When I first discovered that I had a voice, I wasn’t sure how to use it. I wasn’t sure of what avenue best suited the use of said voice. What I knew is that in my personal life, through conversations I have had with friends and family, I have an impact. The most profound impact I have from what I’ve been told is that I show others how to just be by being (I know because I asked). But gaining that voice first began in one-on-one therapy.
I’ve had the same therapist for the last 5 years. We talk about the same things repeatedly, but with new insights and perspective each time. He has seen me through the initial stages of leaving a lifelong religion, supported me when I came out and lost 99% of the people I loved. He has witnessed me navigate intense anger and self sabotage. He’s seen me navigate my first same sex relationship where I displayed hetero-normative expectations and therefore disappointments. He’s seen me perhaps get married when I shouldn’t have (he’s also thought me that taking should out of my vocabulary is a great strategy), he’s supported me through my divorce from that marriage because of multiple infidelities by my then wife and the eventual decision to get back together with her. If I were to guess based on his 25 odd years of being a therapist, he probably knew that the marriage would not work, he probably knew that I would file for divorce, he probably knew that that experience would be my biggest teacher, he probably also knew that my love for my partner would send me back into her arms. Yet, through it all, he maintained what I can only characterize as unbelievable restraint.
Restraint from offering me advice. Restraint from imposing his thoughts on me. He made sure I lived organically by living, experiencing, learning, and therefore growing. One could say that perhaps he should have helped me avoid the pitfalls of the heartache that was a constant companion to me during the last five years. But I beg to differ. As someone who experienced the pain, I beg to differ. The pain taught me more than his advice would ever have. Feeling gut wrenching, heart breaking pain has integrated the lessons into my DNA, into my very cells. I know what it is to have felt pain that was indescribable. Pain that feels as though your very gut is being ripped into shreds, the inability to speak, the increased heart rate, the shallow breathing, losing appetite followed by the gorging on food. If he had protected me from that, where would I be today?
So, if a therapist is so hesitant to give advice, why are there so many people on Ig, therapists included, who are quick to supply us with an endless list of should and should nots. And even when they’re not should and should nots, there is definitely a litany of advice givers on IG. I remember when I would take things I had seen on IG to my therapist, he would always say… well, it depends. Examples are “You have to love yourself before others can love you”… well, it depends on YOUR particular life experiences. Well, how about “you have to cut toxic people out of your life”… well, it depends, are you running away from triggers that could help you grow? So, he taught me that every single advice depends on your particular life experiences and that to know if advice applies to you, understand who you are. Otherwise, you’ll run from one advice to other, most of which are often contradictory unable to know if the problem is the advice or you. As a rule of thumb, I do not consume info and advice from therapists on IG. I get that there’s a vast market for it. Because of how difficult the human experience is, people are desperate for solutions. The self help market is a big and lucrative one. In fact, when I was still in church, they’ll always mock people seeking self help advice as lost sheep. I don’t consider anyone lost sheep, but I am determined not to contribute to the culture of offering people who I don’t know their life experiences advice on anything.
So then, as a creative, empathetic person who has had a positive impact in the lives of people in my life, what is my strategy for continuing to have a positive impact in the life of many more? JUST BEING! That hasn’t always been my strategy, though. In 2018, I had hired a business coach to help me figure out how to be an impactful human while on this earth and also make a living from it. I’ve been a nurse for the last 8 years and I love nursing and the impact I have on the lives of people, but over the years, I’ve felt less impactful. The medical system and the lack of autonomy that I have in the care of my patients made me want more. How can I make a living doing what I love, which is having a meaningful impact in the lives of others while also making a living from it because I don’t believe I have to be a pauper to be a good person? That’s where the business coach came in with all the strategies she has learned over her decade of social media marketing. Some of those strategies were: 1. Identify 3 quirky habits you have and weave them into every story so that people will come to relate to you by those three things. 2. DOn’t just post about your days on your stories, have a point to it. A lesson to teach, a thing to point out… story with a purpose. 3. Give people a bunch of free material so you can one day sell to them etc.
And I tried it for a little. I created free pdf’s building mailing lists that I’ll one day get to monetize off of. Build trust in your audience so that one day, you can sell to them and they wouldn’t see it coming. YOOOO…. that caused me so much anxiety because that is so who I’m not. But I thought, oh maybe it’s because I’m not as skilled a marketer as they are. I had paid hundreds of dollars for this coaching after I had followed them for a few years. So, yes, they got me as a client… hence their methods works. But you know what, over the last few years, I see those marketing strategies for what they are… white supremacist, capitalistic, predatory marketing strategies. I’m not saying don’t build a business on social media, but my question is why does it have to be couched in subterfuge? Why can’t you just come up with a brilliant business strategy that isn’t tied to you as a human who is flawed af and then market it as a business off the bat? Like hey, I’m a writer, I’m going to write a book filled with all the lessons I’ve learned from my life so far that I’m going to sell to you, buy it if you want to? While you go on being your hoeish, weed smoking, ratchet music twerking flawed af individual if that’s what you want to be. Or conversely, be your private self without having to showcase your entire life to be the relatable individual you are if that’s the case.
So, yeah, nursing is still annoying the fuck out of me based on how fucked up the healthcare system is. And I’m still a very creative impactful individual who would love to earn a living doing creative impactful things. And my strategy is just going to be to build a business that supports that that isn’t tied to who I am or how I present on here. Or maybe it is tied to it, but I’ll make sure it’s going to be exactly who tf I am and no persona curated by a social media strategist team. Yeah, you can strategize about my actual business, but never about ME as a person. Nah son, no one gets to get me to present a way that isn’t authentic in any way just to gain followers or sell some t-shirts.
Let me say though that I don’t feel this way about professionals who offer advice on their profession. It’s almost as though the self help, coaching, therapy business is the worst business to do on social media yet is the most popular. Because I believe that it is highly difficult to offer generalized advice when it comes to mental healthcare since it’s such an individualized thing. I think doing it in tandem is certainly beneficial but often times, people aren’t in therapy or doing one on one coaching. Rather, they’re consuming memes and tables and charts that offer generalized mental health advice. But also, there’s the nuanced conversation about access to therapy and alladat so I get why people gravitate towards free access to SOME mental healthcare.
Of course, I don’t know everything about everything and I’m not condemning anyone. Just had these thoughts rattling around in my head and wanted to write and talk about it.