Before COVID hit, I actually hated social media. I was one of those people who despised Snapchat and Twitter, and I REFUSED to get a TikTok. I promised myself to keep Facebook and Instagram at a 10 minute or less per day – max – via my screen time app.
Skip ahead 2 and a half years later and here we are with about 42,000 followers on Instagram, 2,000 on TikTok, and about 8+ hours of screen time daily. HA. Joke’s on me.
Pressure for perfectionism on social media
To be completely real with you all, social media is a zoo. It started out all fun and games, and I really tried to make sure that the pressure of perfectionism didn’t get to me. I promised myself to measure my success not by my follower count or any other metric other than, “Am I having fun?” But, as are most things that I talk about, this is easier said than done.
Enter social media guru, Sarah Gavilla
The other day, I recorded a podcast with one of my all time favorite social media marketers and teachers, Sarah Gavilla (aka @sarahgav_ on Instagram). She’s taught me so much about social media, and we had the best conversation about mental health for content creators. We talked about perfectionism, comparisons, and all of the ways in which our mental health can be affected by our use of social media. And take it from us – considering we spend 8-10 hours A DAY on our phones – we really needed to talk about some of this stuff.
Comparison is exhausting and impossible
When you have 42K people following your every move, and so many other people who are doing it differently or “BETTER” (whatever that means), it can be really difficult to not let the perfectionism get in the way. I compare myself to others a lot, even though I try not to. It actually reminded Sarah and me of how we compared ourselves to others in other aspects of our lives, too – for Sarah, it was ballet, and for me, it was in the gym.
Comparisons are tricky because it can feel like they’re so automatic. They take us away from our present focus and can make us resentful and avoidant. They steal our joy, truly.
The risks of being publicly vulnerable
In addition to the comparison trap, so much of social media requires going outside of your comfort zone and being vulnerable. We’re posting content, performing videos, filming stories, and sharing insights into our daily life so we connect with our audience. Trends, dances, stories – it’s all a performance and we are doing it in front of a TON of other people who have the opportunity to scrutinize our every move.
Every time we post a piece of content, we open ourselves up to the opinions of others who are anonymous, and that can be freaking daunting. And trust me, people aren’t always so nice.
The relationship between anxiety and perfectionism
But Sarah and I also talked about how a little bit of anxiety over these things isn’t.. all terrible. We talked about the Yerkes-Dodson Curve and the relationship between stress/anxiety and performance. The Yerkes-Dodson Curve states that at low levels of anxiety, we have low performance. At high levels of anxiety, we *also* have low performance because of tendency to panic and get burnt out.
This means that, at moderate levels of anxiety, we actually have the best performance.
In other words, without a certain level of anxiety or stress, we wouldn’t care enough to put ourselves into action. This means, without some fire under our booties, we wouldn’t care to research social media trends, we wouldn’t care enough to show up on a consistent basis. But, at a certain point, it does become dysfunctional. Said another way, we also can’t get so hung up on our performance that we start to procrastinate. We can’t get so avoidant of the work or feel so pressured into it that we no longer have fun or find joy in it.
Perfectionism on social media, meet OCD and anxiety
It’s hard to strike that balance, not just in social media but in other aspects of life. Especially if you’re like most people with OCD, anxiety, or perfectionistic traits, you may experience high anxiety about something or cannot possibly care less.
Make space for fun
We have to remember to make space for fun. We can’t be so overly perfectionistic about these things, otherwise we end up becoming so overwhelmed and anxious that we won’t do them at all. And of course it’s going to feel scary to do things a different way. But taking that pressure off of these highly stressful situations so that you can bring it back to that more moderate level of anxiety is key.
Another thing we took away from this conversation is how perfectionists often want to give 100% to EVERYTHING. We want to give 100% to our family, give 100% to our work, give 100% to our morning meditation practice, give 100% to our dogs – you name it. And, in case it’s not blatantly obvious, that is mathematically a set up for failure.
Ultimately, we need to pick and choose how we exert effort
We aren’t going to be able to give 100% to every single thing. We have to pick and choose, and our best is going to look different on a day to day basis. It’s necessary to let go of some of those things to be picked up the next day, week, or month. Or even pass it off to someone else. Or – even – relinquish it completely if it’s no longer serving us.
The thing with perfectionism, comparisons, and always wanting more is just that – you’ll always want more. You’ll always want to achieve the next best vanity metric or whatever the heck it is. But this is all just a distraction from what it is that you’re doing right here, right now. Try to envision where you’re at on that Yerkes-Dodson Curve. Are you procrastinating, comparing, and setting yourself up for way too much pressure and, more than likely, low or no performance? I don’t know about you, but that’s where I’d like to be. That’s where I feel the most in control and the most balanced.
Don’t forget to be you
If you’re on social media, whether you’re a therapist, a social media manager, an advocate, or just hanging out still struggling with perfectionism and comparisons – I see you, it’s a rough place and it’s not fun. But, please, try to make it fun. Hang onto the fun if it’s the last thing you do. Make sure you’re still finding ways to do the things that make you feel like YOU. Don’t let perfectionism and these comparison traps get in the way of you being able to live out your true values. That’s how anxiety makes your world smaller and smaller and starts to run the show. And you have so, so much more to give than that.
If you want to hear more from my conversation with Sarah, check out our episode. It’ll be a gooood one.
Until next time, I’m rooting for you all – keep on doing all the hard things. <3
This blog post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as mental health or medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended to supplement or replace professional advice of your own professional mental health or medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical or mental health professional before trying or implementing any information read here.