I Rebuilt My Identity To Create A Healthier Relationship With Social Media

identity and social media

I feel like I am disappearing.

That was the only way I could describe the feelings of anxiety and loss of identity that I felt at times mid-summer.

Last June, I was going through a particularly difficult season of parenting, and was coming out of a very busy time of travelling to conferences coming away with a lot of ideas, examples and calls-to-action to support my online content creation business.

I was so immersed in what I thought I wanted and what I felt I had to do next, which included build and build, and more and more that I began to feel lost and fall out of love with creating and storytelling, something that had once brought me endless joy.

I felt out of touch with my family, my husband and myself.

I’m not sure where this pressure was coming from, I could possibly call it the Rachel Hollis effect, which had acted as a much needed fire under my ass, but somewhere along the way had morphed into this cloudy, anxious, unsatisfied monster in my mind.

As the summer began I made the decision to create more balance in my life that needed to happen in order to protect my mental health and stay in the world of social media, which is a vital part of the business I have built from the ground up.

I wanted to give more of myself to my kids, change the way I was sharing my life and use social media in a different way to protect my mind and my relationships.

It had all just become too invasive.

So, my goal was to continue to breathe life into everything I had created and then just live life.

But something happened… When I stepped away from the screens and the apps I had no idea who I was.

It scared me to the point where at times I felt like I was floating and had no sense of what to do with myself. I realized that this unhealthy relationship I had built with social media, (especially Instagram), and this constant pressure to grow, grow, grow, would take time to stop and rewire my brain.

It would be a process.

I began stepping back and looking at what I had created. I took baby steps to heal my mind and my soul.

So I began by just sitting and reading outside. In fact much of July was spent training myself to leave my phone inside my house, while I read a book in my backyard on my deck, often looking up as I watched my kids play.


This stillness began to tell my brain that it was okay so have some separation from the machine of constantly sharing and seeing what everyone else was doing.

As the weeks went on, and as I mastered stillness, I started to feel like I was disappearing and fading away. I was realizing that a strong feel of loss of identity was coming to the surface as I reprioritized how I was spending my time.

If I wasn’t as present online, then who was I?

At one point mid-summer as I floated around feeling like a delicate spec on the planet, I unexpectedly opened up to my mom and my sister-in-law about my identity crisis. I shared how I was intentionally creating more boundaries with social media and work.

Through this raw and honest conversation I was able to better see what I had created, to find joy and self-worth in parenting, and gain perspective on life outside of social media.

As the summer sank deep into August I was starting to get better at being present and calm in parenting and in running my business, while feeling more certain about who I was and that I still mattered.

Now that I had created this boundary and distinction between myself and interacting within real life vs myself in the virtual online world, it was time to begin to reengage in a different way.

I have learned to be patient, appreciate what I have grown and dive deeply into what feeds my soul.

If I don’t feel like posting, I don’t, even if days go by.

I have been taking more time to truly engage, instead of being a collector of likes.

I have been creating content that is simple, but creative and relatable.

I have been keeping more of my own and my family’s experiences to myself, occasionally carefully choosing teachable stories to open up about.

I’ve stood with other parents after school allowing myself to fall deep into conversation, despite it eating into my “work day.”

I’ve prioritized soul-strengthening exercises like walking my dog and taking yoga classes.

I’ve given my kids and my husband more of me.

This journey in redefining my identity, participating fully in in-person experiences and creating healthy boundaries with social media that support my mental health will probably be a constant lesson, and often require some course correction.

I now feel like I am on a path of intentional living, intentional and creative content creation, and being intentional within each relationship.

Now four months out from the beginning of this journey, I’ve observed something interesting and hopeful. It makes sense really, but when you are so deep in the world of entrepreneurship and online social media it can be really hard to see…

I had been stuck.

But ever since I slowed down in what I was creating to share online, I’ve watched the needle move. My online growth across multiple platforms had been stagnant for a while. But switching from working around the clock and embracing the “more is more” concept to stepping away, living life, breathing, slowing down and allowing myself to be inspired gave air to the the flame that it had needed for so long.

How Being Cyber Bullied After Going Viral Will Make Me A Better Parent

Sarah Martin Photography018What a week it has been!  I am beyond blessed and humbled after my What Having Four Kids (Including Twins) Has Done To My Body And My Confidence post has gone viral.  I have enjoyed every comment, email and message from mothers telling me they have “parallel stories”, “been inspired by my story” and “needed that honesty”.  I truly feel a bond to mothers across the world and know that me sharing my story is helping others who have been struggling with body image.  I partially wrote this piece for my three daughters.  I hope that one day they can read this and be inspired as well.

When I sat down one evening to write this piece it just flowed out of me within an hour.  I had been thinking about my own body image quite a bit throughout the previous week and decided last minute while going through my photos for another post to put it out there.  I never in a million years thought it would be shared thousands of times, read millions of times and be interpreted in countless articles across the world.  I thought I was writing an honest, from the heart piece that would be read by my few hundred wonderful followers.  I sat down at my desk after my kids were in bed while enjoying a glass of wine, chomping on Mentos and listening to Yo-yo Ma thinking “wow, I haven’t enjoyed writing a piece like this for a while, I must do this type of personal piece more often”.

Along with the incredible stories and thank-yous has come criticism and some pretty hateful words.  I learned quickly to stop reading comments on other sites when the bullies felt the most anonymous and address one that got to me a bit.Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1Of course there will be people who disagree and want to challenge what I have to say.  That is not only expected but is good to create conversation.  But, I have learned that there are adult bullies out there and am learning how to take a breath, let it go and move on.

I grew up without social media.  Being born in 1983 I had a Walkman and then a Discman and finally at the end of high school ICQ became popular.  Remember the exciting “uh oh” noise alerting you to a message?  I can even credit ICQ for solidifying Mike and my relationship as official boyfriend and girlfriend.  But I never experienced cyber bullying.

We have a strict zero bullying tolerance in our home.  Our son Holden has been praised by many teachers as a sweet soul who has been known on more than one occasion to make deals to get a toy to another child who wanted to play with it.  He has also been the victim of bullying. I was able to help him in that situation by giving advice and relating as I too experienced bullying as a child and as much as it pains me to say so, was the bully from time to time.

In today’s society, so much, if not most of our social life takes place on social media and that has scared me for when my children reach the age where they use social media.  I had never experienced what going to school with social media being available was like.  The anonymity.  The cliques.  The judgement.Sarah Martin Photography025

Although I don’t have any pearls of wisdom or tricks on how to deal with cyber bullying, I can honestly look at my children and tell them that I have experienced it.  I have had to process hateful anonymous words and be able to let them go.  It’s okay to feel it, address it and defend yourself when necessary and find a way to move on.

I will continue to pour my heart out on my blog and from time to time (like now) use it as therapy or my own personal diary.  Even to just help sort out the thoughts and feelings in my head, get them out of me and move on.  It is so worth it when I stay up (too late lately) at night reading all of your amazing stories and comments and feeling such a connection with all of you!

Photography by Sarah Martin Photography