Cary Martin Shelby
Building my Mosaic: 5 Things I Learned After Dedicating my Social Media to Our Daughters
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
I finally decided to calibrate my focus towards my several passion projects this past summer. The first step entailed completing a manuscript of my memoir to fully launch my revolution of healing. Writing this manuscript then led to the fruition of several other “big ideas” projects related to uplifting women. As I sifted through these ideas, I decided to dedicate the bulk of my social media postings to our daughters to further engage with my audience. Each post consisted of letters to daughters of all ages, along with a colorful graphic to illuminate the accompanying message. It was an unusual endeavor given my professional status as a business law professor and investment fund scholar. Engaging in this task made me exceedingly uncomfortable. But I could no longer ignore the strong conviction to begin communicating with our daughters, which ultimately included myself. Here is what I learned in the process.
1. Our life experiences are worth sharing
As an academic, I reside in a community where any claim must be supported by empirical evidence. We often obsess about the extent to which we are considered experts in our respective fields. Hordes of data and research typically accompanies each of our underlying claims. This obsession with being an expert initially caused me to recoil from my plan of sharing my life experiences via social media.
Nevertheless, after my first few posts, I quickly realized the great value of sharing my lived insights (one of which included a call to “DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!”). I began connecting with women across generations, which was a deeply gratifying experience. We bonded over the similarities of our journeys. We connected over the desire of sharing with our younger selves. Sometimes we even cried together. Sharing our life experiences is a study in itself! Without this exchange, we lose the possible connections that we can have with one another. We then lose the potential lessons that could be passed along across generations. Even worse, we lose ourselves.
2. Nurturing your passions can reveal untapped synergies
Receiving tenure in 2017 required levels of sacrifice that I’m still in the process of unpacking. As usual, my timing was far from perfect. I’ll never forget reading the university vote within hours after undergoing an emergency C-section surgery for the birth of my daughter. I had been pregnant for the entire academic year in which I was up for tenure. My tenure vote was indeed positive which felt triumphant given my background. But a growing dissatisfaction lingered in my chest.
During the precious time that I had with my daughter post-delivery, I started to realize the depths of what I had lost during my tenure journey. Part of the loss included my self-imposed delay in writing my memoir. I just couldn’t imagine how this aspect of myself could coexist with my identities as a business law professor and investment fund scholar. While my identity as a former foster youth had fueled my drive to enter these spaces, I could not understand how my memoir fit within my career trajectory.
Yet, when I started writing my social media posts, untapped synergies started to unravel. I started to ask myself the following questions: In what ways can I bring the investment fund realm to our daughters? Why aren’t more of us in these spaces? Why are we the last to benefit from financial innovations, yet the first to suffer when they begin to unravel? What about social impact investing? To what extent are our daughters even benefiting from, or accessing, these burgeoning opportunities? These questions have generated an invigorating slate of research projects that are deeply connected to my roots. My role as a law professor is now closely intertwined with these other aspects of myself which can lead to extraordinary success as a scholar. Although I’m still in the process of compiling my new research agenda, writing these posts helped me to realize the great potential in these untapped synergies among my various identities.
3. “Likes” do not translate into impact
As I embarked on this journey to begin sharing pieces of myself, I couldn’t help but notice the wide range of likes that I’d receive. Some posts would garner 100+ likes while others would receive likes in the single digits. Predicting the extent to which a post would receive a high number of likes felt like a game of roulette. Instead of stressing over the unpredictability of this game, I decided to focus on my task at hand which was to begin unveiling the pieces of my mosaic, so that I could accelerate the process of building. Doing so helped me to quickly realize that likes do not necessarily translate into impact. Some of my posts that received the fewest number of likes led to life-changing connections with phenomenal women.
4. Connecting with others is its own form of healing
The process of connecting with women through these posts opened my heart to new opportunities for healing. My anxiety started to lesson. Bouts of self-doubt became less frequent. Although I had previously shared my story as a form of advocacy, connecting directly to women within my network provided a different avenue for renewal. Expanding my sisterhood in this manner proved to be invaluable. Gaining autonomy over my story also drew me closer to my purpose. Overall, this process transformed into an additional tool for me to utilize in reversing the advanced aging process that naturally accompanies overcoming trauma. Expanding this toolbox is part of my life’s journey.
5. Utilizing your creativity can uncover hidden talents
Crafting each post forced me to further utilize my innate creativity in ways that I could not have predicted. Condensing my ideas into digestible social media blurbs required me to enhance my artfulness with words. Generating colorful designs required me to think more imaginatively about using digital images and graphics. After crafting over 30 of these posts, I realized that I had barely skimmed the surface in terms of tapping into my creative talents. While I still have much to learn, this process led me to teaching myself how to design websites, and it generated a multitude of ideas for writing books and building ventures. This project has ultimately challenged my previously limited notions of how creativity is measured and valued. I am looking forward to drawing from and growing my inherent creativity as I continue building my mosaic.
By: Cary Martin Shelby