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I need people to like me and it has the power to take over my life. When I feel insecure about myself or my accomplishments, I obliviously post something witty to Facebook, text someone something I know they won’t reject, or ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on a post. When I receive reciprocation, whether it’s an email, quick text back, like, Hi or comment to my comment, I am given another small dose of assurance: Someone out there likes me or, at the very least, doesn’t despise me.

But it never lasts. Because social media accolades are like Budlight in place of a genuinely good beer, or pictures of Paris as opposed to standing under the Eiffel Tower, or the brief high of faking a smile in comparison to true happiness. It’s a farce, a sham. And I keep going back to it.

Why? Is it my need for control, to know exactly how much is coming in and going out of my heart? Probably. Social media accolades are almost a given when you understand what makes people click (so there’s a hearty helping of crazy that comes with it), but it seems worth it from the front end, enough to do it again and again. I have to fill up on this form of acceptance more often and hope that tomorrow has something interesting, so I can fill up again, but at least I can control it. I don’t have to wait. If I share a cat video, or a touching story, or an inspirational comment, chances are that 5 – 10 people will notice and that’s enough to keep me going. I’ve gone so far as to save really funny stories for a ‘rainy day,’ if you can believe it. It’s scary.

And I don’t want to blame Facebook or any of the social media we use for this problem. It is 100% a me-problem, and my guess is that it’s something humans have been doing for centuries, long before the invention of the mouse. Being shocking, interesting, beautiful, desirable and getting attention for these things is no news, and people disconnect from substance because they choose to disconnect.

Bad, very bad, you say. So just stop right? Wrong. I have never been able to stop a bad habit or start a good one without understanding the ins and outs of both sides. I think I am an experiential learner, because when I see myself and what I do for what they really are, it’s like when (at 14) I realized: “Hey, broccoli isn’t so bad. And neither is spinach. They’re good for me, darn it!” People said it, but it didn’t compute—almost like I lacked the programming to accept the data. In addition, I firmly believe that most bad emotional habits are good needs that have been twisted; in which case, we need to find out what the original need was.

Shocker: Having value is the end-game. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

So what’s new? Well, again, people have been saying it for a long time but I never really grasped it until now. And I am finally able to boil down my current (acrobatic) method for filling that ever-draining bucket of self-worth to the following:

  1. 100 social media accolades are roughly the equivalent of contact from 1 good friend.
  2. 5 contacts from good friends are roughly the equivalent of a kind word from my mother (or another diehard you-fan).
  3. My mother’s kind word is the equivalent of 1/100 the worth of believing in my own value.

Let’s say that these are weekly numbers, to be modest. This means that I need 2500 social media accolades weekly to even scratch the surface (5%) on my need for feeling like I’m worth something. I’m not Katy Perry so…that’s never going to happen. And that would take so much energy and exposure for surface-level assurance—what’s the point? I would need contact from 500 good friends, who genuinely care about me and have no ill-will towards me, to reach the level of believing my own value. And I would need 100 mothers to do the same which, besides being literally impossible, would have massive problems of its own. (Sorry, moms. I’m not going to wear the fluffy pink dress. Or that one.)

And the next week it would start all over again.

It’s not scientific, but I hope you get my point. It is madness to use humans in any form to satisfy our inner needs. Even my delightful mother, who I love dearly and who probably still believes I could be an astronaut, cannot carry all the weight of my insecurities. What’s more, it’s unfair to put that on her, on 5 friends or 20, or on my semi-conscious Facebook community. It’s no wonder that sometimes social media feels hopelessly vacuous—it is a vacuum of many needs and few responses, swirling continually.

For me, the answer to finding my value has been in seeing myself through God’s eyes; as someone He created and loves and, sometimes, laughs at or with. It took me a long time to understand that and even longer to accept it, but it’s allowed me to live and breathe in ways that I hadn’t before. But I know not everyone ascribes to a religion. So, how do you discover and rediscover your self-worth? What patterns of living have worked for you? If you feel led to, do share! And thanks for reading.