Ten years ago I buckled down, made a commitment to my health, and over the course of about 16 weeks I lost 30 pounds. Now, before I lose your attention, let me assure you this actually has nothing to do with weight loss. I was 35 years old and getting lots of compliments because of my apparently grand accomplishment. Before long, the way I perceived myself began to change. I wasn’t used to the kind of attention I suddenly started receiving. My confidence began to grow. I wanted to share my journey and social media seemed like the perfect platform to do that. At one point I even posted a picture of myself in a skimpy bikini. I would have been embarrassed to wear it on the beach but somehow in my mind it made perfect sense to post online for all to see. The voice inside saying, “Look how confident I am in my transformation. Surely this will inspire others”.
Today as I scroll through Instagram I see women posing in their underwear. I take a second to think, “What is this picture about?” then read the caption they have written that says, “This is a raw and real post…” they continue on to talk about something they’ve struggled with and share that struggle or a victory (or just a victorious thought) in that moment. Most times I’m left to wonder what being in their underwear had to do with anything.
Are We Wrongly Convinced?
Not all of the “Raw and Real” sharing online includes people showing skin. There are displays of messy houses that make us relateable, videos of our misbehaved kids, disgruntled work life, salty relationship stuff and epiphanies from the bathroom. These are things that used to be embarrassing and maybe for good reason. Are we well intentioned zealots who have possibly forgotten that there’s still plenty in life worth keeping private? There are still things that should make us blush and feel embarrassed. There are still things about each of us that not everyone should have the right to know. Privacy is a privilege and should more often be treated that way.
I understand that being in a bathing suit in public is a cultural norm which I’m merely using as an example in my case. It’s possible that the photo of me in swimwear from ten years ago was relevant at the time to my attempts to grow a health coaching business. It’s also possible that whatever benefit might have come from it, that it wasn’t worth exposing myself when I couldn’t control who was looking. It also seems to be a popular opinion that a person’s response to what they see is their problem (not mine) and shouldn’t be my concern. However, it should be my concern every time I’m making a fully aware decision to expose my life both physically and emotionally to an audience I cannot completely control. Again, the bathing suit just being an example.
Can You Be Real Without Being Raw?
There may be times in life when we can help others by being real and raw at the same time. It can be a genuine and productive way to live. It also may be true that we could benefit from making better attempts to be real while first running what we publish through a filter of relevance, value, tact and by taking the time to question the good that being entirely raw will ultimately do.
At no previous point in history have so many of us had unbridled access to self-proclamation, self-publishing, self-promotion and the ability to broadcast anything about ourselves and our ideas to thousands (or millions) with very little thought or effort. You can literally chose to be titled a Public Figure by selecting the option from a drop-down box which I find amusing. Our modern ability to communicate anything in a moment to many people is a profound resource and it’s easy to forget that. You don’t always have to be raw to be real…there’s a good reason we cook meat before serving it to other people.