Social media can be a great tool to help you reach your health goals, but when it’s not used effectively, it also be a goal-sabotager, leaving you feeling stuck.
On one hand, we’re exposed to more messages of female empowerment than ever before thanks to social media. There are body positivity bloggers and hashtags and celebrities sometimes post pictures of things like post-baby bellies, acne, or stretch marks.
Yet despite these positive messages we’re seeing, women today are no less self-conscious about their appearance than they’ve always been – if not even more-so.
That’s because on the other hand – in this digital age, we’re way more exposed to images of diet industry’s ideal beauty standards than before. Beauty ideals have always existed, but our grandmothers only saw image reminders of it maybe a few times a day in magazines or billboards. But we are confronted with them all day, every day. From the time we check our phones in the morning to when we hit the couch to watch TV after work. Our screens feed us a steady diet of female bodily perfection, this standard and rule of what we should look like. And we know what happens when we ‘should’ ourselves!
We take all this in and start comparing and judging ourselves and our appearance through this impossible lens that ends in guilt, shame, and feelings of defeat.
This far outweighs the messages from the other hand – unfortunately!
So what can you do about it? How can you clean up your social media feed to work with you instead of against you? Follow these 4 steps!
1. Cultivate Awareness
It’s hard to make changes to what we’re not aware of, so for the next few days, make a conscious effort to stay mentally tuned in as you scroll your favorite social media feeds. What do you do as you scroll? Maybe you’re looking for something in particular, maybe you’re comparing, maybe you’re judging? What thoughts are popping up for you with each post you see? How do those thoughts make you feel? Positive, uplifted and empowered? Or insecure, less than and not good enough? Based on those feelings, do they inspire you to take action toward your goals? Or dive headfirst into a pint of ice cream? Do this activity from a purely information gathering place, release any judgment, and just observe. Maybe take notes!
2. Eliminate Triggers
Next it’s time to change your environment to match your goals. You don’t have to unfriend because that can cause drama but I recommend removing your triggers by unfollowing or muting any one or any thing that makes you feel like you need to change your body’s appearance to be as happy as they appear. Any account that makes you feel defeated, jealous, less than, frustrated or like giving up. You can always go back and refollow them later if you want. For an example of why this step is important – you might see a super fit-looking health guru post a bikini shot, and compare your body to hers and think “UGH why did I skip the gym to watch House Hunters and eat Oreos yesterday? My body will never look like that, I may as well just give up!!” That might make you feel frustrated and sad, which could easily turn into a sabotaging spiral of all-out eating craziness all weekend, promising yourself you’ll start again on Monday, and not making progress toward your goals.
3. Re-Fill with True Inspiration
Now you have cleaned up your feed and removed your triggers, so it’s time to refill your feed by following accounts that post images and content that will help you feel great in your skin and inspire you. Swap out seeing endless images of women in a culturally ideal body type that’s just not yours with women who look like you, who are real and who show that all body types are beautiful – not just culturally perfect ones. That way when you compare, the “not good enough” feelings don’t creep in and lead to sabotage. There are so many body positive accounts out there and accounts that post truly inspirational messages that will motivate you without making you feel like you’re not enough so it’s sustainable. See below for some ideas!
4. Diffuse Social Feedback
The rise of social media has supercharged our comparison and self objectifying behaviors. When we pair the evaluation and scrutiny from our own inner mean girl voice with the real and quantifiable scrutiny that can show up in the comments of posts or lack of likes or shares, that ups the pressure even more. So be mindful of the reason you’re posting something and the story you might tell yourself around likes and shares your post gets. For example, if not getting social feedback would make you feel bad, don’t post it or change what you’re making it mean. Set yourself up for success.
I remember the more I tried to force my body to look like a picture-perfect mold of what I thought I should be, the more stressed and self-conscious I felt and the less I was able to embrace who I am and find worthiness in that.
Comparison and judgment is a recipe for unhappiness. You are your own person, own who you are, we are all perfectly imperfect (get the tank top!).
Inspirational Instagram Feeds
- @healthyeaton (a must-follow!)