love, truth-seeking?

Or inauthenticity, lack of self-love, complacency? 

And just whose approval are we actually trying to get? 

Approval from parents who never heard or acknowledged your needs? 

Or from kids in school who bullied you for being different? 

From the teacher who always kept telling you indirectly that you’ll never be good enough? 

Or are all of the things in our lives trying to get us on the path that would lead us to the only approval we actually need – the one that comes from within?

The approval to listen to our needs, our emotions, and our intuition. 

The approval that we deserve to give ourselves what we need.

The approval that we can create what we like to create, unrelated to standards. 

The approval that we can create a life for ourselves that’s different from how those before us lived. 

The approval that we can let go of anything and anyone who doesn’t allow us to live in alignment with our truth.

We don’t need more exposure, likes, and approval. 

We need more self-acceptance.  

We need more clarity on what kind of life we truly want to live.

We need stronger boundaries with the world outside of us. 

But also to break the barriers that prevent us from truly connecting with each other.

Mostly, we need to give love to ourselves. 

And sometimes loving ourselves means taking a break from Instagram. Or quitting it for good. Taking a different direction in what you create. Dropping out of college. Resigning your job. Ending relationships. Breaking up family traditions.

The highest price we can ever pay is the one that comes from loosing ourselves in the noise this world creates.

And the highest reward we can ever get in this life is to choose to finally accept ourselves.

No matter what they wish for, no matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves.

Haruki Murakami

P.s. Right after I decided to quiet the noise from society, I took a walk and soon discovered this magical sunset. It was as if the universe blessed me with this magic as a sign that I have chosen well.

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