Being vulnerable on social media: There’s a right time for it, but don’t make a habit of it

I’ve written this article a couple of weeks back when I was just coming out of a couple of very long months filled with anxiety, depression and a lot of stress. I haven’t been able to publish it sooner, but I still think it’s relevant and interesting reading.

As I look around myself (especially during these cold and dark months of late autumn and winter), I see a lot of people struggling with depression and burnout. It might be because of challenging times in their business or it might be because of the weather or even personal circumstances. But the reality is that a lot of self-employed people are struggling and suffering!

Why is that? What can we do about it?

I’ve realised that my depression and anxiety was mainly caused by fear of failure and shame. I was feeling ‘not good enough’ and I was constantly worried about what people might think of me if I can’t make my business financially successful.

It’s also interesting to see that talking about money in your business and life is still pretty tabu and people will often look uncomfortable when I open up about the financial reality of my business.

(P.S. My business itself is doing financially pretty well, but in the past couple of years I made a couple of decisions that weren’t financially driven and properly thought through and they’ve led to causing me some challenging times money-wise).

Being open, honest and transparent

A while back I shared a post on some of my social channels about some of my recent struggles and the challenges I’d been facing. If I’m honest, I was feeling pretty down and desperate at that time and it was a big cry for help!

It’s one of the most open and vulnerable posts I’ve ever shared, and for that reason, I wasn’t sure how people would react to it. It could have gone either way, with some people seeing it as proof of my inadequacy, while others would view it as whining and begging for attention – which it definitely wasn’t! But that’s the risk you have to face when you put private and sensitive stuff on social media.

Some might even say that stuff like that doesn’t belong on social media and that we should keep our troubles and challenges to ourselves and try to deal with them in private as much as possible.

But being transparent and honest with my community – be it offline or online – is one of my main values and drivers in life, and I knew that I should come forward – plus I really needed help!

It was the first time I’d been this open regarding the fears, worries and challenges I’d been going through over the past couple of months. And you don’t often see people sharing posts about their failures and fears, right?

Social media shouldn’t be just our highlight reel!

Most of us predominantly use social media just to showcase the highlights of our life and business – a happy customer, a successful training event or when we hit our sales target for the quarter. As creators, brands and businesses, we use social media as our highlight reel, but as consumers and followers, we forget about this and we feel inferior in comparison to other people’s posts and achievements.

That’s why I decided to be more open and transparent about the other side of the coin. To show people what’s going on behind the scenes, the things they’re not aware of because they’re not shiny, fun or aspirational. They might be mundane, stressful or even pretty terrifying – and that’s not something we’re encouraged to share. We’re taught to hide our fears and imperfections, but it only leads to more fear, imposter syndrome and a feeling of not being good enough.

We’re comparing our reality, our ups and downs to someone else’s highlights. We’re comparing ourselves at the beginning of our journey with others who are at a completely different stage of their journey and maybe even on a completely different path!

Does the not so good, the bad and even downright ugly belong on social media?

There are two voices on social media at the moment: one is pro sharing of the dark, scary, imperfect and maybe even terrifying moments in our lives and the other is against. Some people think that social media should stay this pretty, polished and, on the surface, perfect place where reality doesn’t have a space.

As you might have guessed, I’m a member of the first club because, let’s be honest, the reality is rarely perfect and pretending our lives are just our highlights is very dangerous to our mental health.

Indeed, research by disability charity Scope in 2014 found that 62% of Facebook and Twitter felt inadequate about their own achievements when compared to the posts of their peers, while 60% said that the sites had made them jealous of other users.

Being open vs oversharing

Let’s take a quick pit stop at the topic of oversharing…

There is a fine line between sharing openly and honestly AND oversharing. When we get used to being vulnerable and simply being our authentic self on social media, there’s a risk of us taking a step too far and getting into an unhealthy habit of oversharing OR getting addicted to the support and comments from strangers.

For me, oversharing means sharing information that really shouldn’t be made available in a public forum. I’m talking about stuff that only a handful of your closest friends and family should know, and which should only be communicated through private DMs. 

Sometimes, oversharing can be innocent. Remember, for example, the times when social media was filled with photos of people’s breakfast, lunch and dinner every day? When we used our Facebook wall as a narration of our daily lives and we shared just about every single move and fart we did that day (or at least some of us did)? That’s oversharing too, but it’s less dangerous than sharing private and sensitive information about yourself and the people closest to you and your loved ones.

Wow, what a change one week can make! ? Thank you! ??

I was absolutely blown away by all the support, kind words of encouragement and help I received! ??

It showed me who the people I can truly trust and rely on are. It showed me that I’m not alone and that I don’t need to go it alone. It showed me the power of asking and being open and vulnerable.

Yes, it was a huge risk and I wish I didn’t have to do it, and I really hope that I won’t get myself into such a tricky and dark situation ever again. But it also taught me that it’s okay to ask for help and that there are more people out there willing to give a helping hand and offer support than I could ever imagine and that we are truly stronger together!

Thank you all so much for all your help, encouragement and kind words! You made a huge difference in my life over the past couple of weeks and thanks to your support, I know that everything is going to work out just fine. No, it will be even better than that! Thank you! ??