The Problem with “Marketing Yourself”

mountain

I’ve sat on this topic for quite some time, mostly because I am guilty of everything mentioned below and because it has great potential to be taken out of context. But no matter how many times I abandoned the draft, a tiny tug inside brought me back until the words were simply gone. After many weeks, I have decided to publish my thoughts come what may.

It is a post that needs to be shared, for better or worse.

As many of you know, I’m in the marketing/PR industry. Shouldn’t I be telling you how to market yourself instead of warning you not to? Maybe, but that would be doing you a disservice. Because no matter how competitive the job market may be, no matter how many of your friends seem to have it all together, and no matter how many awards you’ve won since college, I believe there is one thing that should never be marketed.

You.

Before I elaborate, I want to take a moment and explain. When I say that you should never be marketed, I don’t mean your hobbies, pet projects, side businesses, blogs, or employers. Otherwise this post (and any subsequent sharing) would be totally hypocritical and useless. I’m specifically referencing the internet’s increasing demand to curate our lives in an unnatural way, the craving to be seen and impress on both a personal and professional level. Not the sharing of your thoughts, but the sharing of your soul. I’m talking about your daily life.

But before we dive in, let’s go back 20 or 30 years ago. You would call your closest friends to share the news of your engagement. Your growing list of professional awards would be read only by your next employer. If your boyfriend surprised you at the office with roses, you would gush over a cup of coffee with your best friend. Life was shared in community, a place where good news could bloom in stride with the rise and fall of life. A few years ago, you never had to compare yourself to the world.

Sounds relaxing, right?

Today, the social landscape is a little different. We are encouraged to promote ourselves for better jobs, better dates then better spouses, better houses, better lives. I especially feel the pull in the PR industry, where it’s common to brand yourself as an industry expert gain credibility (which is a joke at age 24), and your personal brand is almost as important as the work you produce. But the reality is, marketing yourself is an unhealthy practice spiritually, emotionally, and physically because – no matter how you feel – you are more than what people think of you.

“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Due to the public nature of social media, we are constantly branding ourselves – whether deliberately or not. When good things happen, we broadcast it to the world not because we want them to share in our joy but because we feel like we are supposed to. We want to keep up, stay in the game. I know I do. And with this mindset, it is impossible not to live for achievement instead of experience.

Today we have the power to control the message of our day-to-day lives through LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram photos, Goodreads updates… The list goes on and on. Nearly everything we do in 2016 is public information, and that’s dangerous. What happens when we are suddenly given the power to influence our public perception like a brand? We reduce ourselves to advertisers and goods, and we lose our purpose.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” -Psalm 139:14

When we begin to see ourselves and others as commodities instead of souls created by a loving, intentional God, we become susceptible to unhealthy competition, resentment towards those who appear better, and low self-esteem when we fail to impress. We are blind to the bleeding heart behind the sterling resume or the anxiety weighing down the new mom. When we value ourselves only as much as others do, we lose sight of our own potential and the God-given worth of our friends and family. Because when the camera is always on, it’s hard to be genuine.

When there’s no room for error, it’s hard to just be human.

Of course, it’s never wrong to celebrate the joys of life with friends and family – the little moments and the big. Life is about love and community. But there is such a fine line between celebrating and bragging, and I know because I often tow both sides of the line. I think this is an increasing struggle for my generation. When our lives are so easily broadcast, it’s hard to know the true motivation of our hearts and even harder to keep our pride in check. We no longer recognize the beauty of humility, a trait that has been revered throughout the Bible and history. It is so easy to mask our insecurities in self-promotion, which can only breed arrogance. When we choose to market ourselves, we choose not to humble ourselves.

But there is wonderful news.

We don’t need to market ourselves to be thriving, joyful people. Noah wasn’t chosen to build the ark because of the blueprints he uploaded to LinkedIn. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t a successful national leader because of his influential Instagram quotes, and Galileo never published a DIY guide on how to chart the stars. These people accomplished amazing things through humility, by engaging with others instead of marketing to them.

So whether it is for a day, a month, or even the next year, I challenge you to turn the camera off. Continue to promote your art, your business, your blog, but save some moments for yourself. Choose humility over a fleeting sense of pride. Do things because you want to do them, not because you want to be seen doing them. Have secrets. Chase humility. Choose to see human needs instead of filtered photos and job promotions.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:12

Let’s choose to pursue wisdom. After all, if we all take a break from marketing ourselves we might just enjoy being ourselves.

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Someday When My Kids Are Grown…

As you all know, I don’t have any children – hey, I’m only 24! Still, as more and more of my peers settle down, I like to imagine the kind of world my own future children will inherit. What will matter to them when they’re my age, 20 or 30-something years from now? What will they enjoy, pursue, fear? Which of my favorite shows will make it to TV Land? What will the world look like someday when my children are grown?

This is a collection of my thoughts. 

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope they read about civil unrest in books, not the news.

I hope “Adopt Don’t Shop” is the norm.

I hope they never saw me complain about stretch marks or wrinkles.

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope that my daughter is called by her name, not Mrs. Husband.

I hope that my son changes diapers and vacuums like a boss.

I hope they find a spouse who will watch Friends on TV Land.

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope I’m there to see it.

I hope my grandkids aren’t little turds.

I hope the world is worth a few more birthdays. 

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope social media is outdated and cell phones obsolete.

I hope the garter toss is no longer a thing because it’s awkward and just why.

I hope all the teachers haven’t moved to Texas yet.

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope that in a casual culture they make some things sacred.

I hope they love their body because I probably made it, and I’m good at crafts.

I hope that seeking therapy doesn’t have to be a secret anymore.

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope they know how to shoot a gun but never need to pull the trigger.

I hope Disney World is still the happiest place on Earth.

I hope tolerance isn’t confused with truth.

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope they come to visit.

I hope they know the difference between joy and happiness.

I hope they chase meaning.

Someday when my kids are grown…

I hope my children walk with Christ, the reason I hope at all.

The Ugly Truth: Depression, Anxiety, and Being a Young Twenty-Something

Hello again, blog buddies! Long time no see.

You may have noticed my sudden leave of absence from the blogosphere over the past few months. In fact, many of you have asked what happened! No, no — I didn’t fall of the face of the Earth, nor did I become a full-time Disney princess (I’m sorry to report). I’ve had a lot going on in my life, and today I’m going to tell you about it in what is perhaps the most vulnerable post I’ve ever written. It’s a little wordy and not exactly the happiest of topics. In fact, it’s probably not for all readers. But like a lot of difficult and scary things, it’s also worthwhile.

Alright, here we go. It all began in May of 2014.

Graduation

Such simpler times!

As many of you know, I graduated from college and started working full-time the summer of 2014. Things seemed pretty good at the time! I had a fun job and a swanky, non-roach-infested apartment. To me, it was the perfect first step into the “adult” world. It seems so silly, but at the time I just knew that nothing would ever change. For a while, nothing did. At first, the transition from student to staff had seemed seamless. But over the next few months, I slowly realized that — much to my surprise — everything about my life had changed.

All of my friends had moved away to pursue new jobs, many in exciting cities across the country. My boyfriend and best friend in the world had moved nearly forty-five minutes away. My relationship with my college roommate struggled under the pressure of new responsibilities. But worst of all, I had lost my sense of self — I was no longer a student. In just one day, I had lost the single largest piece of my identity. I knew how to be a student. I was good at being a student! But for the first time in 22 years, my life wasn’t scripted anymore. I was terrified and pretty much alone.

I tried to use my budding career as a crutch, but even the excitement of my first full-time job couldn’t hold my world together. In time, the best job turns into work because careers are a source of income, not a source of purpose. Of course, six months ago that seemed so backwards to me. In college, your future career is everything — what you study for, work for, train for. It is a picture of all that you were and hope to be, in a way. Unsatisfied at work, lonely, and confused about my purpose, I became depressed and anxious. I resigned from the museum and moved home in December to be closer to my caring family and wonderfully patient boyfriend.

In short, I lost it. Yes, I had a mental breakdown.

If you know me, you know that I’m a strong type-A personality. As Boromir would say, one does not simply lose control. So when my parents suggested counseling, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. “How did I get here?” I asked myself. “I’m not crazy. Why can’t I just be stronger?” The anxiety compounded day after day as I tried to “fix myself”. Defeated and utterly at a loss, I conceded. I saw a counselor. For weeks I told no one but my parents and boyfriend. The stigma of counseling isn’t something you can easily shake off, and I reluctantly opened up to my friends one by one. Much to my surprise, many of them had seen or considered seeing someone as well. It was a huge eye-opener, for sure!

Looking back, I realize that counseling is a good, good thing. It’s not for the insane or the weak. Counseling is actually for the brave. In America, acknowledging a need for help is often considered a sign of weakness. In reality, this is one of the bravest types of courage there is. Even to this day, I still get embarrassed when I talk about counseling. What will people say about me? Will they think I’m a total nut job?

Even though I am still embarrassed, I am trying to be braver.

Counseling was one of the best decisions I ever could have made, but it could not provide me with purpose. Now during these dark months, I used to break down in tears almost daily. I was completely overwhelmed with my life, which was nothing like I expected it to be. I began praying more. Read the Bible more. Opened up to friends more. I have always called myself a Christian, though I would not describe myself as an outspoken evangelical. But today I will proudly tell you that God single-handedly met all of my needs and took care of me from start to finish. Not my counselor, not my parents, and not my boyfriend — God.

He gave me an identity. Soothed my anxiety. Led me to the right job at the right time. Gave me the support I needed during some horrible and somber times. I am not a religious blogger, and you likely will not see more spiritual soliloquies on my blog after today. But to deny God his role in this story is an injustice, my friends. He kept his promises and used every ounce of pain to bring beautiful changes in my life, but it wasn’t easy.

Trying to sort out the pieces of my life consumed all of my time. I stopped working on my sequel, quit writing blog posts, jumped ship on social media. The idea of simply existing was so foreign to me. Until a few months ago, I never realized that just living is a full-time gig — even without all of the senseless clutter we use to fill our time. I had to learn to enjoy (not tolerate) time alone. Actually, I’m still learning! I put everything on hold because I needed that time for myself. I still do.

But things did get better.

Gov

Doing cool things at my cool job — like meeting the governor!

Thank God my life has made a 180! I have a new job that provides plenty of work and exciting opportunities (like meeting the governor!). I have rekindled old friendships and started new ones. Traveled to new cities. Spent time with family. Ultimately proved to myself that life goes on post-degree. Looking back, it is so easy to blame my circumstances. I could tell you that my job wasn’t exciting enough, that my apartment wasn’t big enough. That if I’d only had a master’s degree or more friends or a husband or a higher salary or a puppy things would have been alright.

But that just isn’t true, friends.

Everyone is struggling in some way — yes, everyone. In a world of non-stop Tweets and retouched Instagram pics, struggle isn’t something we’re used to seeing. After moving home I’ve bumped into a lot of old friends, and over the past month, where I’ve heard “You seem like you’re so successful on Facebook!” far too many times. Social media is so deceiving, and that’s one reason why I had to write this post. Everyone can see my accomplishments, yet so few see beyond that. It breaks my heart to think that someone who is battling loneliness or is unhappy at work might be intimidated by the way my life appears online.

This brings up a good question: why am I telling you all of this? It isn’t because I like attention or airing out my dirty laundry. It isn’t for the page views or Facebook likes. It isn’t even for myself, really. Inspired by the honesty of fellow blogger Sara Rowe, I wanted to open up with you today because I wish someone had been honest with me six months ago. By talking with my friends and family, I see now that countless others have struggled with and before me when entering the “real world.” The worst part is, no one talks about it. If we’re truly honest, being a young twenty-something isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be on TV — gobs of friends, a flourishing social life, true love, and a swanky apartment in the city. With social media, our lives are on display. It is so easy to get swept away in the comparison game.

But your life isn’t supposed to match someone else’s highlights reel.

This profile pic was taken just after a lovely cry-fest, but online you'd only see a perfect couple pic.

This profile pic was taken just after a lovely cry-fest, but online you’d only see a happy couple.

Shakespeare once wrote that “The root of all heartache is expectation.” Life is a game of expectations, and I was utterly unprepared for the unpredictability of being a young adult. I decided to be honest about what’s been going on in my life because I think we could all use a little more transparency. Six months ago, I thought I was completely alone — that I was the only one clueless and unsatisfied. This post isn’t a doom-and-gloom rant about the unsolvable human condition. In the end, it’s a story of hope and strength, to tell you that things will get better. I am so much happier today than I could have imagined six months ago, but I don’t ever want to forget the pain that brought me here. Author Joan Didion sums it up well:

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

If you’re a struggling young twenty-something, have faith. Pray to God. Seek counsel in good friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get rid of social media if you need to, and learn to find happiness outside of others. Build a version of yourself that you are happy with, and never compare yourself to others. This post has been difficult to share, but if it offers even a shred of peace to one person, then it was worth the embarrassment and worry over what others will think. There is a raw vulnerability in every story worth telling. Like a fire-breathing dragon, you cannot be your own hero without conquering darkness.

I will close with one of my favorite quotes.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

P.S. This post is dedicated to my unbelievably supportive parents, my patient and ever-loving (plus devilishly handsome) boyfriend, and a whole slew of friends who had and have my back.

Michael Scott’s 10 Tips for Successful Living

World’s Best Boss, rabies philanthropist, poopball prodigy. Michael Scott is highly accomplished in the art of life, and his wisdom has inspired countless others over the years. Today, for the first time ever, Michael Scott breaks his silence and shares the 10 Scranton secrets for successful living.

1. Confidence is key. Never be afraid to highlight your best qualities.

2. Know how you want to be perceived by others.

3. Through thick and thin, stay grounded in your beliefs.

4. Problems are inevitable. Always take responsibility for your mistakes.

5. When speaking to others, always use encouraging, supportive words.

6. Acknowledge your shortcomings.

7. Have a role model. Don’t be afraid to look to others for inspiration.

8. A healthy diet is a must in leading a well-balanced life.

9. Never be afraid to share your opinions with those you care about.

10. Last but not least, be true to yourself. No matter what.

For more advice on living well, check out Harry Potter’s guide to school exams or Zooey Deschanel’s rules of being a modern woman.