Hi CNC readers! I’m so excited to guest post here today. I found Tina’s blog about 6 months ago and instantly fell in love with her style and balanced, practical approach to healthy living.
My name is Robin, and I blog at www.thebalancedlifeonline.com. I’m a full-time Pilates trainer with a passion for helping women keep a healthy perspective as they pursue a healthy lifestyle. Like so many women, I’ve struggled with my body image on and off for most of my life. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out the latest fitness trends or fad diets that would help me lose those last 10 lbs and get the “perfect body.” Nothing ever worked, but I did manage to feel guilty and bad about myself in the process. Since then, I’ve made some big changes and have made it my mission to project a positive message in the fitness industry; a message of balance and grace rather than guilt and shame.
I often write about the messages women receive from the media: magazines, TV, movies, celebrities, etc. Messages that lead us to believe we need to look a certain way or have a certain body to be worthy, beautiful, “healthy,” the list goes on…
But over the past few months I’ve noticed a shift. While magazines, movies and celebrities still play a role, there’s another form of media that tends to hit closer to home.
You know that feeling when you get when browsing photos on Facebook? You know, the feeling you get after clicking through the album of the perfectly tan, fit, stylish girl who seems to have a dream career with the dream boyfriend? Ever felt lame for sitting at home alone on a Saturday night while your friends post status updates about dining at an exclusive restaurant with their AMAZING friends? Perhaps you’ve felt guilty for lying on the couch while other girls are posting about running marathons and drinking green smoothies followed by chia shooters with a side of spinach. Any of these examples sound familiar?
Now don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I’m all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it. I love it. But social media has created a whole new world of media messaging that is more subtle, but equally as potent. On Facebook and blogs people can project their lives in any way they want. Most people post pictures of the fun, exciting, glamorous things they do and leave out the boring, mundane or messy parts of life. How often do you see someone posting about their Friday night alone doing laundry or the workout they skipped to sit on the couch and eat chips?
I do this too. We all do. In fact, just as I sat down to write this post, I posted this picture on Facebook:
Then, I began writing and thought, “what a perfect example.” Seeing that post you might think I go away on fancy, expensive golf retreats like it ‘ain’t no thang’. But that’s not the truth. So in an effort to keep it real and stay true to my word, I updated it with this caption….
See the difference?
How many times have you found yourself sitting at your computer wishing you had something that someone else had?
It’s so easy to compare and feel second rate. The comparison can subtly seep in day after day, status update after status update.
I think those of us who love health and fitness have to be especially aware of this temptation to compare. There will always be someone who has lost more weight, run more races or cooked better meals. Trying to keep up is a slippery slope that leads to unhappiness.
It’s not a bad thing to post about the things you love and the things you’re proud of, but it’s important to become aware of how much you let others’ online images affect you. Beyond the screen we’re all real people with real lives, boring days, missed workouts and messy closets.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
This is one of my favorite quotes. The truth is, it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. We gather information about ourselves and our lives by using comparison.
So, what can we do?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you to give up social media. That would be crazy talk. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are not the enemy.
But I do want to encourage us all to be smart when it comes recognizing the effects of the messages we receive each day because comparison is a sneaky thing.
Avoiding the trap of comparison starts with building and maintaining a positive self-image.
If comparison is the thief of joy, then a positive self-image can be the source of contentment.
Rather than comparing yourself to others (reactive), focus on things that make you feel better about yourself and your life (proactive).
A few ideas:
- Recognize what your “hot button” comparison items are (looks, bodies, houses, careers, families, money, etc.).
- Stop reading the messages that don’t build you up. Remove them from your daily life. Unfriend, unfollow, do what you need to do to avoid the temptation to obsessively compare.
- Find people to follow, things to watch and blogs to read that inspire you, leave you feeling good and help you become a better version of YOU (Tina’s blog is a perfect example of a positive healthy living site. She keeps it REAL and shares her triumphs along with her trials. I think that’s why we all love her so much).
- Become more aware of your thought life. Every time you find yourself wishing you could be more like (fill in the blank), recognize it and decide to let it go. If you’re not afraid of feeling cheesy, develop a positive mantra for when those negative thoughts arise. i.e.: “It’s better to be a first rate version of myself than a second rate version of someone else.”
- Be an example. Keep it real in your own life. Don’t worry so much about the image you project and just BE YOU and be proud of the unique individual you are and the beautifully unique life that you live.