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I Found My Self-Worth After Detoxing from Social Media

A journey of one's social media detox that started as a two-week trial turned into a multi-month experience of rediscovering her self-worth and value.

Looking back to when I suffered from imposter syndrome while side hustling, I was so shocked to realize that I was bullying myself through my thoughts. I didn’t have a boss screaming at me or making me feel guilty, nor did I have someone limiting me by telling me what s/he thinks I should do. I had complete freedom, yet I was the one telling myself that I wasn’t good, smart, or deserving enough to be successful in consulting. This was the experience that profoundly awakened me and opened my ears to hear the (negative) thoughts of my own mind. It finally clicked. Being present wasn’t just about what’s happening now in my surroundings, being attentive to the people in front of me when they’re speaking, or staying away from my phone. It was also about observing the thoughts that were running through my head.

When I was my own boss and had no one to deal with except myself, it was just me and those thoughts. I didn’t have anyone to “bounce” ideas off of or a way of seeking validation that my ideas were any good. I was my only checkpoint. And that checkpoint was mad broken and needed a lot of repairs. Everything that I ran through it made a loud, obnoxious beeping noise like what you would hear from airport metal detectors. It went off screaming, “Seriously? That’s all you got, Sorah?” and “What you’re bringing to the table is not enough. I don’t think you’re cut out for this.” All of those negative thoughts were things I would never say to even a stranger, and yet there I was, speaking through my mind like I was worthless.

February, which was one month into starting my side hustle, was when the voice of negative thoughts in my head became unbearable. Tapping definitely helped to release my anxiety, but the “repairs” of my checkpoint needed more. I still had another 2 months-worth of work to get through with the startup. Quitting wasn’t an option, so I pondered on what else I needed to do to “cut the fat,” so to speak. I wanted to remove anything and everything that was insulating me from deeply feeling the emotions I had. I knew at some point the pain would break me. I didn’t want to have this voice limiting me from reaching my potential because hello, I’m not even thirty yet and have a whole lotta life to live! I had already taken the step of committing to no-shopping for the New Year to refrain from covering up or numbing any vulnerabilities and feelings that I hid through “retail therapy.”

I upped the ante on “cutting the fat” by committing to a social media detox on the evening of Tuesday, February 6th, at my bi-monthly mastermind group. I knew that I had an addiction to social media and used it as a way to feel good about myself. It was easy to get validation by way of likes, comments, and DMs. Apparently, I must have also had an addiction to just feeling bad about myself because I would still spend time consuming the feeds and comparing my life to what I saw from other people. I knew that most of what was on social media was likely fake, but I just had this love-hate relationship with it.

Around this time, I was reading a book called Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently. It’s a bit of a nerdy book, a little hard to read because it goes into details about parts of the brain. But, it was totally worth my eyes crossing and my brain frying because I learned this:

“The human brain sees things in ways that are most familiar to it. But epiphanies rarely occur in familiar surroundings. The key to seeing like an iconoclast is to look at things that you have never seen before. It seems almost obvious that breakthroughs in perception do not come from simply staring at an object and thinking harder about it. Breakthroughs come from a perceptual system that is confronted with something that it doesn’t know how to interpret.”

— Gregory Berns, Iconoclast

I had an ah-ha moment once I internalized what I read. Social media feeds serve up content through an algorithm. In fact, most of anything online that we see is tailored to our patterns of activity – posts we like, things we search, things we buy, even the content of our emails. So, theoretically (and probably in reality), what I’ve seen on my feed has been pretty much the same thing over and over again. Upon this realization, I started to notice that everything in my feed looked very monotonous. I was seeing images that looked very similar to each other and captions that were always about “Self-Care Sundays” (seriously, shouldn’t it be like self-care everyday..?).

On one hand, it has been amazing how technology opened the world to us. On the other, it has also done the opposite by constricting what we see. I asked myself, “How can I think iconoclastically if I’m not surrounding myself with more novelty?” I uncovered meaning to the statement, “Perception is reality,” through a new lens. My perception of how others seemed happier and more successful than me or that I needed to buy into a brand to have value actually became my reality. My thoughts took after this, and in turn led me to flooding my own mind with messages of not being worthy. It was through reading this book and identifying my addiction that I knew it was time for me to silence the noise in my mind even further by ceasing my activity on social media.

When I made my commitment to my detox, I originally planned for it to only last for two weeks. During this time, I focused on my side hustle, getting comfortable with the idea that I’ll be giving my notice in the next two months, meditating, and journaling. There was a shift within me even after just ten days into my detox. I was beginning to listen more closely to the thoughts in my head and investigating where they were coming from. As everyone knows, those negative thoughts always come from our insecurities. But I went in a level deeper and identified what happened in my past that caused me to craft and adopt my self-limiting stories. It was when I discovered the roots of these stories that I was able to start my healing process. I began to understand what true surrender looked like through this part of my journey and allowed all of those ugly, sad, painful emotions I hid for so long to release. With it, I gained clarity and purposefulness of my life, so much so that this is what I wrote in my journal on February 17th:

“What I see in my future is larger than me. It’s still a bit hazy, a bit unclear, almost as if I were to look at a Monet up close, in which I can’t quite make out what the painting is. I must step back, but it will be slow steps. I must remember to seize each step and take in the grandeur of every new detail that comes into my sight with pure joy and delight.”

I wish I included more about what happened on that day that led me to write this. But I am so grateful to have captured this moment when my thoughts were so beautifully positive and pure. For me, this is proof of my personal growth that I experienced during this phase.

In the end, my two-week commitment turned into a multi-month detox. Over the months sans social media, I learned the concept of being present on a deeper level. I still did fun things that were definitely Instagram-worthy and even went on vacation back home to Texas, but there was so much freedom I felt from not having FOMO. Today, I’m back on it full throttle, but I’m so much more grounded in my own being that looking through my feed doesn’t make me feel insecure, less confident, or that I need to buy something new to feel good about myself. If anything, I’ve actually become that cheerleader who has nothing but hearts and comments to share. It’s now a way for me to connect with people, spread a little love and encouragement, and just show up as I am – a positive, smart, super strong, grateful, passionate, and soulful human being.

So, here it is – my account of a social media detox that gave back to me ten-fold. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would react. I surely didn’t expect to stay away for so long. One thing was for sure, I was in enough pain and desperation to try just about anything. Without it, I’m not sure that I would have been willing to go to the depths of my issues as I did.

Originally published at www.sorahkim.com titled, “Part 3/5: The Most Epic Social Media Detox,” which is one of five self-reflection blog posts counting down until my last day in corporate. 

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