This post was inspired by reading What Made Maddy Run
.. a lot of the book mentions how Maddy wanted her social media account to portray a perfect life... sadly this young college freshman runner was struggling with depression and took her own life #madisonstrong
I'll write more about this book once I'm finished as it sheds a light on mental illness and the pressures that young teens and athletes face. I believe many Rise Up Nutrition followers will appreciate the story and relate to much of what it tells.
But for now, my wheels were turning about my use of social media as well. I wanted to share just a bit of my feelings toward social media as I can relate to Maddy's pressure to portray the perfect image.
For the past 8 months l I took a hiatus from social media.
Not a complete break up. Just a break.
I didn't delete my accounts. I didn't make any final posts announcing my separation and reasoning. And I didn't encourage my contacts to use other means to connect with me.
I just stopped posting.
And I tried my best to stop logging on as well.
I turned off all the notifications for social apps.
I moved all the apps to a sub-folder in my phone, and moved the folder to the second "page" of my screen so that they were out of direct sight, and therefore, out of mind.
I'd like to say this effort was a health-focused goal to be more present in life or reduce screen time. But I was never a social-media junkie in the first place.
So complete honesty, the reason I avoided social media is:
I was scared of judgment.
...and it wasn't good for my mental health.
Things were going on in my life that were very raw and very new.
Much of it I was embarrassed about.
Much of it, I was ashamed of.
All of it, I knew, I had valid reasons, feelings, and justifications.
But, social media is not usually the place where people find understanding, compassion, or the time for a discussion.
On the contrary, social media is a place for people to quickly make a judgement, a one-off comment, or see only a snapshot of the truth.
I did not have the emotional stability to handle another misjudgment, another ignorant comment, or another person to pick apart my life piece by piece.
On top of the fact that I feared judgment from others, social media encouraged self-criticism and fostered self-hate.
I compared myself to other people. I was jealous of other people. I questioned why I couldn't look a certain way, be happier, post inspiring things, take perfect food pictures.... the list goes on and on.
By the way, this was new for me. Historically, I've had a great sense of self, an appreciation for all those things I do well, an acceptance of things I do not, and a respect for those who had something I didn't.
In hindsight, I can recognize that the shift in confidence was because my life had never been completely flipped upside down as it had over the last 2 years, and specifically the last 8 months...
Essentially, when my sense of self was shaken up, social media became a festering grounds for insecurity and self-hate.
The sensible thing at the time, was to avoid social media.
The benefits of taking a social media hiatus:
1. I was able to focus on the people in my life that truly mattered.
Had I been on social media, I may have been tempted by the approval of hundreds I don't even know, instead of the necessary understanding from just a few that I trust and love.
Without the influence of people on social media, I put effort into the people who literally showed me a helping hand during a hard time. Not just a thumbs up or heart on a post, but a physical hug, a high five, or whatever I needed! We were able to dive deep into difficult conversations, build trust with each other, and show each other what love and acceptance really means.
This was also an eye-opener to just how many people did NOT matter in my life. Seeing how many people didn't help, shied away, or even made matters worse is a terribly difficult life lesson that I hope every person experiences. It doesn't mean these people are inherently bad, or even that they hurt me... it just means that they won't be there to help through the hard times, and as a result I value my close friends and family 1000x more.
2. I was able to focus on myself.
Had I been on social media, I would have felt lonely as I compared myself to posts of friends going out on Friday nights.... I would have felt unathletic and insecure about my body comparing myself to the gym-selfies, and transformation pics...and I would have felt like a bad dietitian as I didn't take the perfect food pictures or bake healthified cookies on the weekend.
But instead, I was not influenced by what others were doing. I focused only on myself. I only wore clothes that made ME feel good. I only exercised if it made ME feel good. I only ate what made ME feel good.
This often involved staying in pj's all day, or the opposite, dressing up and putting on make up even though I had nowhere to go. It meant walking, not running. It meant going out to dinner way more than ever, ordering apps AND dessert, cooking at home less and definitely not meal prepping. It was doing whatever made me happy THAT day, THAT moment, and in that time of my life.
I don't hate social media and I'm not saying everybody should do what I did. But I want to highlight that at a certain time in my life, it was unhealthy. And for me, removing it was beneficial in order to focus on myself and the people that helped me restore my sense of self.
Now, just 8 months later, a lot of introspection and life changes later, I am not as susceptible to judgement or self-criticism.
So much so, that I am open to the social world again.
In fact, I can even respect that social media is a platform for sharing inspiration and connecting. It's a great way to get information out fast, to promote or market services, and to learn from people who may never physically cross your path but may have positive influence on your life.
As I embark on growing Rise Up Nutrition, I need to get the word out. I need to connect to people. I need to market and advertise. I need to have an online presence. Social media is going to be a tool that helps me grow my business.
Hence, I am at a crossroads for how I want social media to enter my life once again.
Originally, I decided that I would keep my social pages as professional as possible to avoid letting my personal life into the business. But as I continue down this road, I know that people crave intimacy, people want to hire someone they connect to, and people love hearing personal stories that they can relate to.
I realize that I will need to open up in order for social media to be used to my advantage and for Rise Up Nutrition to reach the people I want it to.
In doing so, I started looking to other entrepreneurs and private practice dietitians for inspiration. But very quickly in doing so, I started thinking....
... why can't I take a food pic that good?
... their page is so much more organized than mine.
... I should post a story every day like this girl
... that story is stupid, delete it
... I need more pictures of myself so people relate
... that picture is terrible, delete it
Yes, after 8 months of cleansing myself of these bad habits, a couple days on social media and I was back at comparing and judging myself!
I found myself hesitant to post things I originally wanted to.
I found myself criticizing pictures of myself.
I found myself feeling generally discouraged that I could do this.
I found myself jealous of other people.
To help Rise Up Nutrition, and therefore all of my clients, I do not want to avoid social media.
But I must find a way to reframe how I view other peoples images & posts.
I must find a way to be less critical of myself on social media.
I must find a way to maintain a positive mental health while engaging in social media.
I'd like to tell myself "STOP COMPARING!"
But I tried...and it doesn't work.
I think comparison and competition are innate human instincts. As an athlete, a go-getter, and a competitor my entire life, comparison often fuels my drive to improve upon myself. So its easier said than done to just "stop comparing."
So instead, I'm making a new vow (or a few) ...
Stop letting comparisons influence how I ultimately feel about myself.
Stop letting comparisons influence my decisions for Rise Up Nutrition.
Stop letting comparisons affect what I know, and believe in, to be the truth.
Start posting because I want to, because I feel like it, or because it might help someone.
Start honest conversations with people on social media.
Start embracing how social media can help people.
· I am an amazing sports dietitian
· I am on social media and able to connect with my audience. I am giving it my best effort.
· I give 100% to the people I invest in, and the people who invest in me. I do not need approval from the masses.
And I'm damn proud of it all.
So when I see a post that gets the comparison gears going inside my head, I will accept that it is just a post on the internet, and nothing in myself or my business has changed.
I will continue forward on my mission, seeking truth, helping others, being a badass dietitian, and putting one foot in front of the other.
And when I fear judgement from others, I will post anyway! Because I do not want fear to hold me back from being my best self, and pursuing my dreams.
And when I receive judgement from others, which will inevitably happen, I will not let it affect who I am at the core, and I will continue to be true to myself.
So go ahead and follow me: @RiseUpNutritionRUN on Instagram and Facebook as I deliver this amazing service without letting comparisons to other nutrition programs, dietitians, or runners slow me down!