It was the year 2007. June 24th, to be precise. That was the day I idly scrolled to a browser, clicked on a social network (Facebook) opened it up and created an account. That was the beginning of my journey on social media. Today, 14 years later, I have deleted my Facebook account for good.
It’s already been a year since I deleted my Twitter account. That was after 10 years of being active on the platform. And as of March, 2022, I’ve also stopped using my Instagram account. Currently, I have an active account only on LinkedIn. But my 60-day social media sabbatical has me wondering if I need social media at all in the long run.
As a content creator, writer, long-time blogger (15 years this August) and 4-year-old business owner, I’ve gone through the gamut of validation in every shape and form possible. At first, as a blogger, the validation came in the shape of comments on my website. This was on Google’s Blogspot platform and back then, when I started receiving comments on my blog — 2013 — I recall how exciting it was to know that someone, anyone was actually reading my content.
Later, the validation came in the form of likes and shares on Facebook which then evolved into retweets on Twitter, morphing into hearts on Instagram and reactions on LinkedIn. In fact, if I could go one step further, I’d say the claps/comments on Medium add up to validation too.
At every stage of my validation journey, there’s been a learning opportunity. Every single time, it was the same question that presented itself to me and that was: Why are you actually creating this content?
Because here’s the truth about external validation, which is almost always in the form of praise for the work that you do. Validation can very easily become the thing that you rely upon to gauge your value as a creator. And that’s the problem.
We’ve all been conditioned to believe that the more we receive in the shape of validation or followers or subscribers, the more valuable we are. This is an unfortunate correlation because the truth is very far from it.
The other mishap that emerges as a result of this habit is that we can very easily fall into the comparison trap. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar.
“Wait! I posted the exact same topic that she wrote about. How come she has more likes than I do?”
“I have just 100 email subscribers. It’s obvious that nobody really cares about the work that I do.”
“All of that effort in writing a 1200-word post on this platform and I got just 3 claps? This isn’t even worth it!”
See what I mean? When you put things in perspective, everything takes on a different hue, shape and colour. So how can you stop relying on external validation?
Embrace Time Affluence
As creators, we all have a gift and the best thing we can do with that gift is to nurture it, water it and help it thrive. But in an age of distraction, this feels fairly impossible.
Even for those of us who remember a time before the internet and smartphones, why is it such a struggle to make time to do deep, incisive, creative work? When you embrace the idea of time affluence, incredible things happen.
It is the idea that you have enough time to create, enough time to be with yourself and enough time to do deep work that is both meaningful and abundant. Let’s explore how we can do this.
- Start with something very very easy. That’s the first step. For example, a mindfulness meditation practice. I started meditating for just 1 minute a day every day back in April 2021. It’s how I start my day. And now, I incorporate multiple 1-minute sessions throughout my day. On June 18th, I officially completed 60 days of daily meditation using the app, Insight Timer.
- Limit the stream of interruptions: In his book ‘Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto,’ Leo Babauta gently reminds us of this idea. Your e-mail, social media, blog reading list, the news, Whatsapp messages, podcasts, mobile notifications, bookmarked articles can all wait. Create first; consume later.
- Pick just one creative pursuit for your day and remind yourself how you feel when you lose yourself in the task. In other words, find joy in the work itself. I love to write. I love it when the words appear on the page, as if out of thin air.
- Do not fill your day with too many tasks. When you do this, you are always in responsive mode instead of creative mode. Any wonder that you are unable to focus?
As you move deeper and deeper into this act of creating, you will learn to gently let go of external validation and focus on the abundant joy that comes from creative and intentional affluence.
Create with the Intent to Serve
Over the last two months, I have been gently thinking about moving away from appearing on video, unless absolutely necessary. In my personal opinion (and especially for women), video tends to distract from the message that we need to convey. That’s the other reason I could never get comfortable with doing Instagram Reels, even though every Instagram marketing coach will recommend it as a way to get more visibility and reach.
But- and here’s the real question- what if I am happy with the reach I am getting right now? What if I don’t want more accolades, more visibility, more followers? Instead, what if we consciously focus on serving our community, our readers, our subscribers, and our audience- wherever they find/follow us- with the highest form of gratitude? Think about it.
You’d never have to worry about the algorithm, the concept of follower growth, or the idea of tricks and ways to ‘get seen’. Because when your work serves its audience, they will find it. When we live our life following our core purpose and explore it to its highest potential, no matter what, we never feel scarcity or lack in the way we do business
Focus on the Right Things
A question I am asked often by bloggers, writers and content creators and one that I have answered many times is:⠀ ⠀
How can I keep writing when nobody reads what I do? It’s easy for you because you have an audience already. ⠀
I remind them, every time, that my audience didn’t emerge overnight. If I have an audience today, it’s after 10 to 13 years of writing consistently. Yes, 10 years. Of that, for the first 6 years, I didn’t have anyone reading my work. But more than any of that, the number one thing to remember is this, Your value does not diminish if nobody reads what you write. You do not stop being important if you have 45 followers on Instagram instead of 4500 or 45,000? Your worth and your beauty as a creator are not dependent on how much you do, how much you write, or how many readers you have.
Your worth is dependent on you, the person.⠀ ⠀
Validation doesn’t matter, as far as I am concerned. The only thing that matters is transformation. If, after 3 months of writing daily, you can say, “I am a writer, because I write”, that is far better than saying, “I am a writer because I have 10,000 email subscribers.”
See the difference? Don’t tie your self-worth to meaningless metrics. Your true worth is immeasurable and abundant.
“Let your work speak for itself:
If poor, it will remain silent.
If average, it will whisper.
If good, it will talk.
If great, it will shout.
If genius, it will sing.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo