As a newcomer to social media, I would look at professionals with large social followings and think to myself, "If I were them, I would use that platform to raise awareness of issues that mattered to me". Well, I guess it's time to practice what I preach.
The past year has been a doozy for me. As my professional life thrived, my personal life consisted of hiding in closets and trying to hide a significant injury from friends and coworkers, that included attending occupational therapy multiple times a week for a right arm injury while I was right-handed and had work to do!
As a natural introvert, it was extremely difficult for me to be honest and open with my followers. I could share all the photos in the world of my engagement, my wedding, but when it came to sharing that I was abused physically, and emotionally, I hesitated. I realized, though, that if people were supportive enough to engage with all of my happy, exciting content, then I owed it to them to be honest about all of my difficulties, as well. While we all can hope that the world is all marshmallows, we know it is not, and it's okay to admit that sometimes.
Want to know the final straw that got me out? I was on a business trip at a professional dinner with coworkers I had literally just met. I received harassing text messages from my then-husband that I was not allowed to be at a dinner without him, even if it was strictly business. I knew I couldn't leave, we had a lot to discuss at the dinner, and I couldn't just walk out on my colleagues. I tried to field most of the text messages that accused me of being the devil and unfaithful for being at a dinner without him, but I could not keep the tears from welling up, especially when I realized he was on his way to a casino to gamble while condemning me for being out at a business dinner.
A coworker noticed the tears, and had the nerve to ask me what was wrong, instead of just brushing it under the rug like so many people before him. The best part was, he didn't stop when I tried to water down the situation. He kept asking questions and digging until he had the full story of everything I had endured over the past year. At the end, he was open and told me that he went through a divorce, and he was okay, and it was actually so much better on the other side. He said his ex-spouse was a manipulator, and while she never physically abused him, she emotionally abused him in exactly the same ways my then-spouse was. He addressed my fear of never being able to date again after going through a divorce, and said that he felt the same way before he went through his divorce, but was surprised and pleased to find it was effortless to date afterwards. He stressed over and over again that he had all of the same fears as me prior to his divorce, but had an immediate breath of fresh air and relief once he was divorced. He said his life was a million times better on the other side.
While all of my friends and family struggled to steal me away from my abusive situation, it was that stranger's one moment of honesty, that rescued me.
A week later, I packed up all of my things and left, within six hours.
While I could go on and on in detail, that is not the point of this post. The point is that social influencers have a responsibility to use their influence for the greater good, and it's time that we realize that and act on it. It's easy to sit by and let others be transparent and talk about their hardships, but it's critical that we speak up about our own journeys and understand the powerful influence of social media that we are fortunate to have.
I challenge all of you to think of your own story you have to tell, whether it is your brand's story, or your personal story. Be transparent, be unashamed and be honest. Tell your story authentically, and you will be astounded by how many people you touch.
It literally only takes one person, and think of how many people you touch as a brand and/or as a social influencer. What story are you going to tell that is going to change someone's life? What's your mission going to be? I know mine is going to be to #StopAbuse.
-Marji J. Sherman