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How to discover your uniqueness, impact and influence

In a tech-obsessed society where 500 million tweets are sent per day and 1.28 billion people use Facebook on a regular basis, how can you tell when your own love of “checking in” has gone too far? Did you spend extra time making your salad look picture-perfect or recreate a DIY off Pinterest just to appear crafty? If you’re guilty of situations like these, you may be ready for a break. When you start crafting your life to be more Twitter or Instagram-friendly, it’s time to step back. Thinking about where you’ll go or what you’ll do with an eye to how it will appear on social media undermines your ability to be yourself.

You can’t rake the leaves or paint your nails without tweeting about it. We all have that friend on social media who can’t help but share every single detail of her life. Unfortunately, you may also be that friend. Composing tweets about what you’re doing as you’re doing it or feeling the need to report your thoughts in real-time are all signs that social media is taking over your life. There are only 24 hours in a day, and the more time we spend sharing with our friends what we’re doing hour-by-hour, the less time we have to discover for ourselves why we enjoy these activities and what our days are adding up to mean.

You know way too much about your connections. The big warning sign to look out for here is when you start becoming compulsive about knowing the status of your social media. So if you readily know that the random guy you once met at a party just bought a house, and you’ve already stalked his wife’s Facebook profile, you may want to reevaluate how much time you’re spending online. The irony of social media is that while it can be great for keeping up with the details of our friend’s lives, too much engagement can obscure the big picture and weaken our ability to make sense of our own lives.

You feel like you don’t measure up to your successful/happy/thriving friends. Thumbing through your social feed can quickly lead to an inundation of good, and often envy inducing news. Witnessing your friends’ promotions, engagements, and extravagant holidays  can stir up feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, whether you realise it or not. In fact, spending too much time on social media can cause feelings of negative body image among women, increase the amount of anxiety a person has on a daily basis, and even lead to damaged friendships and relationships. When keeping up with your friends’ lives gets in the way of you happily leading your own life, you need a break.

You feel anxious when you don’t have access to your phone. Do you check Facebook at traffic lights or while talking to your friends at the table? Do you refresh your Twitter feed as soon as you wake up or as you’re falling asleep?  The more you’re on social media, the less material you actually have to talk about that’s interesting and worth having other people hear. Think about it: how many conversations or real-life events have you missed out on because you were too wrapped up in your phone? The more time you spend liking, the less likable your own world ends up becoming. We live in a world where people are quick to judge others and value them based on perception rather than reality.  Where people believe that there is more value in how you “package yourself” than there is in the “real” you.  This leads people to think that it’s better to sell perception versus reality.  It also reinforces the fact that people don’t value themselves as much as they should, regardless of their professional status or credentials.

At a time when people are uncertain about themselves and their future, and need their authentic voices to be valued and heard, this approach is counterproductive.

We can see why this is so by looking at social media, which perhaps more than any other tool enables people to reach others with the power of perception over reality.  Someone might have 5000 Facebook friends, 10,000 Twitter followers and 800 LinkedIn connections, but this doesn’t define their value and real influence. It only means that they are actively seeking to build an online identity.  In fact, social media measurement tools like Klout.com and Kred.com reward you for your perceived influence based on the online impact of your content followership.

People use perception as their reality even when it represents no real value at all. Do you seek strong social media influence to be a valuable asset?  Does your lack of social media participation minimize opportunities for you in your career?  Clearly it is becoming a tool that is too powerful to be ignored.  But should you depend upon it to shape your identity?

Social media is still a maturing platform that requires a full commitment, it demands your time and high-levels of responsibility.  If you are active on social media only to increase your number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections  and not to offer any real value during the process – then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.  The goal is to add value to the audience that you are serving.   This requires work, but more importantly it requires you to value yourself.  And if you don’t value yourself, you are being irresponsible to those who expect value from you.  In a world where perception is increasingly being confused with reality, we don’t need more people being “catfished.” Social media should not be your sole basis for “self-valuation” yet many people have become addicted to managing their online presence because it is a platform that gives them attention, it makes them feel more important and valued. Will the social media bubble burst?  Is it a matter of time before many of the disingenuous voices get weeded out? What will happen to those people who desperately need social media to validate their own leadership identity?   If the bubble bursts, will this finally expose the real value of those people that don’t really add any value at all?

Here are seven ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you – by valuing yourself enough to authentically discover your impact and influence:

1.Don’t Rely Solely on Social Media to Define Your Self-Worth

Take the same amount of time that you are using to build your online credibility and channel an equal strategic effort in the offline world. Balance is the key. Engage responsibly.   Use social media to build and enable your offline relevancy. How people experience your perceptual value in the online world must be the same if not better in the real world. People will value you more if they can believe you are just as impressive in person.

2.Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

People who don’t have a good sense of their own self-worth tend to waste their time comparing themselves to others rather than focusing on how their unique talents can give them a competitive advantage. As such, whenever you compare yourself to others, you risk losing your identity and further minimising your value. Be original and create your own platform.  The key is how you – and you alone – convert your lemons into lemonade. 

3.Believe You Can Be More Valuable

Many people give-up on themselves rather than step-back and evaluate the bigger picture.   It’s never too late to start over, regardless of the circumstances.   It amazes me how many talented people focus more on selling other people’s dreams rather than valuing themselves enough to sell and accomplish their own.  Don’t ever believe you can’t be more valuable.

4.Be Honest With Yourself

Understanding your self-worth, your true value as an individual requires you to be honest with yourself. Evaluate your current body of work.   Are you proud of what you have accomplished?   Does it support the next natural progression in your career or personal life? Self-evaluation is critical.  You can only be valued by others if you have learned to value yourself.

5.Manage Your Personal Brand or Someone Else Will

It’s astonishing how many people allow their personal brand to be defined by others.  We all have a personal brand and most of the time it’s misrepresented, misunderstood or undefined. If you are not living your authentic identity (the person that you truly are), then you are living someone else’s perception of you.   You must be your own brand manager.  You have to take charge of your own brand in this fast-moving world to get attention and get discovered. You need to know yourself in order to value yourself.   

6.Associate Yourself with the Right People

The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people.

As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you. Those with whom you associate yourself should be people who increase your value. If this isn’t happening, you need to evaluate your inner circle.

7.Trust Yourself

We are transitioning from a knowledge-based to a wisdom-based economy. It’s no longer about what you know, but what you do with what you know.  In the wisdom-based economy, it’s about balancing “the head” and “the heart” in everything you do and how you do it. Why do people not think for themselves and just follow trends? Because it is easier. Thinking is hard work, particularly hard work to do it well. It is far easier to let someone do it for you. Because we don’t like to be wrong. If so many people are doing it, it must be the right thing to do, right? This is called a mob mentality and you need look no further than a civil riot to see how it can sometimes be a bad thing. Because we all like to be part of something successful. Being part of a trend makes us part of the “in” crowd. We’re one of the cool people, now (even though we probably really aren’t). We want others to look at us with admiration or jealousy. Because IF we don’t stand out, we fit in. No one likes to feel left out. We look at all those people over there buying the latest make up, or handbag or clothing and we think “if I don’t have one of those, I’ll look awkward and out of touch”. It takes guts to stand out from the crowd, to be different. A lot of people aren’t up to it. When you think for yourself you not only make the choices you want to make, but you are faced with defending them when those so-called “cool people” call you out. A lot of people aren’t up to that task.

As we know, perception is everything; especially in the world of social media. In terms of perception, we all have an ideal self. We all wish to maximise our careers, our profession, and aspire to be like those who we find most successful. As the use of social media continues to evolve, the concept of presenting our ideal selves versus our real selves has become more and more prevalent on all social media platforms. Your “real self” is what you are – your attributes, your characteristics, and your personality. Your “ideal self” is what you feel you should be; much of it due to societal and environmental influences. From a societal standpoint, many of us are driven by competition, achievement, and status; hence, the creation and portrayal of our ideal selves. Consider the fact that on social media sites, we consider our profiles to be presentations of who we are. Therefore, through interaction with the social medium, the real and ideal selves intersect; and the ideal self is at least partially actualised. In essence, our online selves represent our ideals and eliminate many of our other real components. The question we have to ask ourselves is: are we really presenting who we are or are we presenting a hyper-idealistic version of ourselves? The answer is to stop comparing yourself to others, authenticity is key and align your “Real” self with your “Ideal” self.

ABOUT SARAH JONES

Sarah Jones is the UK’s leading holistic lifestyle expert. Her clients include Lorraine Kelly and Anthea Turner among many others. Her motto is: “What consumes your mind controls your life.” For more information, please visit the official website at sarahjonesuk.com. Follow Sarah on Instagram @sarahjonesuk