I have been pondering lately how as a therapist I walk a line of self-disclosure with clients. Bringing my own experience into a therapy session has to be judged carefully. After all, the client is there to find out about themselves, and my role is to work with them to do that. Too much of ‘me’ in the room could prevent a client from making their own self-discoveries.
I have also been thinking about how I utilise my blogging. My aim behind doing it has always been to start conversations around topics that interest me, so there will necessarily be more of ‘me’ here than there would be in a therapeutic encounter. However, I am writing here as a therapist, for an audience of people interested in therapy, so the context remains important; after all, this isn’t my private diary laid bare for all to see.
The progression of this thought process became focussed on the way in which we disclose information about ourselves in the digital age. The ‘persona’ that we present through social media – how close is it to who we really are? How do we make those decisions about what we share, and what we keep to ourselves?
The use of social media has massively changed in the 15-ish years since I first heard of and joined Facebook. For me, it started out as a way to keep in touch with far-flung friends, having not long since left university. It has become such an integral part of daily life, particularly if, like me, you have a business to promote.
My relationship with social media has been love/hate over the years. It has been both a lifeline (as a new mum with a tiny baby at home alone all day), and a distraction of epic proportions. I have left and re-joined Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram many times. However, more recently I have found peace with the role it plays in my life. It is both a tool and entertainment, and as long as I am mindful of my use of it, it fits quite nicely into the way my life is.
As a professional person using social media, I have become more conscious of the parts of me that I put out there. I enjoy seeing what friends and acquaintances are up to, finding out about local businesses, and even connecting with other therapists in the UK and worldwide. I’m in a good place with it. I feel like I am managing it OK.
But what happens when the persona we present on social media (or in life in general) doesn’t match with our true internal knowledge of ourselves? How do we navigate the dissonance this can create in our self-view?
If we curate our lives to show only the very best of everything, whether that be our appearance, our food, or the activities we take part in, how do we then come to reconcile that with what we see when we look in the mirror, or the beans on toast we eat when our money has run out, or even the messy house we can’t be bothered to tidy because we were up 3 times in the night?
If our reality does not match with the image we project, is it any wonder we begin to suffer with dissatisfaction in our everyday lives?
The projection of a best self doesn’t only happen on social media either. Sharing the darker parts of our lives can be terrifying, even with those closest to us.
For me, the long-term solution is developing self-acceptance. If only it were that simple, I hear you cry! Self-acceptance happens when we open ourselves up to seeing the reality of our situation and who we are. Working on our self-knowledge, no longer hiding from ourselves, is the first step towards this.
Have a go at this – if you’ve spent time on social media today, how did it make you feel? Did you come away from it feeling better, or worse? If you felt worse, why? Start that internal conversation, practice hearing your inner voice, until it becomes familiar, and recognisable as ‘you’.
If there is anything in this week’s post that has stayed with you, please feel free to leave a comment below or to get in touch.
There won’t be a blog post next week, as it is half-term here in the UK and I have two small humans to entertain. Have a lovely couple of weeks.