Transform Your Social Media Triggers Into Personal Growth Gold in 4 Steps
Social media can be a joyful and wonderful place to share connections. But, if you’ve still got a pulse, there are days when it’s a smorgasbord of posts ready to ambush your ego. Encountering these triggering images and words can cause us to experience moments of “compare and despair”, jealousy, hurt or even outrage!
On any given challenging day, I might be triggered by:
Post: A fellow author celebrating the New York Times Bestseller status of her new book.
Concern: Gahhhh- does my lack of NYT bestseling status mean I’m doing something wrong as an author??
What my mind makes it mean: I’m a failure.
Post: A friend doing meaningful animal rights work for elephants
Concern: Am I doing ENOUGH to really help the vulnerable ones?
What my mind makes it mean: I lack sufficient moral purpose.
Post: A wonderful young mom posting photos of her homeschooling her kids in the woods
Concern: Why didn’t I just quit my job and do that for MY Kids???
What my mind makes it mean: I wasn’t a good mother.
No wonder social media can bring out the worst in us.
But, what if, like the famous Sufi poet Rumi says, each emotional disturbance is a gift or a guide, here to teach us?
Here’s my invitation: Instead of worrying that social media is a waste of time, mine it for PERSONAL GROWTH GOLD. You’re there already anyway.
Allow me to illustrate:
I was invited into a private group of women posting their personal boudoir photography images. Each time somebody posted a new photo, I became wildly curious. The images were mostly shot in what looked like an anonymous hotel rooms. The women all wore beautiful lingerie and many posed in “come hither” sort of poses….similar to what you might see in a Victoria Secret catalog: definitely sexual and erotic. The photos were drop dead gorgeous…each woman (ages 30 to 50, I’d estimate) had fully done hair and makeup. And I gathered, from the comments, that the process was extremely empowering for these women.
Boudoir photography is defined as “a photographic style featuring intimate, sensual, romantic, and sometimes erotic images of its subjects in a photographic studio, bedroom or private dressing room environment primarily intended for the private enjoyment of the subjects and their romantic partners” (Wikipedia).
The problem, for me, was that the images felt like the opposite of empowerment and liberation. Dressing in a thong, or crawling on the floor in a feather trimmed corset didn’t sound freeing at all. It felt like more pandering to the male gaze and commercialism.
I was utterly confused. My unevolved self wanted to shout, “Ladies, THIS ISN’T WHAT EMPOWERMENT IS!” But, the funny thing was: it was clear that this process WAS empowering these women. Dozens of them! They were loving it. It was me who had the problem.
As I struggled to face these uber “sexy” black-lace bedazzled bums straddling rhinestone studded thongs and smoldering stares week after week, I ended up reaching out to several different women. I thought they, being more enlightened, might be able to help me understand. Unfortunately, nobody had experienced a boudoir session before. Somebody suggested I go do the research, to find out what it was like.
I tried to imagine myself in such a photo shoot: Me, writhing facedown on a bed in a tasteful leather teddy. All I could imagine was sustained laughter. It just didn’t feel like me. There were mentions in the group, too, that champagne was free flowing in the sessions which reminded me that, in my empowerment fantasy, nobody is buzzed.
I did love the idea of semi-nude or nude photography as a self-empowerment tool. Sexy, to me, is old growth forests though. I wasn’t sure how that would translate in a photo? What was “my power” or my “sexy” if it was represented in a semi-nude or nude photo, specifically, I wondered? Hmmmm.
I could see that being vulnerable (in the photo sessions) resulted in a new sort of agency for them. At one point, a friend egged me on, “You should find a way to do it your way!”. That felt right! I replied, “It would have to be in nature somewhere, down at the creek or something!” She joked, “Why don’t we just go take naked pictures of each other next week?” We laughed. Inside, I knew I had to find a way.
Well, it wasn’t even a week later and the same friend posted stunning, topless images of herself, shooting a bow and arrow in a dramatic creek canyon. Talk about POWER! So, one foggy late summer morning, before the sun rose, I headed to the beach with a local photographer whose work I loved, and two friends. There was a sense of sacredness and ceremony to the whole experience. The morning was incredible and though it felt vulnerable it was empowering as hell. Just like the boudoir ladies said it was.
When I saw the photos I was deeply happy and surprised at their power. For me, they represented my connection to myself and my sacred belonging to the earth. When I think of true power I think of Lake Superior, I think of God/spirit, and I think of my own infinite and authentic soul. The photos radiate my me-ness: At home with myself on this earth. That, it turns out, is my “sexy”. My friend had a powerful experience too. She said her photos helped her to come home to herself.
A year later, with my permission, the photographer shared one of the beautiful photos she took of me on her feed. I like to think that maybe that photo triggered a whole mess of new women to think “What the hell is Sarah DOING???? Exposing herself like that? That’s not how it should be done!!!”….because it could only lead to more positive personal growth.
Today, I looked back at some of those photos in that original boudoir group and all I saw was this: beautiful humans searching for and discovering their true power.
I’m so grateful for each trigger. Each one brings me an opportunity, a place to dig a little deeper and find out what it is I’m needing to learn.
Ready to mine for gold? Grab a hunk of paper or simply sit quietly with yourself and think about a post that has triggered you lately on social media.
Questions to ask yourself about the post or posts: (hint: be unenlightened and unevolved as you answer…)
1. What’s the emotion that this is dredging up for me? If you are feeling jealous, what is it precisely that you’re jealous of? If it’s fear..what are you afraid of? Or, are you feeling superior to them? Let yourself judge for a moment: What are they doing that they shouldn’t be doing? Why shouldn’t they? What should they be doing instead? Or how should they be doing it? (be curious!)
2. Who could I have a conversation about this trigger with? Who might help you explore it safely (a coach, a BFF or a therapist?)
3. What am I making this post mean? ( see my examples in the first paragraph above ) Asking this will help you unearth a painful belief (or two) you have.
(For example: I think I made the boudoir photos of other women mean: I wasn’t sexy/powerful. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it their way. I had to find my own way to claim my power/my “sexy”.)
4. What might the post be helping me to realize that I need? And then, be curious about how you could take one tiny step towards that ting?
(For example: the boudoir photos made me realize that I wanted to explore my own power/ “sexy” through semi-nude photography. )
Tip: Be more concerned with growing and learning than having all the answers or being “right”. If you aren’t sure what it all means just stay open and curious, “Why might the Universe have put THIS right in my face? What is it trying to teach me?”
I wish you all freedom and joy in the journey of discovering all that you are! I’m here to walk with you on your journey too if you could use a guide.
With love and elephants,