The digital world can be a tricky place, but every now and then, it is okay to take a break and just focus on yourself
Words Sejal Kumar, Photography Vanika Gupta
19-year-old me had stars in her eyes and a big dream when she told her friends back in college that she wants to start a YouTube channel. Unheard of at the time, people judged me like nothing else. It did affect me at the time, but I had more faith in my plan, my dream. I knew that if I work hard, I will make it big and none of the negative talks will matter then. Cut to two years later, working extremely hard every single day, figuring out everything on my own, dodging and bracing the judgement wholeheartedly, I found myself at 200k subscribers! Yay! I had achieved something to be so proud of but I was tired. So very tired. Social media has given me everything I have right now, the best job in the planet, a purpose, amazing opportunities, a loving audience, achievements and so much learning but what I wasn’t wary of was how I got caught in the pressure of being consistent, perfect, always creative, being the leader and not get affected by the online hate.
Since I was in class 2 or 3, all I remember is wanting to be appreciated! I was that girl who would be dancing and singing alone in her bathroom with the hope of doing that on a big stage one day, but I was always too shy to show people. In school, I secretly wanted to be the centre of attention, show people my talent but afraid to do so for some reason. Because of the fact that I used to sell myself short, I always felt I never got the recognition I deserved or wanted. As I grew up I recognised that deep down, I have always been that shy girl who, in the most innocent way, just wanted a bit of validation and was set out to prove herself to everyone who ever doubted her.
As I hit a bigger milestone on my channel and gained a bigger audience, it was so exciting! I got to travel the world, work with amazing people, be more creative and get better at making videos, even do crazy things like meet Obama and win awards! It has been so exhilarating and I am so proud and thankful for this as I have truly put my heart and soul in my work.
I have been emotionally attached and genuine with my videos which is why comments and feedback have always affected me a lot. A few years ago there were times when I would wake up and the first thing I would do was to check how many followers/ subscribers I got or how many views my videos got. Searching for that love and validation, if something didn’t perform as well I thought it should, it would break my heart. I did attach my self-esteem to numbers and comments for some time. Just last week, I read an email written by a viewer which was pretty critical and harsh and personal. I get DMs, comments that are very hurtful, that personally attack me every day and I have gotten better at not taking them to heart but every now and then there are things that really affect me. I guess people who write these things never realise that what they write casually may actually cause me to have a bad day, doubt myself or even break down. I remember getting a comment on one of my dance videos a couple of years ago that said – “never dance again, you have zero talent,” which led me to not dance at all for months.
SO MANY OF US, IN THE TRUEST WAY, JUST WANT PEOPLE TO LIKE US AND END UP GIVING SO MUCH THAT WE FORGET TO GIVE OURSELVES SOME LOVE TOO
I feel I have grown up in the online space and people have seen me grow up as a person. I get comments like “we want the old Sejal back,” every day and it always makes me wonder, maybe I can try and be that bubbly version of myself to make my viewers happy. I create videos to make my audience happy and also myself. But since the start, I have, in a way, changed little things about myself based on what people like and I was at a point in life where I wasn’t sure what my personality was anymore. Brands and people are always trying to put us creators in a box, but I always, in my own way, try and break those boundaries. I want to be that girl who does fashion and music and acting and dance and also vlogs. Confused maybe, but absolutely me!
I do understand now why these things affect me. I, like so many others, in the truest way just want people to like us and end up giving so much that we forget to give us some love too. I have taken some time off from social media right now and in my journey of 5 years, I have given a lot of thought to my mental space. With my recent practice of mediation, I found that self-compassion is extremely necessary in life. Living for external validation will never be enough.
So to put this into practice, I am extremely grateful for the position I am in, for my audience, my amazing family and friends who have always helped me and the opportunities I have got. The freedom I have to express myself and just the ability to wake up every day and say ‘I love my work’.
Guess this was a little more ‘senti’ than is expected of me, but hey, this is me and I think I am ready to accept that and live for me just like you should too!