I just got home after a full day of keeping up with my kindergarten students followed by a tough track workout that approached double digit miles (I don’t do double digit miles on week days). I’m tired but I’m happy. I feel accomplished and strong. I am approaching the home stretch of Boston Marathon training, and I am appreciative of my body for what it’s allowed me to do over the last couple months. More than anything, I am thankful to be healthy, something I couldn’t say this time last year. I am at peace with my body and feeling confident in my own skin.
I get out of the shower and plop down on my bed to relax for a minute. I grab my phone and start to scroll through Instagram (first mistake). I cruise past pictures of adorable puppies, teacher memes, and plenty of cherry blossoms; I’m about to close the app when I see it. Perfectly tanned thighs, sculpted abs, flawless skin, and countless hashtags.
#fitspo #nodaysoff #fitfam #goals
I’ve made a conscious effort to purge my social media of ‘fitspiration’ but no matter how hard I try, it manages to creep in. I know I should put down my phone and do something productive, but it’s like a wreck on the highway-I just can’t look away. I click on the ‘fitspo’ hashtag and I’m confronted with over 40,000,000 similar photographs: posed mirror pics, filtered selfies, kale salads, and green smoothies. In a matter of minutes, the confidence I had in my body and the appreciation I was feeling for its ability deteriorates. Suddenly, I’m recapping my day:
“Was it really necessary to house those Cheez-It’s after my run?” (Yes, always yes.)
“I wish I hadn’t skipped core.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t take tomorrow off.”
In a moment shorter than the time it takes me to run a mile, I’ve depleted the runner’s high I’d been riding and let comparison take over. I’ve taken the bait and allowed social media to tell me, despite my abilities, I am not enough.
Comparison is the thief of joy. — Theodore Roosevelt
Comparison is a trap. I cannot stress how many times I’ve fallen for the trap of comparison whether in real life or on social media. Comparison exacerbates even our smallest doubts and leaves us painfully questioning our value and self-worth. So in a world of selfies and fitspiration, how do we salvage our self-esteem?
How do we hold onto the belief that we are enough when we’re constantly being fed messages to the contrary?
I certainly don’t have it all figured out, and I’ll be the first to admit I still succumb to comparison, but it’s something I’m actively working to counter, so maybe one day I will be able to stop comparing myself altogether.
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On Instagram, I have unfollowed all accounts that fall under (by my own definition) the ‘fitspiration’ umbrella and I have replaced them with body positive accounts like Project Heal, Oiselle, Kelly Roberts, and I Have a Runner’s Body. Yes, this has meant unfollowing some friends but if someone’s images are having a negative effect on my mental health and happiness they are not images worth seeing. I now steer clear of “inspirational fitness quotes” on Pinterest — a term I once spent ample time searching–because “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is bullshit. Because pizza, chocolate, and wine. I don’t read fashion magazines or celebrity tabloids, and I avoid beauty advertisements as much as possible.
I’ve learned nothing positive can come out of words and images that send the message that if you were just a little thinner or prettier you’d have a happier life.
Trying to avoid these images and messages completely is a losing battle.
We’re bound to stumble upon something triggering from time to time, so when we do we need to be armed. To me, this is the hardest part. I’ve heard it over and over again but every time I come across a triggering image I have to remind myself that what I am seeing is a highlight reel. The images we compare ourselves to on Instagram, Facebook, and in the media ARE NOT REAL. Filters, posing, lighting, photoshop, 100 different shots, and countless other tricks and tactics go into creating the perfect image. In 2015, Australian ‘Instafamous’ teen Essena O’Neill told the world what went into creating her perfect online persona in an effort to bring attention to the troubling fact that the images so many people spend their time and energy trying to live up to are manufactured. It does not matter how ‘candid’ a photo may seem, I promise you it is not real (the only exception here may be Beyonce).
Avoiding triggering images, and reframing your own thinking about the way you see images on social media, is no easy task. It is human nature to let yourself believe your friend that appears to spend every weekend visiting wineries, running marathons, and candidly laughing with puppies has it all together. But try to remind yourself this is only the very best of this person’s life. Nobody is going to Instagram the toast they burnt this morning, the disappointing email they received from their boss, or the Saturday night they spent at home cleaning their house–but if they did, we would all be reminded everyone is human and no one has their shit together 100 percent of the time.
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