Who We Are When No One's Watching

Three weeks ago we released our conversation with Esther Emery and, as we said in the episode, both Leslie and I loved her book, What Falls From the Sky, as well. It's been months since we actually recorded the interview and yet the memory of our conversation keeps popping up at the most inopportune times for me. 

Almost three years ago we moved from both of our families and friends in Iowa to relocate to Michigan. I would say the first year I relied pretty heavily on my phone for all the things. Most of those were healthy—keeping in touch with good friends, receiving updates on my nieces and nephews, keeping track of clients to make sure they were staying on their health journey, etc. But some of it was exactly what Esther talked about with us—I simply didn't know who I was without constant reinforcement from my online community. While in Iowa I had friends and family for that reinforcement, so rarely would we go a day without seeing someone who could remind me of my worth. But once we moved I found myself relying more on the strangers behind their phones and computers to give me those reinforcements. A 'like' on Facebook, a retweet on Twitter, a comment on Instagram, they were all a poor replacement for Leslie's hug or lunch with my friends, but it was enough to bridge the emotional gap for me. 

The truth is I think most of us trying to live in this online culture struggle from time to time to find that balance. Much of my work requires me to be online—I need to keep up on trends in social media and find it's the best way I can relay the messages of the companies and organizations I do marketing for...including this podcast! My current reality just isn't conducive to a year without the internet. (Nor is my inability to find any location without the help of Waze, if I'm being honest.)

But since talking with Esther I have become really aware of my time spent online. I will admit that I used to not even blink twice about thumbing through Twitter while my kids were telling me a story. Not anymore. If I'm doing something with work I'll ask them to hold the story for a second while I finish and then put the phone down or push away from the computer. I am not 100% at this, and my kids are so very good at reminding me of that, but I'm considerably better. And as I get older I know to shoot for better and not perfect. 

I also allow myself a little reflection before posting and mindlessly thumbing through posts. Before I post, I ask myself the "why?" Am I wanting to share to give hope? A bit of understanding? Just for fun? Or am I posting this because I'm feeling a little less than? These are hard questions to ask myself and even harder still to get the real answer to. It's embarrassing to admit how often I look for external validation in the online world but I have a feeling I'm not alone.

Maybe you're like me and you struggle with this. I hope that you realize that you are worthy regardless of how big or small your social media platform is. I hope you realize that whether you get 3 likes or 65,000, it doesn't actually change your value in the slightest. This feels counter-intuitive to us already, doesn't it? Even to those of us who can remember a time not so long ago that we didn't even own cell phones. But our culture changes and shifts at such a rapid pace that already it feels like who we are online is who we are. Period. That our number of followers and friends is the number one indicator as to how much value we have as a human. 

When the reality, as you know, is actually not in the followers but in the ones who would actually follow you in person. Those people who jump at the chance to help you when you need it or like you even when you're being positively unlikable. They are the ones who have seen you unfiltered, unedited, unwashed and still you take their breath away with your brains, your strength, your kindness and your beauty. These are the ones who more often reflect our worth back to us in real, tangible, sustainable ways because we know when they say they love us they love ALL of us. Not just the Facetuned (thank you sweet baby Jesus for that app), Nashville-filtered variety. Our tribe reminds us of our worth because we see theirs in the most mundane ways as well, and thank goodness for that. 

Esther found her worth sitting in the quiet on the couch, looking out her window watching the seasons change as her babes toddled close by. I often find mine during my morning meditation. The house is quiet, the screens are off and there is not a single person out there who knows what I am thinking, feeling, or looking like. I've rarely brushed my teeth, I typically have acne cream on from the night before and yet in those quiet moments first thing in the morning I'm often overcome by the realization that I am worth every single good and beautiful thing that comes to me each day...not because I've earned what's good and beautiful by being clever, hardworking or wise but because I'm me. 

I hope if you haven't that you listen back to Esther's podcast or at the very least that you are able to embrace that quite clarity that comes from moments reaching internally rather than externally. You are infinitely loved, y'all. Put down the phone, close your eyes, and bask in it. 

Tesi Klipsch is the co-host of the Mama Bear Dares Podcast and blogs on her own website www.tesiklipsch.com. She lives in Michigan with her husband and 5 children, ages 14, 13, 12, 10 and 10.