Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Addicted to Social Media Approval

I think I'm losing my identity because of my addiction to social media approval.

What is this obsession, verging on addiction, I have of “likes” and “comments”?  
I love to share my thoughts, experiences, pictures, beliefs but have I become so diseased that unless the number on the bottom of the box is big I begin to think that what I’ve shared is not as valuable?
Is this one of the reasons why people leave Facebook?
Should I leave Facebook, Instagram and the Blogosphere?

The addiction began with the first like.  Then I accepted more followers and expected more likes.  To my delight, they came.  Now, if I have over 20 likes, I know it was a good picture.
But, wait… that makes no sense.
It’s only a good picture when others like it?

There was a time I took pictures on Instagram only for myself, I had no followers.  I didn't even know I could have followers! Haha, I must have not looked that deeply into the name :).

I guess I just need to choose whether the pictures/status updates/blog entries I create are for me or my followers and then accept the plenty or more common lack of "likes" and comments if that's their purpose.  But, it has been difficult for me lately to distinguish between something done for me or for others because I personally get so much when others like and respond to what I've written or captured!

There’s a physical rush I feel when I see people have “liked” my status or my photo or commented on my blog.  That rush spills over to my mind and I feel almost invincible.  I start to think that all of my ideas are amazing and I am really an important person.  It is a literal high.  These highs become addictive.

 Do I need that approval, that high, to feel good about who I am?
Has it come to that?!  To place my worth in the hands of my Facebook friends and Instagram/Blog followers?

But who can blame me?  I should have seen it coming.

One of my long-time blogger crushes, Taza, has 150,000 followers on Instagram and receives an average of 8,000 "likes" on her pictures. Can you believe that? I guess I can, considering the popularity of her blog, the perfection of her and her children’s wardrobe, the wonder of her photography, the seemingly picture-perfect marriage she depicts and the attention she has consequently received in many other forms of media.

Is she my measure of success?  I think subliminally it has come to that.   I read her blog every day for a few minutes and feel better when I do.  Why?  Personally I think it’s because I have successfully escaped my world and all the imperfections I am I all too familiar with and entered someone else’s perfect world.  We have enough in common that I feel I’ve almost adopted her life sometimes.  She’s a dancer, she loves music, she loves her children, she’s Mormon, and she loves food. So… we’re pretty much the same person, right?

No, that’s not right.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe following blogs and worrying about social media approval has aided in the slow and sad process of me losing my identity.

What did I gauge my success against before? 

Ideally my success as a human being is measured only against my potential and myself. 

I think that when I let my mind and time be caught up in the lives of others I naturally compare my own to theirs.

Maybe it is a time for a social media break.

Why does that scare me?

Because I know how badly I’ll miss the approval I glean from both outlets.

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself this:

Minta, I love you.  You are so beautiful.  You shine.  When you know who you are and cling to that, you bring so much light and love to everyone you meet.  Your greatest potential will be reached when you let go of outside approval and jump with both feet into a life of faith in the Creator and service to His children.  You know that you’ve been happiest when you live your life like that. 

Remember those 18 months you spent on a mission.  You had never heard of Facebook or Instagram, you didn’t text, you didn’t check your email but once a week.  You didn’t even talk to the ones you loved most very often.  What you did was make plans to help people in your area know their own potential and worked all day to follow those plans.  You loved everyone around you and you didn’t easily take offense.  You wiped away tears of frustration and weariness in order to help families understand that they could be together forever.

No, your life can never be like that again.  That time was an incredible privilege of yours.  Emails, texts, calls are now a necessary part of the interacting and planning in your daily life.  You now get to talk to your family whenever you want.  And, although you are no longer required to plan every 30-minute increment of your 15-hour day, you have responsibilities that are just as important and require just as much dedication and sometimes planning.

You’re a mother.  That is the most important accomplishment you could hope for.  Not just to have a child, but to then live well in order to be a good example.  Your time is well spent when it’s spent helping your child learn and develop.  Every time you sing the ABC’s to, dance with, or teach your child how to work you’re making another divot in the mold that will become that child’s being.  You and your husband are responsible for instilling confidence, love, forgiveness, obedience, faithfulness, gratitude in your child’s self.  But don’t worry, like I said before, it’s in the small things that you already do every day that will help you achieve this! You’re on your way to becoming the mother you’ve dreamed of being. 

So, don’t worry what other people think.  There will come a day that your own daughter, whom you’ve given so many days to love and rear, will reject you and go against what you’ve taught.  Even then, your worth will not change.

Even then you’re an eternally worthwhile soul that has come to this earth with a purpose and done all you can to fulfill it.  You can be happy to know that the only acceptance and approval that will matter in the end is yours.  You will be your final judge.  Please remember that.

Can I do this?  Could I stop social media for a week? A month?  Would it be good for me?  What do you think?

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Faith and My Church: Why I belong and What I Believe

I'm writing this because there is so much in the media about the Church I belong to and I have a strong desire for the people I love to know why I belong to the Church.

Core Beliefs:

I believe in an Eternal Father who created my Spirit and then sent me to earth at this time with a certain family for a specific purpose.  I believe that His Son, Jesus Christ, is my Elder brother and that I knew and even spoke with Him before this life.  I believe that my brother accepted the challenge to come to earth and live a perfect life and then suffer an infinite suffering in order for all of us to be able to return to live with Him and Heavenly Father after this life.  I believe that our earth lives are short in comparison to our Spirit's eternal life.  I know that while Jesus Christ lived on the earth He established what we call a church- an organization that serves to bring God's children closer to Him.   That organization didn't survive the persecution and corruption of humankind and was lost eventually.  All according to God's plan, though, it was restored to the earth through an unlikely candidate- a fourteen year-old boy who was searching for the truth and wanted to know in which church he would find it.  I also believe that Joseph Smith was foreordained and found worthy to help usher in the last time the gospel and Christ's church would be found on the earth in its entirety.  Again, this church was established by Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and other ancient apostles through modern-day prophets like Joseph Smith with the sole purpose of bringing people closer to their Father in Heaven.

My Baptism and Confirmation: 

163 years after the Church was re-established, in 1993, I chose to be baptized a member.  Just like Jesus Christ I was baptized by immersion.  Unlike Him, my sins were washed away.  I made a promise to always remember Him, obey His every commandment and be an example to others.  I then received the Gift of the Holy Ghost by men that I knew and loved that were worthy to act in the name of Jesus Christ.  That gift was God's promise to me, to always have His influence in the form of the Holy Spirit with me, if I kept the promises I made to Him.  I took this as seriously as an eight-year-old could.  I knew what I was doing and what it meant for the rest of my life.  I knew I wouldn't be perfect but understood that Jesus Christ was my Savior and life was meant to be a learning experience where we continually try to do better and slowly become like the Savior in feelings, thought, word and deed.  I was so excited.  I still remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and peace right after my confirmation- when I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  I reacted emotionally and could barely speak, but I knew what I was feeling was good and real and that it came from the God of this universe- the Father of my spirit.

How I Practice Now:

It has been 20 years since that baptism and confirmation.  I attend church weekly, read my scriptures almost daily, kneel in prayer a few times a day and- on a good day- constantly have a prayer in my mind and heart.  I fast once a month for a couple meals in order to show my gratitude and devotion to the one that gave me my body, my mind and every blessing in my life and to ask for special blessings like to get pregnant or that a loved one can be healed of an infirmity.  I've made even stronger commitments to the Lord when I went through the temple for the first time and renew those promises as often as possible as I assist in making those covenants available to people that have passed on from this life.  I regularly question my beliefs and faith.  I am constantly in search of more information that confirms the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ found in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Am I Just a Sheep?:

As I grow older, independence, individuality and general and emotional intelligence are more and more important to me.  It is tempting to view myself as a sheep in a blind herd following something I was raised to believe is true.  But, then, I realize I've been questioning its validity for years and haven't been let down once.  Also, the closer I come to my Savior the more empowered and unique I feel.  Really, actually, the more I depend on Jesus Christ, the stronger and seemingly independent I am!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains in it the beautiful complete teachings and goals and directives taught by our Savior Jesus Christ while He lived on this earth and even more with the blessing of modern-day revelation.  Every modern-day revelation received only assists us as God's children to know more about who Jesus Christ is, experience joy in this life, help others to do the same and have confidence in the hereafter.

Truthfulness found in the Function and Organization:

Not only have I found truth in books, talks, prayers, and conversations but I've found it in little evidences in my daily life.   I want to touch on what happens at church that leads me to believe its true.

The Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) operates thanks to millions of volunteers.  Nobody is paid except for a select few leaders that have been asked to spend full-time serving (full-time missionaries on the other hand pay their way).  On one of the smallest levels of the church- the ward, ours with about 200 in attendance- an average Bishop puts in the same time as a part-time job and then some.  More than this, he puts in his heart and takes on the great responsibility of watching over every family in his ward-boundaries and making sure their physical and spiritual needs are met.  Next from him are his counselors who support him in this calling and then the auxiliary leaders who preside over groups of  men and women.  Each auxiliary has counselors and other callings or assignments.

In my last congregation in Enid, OK, I was a member of the Relief Society presidency.  There were more than a hundred members we were responsible for as a presidency.  My favorite part of the assignment (we call it a "calling" usually) was providing loads of food and household goods for several families in the ward.  The RS president drove a couple hours to our Church's Food Store House, loaded everything up into a trailer (with help), and drove it back to our church building.  A few volunteers (usually the missionaries and some members of the families that would be receiving the food and myself) would help to unload the food, separate it according to its nature and then fill bags after bags after bags for each family to take home.  These families were trying their best to survive but needed help.  They were active church goers and hoped to someday be in a situation that they no longer needed the assistance but instead helped others to receive the needed aid.  How does the Church pay for this you ask?  Every member of the Church or each family is asked to fast (if able to) 2 meals a month and donate what they would have spent on food to the ward's funds that all go towards this goods-providing service.  We are encouraged to be as generous as possible, meaning we can donate much more than that if circumstance permits.   What an incredible program- for those of us who have more to donate to help those of us who have less.  And for those that benefit directly from this program to one day be the ones helping others. 

My "Job" in the Church:

Currently I am a teacher in the women's organization, the Relief Society.  I will spend a good number of hours a month preparing a meaningful lesson with effective questions in order to promote discussion.  My lessons all come from a manual used world-wide in the Church of a certain latter-day prophet, now being Lorenzo Snow.  My next lesson, for example, is titled: Sacred Family Relationships that in essence teaches how to strengthen relationships in our family now and look forward to maintaining them after this life.  I will put a lot of effort into preparing the lesson.  I'll pray each time before I do anything for heaven's help.  My job is to be sensitive to what the Lord knows the women need to hear.  I have sat in too many Relief Society lessons to count with tears because what the teacher says is exactly what I needed to hear and will help me encounter life's difficulties with more faith and confidence.  I consider it a huge honor to teach.  It is actually my favorite caling in the Church because it humbles me to prepare a lesson and motivates me to live so I can feel God's influence and receive His help.  I'm also a comfortable public speaker, but really anyone could do it because it's the Holy Spirit that ends up doing the real teaching.

Jesus Christ is at the Center:

Every week, though, I go to church and I see these women and men that dedicate hours of their week and much prayer and care to our well-being and am touched.  Why do they do it?  Becuase, like me, they believe they are helping in the most important work there is: to help their brothers and sisters stay on the path that brings happiness and eternal life with God and Jesus Christ.  We believe we can achieve such things by small steps every day and only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we believe and do.

Sometimes we make the mistake at our Church meetings of going through a whole talk, lesson or testimony without acknowleding our Savior and dependence on Him.  But, anything that is taught in our Church can find its roots in the mission and divinity of Jesus Christ.  He is the head of our Church and is seen in everything we believe, teach and do.

Jesus Christ showed us how to live- not only do we love and serve others but we withhold all judgement (except for the Bishop who judges in certain circumstances in order to help people stay on the right path). We strive to live clean lives and are moral in our thoughts and deeds because our bodies and the sexual acts we can perform with them are sacred.  We treat our bodies with respect as we refrain from any harmful substances.  We are honest.  We are grateful.

I'll be the first to say I haven't been perfect.  There are times I am tormented by mistakes I've made and continue to make.  But that torment only comes when in my weakness I forget that Jesus Christ wants to forgive me and remembers my sin no more (D&C 58:42) when I sincerely repent.

I am so grateful to have a personal knowledge of these things and have made the choice to believe on my own.  Believing and following the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in the scriptures and through latter-day Prophets has only brought happiness, goodness, clarity, purpose and meaning to my life.

Your friend and sister,

some quick resources:

A Video Profile on My Dad!
My Mormon Profile
The Book of Mormon