Do It for the Gram

Ah, social media. The grand blessing and curse of our generation. Before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, there was no acceptable place to share pictures of your trendy brunch or foggy nature walks. Unfortunately though, these mediums have become breeding grounds for narcissism and addictions to approval.

essena

Essena O’Neil, an Australian “insta model,” recently came clean about the damaging effects of social media. Having over half a million followers and a decent modeling gig, from the naked eye, it seemed like she had it all. Here’s what she had to say:

“Without realizing, I’ve spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other.”

In a culture that so heavily attributes success to how much applause you receive, it’s difficult to be raw and honest on social media. No one wants to see me right after waking up, bedhead and all, so I’m going to do my hair and makeup before taking a picture. No one wants to know what I actually look like, so I’m going to add a filter or two (or five) to my photo before posting it. If I don’t do these edits or get the right angle, the number of “likes” I receive will suffer. Receiving social admiration is addicting, and it’s no wonder that so many girls get caught up in the glamorous-looking lives of others.

What the outside view fails to see, though, is the emptiness that it can entail. As my dear Essena points out, her life was superficial and she was so desperate for admiration that she was willing to exploit her body in tiny outfits in exchange for money and fame.

So the question arises: How do we find depth within the emptiness?

 1. Take a hiatus. One of my favorite things in the world is a hiatus. Social media is not inherently bad, but it can be abused. Purging technology from your life for a bit can be very freeing, and deleting a certain app from your phone or simply signing off can open you up to a world you might have been missing while trying to create an online persona. It can also give you time to center yourself on what’s truly important. Take a walk. Call your mom. Pray.

2. Test out some bold honesty. “The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.” (You can thank Armistead Maupin for that wisdom.) After Miss O’Neil came clean about herself, hoards of followers did too. We intrinsically desire truth and belonging, and it’s impossible to find either of those when living in internet fantasy. True freedom is found in honesty, albeit scary at times to be honest. Take a picture of yourself with a sincere smile, sans makeup/filter. Rave about a fair trade brand you love. Become an advocate for something. Use social media to promote goodness and social change. Take a few seconds of courage, and you may be surprised with what ripples of change you can make.

3. Realize that to follow Christ is to take a road less traveled. We are called to be Christ to one another, and I can assure you that Jesus never sought praise. In fact, he fled into solitude on many occasions. (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16 for example). It’s vital to remember that our faith tells us not to settle for the culture of the world. Although you might miss some earthly esteem, praise will be given to you in Heaven, where it is everlasting and God-given. One could get millions of likes, but it is null in comparison to the love of our Lord. The road to Heaven is narrow, yes, but it is also fulfilling. It is true. Most importantly, it is the sole way to genuine success.

Breaking the Chains of Depression Through Christ

IMG_8785 (2)Depression can be very hard to deal with. It’s essentially like you’re facing a spiritual battle every single day of your life. You want to hide, you want to seclude yourself from the world, and you hope one day the pain will just end. I suffer from depression and anxiety myself.  It is something that I’m slowly beginning to talk about publicly, because I know that battles are most effectively won in numbers.

How can we win, you ask?

2 words: Jesus Christ.

One thing I notice with people who suffer from depression, including myself, is we feel a lack of love, and we feel alone. My friends, Jesus is the truest form of love! And because you are from God, you are loved. 1 John 4:4 proves this: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Still not convinced of God’s love for you? Here are some other bible verses to back it up. I invite you to read them and meditate on them prayerfully.

Romans 5:8 – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 5:6-7 – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Isaiah 41:13 – “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Zephaniah 3:17 – “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Please know that you are not what your mind and the devil say you are. You are not worthless, you are not a burden, you are not abnormal, and you are not a lost cause. You are perfection in the eyes of Our Lord. You are a rare diamond that is so precious to God that He never wants that diamond to lose its shine.  He wants you to know your infinite value.

Your worth in Christ must be the foundation for battling depression, but you cannot win this battle without building up your prayer life. Prayers are our weapons against the negative thoughts, the lack of motivation, the sadness and the icky feelings that the devil throws at us to keep us down.  Prayer is when we truly communicate with Our Father.  Prayer and communication with God will help us not only grow within ourselves, but grow in a unique relationship with Him! He wants to hear from us. He wants us to put our burdens on Him so we can be free. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.  I also find this prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola very helpful:

O Christ Jesus,

When all is darkness

and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

give us the sense of Your presence,

Your love, and Your strength

Help us to have perfect trust

in Your protecting love

and strengthening power,

so that nothing may frighten or worry us,

for, living close to You,

we shall see Your hand,

Your purpose, Your will through all things. – Amen

Praying the rosary can be a major weapon, too!

We have the foundation of God, the weapon of prayer, and now you need to add your crew. Surrounding yourself with good, wholesome, Godly friends will really be beneficial for acknowledging the positive and keeping your eyes on God. Having people that you can talk to when you’re down, that will support you in prayer, or that will bring light and laughter is a great tool to keep yourself strong. It’s also wonderful to know that you do have people that love and care for you. Good friends are God’s precious gifts that He sends to His children so they can build each other up. Good friends will be there for you every step of the way. Go to the movies, act silly, step outside your comfort zone, dance like nobody is watching and know God is with you all along the way.

Once you have your foundation, your weapons and your crew, you are fully equipped to fight the battle. Now get out there with a big smile on your face! My dear friends in Christ, you are such a blessing to us all.  You are an essential part of God’s perfect plan. The devil does not want this for you and he will try his best to keep knocking you down. But keep in mind that you have the war weapons and the devil does not. You have everything you need. God has already won the war, we just need to fight the battles.

I love you so much because God loves you so much. I pray that the love of God touches each one of your lovely hearts and takes away any pain, discomfort and sadness you may be feeling at this moment. May he put joy, love, happiness and hope in your heart.

You deserve to smile and experience life fully. God wants you to be filled with His peace and joy!

–Nicole

**If you or someone you know is suicidal, call (800) 273-8255 for the US 24/7 Suicide Prevention Hotline