You can’t please anyone – except yourself

Happy Valentine’s Day! I figured I’d come back in full swing with a nice little double entendre. Actually, I didn’t intend for that to happen. But I know you guys – and I know how easily I set myself up sometimes.

I’m sitting here eating a sleeve of Thin Mints, enjoying a soy latte, and occasionally sneaking excerpts of The Bell Jar into my daily routine. “But Haley,” you say, “Act Like a Stereotypical White Person Day is still months away!” I know, I know. But for me, the consumption of these simple pleasures (the cookie and lattes) as well as the somewhat strained cultivation of my literary knowledge (the reading of Bell Jar) are for the purpose of something that is often highly neglected: self care/love.

On this day, I have no doubt that many people, including many of those in relationships, are feeling a sense of self-doubt. It’s unfortunate that a holiday that began as an excuse for a bunch of drunk Roman guys to whip women with animal hides causes us so much anxiety. As if we aren’t good enough by ourselves. As if we need someone else to dote on us and make us feel appreciated.

All this talk of self-doubt reminds me of something that I was thinking of earlier this week.

I roam through social media quite frequently. Now that I have reincorporated Instagram into my life, I find myself peeking through the comment section of many prominent players in the digital world, from models to makeup artists to personalities who are worshipped to the tune of thousands of “Likes” for every impromptu car selfie or latte portrait they post. I also spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, where the whole world seems to congregate for news, pop culture happenings, and musings from certain political figures.

Almost without fail, every picture, tweet, or post that is remotely recognized will have someone chiming in with negativity.

If a girl posts a “before and after” style photo to show the hard-earned transformation her body has gone through over the course of some months, I will see a comment that calls her a “slut” for displaying her body or “fat” for god-knows-what reason – regardless of what her body looks like.

If that same woman posts a picture of herself dressed in a covered fashion with a bare face, someone will call her “ugly” because – get this – she’s not showing them her body or putting on makeup for them.

If a black person posts about Black Lives Matter, a swarm of dissenters will chime in with accusations of that person being “racist” or “radical” .

If that same black person stays silent on issues of black oppression, they’re an “Uncle Tom” or a “traitor”.

If a man posts a picture of himself in makeup, he’s called words that mock his sexual orientation.

If this same man posts a picture of himself espousing a traditionally “masculine” appearance, someone will say he’s “not fooling anyone”.

If someone identifies as conservative, they are immediately classified as a virulent, heartless, anti-gay war monger, because nobody has taken the time to actually ask about their views in detail.

If someone identifies as liberal, they are immediately classified as a virulent, idealistic, free-loading tree hugger, because nobody has taken the time to actually ask about their views in detail.

If we do one thing, we are punished. If we do the opposite of that, we’re punished. If we happen to Goldilocks our way into to the middle – sorry, still punished. Sure, loads of people might be happy that we voiced our opinion, and we might even be happy that we did that. But someone’s always going to speak out against us, especially in the age of ubiquitous social media presence.

I don’t need to go into detail about much harder it is for women, people of color, people of queer (including trans) experience, people who are disabled, people who are Muslim, or people who are otherwise not reasonably educated, well-off, white, heterosexually-identified males to avoid negative comments. But that’s for another post.

Keep in mind: this isn’t me being negative. This post might even cause you to laugh at how ridiculously hard it is to please anyone. And if you’ve been hurt by these types of comments in the past, you might be relieved that someone out there notices what’s going on – and is just as frustrated as you.

But I’m here to tell you: it’s okay.

Because the most important thing to do in our current climate is to do what makes YOU happy.

I know that by posting this, I will make someone unhappy. Guaranteed. That’s okay.

I know that my views inspire fear and anger in a lot of people, even people close to me. That’s okay.

Because I love myself, a lot of people love me, and I believe in myself and what I stand for.

All of this being said, I do think it’s important to apologize when we hurt people. I do think it’s important to thoroughly research (!!!) things before we try to publicly state facts about said things. And yes, I understand that it’s hard, even downright scary, to voice our opinions sometimes. Unfortunately, safety can be an issue when it comes to expressing ourselves. But to the extent that we can, we must still try.

So on this Valentine’s Day, be proud of you. Keep voicing your opinion. Keep fighting your good fights. Keep standing strong. The world needs you, even if it doesn’t know it yet. And it all starts with you loving (and pleasing [LOL]) yourself.

Oh, and while you’re at it, eat some cookies or donuts or something. You deserve it.


Why I’m giving up social media for a while

Helloooo, Internet Populace! So good to see you again after all this time. Indeed, it’s been too long, but hopefully we’ve all been holiday-ing too much to notice.

While this topic has already been written about in other places– a plethora of times, no less–I figured I would shed light on my own reasons for temporarily giving up social media in case anyone is curious about the process of giving up our favorite little time sinks.

Let’s start with the big impetus for this change in my life: a breakup. An inevitable fact of life for the vast majority of us, few of us know how to deal with breakups appropriately. After having a few, I’ve learned what does work (spending a lot of time alone, spending a lot of time with friends and family, investing myself in a goal) and what definitely doesn’t (rebounds, seeking attention, and using social media).

But other than not wanting to fall into an endless, downward spiral of self-hate and wishful thinking about my ex, there are other reasons why I’m pleasantly willing to give up the likes of Facebook and Instagram for a while*.

Let’s start with Facebook. While great for keeping up with friends I don’t get to see often, this has become my cop-out for real-life interaction with people– many of whom don’t actually live that far away. I see their activity on Facebook and it gives me a false sense that I’ve “caught up” with them on their life. But in reality, knowing that they just got a dog or are going to Peru for 2 months isn’t intimate knowledge. Knowing those facts doesn’t mean I’m a good friend or family member. Such bonds, whether we want to admit it or not, need to go beyond the digital wall.

There’s also the issue of “useless information inundation”. I’m just as entertained as anyone when I see Donald Trump in Photoshop drag or talking dog videos, but is it really healthy that I’m looking at that stuff for hours a day instead of reading, writing, or learning a new skill? You can argue that I’m evidently not good at moderation with social media, and I won’t argue with you. But you can’t argue that Facebook is not designed to be a ruinous, time-eating destroyer of moderation.

And it’s not just stuff that I like seeing that floods my feed. Everywhere I look on social media, I see something about the Kardashians or the Real Housewives or some other vapid celebrity. I see posts about their family drama, their relationships, their kids, their off-the-cuff remarks, their outfits. Not only is it completely annoying to me as someone who doesn’t care, it reminds me of the society we live in: you are only as valuable as your Louboutin heels/Tesla/yacht.

And then there’s Instagram. With such a simple platform (pictures + short captions), you’d think there’d be less room for drama and mayhem, right? Wrong.

I follow quite a few people on my feed–other than my friends and family, it’s mostly drag queens, makeup artists, transgender people, and other LGBQA people. Colorful, fun people who are passionate about the same causes I am and usually post fantastic things.

But once in a while, I’ll see a post that includes a ridiculously, out-of-this-world good-looking girl. And when I say out of this world, I mean “I have never seen a human being look like that, even in magazines or on runways, and I doubt the authenticity of this person’s existence”. So I check out her page. Her skin is flawlessly made up. Her lips are injected. Her hair–most likely comprised of extensions–is coiffed to perfection. Her body is the product of extremely restrictive dieting and plastic surgery. She mostly has pictures of herself modeling, but she also has slightly more casual pictures on boats, in Maldives, and at “exclusive night clubs”. I’ve never heard of her, but she has over a million followers.

And I start to wonder, even though I try not to: am I just nothing?

This Insta-Barbie doll can also take the form of a guy who seems to be traveling the world on his yacht brimming with champagne. Or the old college friend who’s become an actor or musician and seems to suddenly have everything they ever wanted. For this is a perfect representation of what Instagram aims to be: a series of images. Very little words backing these images. A beautiful representation, an idealization. A story with no conflict and very little character depth. In a way, because of how de-personified and unexplained people can be on Instagram, it makes it worse than Facebook.

And again, outside of feeling less-than after looking at Instagram (or Facebook, of course), there’s the issue of being inundated with useless information–pictures of people you don’t know having fun with other people you don’t know, pictures of people’s coffee cups or food, stupid vines that, while entertaining, add nothing to your life.

So I’m done for a while.

For now, I need to seriously focus on pole. I need to enhance my connections with friends. I need to make the effort to see family members who live an hour away, but whom I see maybe once a year (like, what????) I need to improve my waning French and get busy with learning more Japanese, Russian, German, and Spanish. I need to become a non-crappy photographer. I need to become a better painter so I can actually sell my little paintings someday. I need to finish my freaking book and get it published by the end of 2016.

And that’s just the basic stuff.

I want to get to a point where I can look at social media for what it is: an enhancement to my social life, not my entire social life for certain people. A lingering temptation that is fun in small doses but will axe my day if I’m not careful. A great platform for getting my work out there, but not the only platform. A potential self-esteem ruiner that I need to shove away sometimes.

Most importantly, I want to feel better about myself and love myself more, so that I can prove to myself that I’m more than what an app or a website tells me I am.

I don’t know when I’ll be back. I planned for at least two months, though I imagine it might be longer than that. I promise, I’ll still be blogging all the while.

*The star I put above there was to indicate that although the title implied that I’m giving up social media as a whole, I really mean Facebook and Instagram, the two that were taking more from my life than adding to it. For some reason, I can manage Twitter – so I’m keeping it so that you guys can see when I post a new video (oh yeah, I started doing that! Here’s my channel!) or write a new post.

If you’re reading this, I want you to know that I appreciate you. SO much. Thanks for working with me while I figure this out.