Social media allows us to connect with friends, follow people who inspire us and share things we love with others. On global social platforms, people put their best lives forward. But, oftentimes, we forget that, off the social media stage, life is not always perfect. What you see is not always what you get.

When former model, wellness expert and social media influencer Nikki Sharp started her lifestyle blog, she knew that she wanted to be open and honest with her followers about the good, the bad and the ugly.

“When I was coming out of the modeling world and I started my first ever blog, I remember days that I would binge and feel like the worst person on the planet,” Sharp recalls. “I remember thinking, I want to know that Giselle or Miranda Kerr or any of these models who are so damn perfect, I want to know that they have a bad day and they binge. I want to know that they have sh***y weeks and that they managed to pull themselves out. Because when I was going through that in my life, there was nobody who was talking about that.”

What is bringing you happiness?

But authenticity isn’t always easy—especially on a global social platform.

Looking back, Sharp identifies 2017 as one of her best, and hardest, years. “I was trying to figure out what brings me happiness,” she says. “What brings me joy? Where do I want to take my career so that it’s effective and going to help people, and also make enough money to survive? Things were not matching up well in terms of what I was doing and what was bringing me happiness.”

Instagram became difficult to navigate for Sharp because she wanted to be authentic with her more than 300,000 followers, but she wasn’t quite prepared to share what she wanted to share—that she was struggling with feelings of depression. “On Instagram, you feel like you need to be perfect, and you feel like you need to have the perfect, beautiful feed,” she says.

Searching for community

Her gut was telling her to drop everything and travel, so Sharp went to Africa and volunteered. While in Africa with little to no internet or social media access, Sharp realized what she was searching for was community.

“I think that the more that we’re on social media, the less community we actually have because, yes, we have an online community but we need face-to-face interaction. We need people to hug us, touch us. We need to sit and have a meal with someone,” Sharp says. “I have a huge community, but none of them are in real life. And I remember going [to Africa] saying, ‘I want to feel like part of a family.’ And being there, you see that that’s what they have. They don’t have all the material things that we have, but they have community. They have family. They have love for one another.”

Not long after returning from Africa, Sharp booked a spontaneous trip to Paris, where she spent every day eating and drinking her way through the city, without worrying about calories and taking a break from social media. She even decided to dye her hair brown. “I try to explain to people that sometimes when you’re going through a massive internal change, you need to change the external,” she says. “That might be moving, that might be coloring your hair, chopping it off, whatever it is. It’s not a bad thing to do those things.”

When Sharp returned to Los Angeles, she felt renewed and refreshed and ready to tackle her next challenge: the launch of her second book, “Meal Prep Your Way to Weight Loss” (Ballantine Books, 2018), which came out in May.

“I always tell people, ‘When you’re unhappy, look at your life and write a list of all the things that you’re passionate about that bring you joy and bring you happiness. And then write a list of all the things that you are currently doing. And if those lists do not match up, then you know that you need to make a change in order to change your happiness level,’” she says, “So that’s what I was trying to figure out. What was bringing me happiness? What wasn’t bringing me happiness?”

2018: The year of no f***s

This year, Sharp decided that she’s ready to go all-out authentic and to stop with the self-judgment and comparison. She’s calling it her “year of no f***s.”

“You know what? I don’t care if my feed looks beautiful anymore. I don’t care if I don’t get enough likes anymore. I’m not sitting here and comparing myself to people because you don’t know what they’re going through,” she says.

Sharp hopes her followers have gotten on board with this mentality and made this year about self-love, doing the things that make them happy, and stopping doing things that don’t. “I want to be the best version of me,” she says. “I want to help people. We’re human. Let’s stop this idea of perfection and just be real. Do the best you can. And if you screw up today, just get back on it and try again tomorrow, no big deal.”

Photo credit: Alexa Gray