There are plenty of reasons that social media makes us more confident. We bring together so many aspects of our lives to create our digital-selves, how can we not attach ourselves to that person? It’s putting your best foot forward. For many though, it’s more like the hokey-pokey. Stay with me on this one.
You put yourself out there, you know, in the middle of the circle where everyone can see (“you put your right foot in”). That can be scary. But then you also take yourself back out (“you take your right foot out”). Other times you get an inane motivation to put yourself in the digital space with fervor, showcasing some accomplishment or tribulation wildly (“you put your right foot in, and you shake it all about”).
So, I ask you: is that what it’s all about?
To quote an insightful person I know: “We’ve created a world of distractions because we’re unwilling to acknowledge our imperfections and work towards improving them.” Take a moment to read that again more slowly before we unpack it. There are more than a dozen social media platforms to express yourself on, so this idea surfaces where we recognize what parts of ourselves we are measuring, and with what unit of measure. I propose the parts of ourselves we are measuring can be summed up in the idea of brand equity. It’s our personal and professional presence in the world wrapped up in a gift bag with a sticker of our face on the side. As for the unit of measure, it differs depending on the person. Some people measure themselves with matchsticks, some with football fields, some with self-worth. That begs the question of whether we are using the right unit of measure, and further, what if we are using (gasp!) the wrong unit of measure?? That brings us to self-confidence insurance.
Let’s start with an example: Snapchat. Why did Snapchat become so popular so quickly? My theory is that we subconsciously wanted a way to showcase ourselves, but each of those spotlights should expire so we feel better about putting ourselves out there. Previous platforms allowed us the “delete” feature to literally delete what we wrote down. It took a more proactive approach to erasing the past. Snapchat did it for us. For those of us not popular enough to have our digital posts saved and listed in a news article to be immortalized forever, most of what we delete is truly deleted. By deleting or blocking a person on social media, you can purge them theoretically from your entire life. What would it take to achieve that level of avoidance success in real life? Move to another city, change your phone number, and dye your hair?
Quick acknowledgement: I say “we” and realize the demographic of the reader may very well not be on Snapchat. But I’m willing to bet you’re on some form of social media and have at least contemplated deleting a post or two, if you haven’t actually done so.
Self-confidence insurance comes in the form of the “Delete Tweet” or “Delete post” button, or any purging method by which you are trying to protect your self-confidence. I agree there are times when you put something out there that is perhaps more pernicious than you would like. Our digital life, after all, is a place we can express ourselves and receive feedback (nearly instantaneously). Feedback on what specifically is the key question; the answer resides in your unit of measure.
In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck detailed fixed and growth mindsets, wherein effort, not ability, is what matters. If you get no interactions or receive negative feedback, a fixed mindset can leave you devastated with shattered self-worth. Adopting a growth mindset facilitates finding value in the learning process, regardless of outcome. You put yourself out there and got 20 likes? Good. Ask yourself why and learn. You put yourself out there again and got 0 likes? Even better. Ask yourself why and learn. No one is handed a basketball for the first time in their life and starts shooting 3-pointers. And at the other end of the spectrum, LeBron James still misses shots (And need I bring up the oft-quoted Wayne Gretzky quotation?).
Where is the balance between putting yourself out there in a healthy way but not such that you tie self-worth entirely into its success or failure?
Your self-confidence is determined by you and only you. If you tie it to likes, retweets, shares, comments and impressions, you might be successful and that confidence may grow. But then, who are you when you’re unsuccessful?
I turn to Angela Duckworth for that answer. In her book Grit, she outlines the path to being a grittier person. Grit is perseverance through adversity; a gritty person achieves skill by multiplying their talent by their effort; then by multiplying their skill by their effort again, they reach achievement. See what just happened? You need effort twice as much as talent or skill.
So next time you go to cash in on your self-confidence insurance, think about the effort you put into that post, tweet, or photo. Why did you put that much/little effort into it? What if you put more? How might you express yourself differently? How might you connect differently with your audience?
I can’t control whether you like this article or hate it, but I don’t carry self-confidence insurance. My suggestion for you: stop doing the hokey-pokey with your digital identity, cancel your self-confidence insurance, and buy grit insurance.