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Managing a Public Face with Private Pain = Trusting Allah (S) and Loving Thyself
Melanie's Corner
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Nov 11, 2022
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8 MIN READ
Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
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Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
When you’re in the public eye, you share things with your audience and followers; most often we focus on curating and sharing the good. People see the best pictures we select and the most flattering aspects of our lives when we are happiest and most productive. These positive depictions of ourselves and our lives may be authentic, but what about the painful side of who we are and our experiences? How quickly are we to share them with the world; and, should we?
Even when we do share difficult and vulnerable things with our friends and communities to be honest about ourselves, are we revealing everything? Should we? Is that even possible? If we have a public face or some aspect of ourselves that is public, how much do we owe of ourselves to our communities?
I explored these questions with Haute Hijab’s own Melanie Elturk, asking her about how she managed her social media presence during a difficult time in her life – her divorce.
Healing In The Spotlight
Melanie says that public-facing pain can be difficult, and each influencer, celebrity, activist or notable figure must determine what and how much they share with their audience.
“It’s going to depend on how open or not open they are as people,” Melanie explains. “Some people are very private [even if they have a social media presence]. I'm a very public person, a public figure, public marriage, public everything. I put my whole life out there. So, it was expected that once it was clear that something was going on, people would ask, what's up? I invited that in, right? So, fair game.
“I was going through a myriad of emotions [throughout the divorce]. I wasn't ready [to fully share] because there was no finality. I wasn't comfortable talking about even the word divorce until it was final. Once we were Islamically divorced, I went public, putting out a formal announcement. Most people won't have to do something that drastic, but we had to because we ran [the company] together.”
Healing from the emotional turmoil of life experiences and events is a non-linear process with peaks of feeling better and valleys of pain that seem like they may never end. It takes a lot of focus and inner reflection to heal, which can be difficult when one’s pain is public-facing. Many in your audience will want to share in your tragedy as they did in your triumph, making it hard to concentrate on the mountainous task of healing.
Public figures must assess and decide how public they want to process their personal pain. Some may want to let their audience have a full glimpse of their thoughts and emotions while others will want to reserve them for family and friends or just themselves. And, these decisions can shift depending on so many factors. Determining what to share on one’s social media platforms can be a delicate balancing act that offers concerned fans/followers some information while protecting one’s private pain to allow healing.
“It's a personal journey for me, and when I speak about it, I share my wisdom. I'm not sharing my woe. I do this selfishly. It's for me. My intent is not to inspire others, truly. I need to speak my truth to the world. I have to be in my power. If that happens to help other people, beautiful.”
Melanie Elturk
“As I went through my healing,” Melanie explains, “I was comfortable sharing small nuggets, and it built [up] as I felt [more up for it]. In those moments last year, it was like, hey guys, I'm going through it. I appreciate your thoughts or here's what I've learned – healing is a rollercoaster. Some days you're great and then other days you're back on the bathroom floor in the fetal position. So these little nuggets that I felt comfortable sharing, I would put them out [there].
“But, I'm still not even talking about my story, the divorce, nothing; because I had to heal. I was grieving me, my future self that I had planned, the future life. I had to grieve that girl who doesn't exist anymore. There was so much I had to grieve and put behind me, heal from, and still take pretty pictures [for the sake of Haute Hijab]. But it was like I was really in a lot of pain, and you [could] see it in my face, you [could] see it in my eyes.”
Image source: Pexels; photo by Tracy Le Blanc.
Melanie says she had to consider balancing her social media obligations and deciding what to share while prioritizing her healing. She says once she was in a better place, she could share more of her experiences.
“Now – where I feel like I finally got my smile back, I got my joy back – I can talk about it,” Melanie says, explaining how she did it.
Sharing Wisdom, Not Woe
“It's a personal journey for me, and when I speak about it, I share my wisdom. I'm not sharing my woe. I do this selfishly. It's for me. My intent is not to inspire others, truly. I need to speak my truth to the world. I have to be in my power. If that happens to help other people, beautiful.”
Melanie advises people to think carefully about what they want to put out there.
“It's difficult when you think about how much it is you're going to share. We shouldn't be sharing stuff just for the sake of sharing. There should be meaning behind everything we do. Is this going to be productive? Will it make me feel better? If the answer is no, don't do it.”
Handling Direct Messages
In addition to social media posts and comments, many influencers/celebrities may find people attempting to connect with them through direct messages (DMs) on their accounts, which is less public than leaving a comment. DMs offer a way for people to get closer to a personality and try to dig deeper into their tragedy.
Melanie describes how she managed the deluge of DMs after she announced her divorce and offers some advice.
“It was like a flood in my DMs,” she explains. “I was like, oh my God, I don't know how to respond. I'm not some spokeswoman on divorce, I can't tell you what to do. Many people were venting, asking for advice and giving me advice. So, you're bombarded with so much, and when you're still healing.
“I was just [hit] with every angle when I was still going through depression; This is not what I need right now. So, I had to put a stop to it. I didn't open my DMs. I didn't read the comments. I couldn't. I was not in the space [to do so], and I needed to focus on myself and my healing,” she says.
“When I was in a better position to respond and engage, I would go slowly, and then I'd get overwhelmed again and [go back to silence]. We have to be our own guidance system at all times. My only responsibility is to Allah (S) and myself, period.”
She adds, “In the place I'm in now, I can respond to DMs and offer whatever little insight I have.”
Melanie also cautions against allowing a sense of obligation to cause you to be overwhelmed in answering DMs.
“I felt I had to respond to everyone,” she says. “It was my duty, it was my responsibility. I learned how to break free from that. I will respond whenever I choose, and I know I'm sincere. I love building this community, but I will not sacrifice myself,” she firmly says.
“It may hinder my healing process; you must think about that. There’s a lot of heartbreak, and then [responding to DMs may] just remind you of your own heartbreak and you're like, No, I can't do this right now.
As per Melanie’s advice, the intimate layer of DMs requires a lot of thought on how you will interact with the people sending them to you. Remember to focus on yourself and your healing, which may mean not responding to the DMs or taking a break from social media. Your mental health is to be protected, and you don’t owe it to anyone.
Taking a Break
Maintaining a social media presence requires a ton of energy, which may be in short supply during difficult times. A break from social media may be warranted, but it can be a difficult choice, especially if one has a brand that depends on social media platforms.
Even with that in mind, Melanie advises influencers and entrepreneurs to put themselves first and focus on their healing so they can then be there for their businesses and causes.
“There comes a time when they must prioritize themselves over their brand and their money, potentially taking that hit and that loss. Because [not tending to our mental health] is not worth it,” she says.
“There were times when I was like, I don't care what this does to the company,” she says. “I'm more important. Me as a human. I had to make that decision because it was my inner peace, and my mental health at stake. I can’t run this company successfully if I’m not healing. This is the work I need to do right now – not trying to white-knuckle my way through it and get content out there because I'm worried about money.
“I'm of no use to anybody in this world, let alone a company that I lead, the products that I helped create, or all these customers we serve [if I don’t take care of myself],” she says.
“So I had to tell my [HH] team, and then have you know our team – they're the best, and they're so understanding and compassionate, and they're so empathetic, and they were like, Melanie, take all the time you need.
Melanie warns against trying to forge ahead and hide the pain. “It's not worth it because your content will suffer anyway. People can see you’re not well and trying to push these products. We think we’re going to lose something. Rizq comes from Allah (S). [But] we are so afraid.
“Let's say [you’re] an influencer. I don't know where my next brand deal will come from. I'm saying no to any and all deals for the next six months. I don't know how I'm going to pay the rent. Allah (S), pay my rent. He will pay your rent. He'll take it up, and He'll do it for you. But people don't have that kind of trust in Allah (S),” Melanie explains. “They think their hands have to [do it], so they don’t say no to the sponsorships to take that time and heal. And then they never heal.”
Taking a break from social media may have a monetary impact, but it can be a personal lifesaver, says Melanie. Using that time for inner reflection and developing a support system of family friends and professionals allow you to heal, transform and return better than before.
Returning to Social Media from a Hiatus
After a social media hiatus, one will return and re-engage with their audience. How that re-engagement occurs may be different than before taking a break. Melanie describes how her healing journey influenced her return to social media.
“Something funny about coming back, with the healing I've done – a lot of things are not as important to me now. I used to care so much [about] the [social media] numbers, the engagement and the metrics. [But now], I get on there, post and express myself, and I’m done,” she says.
“I may read comments, but they don’t sit with me. I don’t absorb them. I hope the reception is good. I know it's going to reach [who and what] it’s going to reach, and that's God's work. Khalas. It's Allah's (S) job at that point. My job is just to get out the content, the creativity, the words.
“I'm just like, Take it day by day Mel. You don't have to have a plan about how much you're going to post, how you're going to do it or what it's going to look like. She adds, “I can't live that life anymore.
“I got to a point where I am allowing Allah (S) to guide my actions, my thoughts, my feelings, what I say, what I do, what I see, what I hear, what I smell – God just flows through me. So I don't know what I have to do tomorrow. I'll know in the moment.”
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