what a well-curated life really looks like on Instagram


Social media is something I've grappled with both personally and professionally, in a variety of ways that probably sound familiar to you:

  • How much time on social media is too much? If I struggle with moderating, should I delete the apps from my phone? (But when I have, how long does that really last?) 
  • If I find myself compulsively picking up my phone to check Facebook, Instagram, or email and feeling itchy when I don't, do I need a serious digital detox? (Yes, but also, I-don't-wanna!)
  • Is it possible that I've actually rewired my brain and attention span through this stuff? (Methinks yes. Scary.)
  • Should I Snapchat? Why do I feel like I'm pretty tech-forward in most ways but when it comes to Snapchat I'm like the Grandma who signs her Facebook comments and uses all caps? LOVE, GRANDMA (Answer: I just don't.) 
  • How many posts a week should I make on Instagram, and how many stories? What actually makes for a fun or interesting story? Should I make this thing a story, or a post? 
  • How do I decide how much of my personal self/life to put into my more professionally-oriented social media accounts, especially in a field where being real/human is super important, but so are personal/professional boundaries? 
  • Why do I often take photos of stuff but rarely post them? (I want to take my phone out long enough to capture something, but don't want to take the time in the moment to craft the text or hashtags, so then it just collects digital dust on my phone until it no longer feels interesting or relevant!) 
  • What's the point of any of this godforsaken stuff anyway, if it creates this kind of stress?! I quit!

Yeaaah, welcome to the inside of my brain. As one of my clients jokes with me (and of course is no secret to all my friends), I'm a special kind of weird. But since that weirdness is part of what makes me ME, I embrace it and know that my people will find me, and people who don't appreciate it have plenty of other choices for friend, therapist, yoga teacher, etc! 

I digress. I know at least some of those are things you relate to, too, or you wouldn't still be reading this. I won't address every single point here (because you'd be reading for the next two hours), but there is one point that I really want to focus on:

A life that is actually well-curated probably looks a little 'meh' on Instagram. 

What do I mean by that?

I decided to take an impromptu walk through the woods a few weeks ago, and pulled into a beautiful little state park off the beaten path on the edge of Nashville. I wanted to leave my phone in the car so the walk felt more calming (as I do on walks in my neighborhood, which I haven't done in a while since it's cold AF). But then I thought — wouldn't this be a prime opportunity for a beautiful shot of some trees that I could post on Instagram? I'm nature-y, and my feed should reflect that, right? And I'm sure I could come up with some nice stuff to say about the healing power of being in the woods. 

But I decided to leave the phone in the car after all, and I'm so glad I did.

At the risk of sounding like a total cliché, it was a very spiritual experience. I encountered maybe one other human the whole time I was there, and I felt reconnected to that powerful feeling of being just alive, and made of the same stuff as the trees and the moss and the dirt. In moments like that, I'm not worried about what people think of me, what books I need to read or trainings I want to do to bring more value to my clients and how I should prioritize them, the emails I still need to return, the appointment I need to schedule soon with my accountant.

I just AM. 

As I walked, I thought more about this: there are a ton of special moments — including visually beautiful ones that could make for great photos! — that are not captured on my feed. In fact, my Instagram is a little barren. I don't post nearly as often as I "should," if I'm taking the advice of content marketing folks who talk about the importance of consistency. Same for my professional Facebook page. I'm someone who already spends too damn much time on technology as it is, so when I have some down time, I'm looking for ways to disconnect from tech, not stay on it longer. 

And yeah, there are ways of doing it smarter, absolutely — batching content and scheduling social media posts, namely — buuuut what can I say, I'm only Type A in certain ways and that ain't one of 'em. 

We're always hearing about how part of keeping the comparison gremlins in check is recognizing that peoples' Facebook or Instagram lives are just the highlight reels. And that's very often the case — but taking it a step further, it's also really okay if you don't include a lot of those highlights. It's okay if even your social media life doesn't look very exciting or "compelling." Because that probably means that you're busy living your life rather than trying to perfectly capture and document it, right? 

So here's the bottom line: Practice giving yourself permission— permission to do something really cool and not post it. Permission to worry less about your "personal brand" and focus more on your personal experiences.

Permission to just be you, a person, who is alive and real and breathing and embodied. Because all of that is way, way more important than what that life looks like on the internet. 



Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.