I’m not a shrinking violet, but I definitely, definitely self-edit and censor myself far more than I’m starting to think I should.
Why is that?
I’ve noticed it more lately as I’ve started trying to use social media a bit more…..productively. Or at least, authentically. Initially I got all fired up about the thought of writing this blog and finding a freelance career for myself and promoting it via Twitter and Instagram and….whatever. (I never use Facebook so if/when I end up jumping back on that wagon it will be with reluctance.) I quickly realised that whilst motivation is excellent, it might also be useful to have an idea of what I am trying to achieve if I’m to do any kind of self-promotion.
Ah. No, yeah, I don’t have that yet. I just have a desire to be doing something.
And hot on the heels of that realisation came the awareness that I am really, really wary of social media. And any kind of platform for self-promotion. It’s not that I don’t understand it – it’s my paid job, for crying out loud. And as long as I’m doing it for a cause that is not me, I love it! I’ll shamelessly promote student events and workshops and careers information until the cow GIFS come mooing home.
But just talking about myself online? Weird. I do it in person ALL THE TIME. And on my blogs. Favourite subject, hands down. Unashamedly self-absorbed lady, at your service. But after setting up a new Twitter account, the fear of being watched by a (completely non-existent) audience of potentially millions of online strangers gripped me and I convinced myself I had nothing of value, interest or worth to say.
Which, quite frankly, hasn’t stopped ANYONE ELSE.
In real life, I’m a very honest person. I thrive on empathy. I took this too far once when (reluctantly) talking to an old dude in an Edinburgh Wetherspoons who was talking about his regrettable spell in prison; I nodded sagely and said “Ahh, we’ve all been there,” which led my friend Amy to remove me from the premises.
But the point is, I’m honest in real life and a little shadow of myself on social media. I consider posting multiple times a day – snapshots with my pixie child, or Tweets about pregnancy, or Bake Off, or whatever, but I always censor myself. And then end up posting an anodyne version of whatever I really intended and wondering why I find it all so unrewarding.
I love seeing other people’s really honest posts. I accept that most social media is a curated version of who we are, and that’s totally fine (as long as people are aware of that….my worry is when people start to feel inadequate because their home isn’t entirely composed of marble-surfaced flat-lays, or their cheekbones aren’t really those of an anime fawn) but damn it, I love seeing a bit of personality! Even if it’s really cringey, or sweary, or controversial. I’d rather see real people out there than just curated loveliness.
It’s not just on social media that I have this strange fear of being seen for being me, either. I censor or delete e-mails and messages all the time. I chicken out of wearing certain outfits that I’d LOVE to wear. I’ve de-Catherine-ified applications and submission letters more times than I’d care to admit, for fear that I’m giving away too much of myself.
What would that even look like?
I’m changing, as of now. I don’t know where I’ve managed to get a strange notion that I have to in some way apologise for being myself. It’s not a conscious thing, most of the time. It’s just under the surface, but God knows what it’s stopping me from doing. Trying to work on my writing and tackling the self-publishing and self-promotion route is going to blow all of it wide open anyway (ohhhh so many demons I sense need to be exorcised), so I may as well start trying to get over myself now and just carve out my own – authentic and unapologetic – little corner of the universe. If I ever do work out what it is I want to do for a freelance career then I’m not going to make a success of it by hiding under a table and posting inoffensive photos of my shoes and a cup of coffee on Instagram, am I?
I don’t think it’s just me who feels like this. I think a fear of standing out or being exposed as different in some way is programmed deep in us all. A primal, don’t-get-kicked-out-of-the-pack-or-you’re-screwed-mate sort of thing. So.
But one step at a time, for me. Blog and Instagram honest-face first. Then maybe Twitter. Then perhaps, I’ll finally pluck up the courage to purchase the orange fake-fur jacket…