Social media is such a huge part of everyday life in today’s world. It’s pretty much our life line, our means of contact and what we rely on to progress in our daily life.
My name is Leanne Coyle. I too have fallen victim to the claws of social media and the hold it has over nearly every aspect of my life. From the photoshopped celebs to the picture perfect relationships, it’s almost as if real life is nothing more than just the last rung on the social media ladder.
For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from extreme anxiety. Looking back now, I know it all started in secondary school. I wasn’t exactly the girliest of girls and from day one that was a problem. I didn’t fit into norms, I didn’t follow trends. It was when I tried to change this and the person I was when the real problems started. I developed major anxiety, I was on edge all of the time. I was unsure of the body I had been living in harmony with for so long. I was trying to be someone I most certainly wasn’t. All I cared about was resembling the stereotypical woman we were looking at on Facebook or magazines.
I’m not going to lie and say I woke up one morning and decided to put it all to a stop because that’s most certainly not what happened.
It took years of getting to know myself, listening to myself and doing things that I wanted to do. I mean, you can live a different life for as long as you like. But you’re always going to be left with yourself.
In an attempt to change the way we look at social media, I have created a new Instagram page called smileforme2019. It’s as plain and simple as the title, really. I’m traveling the country for the entire year, taking a picture of a different person everyday. I’ll be collecting stories, smiles and reasons to be happy from every individual I meet. The page has one main goal – to increase mental health awareness and for people to talk, smile, cry or laugh in confidence. I know that for me, it was the simple gestures that had the biggest impact. My head used to be in so much of a tizzy that when someone made me smile, it was like a ray of hope.
It’s a page of real people with real experiences. Even though the page is still relatively new, we have learned so much in such a short space of time. The most important thing is how eager people are to talk, listen and help whenever they can. Because we’re walking up to strangers on the street, the reaction is always unknown. But we haven’t been declined once. People are grateful to be included in the project and share their stories.
The reaction on Instagram has been amazing too. With strangers sharing the page, sending us messages of support and people even asking if they can feature on the page. I think it’s very important to remember that we’re all only human, perfection is impossible. And once we can all help each other out, no matter how small the gesture, we can all begin to understand each other a little bit more.
Myself and my good friend Adam will be the two photographers on the page so if you ever see us around, please don’t hesitate to show your smile.
I really hope the page makes a difference to someone. I always loved people making me smile so hopefully by the end of this year me and Adam will have made 365 people smile, and hopefully all the followers of the page too. We would love to hear people’s opinions so please just send us a message if you’d like to smile for us or if you have a story to share.
To any young or old people out there, not knowing what step to take next or not fully sure of the person you are becoming, I have one piece of very important advice. Do not turn your back on the people who are standing with you. There are people who have grown alongside you, people who have reared you. They know you, they’re in your life for a reason. Surround yourself in people looking for the best for you and rid yourself of anything else. Know what you’re worth and never, ever forget it. Your life is worth more than you’ll ever know.
My name is Adam Fitzhenry and for as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from anxiety. Anybody who has suffered from mental health issues knows that you never truly get over them. You learn to cope with them, but they always follow you in the back of your mind, waiting to creep back into your life. And when they do, it really feels like your world is caving in.
Last summer, I went through the worst bout of anxiety I’ve ever had. Panic attacks and sleepless nights became my life for a while. Being stuck in a dark place you begin to lose track of the good things in life, so when Leanne asked me to help her in taking pictures for the page, I was filled with a new sense of purpose to help those going through the same dark stage I was going through.
Seeing everybody’s reaction to the page has been incredible. One thing I’ve learned from the page is that people are always happy to come together and help those around them. Something as simple as a smile is so powerful as it can really brighten up someone’s day. It can be hard to create your own happiness sometimes, so sharing yours with others really can make such a difference. Being a part of a page that promotes happiness really is just amazing, and I hope it inspires others to share a little positivity with those around them, no matter how small they may think it is.
Visit @smileforme2019 on Instgram