I just committed social suicide.
Instagram, once home to my Jackass like stunts, was the crime scene.
A favour to a friend, Nick (with a K), led me to accidentally expose my greatest vulnerability over Instagram Live.
Nick was challenging himself to do ten Instagram Live interviews in ten days. I agreed to participate, happy to help out a friend, assuming it would only be his followers. I.e. People I’d never need to see in real life.
Little did I know that upon joining every single one of my twelve hundred followers would receive a notification inviting them to listen in.
Unfortunately this wasn’t an ordinary interview where you chat about a few of Sydney’s favourite topics: the housing market, the weather or the footy.
As Nick’s Instagram claims, he wants to “break your mind like a midlife crisis and make your heartbeat like German techno”. There were no topics off limits as he questioned my journey from Jackass impersonator to someone seeking purpose.
I would have honestly preferred to walk naked down the busiest street in Sydney than have done this.
Fear gripped my bones as I began seeing the assortment of names joining the call:
High school acquaintances.
And others who only knew me through my alcohol-fuelled escapades.
While on camera I did my best to remain cool, calm and collected, inside this was me:
As if to twist the knife further, Nick prodded me to go deeper into finding my purpose and my desire to help others “find their Zest”.
To have this conversation in front of strangers I didn’t hesitate to agree. So why did knowing the audience make me feel sick to my stomach?
What I Feared
Fear of judgement.
Specifically ridicule for who I really was and the threat of social isolation. I feared I’d alienate myself from my peers. Become the focus of whatever (shit) jokes came to them. To be laughed at.
I never had an issue with the judgement and laughter directed towards ‘crazy Nic’ because that was simply a mask. My drunk tomfoolery in reality was my armour.
Any judgement could be rationalised away. Thought he was an idiot? Me too, that was part of the persona. Didn’t like him? Cool, I didn’t love the bloke either. Thought he loved attention? Sweet, well actually that one's sorta true.
But now that I was being myself. If you ridicule that person, I’d receive it as a condemnation of my soul. A direct threat to my existence.
But I believe it’s a fear everyone’s vulnerabilities grapple with. Especially when sharing themselves or their work online.
In an unfortunate way, we’re hardwired for it. When we lived as hunters and gatherers, being ostracised from the group was a death sentence. So despite an approximately 0% chance of me dying as a result of that Instagram live, my body reacted as if that’s exactly what had happened.
I believe it’s this misguided fear that causes so many of us to adopt masks in our day to day lives. In this sad reality you’re faced with a choice.
A choice between succumbing to fear and hiding your true self. Or overcoming it and sharing who you are.
One guarantees being ostracised from yourself.
The other risks potentially being ostracised from others.
While sharing parts of yourself may test your valour. It may also provide you with greater strength than any mask ever could.
When I did finally see people again, rather than receive snide remarks. I learnt a few friends were inspired by the way I’ve put myself out there. Now determined to share more of their real-self and their work online.
The positive remarks breathed new confidence in who I’ve become.
To my shock, by putting myself out there I became more accepted than ‘Jackass Nic’ ever was.
It’s only now I realise my fear of social isolation was simply a facade. An irrational fear by my prehistoric brain software. In reality, it wasn’t a choice between isolation and authenticity. It was a choice between failing to be authentic and being more accepted by friends.
Through this lens it’s crazy to consider I’d never put myself out there.
So as of next week, I’m returning to the platform that once defined me. But this time I’m rocking up as my authentic self.
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